THE FRENCH FOIL AND ITS GRIP
This weapon consists of the following parts:
Tip, Blade, Guard, Cushion, Handle, Pommel
The Tip, would be rubber or plastic, smooth or ribbed soft protection
from the steel underneath.
The BLADE, made of steel, is rectangular and thinning to
a flattened point. Divided into three equal length sections: the "strong" near
the guard used to parry; the "middle" used to prepare
with takes; the "weak" section used to reach the target. From
the guard under the handle, is the tang and which is held
in place by the pommel. The standard length of a foil blade
is 35" from the guard to the point.
The GUARD, round and concave made of steel
or aluminum, shields the hand. Bell guards are 3 1/2" or 4" in
The HANDLE is made of plastic or wood,
and is slightly curved to fit the shape of right or left hand,
and is either textured or covered with leather. Handles are approximately 6" long.
The POMMEL, threads to the tang and is tighten with finger pressure.
All assembled parts of the weapon are held together by the pommel.
The pommel also bring balance to the 12 1/2 ounces, which is the
approximate weight of the French Foil.
The foil grip begins between the thumb
and first finger positioned close to but not touching the guard,
the thumb is on top of the bend of the blade which is the opposite,
while the first two phalanges of the index finger support the
foil from underneath. The
rest of the fingers close naturally around the handle. The
thumb and index finger control the foil and the other three fingers
give firmness to the grip.
FOILS WITH PISTOL HANDLES
In past years an increasing number of fencers
has shown a preference for French foils equipped with Pistol
grip handles. The popularity
of this handle is due to the fact that the extensions from the
main part of the handle enable the fencer to grip the weapon more
securely. It is especially helpful when making circular parries
and attacks against the blade. If this handle is not held
tighter than the ordinary French handle, it affords a great deal
of freedom for the use of the fingers. Many fencers use this
type of weapon only in bout work and tournament fencing, preferring
to practice with the standard French handle.
THE ITALIAN FOIL AND ITS GRIP
It is the unanimous opinion of the leading
fencers of the world that the Italian foil can be used with the
same degree of skill and finesse as the French foil. The Italian
Olympic Foil and Epee Teams in 1936 should be convincing enough
proof that this weapon is by no means inferior to the french.
The Italian foil consists of the same number of parts as the French
foil-blade, guard, cushion, handle and pommel-although they differ
The BLADE between the guard and the tip
is rectangular, either square or flat, and tapers to a blunt
point. In both type
Italian blades, the part which is held by the thumb and index finger
The GUARD of this weapon differs in principle
from that of the French type, having a crossbar which insures
a firmer grip in the holding and manipulation of the foil. The
HANDLE is straight and made of wood, averaging 2 1/2 inches in
length. The threaded POMMEL holds the various parts of the weapon
together. The average
weight of an Italian foil is 11 ounces.
The grip for the Italian foil is exactly
the same as that for the french foil, with the exception of
the middle finger, the tip of which is placed on the crossbar. The
Italian foil is usually strapped to the wrist. However, this
strap in no way hinders the fine movements of the point. On
the contrary, it aids greatly in controlling the weapon.
In this preliminary position, the body
is held erectly, and, in relation to the opponent, in complete
profile, the head turned toward the adversary. The feet should be placed at right
angles, the right heel directly in front of and touching the left
heel. Forming one straight line, the right arm and foil should
be directed down ward, thumb up and fingernails to the left, with
the point of the blade about six inches from the floor; the left
arm cradling the mask.
Before crossing blades in the lesson or in a bout, and also upon
completion of these, the opponent and the judges are saluted.
This is one of the most important positions
in fencing. From
the INITIAL position, extend both arms horizontally. Then
bend the right arm, the foil and forearm retaining an unbroken
line, until the elbow is about six inches from the hip, at the
same time keeping the point of the blade on a level with the opponent's
Bend the left arm so that the forearm is
perpendicular, the upper arm remaining in a horizontal plane,
and curve the hand toward the head. Advance the right foot straight forward until it
is separated from the left one by a distance approximately twice
the length of the foot. Now, keeping the torso erect, bend
both legs simultaneously until the lower part of the right leg
is perpendicular, the right knee above the instep, the left knee
directly above the toes of the left foot. The wight of
the body should be distributed evenly over both legs.
