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Epee Fencing Lessons

Updated on February 3, 2020
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I am retired and a former epee fencer at CCNY Varsity and USFA. I have achieved the rank of A and have competed in National tournament.

Introduction

How to fence epee? Here are a few basic lessons to get started. I try to make this as simple as possible. This article is written not so much for the student but for the coach. How to give a lesson on each of the moves.

- Jan. 2020

Some Basics

Fencing the weapon of epee is a little different than the other two weapons of foil and saber. They share some basic moves such as mobility and lunges. In epee, more attention is paid to point control, timing and distance.

Lets begin with the first lesson.

1. en guarde position.

2. Mobility...advance and retreat.

3. The lunge

4. Fencing distance...

5. Point control

6. Parry of six

7. Parry four with opposition

8. Disengage

9. Beat attack

10. Stop thrust

11. Remise

12. flèche

The en guarde position

This is the basic stance before each touch.

The en guarde signals that you are ready for combat. In epee fencing, you need to keep your arm parallel to the floor. Point in line, and keep a slim profile. Be loose and relaxed. Eye on the opponent and be prepared.

Hold your weapon loosely and fingers relaxed. Use the thumb and index fingers to control the blade.

Keep your legs slightly bent and your back straight in a squat position.

Mobility...

Before you are ready to engage an opponent, you need to be able to move freely up and down the strip. This involves advance and retreat but also changing direction on a dime. This needs to happen at will and free from thought. You should be able to move just like breathing.

While moving forward or backwards, you need to maintain control and balance. Your center of gravity should be under your body.

The Simple Lunge

The lunge is a most basic attack move. It is the most simple and direct way to reach your opponent. Depending if you are a left handed or right handed fencer, use the opposite leg and extend it fully, at the same time lean forward and lift your front leg. This action completes when your front leg is firmly touched the ground and you are in a stable position. Your weapon hand is extended while your back hand is fully extended in the opposite direction. This gives the stability and grace of the lunge.

Fencing Distance

Proper fencing distance is very complex. It changes depending on your opponents, your intent, and your target area. In general, the distance should be no closer than the distance of a lunge. That is to say, you should not be close enough to your opponent such that he can hit you on the body with a simple lunge.

The truth is, you should be further away since the target area includes your hand and arm. If you want to be safe, you should be far enough so that your opponent cannot reach you with a simple lunge. That is for defense. If you want to attack your opponent, you would want to be as close as possible.

Fencing distance is one of those things that cannot be taught easily. It needs to be experienced. As one fence more bouts against a variety of people, you will gain the experience and knowledge of a proper fencing distance.

Point Control

Point control is one area you can practice alone. Just make a target and stand in front of it and practice hitting it repeatedly. At first, use a simple lunge...and later, add a disengage. The idea is to try and train your eye hand coordination at a fixed target.

In real bouts, the target is most likely moving. However, this does not invalidate the practice. The target, the eye and hand coordination is still important.

The moving target is not random. If you pay attention, you will notice the target has a trajectory that is predictable, For example, the arm of your opponent can only move in a few different ways. Once you see the pattern, you can predict with 90% accuracy where it will be in the next fraction of a second. When attempting to hit a moving target, you just need to adjust for this small discrepancy.

Parry of Six

The parry is a defensive action. The idea is to defect your opponent's attack. The body is divided into quadrants, and each quadrant is assigned a number for easy reference, For example, the upper left quadrant is number 6, while the upper right quadrant is number 4. (assuming you are a left hander).

A parry of six is a defense against an attack to your upper body closest to your weapon arm. This is the most important parry.

The majority of your hits received will be most likely in this quadrant.

A parry of six is performed using your finger and wrist, followed by an extension of your forearm in an attempt at a reposte.

The timing of this action is in response to an attack to the high line. You capture the blade at the weak front portion of your opponent's weapon using the strong part of your blade nearer to the guard. Once the capture is successful, when you feel a resistance, then you immediately apply a reposte to the attacker's upper forearm or shoulder.

Parry of Four

The parry of four is the mirror to the parry of six but with a slight modification. This parry is applied when the attack is coming to the high line closer to your chest.

This parry is to defend your body but at the same time prepare for a reposte.

The parry is performed using a slight turning of the wrist to engage the opponent's blade at the weak part. Keeping the point in-line, and holding the opponent's blade, raise the guard in a defensive "opposition" while moving forward and placing the tip onto your opponent's body.

Disengage

The disengage is a technique to avoid contact with your opponent's blade. You can use this move in several ways. In an attack, you can disengage on an opponent when he attempt to parry. In playing defense, you can disengage when your opponent initiate an attack and try to bind your blade. In either case, the goal is to avoid contact with your opponent's weapon or at lease slide around it so you are free to hit or stop or remise.

The disengage is done using the thumb and and index finger. It should be done with a small motion or movement and keeping your arm in position. You can disengage on either direction clockwise or counter-clockwise depending how your opponent move.

The Beat Attack

This offensive move is the simple direct attack on an opponent. It consists of two parts. The first part is the beating of the blade. This is a short forceful move to try and take the opponent's blade out of line. This is followed immediately with a lunge attack to the body or the arm.

The beat can also be used to test your opponent's reaction. When a beat is performed, the attacker can pause and wait to see what the defender does. This probing is instructive and will help the attacker plan his next move.

Stop Thrust

This is a very good defensive move. The stop is named appropriately because if done properly, it can stop the attacker in mid stream. This requires anticipating the attack and finding an opening to counter attack at the proper time.

A stop can be made to the arm, the wrist or the body of the attacker.

Remise

The remise is something unique to epee fencing.

In other weapons, once you attack and it parried, you lose the right of way. You must defend against a counter attack before you can regain the right of way.

In epee, there is no right of way.

The remise is a powerful move and it can be used after a failed attack. Once your attack is met with a parry, you can continue to hit your target, hoping to get a double touch.

To execute the remise, you make an attack on your opponent. Assume your opponent parried your attack, you then try to aim your point at the target as soon as the parry is released. You might be able to hit before your opponent can hit you or at least go for a double touch.

The Flèche Attack

This attack is a surprise move. It is a quick action to catch your opponent off guard. It is very effective when executed correctly.

You prepare for the flèche by closing your distance against an opponent. One in distance, you lean forward and push off with your back leg forcefully and crosses over in front of you and to the side of the strip. This is so you wont make direct body contact. Your weapon hand is straight and parallel to the ground. This gives you the maximum reach to your target. You target is the upper body of your opponent.

It helps to time your attack while your opponent is either standing still or even moving forward. You don't want to gove your opponent the opportunity to retreat and then pull a stop on you.

Summary

These few simple actions are sufficient for a beginner fencer. Giving lessons to teach a beginner student is challenging. The role of the instructor is to check the student's form and make sure he is not doing anything extraneous or exposing his body unnecessarily. The instructor can demonstrate the move first and then show the student what to do. By repetition, the student will learn the correct action. This is only a lesson. In actual bouting, these actions will not be likely to occur as in practice. However, the skills learned at practice will help the student in real bouting situations.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Jack Lee

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