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Move Faster When Fencing - Footwork Used in Fencing

Updated on February 26, 2009

Fencing Olympic Games

Fencing Footwork

Move Faster When Fencing

Fencing Footwork

Move Faster When Fencing - Footwork Used in Fencing

Fencing Footwork is the foundation on which is built all the other fencing skills. There can be no good body balance without correct footwork. In the same way, an almost instinctive grasp of distance and impeccable timing will remain wistful thinking without a good foundation in footwork. Look at it this way. Point control, accuracy, and speed score touches, but it’s footwork that makes this possible. Regardless of whether one’s parrying, attacking, or feinting, the point should always be in a position to score, and this is only possible through efficient movement. Here, it’d be useful always to Move Faster When Fencing. Similarly, one’s movements should be relaxed and fluid, in a continuous motion that’s more than a glide than anything else, forward, backward, often using the rear foot and sword arm to narrow the distance –until a touch is scored, leaving the opponent wondering where it came from. This kind of dream is possible only with good footwork.

Various fencing schools may disagree on some techniques, some may simply advise “use shorter steps when fencing, ”but all will agree: footwork is of prime importance. Regardless of the weapon, excellent fencing demands a high degree of coordination between hand technique and footwork, something which is possible only with endless training with a good fencing master .

Basic Guard Position

Standing, the fencer brings his heels together and sets his feet at right angles, his front foot pointing at his opponent. Then he moves the front foot 1.1/2 lengths forward, bends both knees with his weight evenly supported by both legs, keeping his trunk erect. The sword is in one of the guard positions, usually the 6th and 4th: the elbow is turned in so that it’s six to nine inches in front of the flank, with the weapon forming a straight line from elbow to tip, and the tip level with and slightly to the right of opponent’s mask. In epee and foil, the back arm is raised, palm up, shoulder high, and then bent at the elbow and wrist for balance. In sabre, the back hand is placed on the hip.

This position is the take-off point of all others. From this position, the fencer can attack, i.e., initiate a series of movements, front foot first, with the aim of touching the opponent; retreat, moving with the rear foot first; jump forward or backward; lunge and recover.


Here, the fencer reaches forward with his blade as far as he could, accomplished by propelling the body forward by straightening the back leg and advancing the front as far as it could go without losing balance and control . (You know you’re doing the lunge correctly if your knee is over your instep.) Simultaneously, the sword arm is fully extended, with the back arm likewise in epee and foil. Recovery consists of either flexing the rear leg and bringing the front foot back, or by advancing the front foot to its normal distance from the front foot, in other words going back to the guard position.

Why move the forward foot first, and not the back foot? It’s because moving the rear foot first results in a situation where you’ll have both feet touching or almost touching, throwing away balance when you need it most -- when your opponent happens to attack at about the same time. Moving the front foot first makes available several options to you. You can lean forward in a half-lunge, follow with the rear foot to complete the attack, or you can go back to the guard position.


The fencer might launch a running attack from the guard position, or as a continuation of the lunge. The fleche is a walking or running attack executed by the back foot forward ahead of the front foot. The fleche increases the fencer’s reach, and is particularly useful in epee and sabre. The downside is that the fencer risks losing balance and control of recovery, and as such, must be used judiciously.


A retreat is a backward movement executed by moving the rear foot one step backward followed by the front foot. Remember to move the rear foot first, otherwise you’d risk losing balance. In moving the rear foot, lift it, don’t drag it. A stumble is the last thing you’d want to have in a retreat, a situation far worse than a stumble in an advance.


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