Fencing Terms Glossary

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  • Absence of blade: when the blades are not touching; opposite of engagement.
  • Advance: a movement forward by step, cross, or balestra.
  • Aids: the last three fingers of the sword hand.
  • Analysis: reconstruction of the fencing phrase to determine priority of touches.
  • Assault: friendly combat between two fencers.
  • Attack: the initial offensive action made by extending the sword arm and continuously threatening the valid target of the opponent.
  • Attack au Fer: an attack that is prepared by deflecting the opponent's blade, eg. beat, press, froissement.
  • Backsword: an archaic, edged, unpointed sword used in prizefighting; also singlestick.
  • Balestra: a forward hop or jump, typically followed by an attack such as a lunge or fleche.
  • Bayonet: a type of electrical connector for foil and sabre.
  • Beat: an attempt to knock the opponent's blade aside or out of line by using one's foible or middle against the opponent's foible.
  • Baudry point: a safety collar placed around a live epee point to prevent dangerous penetration.
  • Bind: an action in which the opponent's blade is forced into the diagonally opposite line.
  • Black Card: used to indicate the most serious offences in a fencing competition. The offending fencer is usually expelled from the event or tournament.
  • Bout: an assault at which the score is kept.
  • Broadsword: any sword intended for cutting instead of thrusting; sabre.
  • Broken Time: a sudden change in the tempo of one fencer's actions, used to fool the opponent into responding at the wrong time.
  • Button: the safety tip on the end of practice and sporting swords.
  • Change of Engagement: engagement of the opponent's blade in the opposite line.
  • Commanding the blade: grabbing the opponent's blade with the off-hand, illegal in sport fencing.
  • Compound: also composed; an action executed in two or more movements; an attack or riposte incorporating one or more feints.
  • Conversation: the back-and-forth play of the blades in a fencing match, composed of phrases (phrases d'armes) punctuated by gaps of no blade action.
  • Counter-attack: an offensive action made against the right-of-way, or in response to the opponent's attack.
  • Counter-disengage: a disengage in the opposite direction, to deceive the counter-parry.
  • Counter-parry: a parry made in the opposite line to the attack; ie. the defender first comes around to the opposite side of the opponent's blade.
  • Counter-riposte: an attack that follows a parry of the opponent's riposte.
  • Counter-time: an attack that responds to the opponent's counter-attack, typically a riposte following the parry of the counter-attack.
  • Corps-a-corps: lit. "body-to-body"; physical contact between the two fencers during a bout, illegal in foil and sabre.
  • Coule': also graze, glise', or glissade; an attack or feint that slides along the opponent's blade.
  • Coup lance': a launched hit; an attack that starts before a stop in play but lands after. Valid for normal halts, but not valid at end of time.
  • Coupe': also cut-over; an attack or deception that passes around the opponent's tip.
  • Croise: also semi-bind; an action in which the opponent's blade is forced into the high or low line on the same side.
  • Cross: an advance or retreat by crossing one leg over the other; also passe' avant (forward cross), passe' arriere (backwards cross).
  • Cut: an attack made with a chopping motion of the blade, normally landing with the edge.
  • Deception: avoidance of an attempt to engage the blades; see disengage, coupe'
  • Derobement: deception of the attack au fer or prise de fer.
  • Direct: a simple attack or riposte that finishes in the same line in which it was formed, with no feints out of that line.
  • Disengage: a circular movement of the blade that deceives the opponent's parry, removes the blades from engagement, or changes the line of engagement.
  • Displacement: moving the target to avoid an attack; dodging.
  • Double: in epee, two attacks that arrive within 40-50 ms of each other.
  • Double-time: also "dui tempo"; parry-riposte as two distinct actions.
  • Double': an attack or riposte that describes a complete circle around the opponent's blade, and finishes in the opposite line.
  • Dry: also steam; fencing without electric judging aids.
  • Engagement: when the blades are in contact with each other, eg. during a parry, attack au fer, prise de fer, or coule'.
  • En Garde: also On Guard; the fencing position; the stance that fencers assume when preparing to fence.
  • Envelopment: an engagement that sweeps the opponent's blade through a full circle.
  • Epee: a fencing weapon with triangular cross-section blade and a large bell guard; also a light duelling sword of similar design, popular in the mid-19th century; epee de terrain; duelling sword.
  • False: an action that is intended to fail, but draw a predicted reaction from the opponent; also, the back edge of a sabre blade.
