We’ve been learning about the different lines of attack and blade positions for foil. Understanding the different lines will give you the means to identifying where your opponent’s weaknesses and strengths are. And knowing and understanding are half the battle on the strip!
We’re adopting the French school of thought in terms of parries, which leans toward simplicity. The theory of parrying is to turn aside the opponent’s foil with the least possible expenditure of time and exertion, using the arm as little as possible while letting the hand and wrist do the work, and opposing the forte of the foil to the foible of the opponent’s. The foil is kept pointed as directly as possible towards the opponent, and the parries are made with the corners rather than the sides of the blade. The slightest movement that will turn the opponent’s blade is the most perfect parry.
In the world of competitive fencing, this makes perfect sense since we are not working with sharpened weapons. So blocking the thrust of a pointed blade is not as crucial in the modern sport of fencing. The simple parry merely needs to deflect the trajectory of the opposing blade. If you find that your parries are clearing your body from one side to the other and then some, chances are that you are using much more effort than is needed.
The attached diagrams comes to us from the Three Swords Fencing Club in Traverse City, Michigan. The fencing community is a wonderfully collaborative one, where we are happy to help our fellow fencers pass on the art and science of our sport. My thanks to Doug Schultz for allowing us to use his material.
If you would like to see something more interactive diagram (even though I think Mr. Schultz’s diagrams illustrate the lines well), you can take a look at Mr. Ian Thomson’s demonstration of the different guards at the Beauclerk’s club website.