A thorough knowledge of distance is one
of the most essential factors in fencing. There are three
distances-(a) infighting, (b) critical, and (c) normal:
(a) In the close (infighting) distance, an opponent can be reached
by merely extending the arm.
(b) In the critical distance, a Lunge is required.
(c) In the normal distance, it is necessary to make an advance
The purpose of the Advance is to approach
the opponent. It
is made from the guard position. Place the right foot one
step forward, landing first on the heel, and then follow with the
left foot for the same distance. In changing the position,
as in all footwork, the feet should just clear the floor, neither
touching nor being raised too high from it. It is also essential
that the body mist not move up or down. The advance should
not begin in the knee but must start from the toes of the right
The RETREAT is made in the reverse order of the advance. Place
the left foot one step backward and follow for the same distance
with the right foot, both feet landing flat on the floor.
The LUNGE is used to reach the opponent
from the middle distance. Extend
the arm at shoulder heigh, keeping the
right shoulder relaxed. Start the lunge with the toes and
place the right foot straight forward, landing on the heel first. At
the same time fully extend the left leg with a snap and hold the
left foot stationary and flat on the floor. Simultaneously,
straighten and lower the left arm to a position approximately parallel
with the left leg, holding the palm upward.
In a correct lunge, the right knee should
be directly above the instep, with the body held erectly and
leaning slightly forward from the hip. It should be borne
in mind that the extension of the arm must always be a fraction
of a second ahead of the lunge.
In the RECOVERY from the lunge, the left
leg pulls, and the right leg pushes, the body back to the guard. Simultaneously,
both the right and left arms return to their original positions.
As the name implies, the ADVANCE LUNGE
is a combination of an advance and a lunge, and is used in attacking
when an opponent cannot be reached with a lunge. The placement of the left
foot on the floor should be well emphasized, although there is
no interruption whatsoever between the advance and the advance
and the lunge. The following are characteristic mistakes
in executing this form of footwork:
(a) The shortening of the distance between the feet in the advance
by bringing the left foot too close to the right foot.
(b) The loss of balance in the lunge caused
by the failure to hold the left foot flat and "anchor" it
to the floor.
The BALESTRA (FORWARD JUMP AND LUNGE) is
made by a flat jump forward in which the right foot lands an
instant ahead of the left foot, and is followed immediately by
a lunge. Contrary to the advance,
in which the heel of the right foot lands first, in the forward
jump, the descent of the right foot is made on the ball of the
foot, thus avoiding the jarring of the heel. In this footwork,
greater speed can be attained than in the advance lunge but it
should be used sparingly as it may provoke a stop thrust.
SUPINATION: Thumb to the right at 2 o'clock,
nails up. Supination is used in the sixth, seventh and
NORMAL: Thumb to the left at 10 o'clock,
nails downward to the left. Normal is used in the fourth
PRONATION: Thumb to the left at 9 o'clock,
nails down. Pronation is used in the second, third and
FIRST: thumb downward at 6 o'clock, back
of hand toward face. This
is used only for the first position.
The target in foil fencing is the torso,
from the upper edge of the collar to the groin lines ( in the
back to a horizontal line passing across the tops of the hip
bones ). Touches made
on all other parts of the body ( mask, arms and legs ) are foul
touches. Although such touches carry no penalty, they invalidate
any further action in the phrase. When a foul is made, the
director of the bout interrupts the play by calling a halt.
These positions cover the four sections
of the target. There
are two for each division:
First and Fourth
Upper inside target
Third and Sixth
Upper outside target
Fifth and Seventh
Lower inside target
Second and Eighth
Lower outside target
The above guards correspond to the positions
of the opposition parries. The eight positions are as follows:
First: Forearm horizontal, wrist slightly below the chin line,
the point of the blade directed at the opponent's foot.
SECOND: Hand in pronation, arm slightly
bent, elbow about six inches from hip, point of the blade directed
at the opponent's knee.
THIRD: Hand in pronation at breast height,
elbow about six inches from the hip, point of blade directed
at opponent's eyes.