  • Feint: an attack into one line with the intention of switching to another line before the attack is completed.
  • Fencing Time: also temps d'escrime; the time required to complete a single, simple fencing action.
  • FIE: Federation Internationale d'Escrime, the world governing body of fencing.
  • Finta in tempo: lit. "feint in time"; a feint of counter-attack that draws a counter-time parry, which is decieved; a compound counter-attack.
  • Fleche: lit. "arrow"; an attack in which the aggressor leaps off his leading foot, attempts to make the hit, and then passes the opponent at a run.
  • Flick: a cut-like action that lands with the point, often involving some whip of the foible of the blade to "throw" the point around a block or other obstruction.
  • Florentine: an antiquated fencing style where a secondary weapon or other instrument is used in the off hand.
  • Flying Parry or Riposte: a parry with a backwards glide and riposte by cut-over.
  • Foible: the upper, weak part of the blade.
  • Foil: a fencing weapon with rectangular cross-section blade and a small bell guard; any sword that has been buttoned to render it less dangerous for practice.
  • Forte: the lower, strong part of the blade.
  • French Grip: a traditional hilt with a slightly curved grip and a large pommel.
  • Froissement: an attack that displaces the opponent's blade by a strong grazing action.
  • Fuller: the groove that runs down a sword blade to reduce weight.
  • Glide: see coule'.
  • Guard: the metal cup or bow that protects the hand from being hit.  Also, the defensive position assumed when not attacking.
  • Hilt: the handle of a sword, consisting of guard, grip, and pommel.
  • Homologated: certified for use in FIE competitions, eg. 800N clothing and maraging blades.
  • In Quartata: a counter-attack made with a quarter turn to the inside, concealing the front but exposing the back.
  • In Time: at least one fencing time before the opposing action, especially with regards to a stop-hit.
  • Indirect: a simple attack or riposte that finishes in the opposite line to which it was formed.
  • Insistence: forcing an attack through the parry.
  • Interception: a counter-attack that intercepts and checks an indirect attack or other disengagement.
  • Invitation: a line that is intentionally left open to encourage the opponent to attack.
  • Italian Grip: a traditional hilt with finger rings and crossbar.
  • Judges: additional officials who assist the referee in detecting illegal or invalid actions, such as floor judges or hand judges.
  • Jury: the 4 officials who watch for hits in a dry fencing bout.
  • Kendo: Japanese fencing, with two-handed swords.
  • Lame': a metallic vest/jacket used to detect valid touches in foil and sabre.
  • Line: the main direction of an attack (eg., high/low, inside/outside), often equated to the parry that must be made to deflect the attack; also point in line.
  • Lunge: an attack made by extending the rear leg and landing on the bent front leg.
  • Mal-parry: also mal-pare'; a parry that fails to prevent the attack from landing.
  • Manipulators: the thumb and index finger of the sword hand.
  • Maraging: a special steel used for making blades; said to be stronger and break more cleanly than conventional steels.
  • Marker Points: an old method of detecting hits using inked points.
  • Martingale: a strap that binds the grip to the wrist or forearm.
  • Match: the aggregate of bouts between two fencing teams.
  • Measure: the distance between the fencers.
  • Middle: the middle third of the blade, between foible and forte.
  • Moulinet: a whirling cut, executed from the wrist or elbow.
  • Neuvieme: an unconventional parry (#9) sometimes described as blade behind the back, pointing down (a variant of octave), other times similar to elevated sixte.
  • Octave: parry #8; blade down and to the outside, wrist supinated.
  • Opposition: holding the opponent's blade in a non-threatening line; a time-hit; any attack or counter-attack with opposition.
  • Parry: a block of the attack, made with the forte of one's own blade; also parade.
  • Pass: an attack made with a cross; eg. fleche. Also, the act of moving past the opponent.
  • Passata-sotto: a lunge made by dropping one hand to the floor.
  • Passe': an attack that passes the target without hitting; also a cross-step (see cross).
  • Phrase: a set of related actions and reactions in a fencing conversation.
  • Pineapple tip: a serrated epee point used prior to electric judging.
  • Piste: the linear strip on which a fencing bout is fought; approximately 2m wide and 14m long.
  • Pistol Grip: a modern, orthopaedic grip, shaped vaguely like a small pistol; varieties are known by names such as Belgian, German, Russian, and Visconti.
  • Plaque': a point attack that lands flat.
