Our First Class (Tuesday Sept 25)

Our first class is going to cover a couple basic concepts:

  • What fencing is and what it isnt
  • The basic stance, movement and attack
  • Homework
  • Our next class (Tuesday Oct 16)

What Fencing IS:

Fencing is a sport that has featured in every Olympics since the international Olympic Games has been founded. Both men and women compete in separate competitions in all three weapons.

Fencing is a varsity sport at Princeton High School and the NJ Interscholastic Fencing Association (NJIFA) has over 60 public high schools participating in fencing programs.

Fencing doesn’t favor one singular body type or ability, world champion fencers for both women and men come in all shapes and sizes, ages and styles. World Championships have been won by fencers as young as 17 and as old as 41. It’s not uncommon for Olympic level athletes to compete at that level through three or four Olympic cycles.

Olympic Fencing Explained

What Fencing ISN’T:

Swords are cool, from samurai movies, to swashbuckling adventures, elves and hobbits in high adventure, to lightsaber duels we have preconceptions of what swordplay will be. The sport of fencing doesn’t reflect this.

Fencing is a martial art in the sense that it was originally developed as an way to train in swordplay and prepare for the duel. Fencing is not a martial art in the sense that anything you learn will be particularly useful in a battle against zombies, orcs or pirates (it’s usefulness against vampires is still up for debate)

Let’s Start Fencing (detailed descriptions below)

  • The En Garde stance which is the foundation of all fencing actions
  • Advance and Retreat
  • Lunge and Recover
  • Glove catch
  • Questions and Answers (what is fencing, what do I fence, all other questions)
  • Homework: watching some real fencing

Our next class:

I am out of town for the next two weeks so we have a long break between lessons. We will meet again October 16th. In the meantime I would like students to watch some fencing videos. Below are links to the latest World Championship team gold medal bouts for Men and Women in all three weapons.

I would like to spend a little time discussing the differences in what we saw in the videos.

En Garde (to keep up at home):

  • Feet perpendicular (90 degrees, heels aligned about 1-1/2 foot lengths apart, dominant foot facing straight ahead (at your opponent)
  • Hips at an angle between your feet (45 degrees) with your knees bent over your toes
  • Shoulders directly above the hips at the same angle (not leaning forward or back), head turned slightly to face straight ahead
  • Dominant hand held palm up (supinated – there’s a vocab word) with the elbow away fro the body
  • Non-dominant hand held net to the hip in a relaxed position

There’s a lot going on here just standing in place. Fencing has many complicated motions that have been optimized to make the fencer as effective as possible. None of these positions are particularly natural.

Advance and Retreat

When moving you want to think about moving your center forward rather than just stepping forward.

  • Pushing forward with the back foot and reaching across a small step with the front foot you advance. Immediately close your stance back to guard stance
  • Pushing back with the front foot and reaching back to catch your momentum with the back foot you retreat. Immediately close back to guard stance

What you don’t want to do is throw your weight forward first and catch it with your leading foot. This seems natural since this is how we walk but we want to push our mass backwards and forward rather than fall.

Lunge and Recover

The lunge is much like a really really big advance.

  • Point where you want to go with the dominant hand (holding an imaginary foil)
  • Push forward explosively with your back foot
  • Reach the non-dominant (back) hand back behind the body to balance your action
  • Reach forward with your front foot across the distance (the knee should be directly above the ankle NOT PAST IT)
  • The body should be in an upright position (not leaning forward)
  • Recover by pushing through your front heel and pulling your back leg back simultaneously to move back to your your guard stance.
  • Use your back hand to help balance the body while moving
  • The body shouldn’t drop much during this action (start with the body low)
  • Your legs should be like springs

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