Foil Basics

 

Beginning Foil Fencing: Concepts and Terms

Lines — according to the French system of fencing, space above your bell guard 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 that fencer assume a lifted septime parry his flank would be in his low outside line.

 

Distances:

    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 to a 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 if it 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 by extending the arm and penetrating across the fencing distance through the use of 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 into that line fails to hit. Such an action should be analysed as a remise of the attack, a remise of the riposte, etc. It is possible to make a remise of any type of thrust. Remises are commonly used against opponents that do not riposte after parrying. The remiser does not appreciably withdraw his weapon 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 your blade (usually during his preparation to attack).

The trompement — made at the end of a feint, deceiving your opponent’s parry and hitting him. Note that deceiving your opponent’s parry involves completely avoiding it. No grazing contact may occur, else the feint is considered to have been parried.

A period of fencing time — the time it takes to execute a single fencing action (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 of fencing time. A skilled fencer will use changes in cadence to cause the opponent 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 and forte.

Prises de fer (either as a preparation or as a thrust) — taking the opponent’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. Also deceiving an opponent’s counter-parry.

Invito — inviting an attack by taking up an en garde in an exaggerated parry position.

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

Interception thrust — a strong thrust which interposes the bell guard or forte athwart the path of an opponent’s disengagement. This action is usually 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 opponent before 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 up a 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.

 

David Glasser
fencing master %DFB:BLZ/LLZ Bonn  NFF:BSI/BF/NSS Bergen
glasser@facstaff.wisc.edu
Department of Kinesiology, University of Wisconsin -- Madison

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