Home Fencing Foil


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 diameter.

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.


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.


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 in construction.

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 is flat.

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 eyes.

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 and lunge.


Advance Lunge

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 foot.

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 eighth positions.

NORMAL: Thumb to the left at 10 o'clock, nails downward to the left.  Normal is used in the fourth position.

PRONATION: Thumb to the left at 9 o'clock, nails down.  Pronation is used in the second, third and fifth positions.

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 eyes.

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 opponent's knee.


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 forms:

Direct thrust

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 movement.  Its 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 thrust.


Compound attacks consist of two or more movements of the foil by feints, attacks against the blade, or combinations of these actions.


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.


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 throughout.

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:

Half Counter                                                                                                     

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 simple parries.

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 movement.

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 opposition parry.

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 as possible.


The fencing target, which is divided into four sections, can be defended by eight parries:

First and Fourth             Upper inside target

Third and Sixth              Upper outside target

Fifth and Seventh          Lower inside target

Second and Eighth       Lower outside target

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.

RETURNS (riposte)

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:

Simple (direct)
Compound (indirect)

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 parried.


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 a bind.


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.


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 or COMPOUND.


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.