Tag Archives: parries

An Introduction to Right of Way

The concept of right of way is one that applies to foil and sabre. Wikipedia actually has a decent definition for this concept: Priority or “right of way” is the method used in foil and sabre fencing to determine which fencer receives the point if both fencers land a valid hit at the same time (if both fencers land a valid hit at the same time in épée fencing, they both receive a point). Generally, priority is determined by first considering which fencer attacked first. In order to initiate an attack a fencer must threaten the target area of their opponent with the point of the foil while their arm is extending. When performing a compound attack the fencer must not withdraw the arm by bending the elbow.

Below is a video of a demonstration done by Tim Morehouse and his cohorts at a recent Fencing Masters event in New York. It gives a good introduction into what right of way looks like when watching a bout. Understanding right of way will help you to understand how you can score points in a bout.

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The Pyschology of Feints

This week in practice we are learning about feints and preparation. Let’s start with defining the terminology.

Feints, along with tempo, are the basis for modern competitive foil. They are actions which resemble an attack so closely that the opponent reacts as if they were. However, your feint is not followed immediately by a lunge. By dictating your opponents reaction, you gain the upper hand in what move will be played next (hopefully resulting in a touch for you). However, do not waste feints, and always wait for the opponent to attempt a parry before you attack.

We’ve briefly touch upon different types of feints–hand and body. In each case they are actions that not only deceive your opponent, but also actions that help you assess your opponents strengths and weaknesses. You can use your feints in a “probing” way to determine where your opponent’s soft spots are.

Included here is a video by Master Charles Selberg. Even in his retirement years, he demonstrated a fluidity of movement, making his transitions seamless and efficient. I strongly encourage you to view the video and pay close attention to everything. I could expound more on our chosen topic here, but Master Selberg’s talk on feints and preparation are filled with tons of knowledge and presented in an easy fashion. Enjoy!

Basic Blade Positions

bladepositionsWe’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.

Basic Fencing Blade Positions (PDF)

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.