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How to Foil Fence in Four Easy Steps

Updated on August 2, 2011

Fencing in General

While fencing is a relatively obscure sport and the likelihood of running into a sword fight on the street is low, it is always fun to be able to brag to your friends about your skills as a swordsman. That is why I will be teaching you all the basics of fencing in four easy steps! With these basic skills, you should be able to fence and put up a good match, after some practice.

  1. The first step to learning how to fence is to learn the en garde stance. This stance is the basic stance of fencing: you can’t fence without it! To get into the en garde position, you should keep your feet shoulder length apart at a 90 degree angle with each other. If you are right handed, you should keep your right foot forward, if you are left, you should do the opposite (this will apply to all future directional instructions – right hand is default, so lefties must do opposite of what is told). You must hold your right arm forward, and your left hand in the back, behind your mask – away from possible hits. The sword is held in the forward (right) hand; the sword should be aimed a little above your opponents left shoulder. That’s the en garde position!
  2. The second step is extremely important. With it, you can close the distance between or retreat from an opponent. The advance and the retreat are basic movement commands in fencing. To advance, you bring your front foot forward, followed by your back. You should keep your heels apart, body up straight, not slouched, and upper body balanced. Your head should not bobble up and down, but instead stay smoothly in the same position. To retreat, you simply do the opposite of advance. You move your back leg back, followed by your front foot. That’s step two! Simple, isn’t it?
  3. Step three is the most pivotal step. You must learn how to lunge. Lunging is fencing’s most basic attack, yet it is highly potent and is one of the most important techniques to learn as a beginner. My former teacher, Dave Leveque, once said that “Nothing happens until you lunge.” To lunge, you must first extend your sword arm. This is very important in advanced rules. From there, you move your front foot forward, keeping your back foot planted on the ground. The front knee should be bent 90 degrees, and the back knee should be locked. Also, you should extend your back arm when you lunge. This is a method of both propulsion and balance. With that, the lunge has been taught!
  4. It is said that the best offense is a good defense. For some, this may be so, as is shown in step four, the final step: the parry and riposte. In the common speak, a parry is a block, and a riposte is a follow-up attack after blocking. To do the basic Parry Four, you simply need to sweep your sword arm to the left to block your opponent’s attack. Other parries involve all kinds of blocking action. Try to keep each parry as small as possible - a huge block to the left creates an opening on the right for the opponent to hit. The actual technique of the riposte is quite easy, however there is usually a very short time frame in which you may successfully pull it off. All it is is a follow up attack: after blocking a sword coming at you, you attack right back. All it really takes is an extension of the arm (assuming the opponent lunged), but if necessary, lunging can increase your range. Much of the time, your opponent will recover from their attack and parry your riposte. It takes ample agility and a great sense of timing to pull off a good riposte.

There you have it! You now know the basics of fencing! This has taught you the most important skills! Of course, this lesson hardly scratches the surface of all the complexities and forms of fencing! Practice these skills, learn new ones, and eventually, you may very well become a great fencer!

Specific Rules for Foil

Foil fencing is much more nuanced than the other forms of fencing, saber and epee. Complicated right-of-way rules make for a lot of disputes over who got the last point. Here are the general rules for foil:

  1. The torso is the target area. Arms, legs, and the head are off-target and will get you 0 points in a bout.
  2. The initial right of way (who gets the point) is given to whoever has the first forward movement. Basically (very basically), whoever has their arm stuck out first earns the point on the occasion of two, simultaneous hits.
  3. A parry steals right of way, so if fencer one extends and earns the right of way, a parry will give fencer two the right of way.

Foil fencing rules go a whole lot deeper than all of this. I promise. I'm sorry if I upset any nit-picky fencers out there - I really am just trying to build interest by giving a general overview of things!

In Conclusion

Thank you all you readers out there, I hope that this article has piqued your interest in fencing as a sport. I have only given a very simple guide to foil fencing. Search for an instructor near you, or search Google/Youtube for more specific instruction. Hope you learned something interesting from here. Sayounara!

En garde position
En garde position
The lunge
The lunge

An Extreme Example of Foil Fencing


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    • profile image

      FencingWizzz 6 years ago

      Wow, this was helpful, after reading this i kicked ass at practice :) thanks

    • DDS profile image

      David Sproull 6 years ago from Toronto

      Fencing is a lot of fun, and tougher than it may look.

    • shimizupatto profile image

      shimizupatto 6 years ago from Earth

      Thank you! I hope you have fun with it, if you do try it out!

    • profile image

      klevifusha 6 years ago

      Never been a fencing fan, but I might reconsider it after reading this Hub. Good work.