Home Fencing Epee

THE EPEE, contrary to popular belief, is the youngest of the three modern fencing weapons.  Although the original weapon, known as the rapier, was used in actual dueling for centuries, present day epee fencing is less than a century old, and the weapon is a direct descendant of the sword used in serious encounters.

Despite the fact that epee fencing is so young, it is becoming more and more popular throughout the world, due in part to the fact that it takes relatively less time to learn to apply its fundamental principles to bout work.  In epee fencing, because touches (thrusts only) count on the entire body, a beginner is able to score touches more easily than in foil fencing, where the target is limited to the torso.

The epee has a great resemblance to the foil, the chief differences being that the bell guard is larger (maximum diameter 5 1/4") and the blade is heavier, less flexible, and triangular in cross section.  The total weight of an epee may not exceed 27 1/8 ounces. Although every phase of epee fencing shows some similarity to foil fencing, fundamentally the technique of both weapons is quite different.   The principal differences in epee fencing are as follows:

(a) The Larger Target--the target consists of the entire body from head to toe.

(b) The Narrower Stance--The stance is shorter than in foil fencing.  It should not exceed 1 1/2 feet, and the On Guard position is not as low, because of the fact that the legs and feet are valid targets.  Therefore, they have to be kept farther away from the opponent.

(c) The Greater Distance Between Adversaries--The distance maintained between the adversaries is greater because in epee fencing the hand and arm are the most frequently attacked targets; whereas in foil fencing touches made in these areas are invalid.

(d) The Scoring of the Double Touch--In epee fencing double hits, i.e., touches landing at the same instant, are scored against both men; while in foil fencing such double touches do not count.


In epee fencing, there are two forms of Guard Positions.  The Bent Arm Guard and the Straight Arm Guard.

The most effective BENT ARM GUARD is one which resembles somewhat the guard of Sixth in foil.  In this epee guard, the arm is slightly bent;  the hand is well below the height of the shoulder and in complete supination;  The forearm nearly horizontal;  and the point slightly lower than the hand so that the band and forearm under the bell are well covered against a thrust.  the elbow is well to the left from the line drawn between the had and the shoulder.  the point of the blade is directed toward the left by slightly bending the wrist.

this is a most effective guard position since the opponent is always exposed to the danger of running into the point when making an attack.  This is particularly evident when an attack with a disengage is attempted.

In the STRAIGHT ARM GUARD, the arm and weapon form one straight, unbroken line;  the guard slightly below the height of the shoulder; and the weapon pointing at the opponent's forearm.

Both the straight Arm Guard and the Bent Arm Guard may be used successfully.  However, neither of these two guard positions alone are as effective as when they are used interchangeably.


In general the footwork is the same as in foil fencing but the following suggestions are offered for certain conditions which arise in epee work.

The ADVANCE often is made by bringing the left foot up to the right foot, and in the retreat the right is moved back to the left foot.  such a retreat often is safer, particularly when the right leg or foot is attacked.

The advance with the left foot is preferable when we intend to cover up the approach to the opponent.  However, executing footwork in this manner all the time would lose the element of surprise.

When an attack is directed against the leg or foot:  In executing a time thrust against the attacker's hand, arm or mask, the defender withdraws his right foot toward the left foot (getting it out of reach) and straightens his legs; leaning forward with the body to make the time touch.


The Fleche (flash) is a running form of footwork in which the left foot is placed in front of the right followed by one or more running steps.  The attacker does not finish in front of his opponent but runs past him on his left side.

The flash is practical when the adversary keeps a too great distance to be reached by a lunge, or advance and lunge.  Without exception, all Flash attacks must be preceded by an attack against the blade.  The flash is a very risky action as the stop thrust can be used very effectively against it.


Most attacks are directed against the hand, forearm, right shoulder and right leg.  Attacks against the chest and head have the least chance for success, even when they are preceded by preparations such as pressures, beats, binds or envelopments.

