Tag Archives: piste

Fencing Etiquette

We’re continuing with our subject series for this week, strip etiquette. Most of this will be covered in practice, but there are a few tips here that we may not have covered yet.

Lee Kiefer of the U.S. and South Korea's Hyun Hee Nam salute at the start of their women's foil team quarterfinals fencing match during the London 2012 Olympic Games. ADREES LATIF/REUTERS

Lee Kiefer of the U.S. and South Korea’s Hyun Hee Nam salute at the start of their women’s foil team quarterfinals fencing match during the London 2012 Olympic Games. ADREES LATIF/REUTERS

Proper Etiquette (Salutes and Decorum on the Strip)

After you have hooked up, been tested by the director and tested lames/bell guards, you’ll return to your on guard line, salute your opponent and the director (and in some cases, the audience), put your mask on, come on guard and wait for the command to fence. Stay still when the director asks if you’re ready; they hate a bouncy fencer and will get testy if they have to wait for you to settle down.

VERY IMPORTANT: When the director ask if you are ready – by asking “Fencers ready?” (Or some variation thereof) “Etes-vous prets?” (“Are you ready” in French) or in some other fashion, you MUST respond verbally if you are NOT ready to go, and loudly enough so the director can hear you over the other noises in the area. If you say nothing, that is deemed as an affirmative response, and the director may start the fencing before you’re actually ready. If you get scored on in that situation, it’s your own fault for not letting the director know.

When the director is satisfied that everyone’s ready to go (it may only be a second long of a wait), the command to fence will be given by the director saying “Fence,” “Begin,” “Allez,” (“Begin” in French) or some variation thereof. Once fencing begins, don’t stop until you hear your director call the halt. Even if you KNOW you hit your opponent, that doesn’t mean the light went off, and it’s a sure way to get hit yourself. If you need to, you can remove your mask to wipe sweat out of your eyes, scratch your nose, etc. only AFTER the director has halted the action.

At our club practice, and at most informal encounters between friends, there’s a lot of talking, jibing and “smack talk” between the fencers as they go at each other. You can’t do that in official competition. Nor can you crook a finger in a “bring it on” gesture. This is defined as taunting, and it’s a cardable offense.

If you see a potentially dangerous situation–such as a weapon with a very sharp bend beyond a normal curve, an untied shoelace, a broken blade, some doofus walking across the strip right behind your opponent, etc.–you cannot just stop fencing and call halt yourself. Back up a few steps, raise your non-weapon hand and stomp your foot a bit to get the director’s attention. He or she will stop the bout, and you can have the problem addressed.

Addressing the Director

Only the fencers have the right to address the director in reference to an action, although most directors at the local level will answer a question from a coach. If you need to ask a question, especially if you think you did a parry-riposte and the director says your opponent did a beat-attack, don’t yell at the director; be polite about it. My general rule of thumb is to ask once and let it go if it doesn’t go my way. For example:

Me – “That wasn’t a parry-riposte, Sir?”

Director – “No. Your opponent landed as you parried, then your riposte landed.”

After that, I let it go because arguing never changes the call. Keep in mind, if you’re relatively inexperienced, that the director and fencer will see different things on the same action. Also, in many cases the directors have been directing far longer than you’ve been fencing, so they know what they’re talking about. For good or ill, that person is the director, and he or she is the boss. If you don’t like a call, shake it off and get back to fencing.

Also keep in mind this: if the director states the action as “The attack is from my right, parry riposte from my left,” it cannot be argued because the director’s saying he saw a specific action. If the director says, however, The attack is from my right, and I think it was a parry riposte from my left,” you have the right to argue it if you think it was yours, because he wasn’t sure. Don’t do it too often.

Problems with Your Tip

If you keep hitting your opponent and the light just ain’t going off, you are either not hitting with sufficient pressure to trigger the light (remember the weight test), or hitting flat and not depressing the tip, or hitting later that 40 milliseconds after your opponent hits you (in épée), or the tip has gone bad.

You may ask the director if you can test the tip by touching your opponent – like during the original lame test – or you may present the blade to the director for him to test. Be advised: if you think the tip itself has gone bad, you MUST ask the director to test it for you. If it turns out the tip is bad, you may get a break, because it may invalidate any touch you received in the action where your tip failed. Testing it yourself is not a valid test as far as the refs are concerned.

