Faq II: Equipment & Maintenance:

2.7 Grips

     For foil and epee, there are a wide variety of grips
     available that fall into two broad categories, traditional and
     pistol.  Sabre grips are all fundamentally of the same design.

     Most grips are fashioned of aluminum or plastic; the latter,
     while lighter, are also much more fragile and prone to cracking.
     Some grips are insulated with a layer of enamel (colour coded by
     size), and many traditional grips are surfaced with leather,
     rubber, or twine.

2.7.1 Traditional
     These are the French, Italian, and Spanish grips.  All consist of
     a relatively simple handle, a large, exposed pommel, and in the
     case of the Italian and Spanish grips, crossbars or similar
     prongs for extra grip.

     The French grip is the simplest of all fencing grips in
     construction, and the most economical.  It emphasizes finger
     control over strength, and provides considerable flexibility, and
     a variety of possible hand positions.  It is the most common grip
     used by novices.

     The Italian grip is noted for its strength, but is fairly rare,
     partially because it requires a special tang on blades that are
     used with it.  It is the only ambidextrous fencing grip.  Italian
     grips are often equipped with a martingale (wrist strap).

     The Spanish grip is a compromise between the French and Italian
     grips, but is illegal in modern fencing competition, due to a
     perceived safety hazard in not being able to release the weapon
     easily.  There are modern variants of the Spanish grip that do
     not use the French pommel, but their legality is unclear.
2.7.2 Pistol
     These are modern, orthopedic grips, shaped vaguely like a pistol,
     but still grasped in the traditional way.  They provide a
     pronounced strength advantage over the traditional grips, but
     tend to encourage wrist movement over finger movement.  Pistol
     grips all have the features of a large protuberance below the
     tang for the aids to grasp, a curved prong above the tang that
     fits in the crook of the thumb, and a large prong that extends
     along the inside of the wrist.  Some varieties (eg. Visconti,
     German) are heavily sculpted for the fingers, while others
     (eg. Belgian, Russian) are relatively smooth but may provide an
     extra prong for the middle finger (Belgian only).

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