Fencing Terminology

As with any sport, a specific vocabulary is necessary to describe the equipment and explain the movements.  To follow is a short list of commonly used terms within the fencing community.


Advance - Taking a step forward (towards one's opponent.)

Attack  - Offensive movement, or series of movements by which a fencer tries to score a point. In foil and sabre, the fencer who attacks first acquires the "right-of-way or priority". In order to execute an attack properly (i.e. one that the referee will acknowledge), the fencer's hand must be clearly extending towards their opponent's valid target in a threatening manner.

Balestra - A short, sharp jump forwards; usually used as a preparation for an attack. Often followed by a lunge.

Beat - Sharp tap on the opponent's blade to initiate an attack or provoke a reaction.

Bout – The “duel” where fencers compete to win points for a set period of time or get the maximum points to win.

Direct Elimination – A section of a competition after the poules have been completed (see description in this section).  Based on the ranking in the poules, the fencers are then paired in elimination bouts until there is a winner.

Disengage - Evasive action in which the fencer avoids the opponent's attempt to take their blade.

Engegement -  Contact between the fencers' blades - often as the prelude to an attack.

En Garde -  Position taken before fencing commences.

En Garde – Prêt – Allez! or En Garde – Ready – Fence! The referee’s command to begin the bout or resume when fencing was halted. 

Feint - A false attack intended to get a defensive reaction from the opposing fencer, thus creating the opportunity for a genuine attack  ("feint-disengage attack"). In epee, fencers also use the feint to goad their opponent into attacking them.

Fencing shoes – Adidas, Nike and other manufacturers offer special fencing shoes. Until your child’s foot is fully grown, look for a pair of indoor trainers with a flat profile.

Fleche - Explosive, running attack (foil and epée only).

Flunge - Action unique to sabre - a combination of a lunge and a fleche. Evolved recently after sabre rules were modified in 1992 to prohibit running attacks.

Guard - Part of the weapon between the blade and handle; protects the hand, also known as: "bell-guard."

Lunge - Most common attacking footwork technique, in which the fencer launches themselves at their opponent by pushing off from their back leg.

Opposition - As in "thrust with opposition" and means to simultaneously deflect the opponent's point with one's guard while making an attack of one's own. Commonly used in épée to avoid a double touch.

Parry - Defensive action in which a fencer blocks his opponent's blade.

Piste - French term for the fencing strip where the actual fencing action takes place. It is 14 meters long and 1.5 to 2 meters wide. Retreating off the end of the strip with both feet gets a point against.  Going off the side of the strip with one foot halts the fencing action. Going off the side with both feet gets a penalty of the loss of one meter, and if this results in the offender going off the end of the piste, a point is awarded to his opponent.  After each touch, fencers begin again at the centre of the strip, 4 meters apart, or roughly at a position where their blades can nearly touch when fully extended. Many pistes at fencing tournaments are "grounded" so that if a fencer's blade makes contact with the floor, the hit won't register. (refer to set-up diagram on page 18)

Point-in-Line - Action in which the fencer, who is generally out of attacking range, points their weapon at their opponent with their arm fully extended. A fencer who establishes a point-in-line has priority and their opponent cannot attack until they remove the blade from line by executing a beat.

Poule -  A segment of a competition where the entire field of fencers are placed into groups (usually 5 – 7) to fence each other within the group.  The results determine their initial ranking in the competition for the elimination rounds.

Quarte, Sixte, Septime, Octave – the upper body is divided into 4 target areas – attacks and parries differ accordingly.

Recover - The return to the en-garde position after lunging.

Remise - Attacking again immediately after the opponent's parry of an initial  attack.

Riposte - Defender's offensive action immediately after parrying their opponent's attack.

Second Intention - A tactic, in which a fencer executes a convincing, yet false, action in hopes of drawing a true, committed reaction from their opponent.

Stop Hit, Stop Cut -  A counter-action made at the moment of an opponent's hesitation, feint, or poorly executed attack. To be awarded the point, the fencer attempting a stop hit must clearly catch their opponent's tempo. Hence, if their Stop Hit is not "in time," the referee may award the touch to their attacker. A stop cut is specifically for sabre.



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