FOURTH; Hand to the left at breast height
and in "normal" position
(thumb up, fingernails to left), point of blade directed at opponent's
FIFTH: Hand to the left and in pronation,
about four inches below breast, with the point of the blade higher
than the hand.
SIXTH: Hand to the right and in supination
at breast height, elbow about six inches from hip, point of blade
directed at opponent's eyes.
SEVENTH: Hand to the left and in supination,
point of blade directed at opponent's knee.
EIGHT : Hand to the right and in supination,
elbow about six inches from the hip, point of blade directed at
An engagement is the crossing of the blades
in any of the eight positions. In making an engagement in the "critical" distance,
it is always advantageous to use the middle part of the blade against
the weak section of the opponent's. In the "normal" distance,
only the weak parts of the blades are in contact.
A successful attack in foil fencing consists
of a thrust landing squarely on the valid target, in such manner
as, in an actual duel, would cause a punctured wound. In all attacks with a lunge,
although the extension of the arm and the lunge appear to be simultaneous,
actually the foil should move a fraction of an instant ahead of
the lunge. In order to avoid the development of the habit
of lunging with a bent arm, it is recommended that in practice
the full extension of the arm before the lunge be emphasized. Attacks
may be SIMPLE or COMPOUND.
There is only one attack and that is the direct attack all else
is therefore preparation with or without blade engagement. A simple
attack consists of one movement and may be made in the following
The DIRECT THRUST is executed by extending
the arm in the same line, with or without a lunge, according
to the distance between the fencers. This attack can be made when in an engaged position
or when the blades are not in contact. The thrust should
be finished in opposition whenever possible, that is, when both
weapons are in the high line or in the low line, so that the opponent
cannot attack simultaneously in the same line.
The DISENGAGE attack is made in the opposite
line of engagement. It
is a progressive action in which the point of the blade is moved
forward and passed under or over the forearm, and is followed by
a lunge. In the high line the point is passed under, and
in the low line over, the opponent's forearm. The blade should
be directed by the fingers and wrist only. It is important
that there be no sideward, or upward or downward motion of the
arm. The common mistake of making a disengagement by first
describing a semi-circle with the point of the foil and then
extending the arm should be guarded against, as such an attack
can very easily be parried.
The COUPE' attack is a disengagement executed
in the high line by passing the blade over the point of the opponent's
blade, raising the point with the fingers, wrist and slight use
of the forearm, then making a thrust on the other side. Two common mistakes
may be made in this attack, either using the forearm too much,
or not using it at all. In the first case, the over-use of
the forearm will take the point far out of line and this may provoke
a "stop thrust." In the second instance, by using
only the thumb and index finger, the grip is loosened to such an
extent that control of the foil is lost almost entirely. If
used sparingly, the Coupe' is a very effective attack.
The feint, as the name implies, is a false
purpose is to make the adversary believe that it is a real thrust
and to force him to close the line in which the feint is made,
thereby creating an opening in another line. In order to
be effective, a feint must have the appearance and vigor of a real
Compound attacks consist of two or more movements of the foil
by feints, attacks against the blade, or combinations of these
a. Straight Feint and deceive the parry.
b. straight Feint, deceive the parry and disengage.
c. Coupe' Feint and deceive the parry.
d. One-two; and One-two-three attacks consist of two or three
disengagements in opposite directions.
e. Double is an attack with two disengagements in the same direction.
It is essential that all attacks should
be made in a progressive way. From the beginning of the
attack to the end, without interruption, the point should go
forward until the thrust is completed.
ATTACKS AGAINST THE BLADE
The purpose of making an attack against
the opponent's blade is two-fold: first, to remove it from the
line of attack, thereby creating an opening; and, second, to
delay the adversary's defensive movements. There are the
following blade attacks:
In the GLIDE, BIND and ENVELOPMENT attacks, the blades remain
in contact until the completion of the action, whereas in the BEAT,
PRESSURE and PRESSURE GLIDE, the opponent's blade is struck aside.
The BEAT attack is made with the middle
of the blade against the middle of the opponent's, or with the
middle against the weak part of the opponent's blade, and may
be executed either from an engaged or an unengaged position. when, from an engaged position,
the bat is made with a circular movement on the other side of the
blade, it is known as a Change Beat. From an engaged position,
the beat is executed with the fingers and wrist only. However,
when not engaged, in addition to the fingers and wrist, the forearm
should be used very moderately.
