Fall 2019 Session 2

I’m really happy to announce that Princeton Interscholastic Fencing Session 2 is ready to go. This is the next 10 class session for introduction continued study in fencing.

This session is going to be organized slightly differently than previous. There are more fencers retaining in the program this time around that we are organizing into Introductory and Technical classes. Rather than simple age group classes. If we have sufficient fencers in the grade school and middle school groups I will have to investigate splitting them into separate groups.

Introductory groups will be the initial introduction to the sport and will follow the same lesson plan as in the past and in the PTO clubs. Introduction to fencing movement, basic blade work, the rules and the elements of good sportsmanship (salute and handshake before and after each game). The class will learn foil as the introductory discipline of fencing and the class ends with an electronic pool tournament.

The second level or Technical group will be looking into each weapon for two weeks. One week of foil to solidify priciples learned in the first session, then two weeks introducing epee and two weeks introducing saber where we will discuss the techniques and tactics that make these different weapons unique games in fencing.

  • Where: Riverside Elementary School Gymnasium
  • When: Introductory 6 to 7 PM
  • When: Technical 7 PM to 8 PM
  • Classes are held Tuesday and Thursdays excluding Thanksgiving starting Nov 14
  • Nov 14, 19, 21, 26 Dec 3, 5, 10, 12, 17 and 19
  • Total cost is 125.00 payable to Princeton Interscholastic Fencing
  • All equipment is provided

I am hoping to see many of you there to continue your path in this exciting sport.

Community Park: Class 1

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

BCAF Introductory Youth 7.28


This week’s class is looking at blade control and balance

We will use Jump to guard and tap tap drill to work on balance and floor contact and as always follow the leader to train ourselves to watch our opponent.

We are going to play the glove drop game again with movement.

Coach Blanchard will hang the tennis balls this week to practice hitting the tennis balls with extension lunge and advance lunge.

Then we will play some open bouting while coach Blanchard works with each student individually to review parries.

BCAF Intermediate Youth 7.28

image002 (1)

This week’s class will continue to build on skills to develop options to execute the simple direct attack.

Warmups will revisit the boxing hops drill to get the body moving and facilitate balance and coordination:

Boxing hops: 6 count traveling warmup

  1. Snap both arms forward and back to chest and hop forward with both feet on the ground
  2. Snap right arm forward and back and hop forward with right knee high
  3. Snap right arm to the side and back with hop forward with right knee lifted high and to the right (outside)
  4. Repeat of # both arms and feet together
  5. Snap left arm forward and back and hop forward with left knee high
  6. Snap left arm to the side and back with hop forward with left knee lifted high and to the left (outside)

Exercise is completed down the strip and then backwards back to the back line of the strip.

A-B-C-D Footwork Game:

Reintroducing the progressive sequence:

The Progressive exercise is a canned footwork exercise that takes the fencer forwards and back with constant changes in direction. Each sequence is 4 pieces of footwork with a lunge and recovery in the middle. Each full set is one lap:

  1. 3 adv, Lunge and Recover (L/R), 1 ret
  2. 2 adv, L/R, 2 ret
  3. 1 adv, L/R, 3 ret (should be back at starting point)
  4. 3 ret, L/R, 1 adv
  5. 2 ret, L/R, 2 adv
  6. 1 ret, L/R, 3 adv (should be back at starting point)

This week we will be incorporating the check step forward and back into the sequence. If the footwork is considered 1,2,3,4 then we shall execute Normal short short Normal, so the sequence will look like this:

  1. Adv, check, check, L/R, ret
  2. Adv, check, L/R, check (back), ret
  3. Adv, L/R, check, check, ret

And so on….

Pursuit Game:

Described the check step to move forward and back. The check step is a short, fast half-step where the trailing leg drives the body similar to a short hop or stutter step. This is used to make minute changes in distance and to change timing without giving up forward motion. The check step can also be used to pre-load the leg muscles for a powerful lunge (check-step lunge).


The class practiced integrating the check-step into the attack with a lunge. First as a rote drill then as a semi-competitive drill where the attacking fencer can manipulate the timing with a direct attack in 1-2-3 scenarios (1: check step lunge, 2: adv check step lunge, 3: adv x 2 check step lunge) with the defender maintaining distance and attempting to read the acceleration to parry-riposte (P/R) in distance.

BCAF Introductory Youth 7.21


This week’s class is looking at feeling the floor and managing weight distribution.

Class starts with a couple exercises that emphasized the feel of the floor

Jump to guard – advance, Jump to guard – Lunge

These exercises focus the fencer on feeling the floor and springing forward off the landing. This replicates the pre-loading action we instinctively do when trying to jump straight up. The fencer needs to learn to use that spring to propel themselves forward and back.

Tap-Tap Adv/Ret

These exercises focus the fencer on managing the center of gravity evenly between the feet and to drive through the floor to move forward and back. The exercise is intended to train the fencer to drive with the trailing foot rather than step forward with the leading foot when initiating a movement.

1-2-3 partnered drill

After further working on our motion the class took their blades in hand and worked the 1-2-3 partnered drill. (1: adv lunge, 2: adv x 2 lunge, 3: adv x3 lunge). The attacker is to hit with a simple direct attack and the defender shall allow the initial hit and then hit with a lunge in counter-time (on the attackers recovery). This integrates distance control and timing control into the footwork exercises. I am looking to see that the fencer is trying to manage the center of gravity and driving foot to incorporate what was learned in the previous drills.

Distance game:

The distance game takes the elements from the partnered drill and opens up the options into a competitive game.


One fencer is the attacker. The attacker is allowed an adv-lunge to hit before the front foot hits the ground in the lunge.

The other fencer is the defender and is allowed any footwork  to retreat and keep the attacker from hitting.

The roles are reversed as soon as the attacker’s front foot hits the ground on the lunge.


The attacking fencer must be able to reach the opponent on the attack without over-committing the weight forward which will compromise the recovery.

The defending fender must only retreat just enough that make the attacker fall barely short at the end of the attack (front foot landing, NOT leaning forward)

Both fencers need to think at least one step ahead, retreating too far initially or under-committing to the attack will make it impossible to set up the following attack.