Foil Fencing: Concepts and Terms

by David Glasser 

Lines -- according to the French system of fencing, space above your bellguard is high line; space below is low line. For right-handers, the space to the right of their bell guard is outside line; space to the left of the guard is inside line. Thus we have four quadrants known as lines:high-outside, high-inside, low-outside, and low-inside. As the fencer's bell guard moves around, his target surfaces they may be found in different lines. For example, an octave invito with the bell guard next to the front thigh would leave the flank in that fencer's high-inside line. Should thatfencer assume a lifted septime parry his flank would be in his low outsideline.


closed distance -- The opposing fencer is so close that you must withdraw your weapon arm to bring the point of your foil to target surface.

short distance -- You can reach your opponent's target surface by simply extending your arm.

middle distance -- You can reach your opponent's target surface by lunging.

long distance -- You can reach your opponent's target surface by advance-lunging, jump-lunging, or fleching.

out-of-distance -- You are beyond long distance.

Critical distance -- you are so close to your opponent that you can hit him with an attack before he can physically respond.

Analysis: (the referee's account the of various fencing actions leading up toa hit in combat):

"In line" or "point-in-line" -- The weapon arm and weapon are extended and held pointing straight at the opponent's target surface. Such a passive threat must not be lept upon by that opponent. This passive threat must have been clearly established before any offensive action begun by the opponent ifit is to be recognized as a "point-in-line."

The attack -- the initial offensive action, wherin the attacker actively and progressively threatens his opponent with being hit; usually begun byextending the arm and penetrating across the fencing distance through the useof footwork. Attacks may be simple (executed in one period of fencing time),composed (including one or more feints), prepared (as preceded by a beat,a change of engagement, a pris de fer preparation, etc.), direct (into the same line as the engagement), or indirect (into a different line from that of the engagement).

The riposte -- thrust you make immediately after parrying an opponent's attack.

A delayed riposte -- when a riposte is not made immediately after the parry and the opponent begins a remise first, the remise of the attack will have priority of action.

The counter-riposte -- the thrust made immediately after parrying your opponent's riposte.

The second counter-riposte -- the thrust made immediately after parrying your opponent's counter-riposte, etc.

The remise -- a second thrust you make right after your first thrust intothat line fails to hit. Such an action should be analysed as a remise ofthe attack, a remise of the riposte, etc. It is possible to make a remiseof any type of thrust. Remises are commonly used against opponents that donot riposte after parrying. The remiser does not appreciably withdraw hisweapon arm in making his remise.

The counter-attack -- thrusting against an attack instead of parrying it.

The derobement -- avoiding your opponent's attempt to strike or take yourblade (usually during his preparation to attack).

The trompement -- made at the end of a feint, deceiving your opponent's parryand hitting him. Note that deceiving your opponent's parry involvescompletely avoiding it. No grazing contact may occur, else the feint isconsidered to have been parried.

A period of fencing time -- the time it takes to execute a single fencingaction (such as a parry, a remise, a thrust, etc.). This is relative time,not absolute time.

Cadence -- the rhythm and sequence of a series of consecutive periods offencing time. A skilled fencer will use changes in cadence to cause theopponent to mistime his defence. Cadence is also sometimes called "tempo."

In-fighting -- fencing at closed distance.

Transitions (movements between parry positions):

Lateral (quarte to sixte, septime to octave, and vice-versa).

Vertical (octave to lifted sixte, octave to lifted septime and vice-versa)

Circular (the counter parries: contre de sixte, contre d'octave, etc.)

Semi-circular (sixte to septime, octave to quarte, and vice-versa)

Transfers -- moving the opponent's blade around with your bell guard andforte.

Prises de fer (either as a preparation or as a thrust) -- taking theopponent's blade:

Opposition -- deflecting the opponent's blade with your bell guard while thrusting at him.

Envelopment -- transferring the opponent's blade around in circular fashion to the same position the envelopment began from.

Bind -- transferring the opponent's blade around in semi-circular fashion to the diagonally opposite position. For example, the sixth bind thrust would begin with opposition septime and finish in opposition sixte. The fourth bind would begin in octave and finish in quarte.

Croise -- normally made as a riposte which transfers the opponent's blade up or down to the vertically opposite position. Unlike binds, croises are numbered from their starting positions. Also called glide thrusts.

Engagement -- Fencing with the blades crossed in a contact state. Fencing without engagements is fencing with "absence of blade."

Disengagement -- changing lines by going around the opponent's bell guard.

Counter-disengagement -- avoiding an opponent's change of engagement. Alsodeceiving an opponent's counter-parry.

Invito -- inviting an attack by taking up an en garde in an exaggerated parryposition.

Press -- forcefully opening a closed engagement. Also invites a disengage.

Interception thrust -- a strong thrust which interposes the bell guard orforte athwart the path of an opponent's disengagement. This action isusually made as a type of counter-offensive action. Also known as"temps d'interception."

Arret a bon temps -- a counter-offensive action which hits the opponentbefore he initiates his final action. Thus it is a period of fencing time ahead and gains priority of action. Also known as a "stop-hit" or"coup d'arret."

Coup de temps -- a counter-offensive thrust made with opposition which deflects an opponent's thrust. Also known confusingly as a "time-hit."

Attacking in second intention -- attacking without the intention to hit immediately, but rather anticipating the opponent's riposte and setting upa dynamic counter-riposte action to deal with it.

Tension parry -- resisting the pressure of an opponent's opposition thrust by forcing blade and arm into a strong opposition parry which through brute force closes the threatened line. Tension parries are vulnerable to timely disengagements and may also result in pulling a muscle in the fore-arm.

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