The PRESSURE attack is executed in the same manner as the beat
attack except that, as the name implies, pressure is used instead
of striking the blade.
The PRESSURE GLIDE is a sharp downward
and forward pressure of the blade toward the opponent's guard. It is necessary to
start this attack on the weak part of the opponent's blade, carrying
the action through until the strong part of the blade is reached. This
is a very effective blade attack which may even disarm the opponent.
The GLIDE is an attack in which contact is kept with the adversary's
blade until the thrust is completed, using moderate side pressure
The BIND is an action in which the opponent's
blade is carried from the high to low line, or vice versa, with
a semi-circular and forward movement. This attack is successful only against
an extended arm. The ENVELOPMENT is executed also against
a straight arm, carrying the opponent's blade in a complete circle,
in either the high or low line. At the completion of the
envelopment, the blades are in their original positions.
Parries are defensive blade movements by
which the attacking blade is diverted from the target. They
may be made in the following ways:
A SIMPLE PARRY diverts the attacking blade,
either by a light tap or by opposition, putting it outside the
line in which the attack was made. In the opposition parry, pressure against
the opponent's blade is maintained until the return is effected. The
simple parries are the fastest but the counters are more difficult
to deceive, and protect a larger area.
The COUNTER PARRY is performed by describing
a circle with the point-in the high line, under, and in the low
line, over, the opponent's blade. The hand remains stationary, the fingers and wrist
controlling the blade. There is a counter parry for each
simple parry. In the counter parries of second, fourth, fifth
and eighth, the point travels counter-clockwise. In counter
parries of first, third, sixth and seventh the point travels clockwise.
The HALF COUNTER PARRY is a semi-circular
motion used in crossing from the high to low line, or from the
low to high line. For
example, sixth to seventh, fourth to eighth, or vice versa.
The COMPOUND PARRY consists of either two or more simple parries,
or two or more counter parries, or the combination of counter and
The CONTRACTION PARRY is a combination
of a simple and a counter parry. However, the counter parry
is started before the simple parry is completed.
The CEDING PARRY may be used against straight
thrusts made with glides or binds against the outside low line
or against the outside high line. In the case of the lower outside line the foil
will be led from the second to the fourth position. In the
outside high line the blade is led from the sixth to the first
position. This is one of the rare cases when the First Parry
may be used advantageously.
The FLYING PARRY, which is used only in
the high line, is executed as a backward glide on the blade and
is followed by a cutover return either to the high or low line,
using the fingers, wrist and forearm. This
action combines the parry and return in one continuous circular
Parries can be executed either as BEAT
PARRIES (lightly striking the opponent's blade aside), or as
OPPOSITION PARRIES (carrying the opponent's blade out to the
guard position, to the limit of the target). The various opposition parries, when completed,
correspond in their final positions to the respective guard positions. For
instance, the fourth guard is the ultimate position of the fourth
It can be said generally that a thrust
made by a fencer with a "light
hand" may be effectively parried by a light beat; whereas
a more persistent thrust, made by a fencer with a "heavy hand," might
not be diverted safely enough by a beat to avoid being touched,
despite the parry. In the latter case, an opposition parry
should be used. It should be kept in mind that the BEAT PARRY should
come from the fingers and wrist, with as little use of the forearm
EXECUTION OF THE EIGHT PARRIES
The fencing target, which is divided into four sections, can be
defended by eight parries:
First and Fourth Upper
Third and Sixth Upper
Fifth and Seventh Lower
Second and Eighth Lower
Following are descriptions of the above mentioned parries:
FIRST: Defends upper inside target. From sixth, lower the
point of the blade, at the same time turning the hand to the left
(thumb downward, nails to the right), while moving the foil toward
the body to a position where the forearm is horizontal and the
wrist slightly below the chin line, with the point of the blade
directed at the opponent's foot. This parry is seldom used
as it is impractical, leaving too much of the target unprotected
and moves the point too far out of line.
