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Chapter 1: The Art of Fencing

Updated on November 29, 2016

Introduction to the Art and the Sport of Fencing

My name is Jack Lee. I was a fencer from 1969-1982.

I started in College and took an elective PE course in fencing during my freshmen year. I was asked by the instructor to join the JV team who happens to be the JV coach. Later, I was good enough to make it to the Varsity team. I have great teammates and some of whom are friends to this day and some of whom are still active in Senior competitions. Fencing is one of a few competitive sports that can be enjoyed from teenage till senior age 70's. I was also fortunate to have two very excellent coaches(Edward Lucia and Mastro Niederkirchner). In 1987, I was inducted to the CCNY Alumni Athelete Hall of Fame for Fencing. It was a great honor.

My weapon of choice is the epee. Therefore, most of what I say here relates to the Epee fencing techniques. Fencing has been described as playing chess on your feet. It requires skill and agility and cunning and strategy...

Have fun and enjoy this great sport!

I have decided to start a blog at the end of this lens describing my experiences coming back to fencing after 25 years. Hope you will check back periodically to read about my progress. Don't forget to leave me some feedback.

- Dec. 2007

Some interesting facts about fencing

  • Some famous people who were fencers:

    Grace Kelly, Basil Rathbone, Danny Kaye, Winston Churchill, Cornel Wilde, Neil Diamond, Rene Descartes, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Sir Richard Burton, T.H. White, Harry Hamlin, Aldo Nadi, Erza Pound, Jose Ferrer, Bruce Dickinson, Robert Montgomery, Bo Derek, General George Patton, Alexandre Dumas, Lonnie Anderson, King Olaf V, Paul Newman, Richard Thomas and Errol Flynn.

  • Fencing can be engaged on 2 levels -

    (1) as an exercise

    (2) as a competitive sport

    There are several steps in developing your skills:

    Basic -

    (1) learn the basic moves

    (2) practice footwork

    (3) concentrate on technique

    (4) engaged in practice bouts

    Team Competition -

    (1) learn the rules

    (2) etiquette and sportsmanship

    (3) electric weapons

    (4) develop strategy

    (5) teamwork and team spirit

    (6) winning

    Individual amateur competition -

    (1) private lessons

    (2) regular tornaments

    (3) ranking

    (4) mental concentration

    (5) Advanced skills and tactics -

    More to come...

Basic moves

  • en garde - starting position.
  • Advcance - step forward.
  • Retreat - step backward.
  • Lunge - a simple attack.
  • Step lunge - combining an advance and follow by a lunge.
  • Ballestra lunge - an attack with more force and penetration.
  • Fleche - an all out attack.
  • Stop thrust - a counter action to interrupt an impending attack.
  • Bounce - a back and forth motion on both feet in preparation for attack or defense.
  • Re double - another attack following a failed attack.
  • Cross over step - A fast way of advancing forward without threat of being attacked. Used to close the distance between you and your opponent.

Epee targets

Epee fencing has a very simple target. The whole person including mask, body, arms, legs and feet.

The only off target is the floor and the weapon (guard, blade).

  1. Primary target is the upper body. It is the biggest and easiest to hit. It is also the most defended region.
  2. The Mask and bid of the mask is also valid target. This is especially vulnerable when your opponent leans forword.
  3. The weapon arm and wrist area is an excellent target. It is the closest part of the opponent. It is difficult to aim because it is small, round surface and moving.
  4. The forward leg and shin is also a good target. It is also closer than the body but lower.
  5. The front foot is a good target but very difficult to hit. It is a good surprise move especially against a tall fencer.
  6. The lower torso and groin are valid targets as well.
  7. The back arm and back leg are also valid targets but seldom the target. They are the most distant target.
  8. The guard of your opponents weapon is off target. It is grounded such that if you are fencing with electrical setup, the lights will not score when you hit it. However, one tactic is to aim for the guard and slide off it to hit the wrist area. A very effective move at times.

A simple guide

Some tips to remember when fencing.

  • Always keep your balance.
  • Breath regularly and through your mouth.
  • Relax your big muscles and stay loose.
  • Don't grip your weapon too tightly. Hold it like a bird and as an extension of your arm.
  • Maintain a safe distance from your opponent. (a distance just short of a lunge attack that will hit your opponent)
  • Maintain control of your point at all times.
  • Make small quick motions with your parry and reposte.
  • Use the guard as a shield to block your opponent's weapon or blade.
  • Be alert at all times and don't be surprised by a sudden attack (lunge or a flesh attack).
  • Maintain a small profile by positioning your body at an angle and stay upright and don't lean forward.

