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Glossary of Fencing Terms

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The following glossary of fencing terms appeared in the Sask Sword a number of years ago.  Since there are not a large number of fencing books that are readily available, hopefully having this information in print will be useful for new members (and some not-so-new members), and those members who do not have a fencing background.

If you want additional explanations or have any questions regarding fencing terminology don’t hesitate to ask Claude or one of the part-time coaches.  Claude can expand on the brief explanations given here, and can also discuss the interpretations currently being used in international fencing  (i.e. what is currently considered to comprise an attack in foil).
  

ABSENCE OF BLADE:

When the blades are not in contact, i.e. not ENGAGED

ANGULATION:

Bending the wrist when making a hit so that the point is at an angle to the TARGET

APPEL:

Stamping the forward foot twice in order to request that fencing action be temporarily ceased.  Also used to startle (and possibly ‘freeze’) your opponent.

ATTACK:

An offensive action designed to hit the opponent.  In foil and sabre, the fencer initiating an attack has the RIGHT OF WAY provided his/her sword arm is extending and the point (or edge for sabre) of his/her blade is continuously threatening the target.

ATTACK ON THE BLADE:

A PREPARATION for an attack, e.g. beat, pressure, or graze

ATTACK ON PREPARATION:

An attack launched when the opponent is making a preparation for an attack

BALLESTRA:

A footwork pattern consisting of a jump forward followed by a LUNGE as the rear foot contacts the floor

BARRAGE:

A bout or bouts fenced to break a tie at a competition.  Barrages are seldom required now that direct elimination is used as the competition format.

BEAT:

A sharp tap on the opponent's blade designed to deflect it and open a line into which an attack may be launched.

BIND:

A preparation of attack which carries the opponent's blade diagonally across from a high to a low LINE or vice versa

BROKEN TIME:

A deliberate pause between two movements which normally follow each other immediately

CARTE:

Inside high quarter of the target.  Also, a SUPINATED PARRY defending this line

CEDING PARRY:

A parry formed by giving way to an opponent who is making a PRISE DE FER

CHANGE BEAT:

A beat made after a CHANGE OF ENGAGEMENT

CHANGE OF ENGAGEMENT:

Engaging the opponent's blade in a new line

CIRCULAR PARRY:

See COUNTER

CLOSED LINE:

A line which is protected by the blade, arm, and bell guard

COMPOUND ATTACK:

An attack which includes one or more FEINTS  e.g. ONE-TWO

CORPS À CORPS:

Body contact between fencers.  Violation of the rules in foil and sabre.

COULÉ:

A sliding of the blade along the opponent's blade prior to an attack

COUNTER:

An action made with the blade in which the point describes one complete circle.  e.g. A counter-sixte parry is made by starting from sixte en garde, moving the point in a clockwise circle and ending in sixte en garde, the opponent's blade being deflected during the circular motion.  A counter parry is also known as a CIRCULAR PARRY.  A counter-disengage is an action which deceives (avoids) a counter parry by a circular motion in the same direction, but just slightly ahead of the counter parry.

COUNTER-ATTACK:

An attack made while the opponent is attacking (i.e. attacking 'into' the opponent's attack).  In foil and sabre the counterattack does not have priority (right of way) over the attack.  See STOP HIT.

COUNTER-DISENGAGE:

See COUNTER

COUNTER-PARRY:

See COUNTER

COUNTER-RIPOSTE:

The offensive action which follows the parry of a RIPOSTE or of another counter riposte

COUNTER-TIME:

A planned sequence of actions determined by the opponent’s response to the first action of the sequence.  An example is A SECOND INTENTION attack

COUPÉ:

An attack in which the blade is lifted sharply over the opponent's blade just prior to the forward thrust

CROISÉ:

Taking the opponent's blade from a high to a low line on the same side of the body during a preparation of attack

CUT:

A hit made with the edge of a SABRE

DÉROBEMENT:

Evasion of the opponent's attempt to deflect or bind the blade

DIRECT:

An attack or riposte made in the line of engagement

DISENGAGE:

Moving the blade from one line to another by a semi-circular motion.

DOUBLÉ:

A compound attack in which the attacker disengages to draw a counter parry, and then evades the counter parry by making a counter-disengage.  i.e. A DOUBLE is a disengage followed immediately by a counter-disengage.

EN GARDE:

The 'on guard' position (feet shoulder width apart, front foot pointing at opponent, rear foot perpendicular to front foot, knees flexed).  If preceded by a reference to a line (e.g. sixte en garde) this describes the position of the blade (i.e. which line is closed).

EN MARCHE:

While stepping forward

ENVELOPMENT:

Taking the opponent's blade and describing a circle to return to the line of engagement without losing contact of blades

ÉPÉE:

Derived from the duelling sword.  Hits are scored with the point only.  Whole body is valid target.  No right of way.

ESCIVE:

Stepping to the side or twisting of the body to cause the opponent's attack to miss

FEINT:

An offensive movement made to resemble an attack in order to draw a reaction from the opponent

FENCING MEASURE:

The distance that is maintained between two fencers during a bout

FENCING TIME:

The time required to perform a single fencing action

FLECHE:

An 'all-out' attack (no recovery to guard) in which the fencer leans forward, pushes off from the front foot and leaps toward the opponent, bringing the rear foot forward for the landing.  The hit is made before the rear foot touches the floor.  The follow-through consists of running past the opponent on the attacker's weapon arm side (i.e. to the right for a right-handed attacker).