As attacks to the torso provoke a stop thrust, in executing an advance lunge attack, it is advisable to make such actions in two parts instead of a direct attack.  First in the form of a false attack, with a three-quarter length lunge;  then the left foot is brought up to the right foot and a second lunge is made while the hand executes the thrust, preferable preceded by an attack against the blade.

All attacks, regardless of whether they are directed to the body or to the hand, arm or leg, must be practiced in all three distance, beginning always, of course, with the close distance.

How to attack against a Bent Arm Guard?  the problem is that to be found in foil fencing.  Any simple or compound attack may succeed other than cutovers.

Against Straight Arm Guards, there are two possible ways to attack: to attack the blade first, or to use the Angular Thrust on the arm which can be from any of the four sides.


In epee fencing, all parries must be made with the strong part of the blade and the position of the hand must be changed to parry effectively, either raising or lowering it.  Unless the attacks are met with the strong part of the blade, the parry may not clear the thrust entirely (or may not divert the attacking blade entirely away from the target.)

The most effective parries from the Bent Arm Guard protecting the top of the hand and arm and shoulder are the Sixth and Counter Sixth.

Against the under part of the hand and forearm, and lower part of the leg, use the Second and Counter Second; or Eighth and Counter Eighth parries.

Against attacks to the torso, the parry of Fourth;  and against the mask, the High Fourth and High Sixth should be used.

The danger in using Fourth is that after the parry, the attacking point easily can be replaced to the torso unless the riposte is made with a glide or bind;  whereas against Sixth, Second and Eighth, replacements are more difficult to make.

Parries are not made with a fully bent arm as in foil fencing.  Otherwise the defender would expose himself to instantly executed replacements to the hand or arm.

The parries used most generally are the sixth, Second, Eighth, Fourth and their counters.

When an attack against the leg is intended to be parried with a Second, the riposte to the high line is the most effective.

The Parry of First is never used in epee as it exposes the arm too much.  The fifth is rarely used for the same reason.  The Parry of Seventh is also dangerous to use, unless followed by a bind to Sixth.

When using a STRAIGHT ARM GUARD, the parries are executed differently.  Here it is sufficient to use opposition parries, without bending the arm at all, merely by moving the bell to the right or left;  at the same time keeping the point directed against the target.  the most practical parries from the Straight Arm Guard are the second, Eighth and Seventh and their counters.  The parries of Second, seventh and Eighth taken with the Straight Arm Guard will expose the top part of the hand and forearm less than the Parry of Sixth would expose the under part of the hand and forearm.

It must be remembered, however, that these parries of Second, Eighth and Seventh must be opposition parries with the hand well to the right in case of the second and Eighth, and well to the left in the case of the Seventh, and the hand does not change its position sideways while the riposte is made.  Otherwise, a replacement following the attack may succeed.

As to the question whether the Straight Arm defense is superior to the Bent Arm defense, there is only one correct answer.  That neither will be as effective when relying exclusively on one or the other.


The defense against the angular thrust is the stop thrust made in opposition.


In foil fencing most attacks are to be met with parries followed by ripostes.  Counter attacks, i.e, time thrusts and stop thrusts, are to be used only against slow, wide and particularly against compound attacks.  Whereas, in epee fencing the defense relies less on parry ripostes but rather on a defensive-offensive game, one composed chiefly of time thrusts and stop thrusts.

This is brought about by the fact that the attacking hand and forearm can easily be touched at the slightest mistake made by uncovering those targets to the adversary's pointe d'arret.

A defensive-offensive game in epee fencing is very effective os it can be achieved with comparative ease just by lowering, raising or moving the hand to the right or left, thus scoring on the adversary's hand or arm, according to whether he attacks by raising, lowering, or moving his hand to the right or left.

Attacks against the blade, such as beats or glides, cannot be deceived as safely as in foil fencing.  It is more advisable to keep the blade in the same position where the beat was made and resist it.  In  the case of such a defensive-offensive attitude, the attacker's hand or arm may run into the point of the defender's blade.

From the attacker's point of view, binds and envelopments are particularly effective, as these attacks keep the opponent's blade under control until the touch is made.