Some attack strategies...

These attack strategies apply mainly to epee fencing (my weapon of choice).

  • Tap under the opponents's blade and jab at the underhand target. If you miss, try again or if the opponent counter attacks, parry and reposte either with a parry of 4 or parry of 6.
  • Make an attack by extending the arm and lunge at the opponent however, at the last moment, drop your point and aim at his shin or his foot. If you miss, retreat or if the opponent attacks, keep the point extended to remise to his body.
  • A tactic, called second intention, can be used to draw out your opponent. One such move is to drop your en guard fencing arm position just slightly to expose the top part of your hand. As your opponent attacks the exposed target, you are ready to parry and reposte to his body.
  • Initiate a feign attack by extending the arm and move forward one step. As the opponent reacts by parrying, disengage in the opposite direction and lunge at the same time to score a touch.
  • Use your blade as a propeller in one direction or the other while moving forward and fishing for your opponent's blade. Once you engage his blade, wait for him to react with a disengage, then make a parry and reposte to score.
  • Against a shorter fencer of the opposite hand, (left handed against right handed), you can do a "stop thrust" while the opponent is attacking by bringing your weapon up high and leaning forward and raising on your toes. His forward moving body will step right into your point.
  • Another advanced tactic is called "broken tempo". This is a complex move that is not easily described. What it involves is a change in the speed of your normal fencing movement. As you are moving back and forth against your opponent, you initiate an attack at your normal speed but then pause slightly and wait for a reaction from your opponent. If he takes the bait, then you resume your attack with a parry and counter attack at an accelerated speed. This will through off your opponent's timing and give you the advantage.

My trip to Seattle...

I went on vacation to Seattle in April 2007.

I paid a visit to my long time friend and teammate Wang. He invited me to workout at his Fencing club - Salle Auriol.

I had a good time in Seattle and it was great to workout a little. Wang is the Sabre coach at Salle Auriol.

More photos...

My 3rd place finish at the 2007 Empire State Games.

  • Wireless fencing in Yonkers NY (8/2007)

  • My 2nd place finish at the Medeo Chocolate Cup tournament on 2/10/2008. I earned a B2008 ranking.

    Photo credit (Christine Merk)

A Cool Video on Fencing

Great books on Amazon

Some books on fencing...

Reader Feedback

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      @Music-Resource: Might have been " The Dualists" with Harvey Kietel- ? Not positive but have seen it.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      basketball was invented by a fencing instructor (James Naismith) so people who play basketball should not pick on fencers because their sport would not exist if it was not for one of ours

    • LewesDE profile image


      6 years ago

      I really enjoyed this lens, thank you!

    • Violin-Student profile image


      9 years ago

      I fenced years ago in college (can it really be 34 years?). Good lens, great sport. My favorite fencing story involves the dispute between basketball players and fencers as to whether fencing was a "sport" or some avocation for wimps. The dispute actually involved "athletic meals." The athletes' practices ended after the cafeteria closed. They re-opened for the athletes after the teams were there. Our practices generally ran about ten minutes longer than b-ball did, so they had to wait for us to get their meals. They didn't like that. We used to run laps of the gym. Start at one foul line of the basketball court, run across the court, up the bleachers 30 rows, across the aisle at the top of the bleachers to the next stairway, back down the bleachers there, across the court, and repeat on the other side. We all started together, and the deal was that if b-ball ran more laps per man than fencing we would cut our practices when b-ball quit so THEY wouldn't have to wait for us in the cafeteria and be inconvenienced. To make a long story short, they had no idea how much leg work is involved in fencing. We were all still running when b-ball's last player stopped. Their coach extended their practices an extra ten minutes per day, with the b-ball players running laps so they would be able to keep up with us "wimps."

      Art Haule

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      great lens 5 stars 4 u

    • Music-Resource profile image


      11 years ago

      Hi Jack, Congrats on your fencing skills and awards. Nice Fencing resource you have here. I appreciate the large amount of content you have created. I once saw a great fencing movie with Harvey Kietel. I wish I coule remember the title. You've got to see it!~Music Resource~

    • jackclee lm profile imageAUTHOR

      Jack Lee 

      11 years ago from Yorktown NY

      I recommend the book "By the Sword" highly. It covers a lot of history and recent fencing in America. What school did you attend?


    • sewjr24 profile image


      11 years ago

      Hi, Jack. I was on the fencing team in college, but that was about 18 years ago and I haven't picked up my foil since. Good to see someone is promoting this great sport on Squidoo. Great lens and keep up the good work!


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