SECOND: Defends lower outside target. From sixth, slightly
lower the hand, moving the point in a half circle counter-clockwise
until it reaches the height of the opponent's knee. Upon
completion of the parry, the hand should be in pronation.
THIRD: Defends upper outside target. From
fourth, move foil to right, hand at breast height, point of the
blade directed at opponent's eyes, finishing the action with
the hand in pronation.
FOURTH: Defends upper inside target. From sixth, move foil
to left, hand at breast height, point of the blade directed at
opponent's eyes, thumb nail up and hand in "normal" position.
FIFTH: Defends lower inside target. From
sixth, move foil to the left, the hand in pronation and
about four inches below the breast, with the point of the blade
higher than the hand. This parry is seldom used due to the
fact that the point is too far out of line, and, also, it leaves
too much of the target exposed.
SIXTH: Defends upper outside target. From
fourth, move foil to right, hand at breast height, point of blade
directed at opponent's eyes, finishing with hand in supination.
SEVENTH: Defends lower inside target. From
fourth, slightly lower the hand, moving the point clockwise in
a semi-circle until it reaches the height of the opponent's knee,
hand in supination.
EIGHTH: Defends lower outside target. From
sixth, slightly lower the hand, moving the point in a semi-circle,
counter-clockwise, until it reaches the height of the opponent's
knee, hand remaining in supination.
It should be understood, of course, that any of the above mentioned
eight parries may be executed either as BEAT or OPPOSITION parries.
A return (riposte) is a thrust, with or
without a lunge, executed immediately after a parry, in reply
to an attack. It is very
essential that a return should be made with a smooth follow through,
and care should be taken when the touch is made not to "whip" the
point off the target but to hold it there for an appreciable time.
There are the following returns:
The SIMPLE return is a straight thrust made in the same line as
the attack, and immediately following, the parry.
The COMPOUND return may be made with a
disengagement, a coupe' or cutover, a one-two, a one-two-three,
a double, a bind, or an envelopment.
The DELAYED return is used when the opponent,
after the parry, does not recover immediately but stays in the
lunge, not revealing an opening for an immediate return. In
his delayed recovery to the guard position a return can be made.
The FLYING return is made with a cutover, combining the parry
and riposte in one continuous circular movement.
The COUNTER return is made after the opponent's riposte has been
THE REPLACEMENT (remise)
This action should be used when the adversary
does not riposte at all, or at least not immediately after parrying. The replacement
is a second thrust made in the same line as the original attack. When
used sparingly and at the proper time, it is a clever means of
scoring a point. Inexperienced fencers, however, often abuse
the replacement attack by resorting to it even when the opponent
makes a fast direct return.
The proper way to avoid a replacement attack is to make a fast
direct riposte without the slightest hesitation, or to return with
The redouble is used when the opponent
does not riposte but closes the line, thus making a replacement
(a second thrust in the same line) impossible. With the
exception of a straight thrust, any SIMPLE or COMPOUND attack
can be made.
THE RENEWAL OF ATTACK
A renewal of the attack is a second attack
immediately following the failure of the first one, when the
failure has been caused by the opponent's retreat out of the
distance as a defensive measure. In
executing a renewal attack, the left foot should be brought FORWARD
from the lunge to the guard position, and then followed by a second
lunge or advance lunge. The renewal attack may be SIMPLE
These are actions which have the appearance
of real attacks. However,
they are not carried through to completion. The purpose of
a false attack is to make an opponent believe that the action is
real, inducing him thereby to disclose his reactions, either by
revealing his preferred parries, which can then be deceived, or
by inducing him to make a parry and riposte, against which a counter
parry and counter return can be utilized. If, on the other
hand, he shows the intention of making a time thrust, a parry and
return can be made. Feints, actions against the blade, such
as beats, beat feints, etc., with or without a lunge, are examples
of false attacks. This form of action, however, will be effective
only if it has the appearance of a real attack.
There are two kinds of counter attacks: TIME
thrusts and STOP thrusts.
A TIME thrust is a counter action executed against an attack,
the time thrust arriving appreciably ahead of the attack.
A STOP thrust is the ideal counter attack
because it prevents the opponent's attack from landing at all. It
can be made either at the beginning of the attack (on the preparation),
or at the finish, in which case it is made as a thrust with opposition.