  • Plastron: a partial jacket worn for extra protection; typically a half-jacket worn under the main jacket on the weapon-arm side of the body.
  • Point: a valid touch; the tip of the sword; the mechanical assembly that makes up the point of an electric weapon; an attack made with the point (ie. a thrust)
  • Point in Line: also line; an extended arm and blade that threatens the opponent.
  • Pommel: a fastener that attaches the grip to the blade.
  • Preparation: a non-threatening action intended to create the opening for an attack; the initial phase of an attack, before right-of-way is established.
  • Presentation: offering one's blade for engagement by the opponent.
  • Press: an attempt to push the opponent's blade aside or out of line; depending on the opponent's response, the press is followed by a direct or indirect attack.
  • Prime: parry #1; blade down and to the inside, wrist pronated.
  • Principle of Defence: the use of forte against foible when parrying.
  • Priority: in sabre, the now-superceded rules that decide which fencer will be awarded the touch in the event that they both attack simultaneously; also used synonymously with right-of-way.
  • Prise de Fer: also taking the blade; an engagement of the blades that forces the opponent's weapon into a new line. See: bind, croise, envelopment, opposition.
  • Quarte: parry #4; blade up and to the inside, wrist supinated.
  • Quinte: parry #5; blade up and to the inside, wrist pronated.  In sabre, the blade is held above the head to protect from head cuts.
  • Rapier: a long, double-edged thrusting sword popular in the 16th-17th centuries.
  • Red Card: used to indicate repeated minor rule infractions or a major rule infraction by one of the fencers; results in a point being given to the other fencer.
  • Redoublement: a new action that follows an attack that missed or was parried; renewal of a failed attack in the opposite line; alternatively see Reprise.
  • Referee: also director, president; the mediator of the fencing bout.
  • Remise: immediate replacement of an attack that missed or was parried, without withdrawing the arm.
  • Reprise: renewal of an attack that missed or was parried, after a return to en-garde; alternatively see Redoublement.
  • Retreat: step back; opposite of advance.
  • Ricasso: the portion of the tang between the grip and the blade, present on Italian hilts and most rapiers.
  • Right-of-way: rules for awarding the point in the event of a double touch in foil or sabre.
  • Riposte: an offensive action made immediately after a parry of the opponent's attack.
  • Sabre: a fencing weapon with a flat blade and knuckle guard, used with cutting or thrusting actions; a military sword popular in the 18th to 20th centuries; any cutting sword used by cavalry.
  • Salle: a fencing hall or club.
  • Salute: with the weapon, a customary acknowledgement of one's opponent and referee at the start and end of the bout.
  • Schlager: German fraternity duelling sword, used with cuts to the face and no footwork.
  • Second Intention: a false action used to draw a response from the opponent, which will open the opportunity for the intended action that follows, typically a counter-riposte.
  • Seconde: parry #2; blade down and to the outside, wrist pronated.
  • Septime: parry #7; blade down and to the inside, wrist supinated.
  • Simple: executed in one movement; an attack or riposte that involves no feints.
  • Simultaneous: in foil and sabre, two attacks for which the right-of-way is too close to determine.
  • Single Stick: an archaic form of fencing with basket-hilted wooden sticks.
  • Single-time: also "stesso tempo"; parry-riposte as a single action.
  • Sixte: parry #6; blade up and to the outside, wrist supinated.
  • Small Sword: a light duelling sword popular in the 17th-18th centuries, precursor to the foil.
  • Stop Hit: a counter-attack that hits; also a counter-attack whose touch is valid by virtue of it's timing.
  • Stop Cut: a stop-hit with the edge in sabre, typically to the cuff.
  • Three Prong: a type of epee body wire/connector; also an old-fashioned tip that would snag clothing, to make it easier to detect hits in the pre-electric era.
  • Thrown Point: a "flick".
  • Thrust: an attack made by moving the sword parallel to its length and landing with the point.
  • Tierce: parry #3; blade up and to the outside, wrist pronated.
  • Time Hit: also time-thrust; old name for stop hit with opposition.
  • Trompement: deception of the parry.
  • Two Prong: a type of body-wire/connector, used in foil and sabre.
  • Whip-over: in sabre, a touch that results from the foible of the blade whipping over the opponent's guard or blade when parried.
  • Whites: fencing clothing.
  • Yellow Card: also advertissement, warning; used to indicate a minor rule infraction by one of the fencers.