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Introduction to Fencing 105

Updated on September 1, 2017
jackclee lm profile image

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.


The sport of fencing is an exercise in both mind and body. It is mostly about strategy and technique rather than strength or physique. This lecture is about distance - the proper fencing distance.

- Aug. 2017

Proper Fencing Distance

What is a proper fencing distance?

Answer: It depends…

  • Fencer’s physique, height, reach, speed…
  • Actions offensive or defensive moves

Rule of thumb:

Just shy of a full extension lunge (6 inches…)

Or Crossing the swords about 1/3 of the way to the tip.

Three most important fencing principles:

  1. Point control
  2. Distance
  3. Timing

It is not just one distance but a range of distances…Think of it as a sliding window. From a maximum distance to a minimum distance.

Controlling the Distance is half the battle to winning.

How to control distance?

  • The Bounce.
  • Creep.
  • Sudden jump back.

Setting up Your opponent – One way is to give your opponent the illusion that he or she is close enough to attack…

  • Leaning in
  • Feint attack
  • Second intention (advanced move)

Another important point:

Know your opponent. Each opponent has his or her own strengths and weakness… (keep a log or mental record)

Adapt your fencing style accordingly if possible and adjust your fencing distance.

When fencing a new opponent:

  • Take your time in the beginning.
  • Test reactions of a beat of the blade i.e.
  • Do something unconventional.

Psyching out your opponent: Fencing is a mental sport. Besides the physical and technical skills, just as important is the mental preparation and concentration. Think Chess.

Advantage of Surprise: (attack out of distance)

Doing something out of the ordinary is one sure way to get attention and increase your advantage both mentally and physically.


A toe touch (in epee)

A wrist shot (epee and sabre)

A point to the mask (epee and sabre)

The proper distance is changing all the time: (sliding window)

If you are in attack mode, you want to be as close as possible.

If you are in defensive mode, you want to be as far back as you can to give yourself time to counter or parry and riposte.

A special case: (for foil and epee) Close distance fencing

There are times in foil/epee fencing, especially for a short fencer against a tall fencer. A good tactic is to close the distance such that the opponent cannot easily hit you because you are too close. You can take a shortcoming and turn it into an advantage.

A simple setting-up your opponent scenario:

  • Engage the blade
  • Beat the opponents blade and wait for reaction…
  • Beat it again
  • Beat it another time
  • Finally, beat and disengage and lunge attack.

What is happening is like conditioning. You have conditioned your opponent into thinking you are just repeating the same move but suddenly, you changed the game on him.

Plan Ahead 2 moves: (like playing Chess)

When you are in a bout, always think 2 steps ahead. Not just the current action but possible follow up action. Whether it is a compound attack, a stop thrust or a remise…or a counter attack… It depends on what the opponent does of course but sometimes, you can control his reaction to some extent. It is called “thinking on your feet.”


Fencing distance is one of the key concept of the sport. It is also very difficult to teach. It is not something that can be taught by reading a book or a lecture. That is why learning fencing requires taking regular lessons from a fencing coach or fencing master. Practice also makes perfect.

© 2017 Jack Lee


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