Practical Fencing Etiquette
This article is aimed at beginner fencers but it may apply to some seasoned fencers as well. Sometimes, we forget our rule of conduct or our sense of honor and dignity. The sport of fencing has a long history and it goes back to the days of chivalry.
- Feb. 2020
I have been a member of the Fencers Club since 2017. Over these past few years, I have witnessed some bad behavior on the part of some fencers. I do believe there are some basic etiquette worth repeating. Especially fencing someone for the first time. It is good to introduce one self and just provide some simple background info.
Besides the rules of the game, such as salute your opponent at the start, and shake hands after a bout. There are many other etiquettes that helps make the experience better.
I will present some of them in this article. I welcome comments and feedback and different opinions.
Yelling After Scoring a Touch
This is a difficult one. There is no right answer here. When after making a great touch, it is often a good idea to acknowledge it in some fashion. Some will yell to show approval. Others think it may be a sign of disrespect for the opponent. It depends on the circumstance. When yelling, it also depends on the loudness and duration.
A simple yell is fine in my opinion. In some instance, it may be used as a sign of self encouragement. In other instance, it may be used as mental intimidation of the opponent, to psych him or her out.
A prolonged yell or extremely loud yell crosses the line. It may be acceptable in a tournament where high stakes are in play. However, in a practice setting, it is never appropriate to disrupt the fencing room in such fashion.
Giving Advice After Bout
This is also one of those actions that have no right answers. It really depends on the circumstance. If an experienced fencer fences a beginner, it is customary for the experienced fencer to offer some simple advice or encouragement after the bout.
However, if the recipient is not open to such suggestions, it is his or her prerogative.
A simple decline is appropriate. Please don't take personal offense. The offer is done in good faith.
With two experienced fencers, the advice should be kept to a minimum. Unless, it is solicited by one of the players.
Declining an Invitation to Fence
When asked by a fellow member to fence, it is customary to accept the challenge. Unless there is a valid reason to decline. For example, if one is tired from a long bout, or dehydrated and need to get a drink, or if one has a previous engagement with another fencer, these are all valid reason to decline an invitation.
What is unacceptable is a feeling of superiority. A person may feel he is too good to fence someone. This is a judgement call. Especially against a new fencer or a visiting fencer, one has no idea who that person is and how capable he may be.
It is a form of discrimination. You are basing your decision on the outer appearance of someone. He may be too old, or too fat, or too slow or too short...
If one is truly an elite fencer, you would accept the challenge and demonstrate how good you are. Let the opponent decide for himself. He would learn quickly if he is out of your league and not waste your time or his time in the future.
Overuse of Power or Force during Bout
This is one of my pet peeves. I do not respect a fencer who uses more power than necessary to score a touch. This may take the form of a hard hit, a flesh into the body, a corp-de-corp contact or a bruising of the opponent.
Accidents do happen on the strip but they are rare. The over use of force is intentional. For whatever the reason, some rare fencers will try to over power their opponent by mere force. They will fence very aggressively and fence at a distance that is too close and then make a hit that is much more stronger than needed.
I refuse to fence someone like that. Why do I want to take this type of punishment?
Use of Foul Language
This is frowned upon. Cursing or use of any foul language is a sign of lost control. In any sport but fencing especially, you need to maintain control at all-times. The concentration and discipline are needed to focus on the next touch. Any distraction or emotional outburst will break your concentration. Part of a good fencer's training is to watch your language. It is a gentleman's sport.
Off Target Touches...
It is expected to acknowledge if a touch is off target, or floor, or wall or guard. These touches though rare, when it does occur should be discounted. The same goes for touches scored after the halt or off the strip. Since we are in a practice environment, there is no director. We should direct ourselves accordingly.
Needless to say, cheating is never OK.
Disagreement on the Scores
When both sides disagree on the scores, it is usually a simple mistake. Either someone miss-counted, or a light was missed especially during double touches. One person should keep score and signal after each touch. The other person keep track and acknowledge the score. Any disagreement would occur right away and not delayed till a few touches later.
Staying Within Your Lane...
When it is congested, with a lot people standing around strips, it is imperative that fencers keep to their lane. This is a safety issue more than anything else. When at practice, we are already fencing on a non-standard width strip. Some fencers like to hug the edge of the strip. This makes it harder on the people fencing in adjacent strips. Sometimes, I have been hit by a fencer on the other strip just from a parry.
The proper conduct is to dial back a bit in such situations. There is no reason to fence all out when practicing. Safety should always come first.
Holding A Strip For A Competitor
In some cases, when a person needs to change weapon, or body cord, during a bout, It is customary for the opponent to hold the strip. This is fine as long as it is kept short. If it happened at the end of a bout, or between bouts, the person should relinquish the strip and let another fencer fence. He or she can return and take over afterwards. This is just common courtesy.
Jumping the Line
When the club is over crowded, there may be a lot of people standing around waiting to get on. I have witnessed some people just come up and take a spot after a bout ended without considering others that have been waiting a while. What is that all about? One should wait their turn or at least ask before assuming he or she is next.
This article should be common sense. Anyone who has fenced a while should understand exactly what I am referring to here.
Some Related Info
- WWJD - What Would Jamie Do?
A code of conduct recommendation for members of the Fencers Club of NY.
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