Covering Target/Turning Back on Opponent (one word: DON’T)

Turning your back is self-explanatory. It’s a safety issue, since you don’t want the back of your head exposed. Covering target is a bit more complicated, but it boils down to this: if your non-weapon arm is covering your lamé in foil in any way during an exchange of action, it’s a penalty. Don’t do it; keep that arm back and out of the way. Covering can be as seemingly minor as having the non-weapon arm running straight down your side if it’s not away from the body; it’s still covering target if it touches your side.

 

(Source: Sam Sam Signorelli, SwordPlay Fencing Studio)

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21 Rules and Truisms of Fencing

This coming week, in preparation for our first tournament as a club, I will be posting information about etiquette, bouts, directors, etc. The following list was borrowed from the Pierpont Fencing Club website in Burbank, California. I have edited a few small things, but nothing that would change the intended meaning:

21 Rules and Truisms of Fencing

by Sam Sam Signorelli, SwordPlay Fencing Studio

  1. Respect your opponent’s skills, even if you don’t particularly like him or her.
  2. When arguing a call with the director, be polite and respectful; don’t be an ass about it.
  3. If a particular trick doesn’t work the first couple of times, for crying out loud, try something different!
  4. There’s nothing wrong with beating your opponent 5-0 in the pool round.
  5. In épée, check your tip screws after each bout.
  6. In foil, ensure your tip is still there after each halt of action.
  7. Don’t be nasty to the people in your pool… you’ll most likely have one of them in the DE round.
  8. If things aren’t going your way, don’t get so upset that you lose your self-control and discipline; angry fencers make mistakes.
  9. Show support for your teammates when they’re fencing and you’re not. Just one “Go get ’em!” can make all the difference in the world.
  10. Just as there’s no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole, there are no friends on the piste (strip).
  11. Don’t stop until the director calls, “Halt!”
  12. Don’t cheat or accuse others of doing so just so you can get another point, particularly when you’re far ahead or vastly superior in skill to your opponent. You demean yourself and the sport when you do so.
  13. Retreat, don’t just run away… there’s a difference.
  14. Finish the attack!
  15. You may be big, tall and strong, but remember that power means nothing without control.
  16. Be gracious when you lose… more importantly, be gracious when you win.
  17. Don’t look at the friggin’ box!!
  18. Don’t let yourself get psyched out by a higher rated or higher skilled opponent… you never know when you’re going to be hot.
  19. Have fun… not many people can stab a total stranger with a long knife and get rewarded for it!
  20. Never give up–even if you’re down 14-0.
  21. Never underestimate ANYONE!!

On a personal note, #20 is something that each of you should ingrain in your mind. Fencing is a sport filled with stories of great comebacks. Many things can happen on the fencing strip, and many of them in your favor. The score is not final until the director ends the bout!

The Flèche, Stripped Down and Defined

Photo credit: Australian Academy of Fencing

Photo credit: Australian Academy of Fencing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For some of you, our last practice introduced you to an offensive maneuver called a flèche. For the rest of you, this is a refresher. This is term originating from French (like many terms used in the sport of fencing), meaning “arrow,” referring to the surprising style of the attack. Here’s how the United States Fencing Coaches Association (USFCA) defines a flèche:

Attacking footwork formed by either leaping or running forward, with the rear foot crossing past the front foot

Wikipedia also has a good working definition with photos to help illustrate the execution of the attack. The flèche involves speed and an element of surprise. The flèche is absolutely not a charge down the piste at an opponent at distance. The flèche utilizes timing, not distance, so the distance shouldn’t be greater than an advance-lunge.

The flèche is only used in foil and épée. In sabre, it is forbidden for the back foot to pass in front of the front foot, outlawing the flèche.

Just in case the definition isn’t enough, at the tail end of the video below is an example of a flèche in slow motion. Enjoy!

Tournament Basics

When it came time for a tournament, I always got a little more anxious than normal anticipating the bouts ahead. Here are some tips (gathered from personal experiences) for preparing for a fencing tournament.