FOIBLE:

The half of the blade nearer the point

FOIL:

Originally used as a practice weapon by duellists.  Target is the torso and hits are scored with the point only.  Has right of way convention.

FORTE:

The half of the blade nearer the guard

FROISSEMENT:

A preparation of attack made by deflecting the opponent's blade by a strong, sharp grazing action along it

HIGH LINE:

The part of the opponent's target visible above the swordhand when on guard

INDIRECT:

A simple attack or riposte made in another line

INSUFFICIENT PARRY:

A parry which does not close the line completely, and through which the opponent can land a hit

INVITATION:

Opening a line to offer the opponent the chance for an offensive movement

LA BELLE:

The deciding hit during a bout (normally used to describe the situation when the score is 4-4 in foil or sabre)

LAMÉ:

The plastron of metallised cloth worn over the fencing jacket and used to identify the valid target in foil and sabre

LINE:

One of the four quarters (high outside, high inside, low outside, low inside) into which the target is divided for the purposes of defining attack locations and parry positions

LOW LINE:

The part of the opponent's target visible below the swordhand when on guard

LUNGE:

The extension of the arm, body, and legs used to reach an opponent.  It is done by extending the arm toward the opponent, stepping toward the opponent with front leg, and straightening the back leg

OCTAVE:

Outside low quarter of the target (supinated parry)

ONE-TWO:

A preparation for attack consisting of two disengages, the attacker's blade returning to the line that was originally threatened

PARRY:

A defensive action made by deflecting the opponent's attack with the blade

PASSÉ:

Used to describe an attack which fails to score a valid hit due to the point of the weapon sliding across the target rather than striking the target directly at the culmination of the thrust.

PHRASE D'ARMES:

A sequence of fencing actions that is unbroken by a pause.

PISTE:

The field of play.  For competition this consists of a copper mat measuring 14m long by 2m wide.

PLASTRON:

Also called sous-plastron.  The half-jacket worn under the fencing jacket for extra protection.  Must be constructed in such a way that the seams do not match the seams of the fencing jacket.

POINT IN LINE:

In foil and sabre, extending the weapon arm so that the point is threatening the opponent’s target.  This establishes right of way, and the opponent must deflect the point before being able to score a hit.

PREPARATION:

A blade, body, or foot movement made prior to an attack

PRIME:

Inside high quarter of the target (pronated parry)

PRISE DE FER:

A preparation of attack in which the opponent's blade is taken by an opposition, envelopment, bind, or croise

PRONATED:

Refers to a swordhand position with the fingernails downward (see SUPINATED)

QUINTE:

Inside low quarter of the target (pronated parry).  In sabre, QUINTE refers to a parry defending the head.

RECOVERY:

Returning to the on guard position after a lunge

REDOUBLE-MENT:

A renewal of the attack while remaining in the lunge and making one or more arm or blade movements

REMISE:

A renewal of the attack while remaining in the lunge without making any further arm or blade movements

REPRISE:

A renewal of the attack which includes a return to guard position

RIGHT OF WAY:

The rules of play, or convention, for foil and sabre requiring that a fencer defend himself from an opponent's attack before having the right to attack.  In the absence of an attack from his opponent, a fencer can establish his right of way by launching an attack or placing his point in line.  The opponent can then gain the right of way by parrying the attack or deflecting the point in line with a beat or prise de fer.

RIPOSTE:

The reply to an attack (a take-over of the offense).  Initiated by the fencer who has defended himself by parrying his opponent's attack.

SABRE:

Derived from the cavalry sword.  Target is the body above the hips and points are scored with the point and the edge.  Has right of way.

SECOND INTENTION:

Having a second action planned in advance to counter the opponent's response to an initial action.  Second intention can be either defensive or offensive.

SECONDE:

Outside low quarter of the target (pronated parry)

SEPTIME:

Inside low quarter of the target (supinated parry)

SIMPLE ATTACK:

An attack made with one movement either direct or indirect

SIMULTANEOUS:

When both fencers conceive and execute a movement at the same time

SIXTE:

Outside high quarter of the target (supinated parry)

STOP HIT:

A counter-offensive action consisting of a straight thrust made while the opponent is attacking or making a preparation.  In foil and sabre, the stop hit is in time if it arrives before the opponent has begun the final action of the attack.

STRAIGHT THRUST:

A simple and direct offensive action

SUCCESSIVE PARRIES:

A series of parries immediately following each other in an attempt to find the opponent's blade

SUPINATED:

Refers to a swordhand position with the fingernails upward (see PRONATED)

TAKING THE BLADE:

A preparation of attack by prise de fer.

TARGET:

That portion of the body on which points can be scored by landing hits.  For Epee the whole body is target, for Sabre the body from the hips up is target, and for Foil the torso (area covered by the lame jacket) is target.  In Foil, hits off-target cause a stoppage of the fencing action, while in Sabre they do not.

TIERCE:

Outside high quarter of the target (pronated parry)

TOUCHE:

A hit made on target (VALID HIT)

VALID HITS:

Hits which arrive on the target (TOUCHE)