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Prior to the tournament

Day of the tournament

  • Eat a light breakfast at least 90 minutes before fencing starts. You should never start your day nor a tournament on an empty stomach.
  • Report on time and get suited up quickly. Even better, come already dressed to fence. At check-in you will learn which strip to report to first for your first round of bouts.
  • While checking in have your mask inspected (this is a requirement). Fencing with a mask that has not been inspected will cost you a red card. Masks are tested with a 12K punch and examined for safety–no holes in bib, rust on mask or dents permitted. If you see gaps in the mesh, use an awl or small screwdriver to re-position the mesh. If you have a dent, tap it out from the inside with the back end of a large screwdriver and hammer.
  • A proper warm-up is critical to good fencing. Give yourself enough time to go through your normal routine of warm-up, stretching and drilling.

Experienced fencers and captains – help your teammates with advice and encouragement when you aren’t fencing. I will also be going around to as many of you as I can to give as much advice as I can.

Before your bout

  • Before your first bout, the Director or Referee will check your weapon to see that the handle and barrel of the tip are not loose, that the tip has two screws, the blade is not rusty, and that the wires of your weapon are glued down properly. Inside the guard the two wires must be covered with spaghetti insulation all the way up to the nut.
  • Before each bout, the Director will test your foil or epee to see that it supports the 750-gram weight. This is to insure that your tip is functioning correctly.
  • The Director will then have you and your opponents test your weapons on each other’s lames. Holding your mask in front of your face, touch your opponent’s lame with your weapon to ensure that all scoring equipment and weapons are functioning correctly.
  • Salute your opponent, salute your Director, and put on your mask. Have fun!

During your bout

  • If you disagree with a director’s or referee’s judgement, you may not protest it, even if it is poor judgement. However, if a rule is misapplied, you may politely lodge a protest. Do not continue to fence until the protest has been dealt with completely. If you continue to fence, you will lose your right to the protest. Have a teammate call me to the strip immediately if there is a rules question.

After your bout

  • Do not wander too far from your strip until all of your bouts for that round have been completed.
  • After the round has been completed, you will await the results to find out who will be advancing and what the strip assignments will be. Between bouts, observe some of the other bouts since everyone is a potential opponent. Take stock of strengths and weaknesses so that you are better prepared when you face that opponent.

Remember to relax and enjoy what you’re doing!

What is Fencing?

Do you have friends and family members who ask you about fencing? Since it’s a sport that you don’t normally find televised on a Monday night, I’m sure that you’ve gotten questions from time to time. If so, pull them in front of the screen, sit them down, and watch the following video put together by the Royal Arts Fencing Academy in Columbus, Ohio:

Any questions?

Our Field of Play: The Piste

In modern fencing, the piste or strip is the playing area. A regulation piste is 14 meters long and between 1.5 and 2 meters wide. This narrow pathway is where all of our fencing activity will take place, and why our movements are so linear in nature.

electric piste

Fencers must be on the strip to score touches. In electric fencing, the strip is grounded so that if a weapon hits the strip, no touch is registered. There is a center line; most scoring equipment will be aligned with the center of the strip, set off to the side. Every bout begins at the on guard or en garde line (located two meters either side of the center line) with a fencer on each side. There are warning areas at the end of each strip two meters before the end of the strip. The President or Referee will halt the action when a fencer passes this line to give him or her a two-meter warning (so named because there are only two meters of strip left). It merely serves to let the fencer know that he or she is nearing the end of the strip.

If a fencer goes off the end of the warning area with both feet, essentially off the strip, the opponent is given a point even if there is no actual hit. Going off the side of the strip with one or both feet halts the fencing action and is penalized by allowing the opponent to advance one meter before being replaced on guard. If the offending fencer would then be replaced behind the rear limit of the strip because of this, a tough is awarded to the opponent. If play is halted for any reason other than stepping off the side of the piste, a fencer may never be replaced on guard behind the rear line.

Once a touch has been scored, fencers begin again at the en garde line and action resumes as directed by the Referee. If no touch is scored but play was halted, the fencers come en garde at the position they were stopped.

The video below shows some of the strips that were set up for the London 2012 Olympics. Strips such as these will not be found at the local, regional or national level. They will most likely be found at international competitions. Enjoy!