title> Chapter 12.

Are flicks legitimate attacks?

    A "flick" is an attack that is executed with a cutting motion
    followed by a sudden stop, so that the foible of the blade whips
    around a blocking parry or body part to score with the point.  It is
    controversial for several reasons.

    Many fencers feel that the flick is not legitimate because it never
    brings the point in line, and so never properly threatens the target.
    While flick attacks can score in the right circumstances, these
    fencers feel that the flick should rarely, if ever, take the

    Unfortunately for proponents of this point of view, the rules don't
    insist on a point in line in order for the target to be threatened.
    In fact, there are various legitimate fencing attacks that start from
    out-of-line positions, including sabre cuts and coupe' (cut-over).
    The rules seem to explicitly allow for attacks to start from
    out-of-line positions when they involve cutting actions.  Since
    flicks are performed with cutting motions (blade moving
    perpendicularly to its length), they can be seen to fall into this
    category of attacks.

    However, the rules also say that foil is a thrusting weapon only.  At
    first this may suggest that cutting actions are not legitimate
    attacks, but on further reading one finds that this rule only
    emphasizes that one cannot score with the edge of the foil, a point
    that is only relevant to manual judging.  Since the cut-over (coupe')
    is a documented foil attack that takes the right-of-way with a
    cutting action, it appears that the "thrusting only" rule refers to
    how the point lands, not to right-of-way or how the blade is wielded.

    Some fencers also feel that flicks shouldn't take the right-of-way
    because they are often performed with a significantly bent arm.
    However, an extending arm is all that is required to take
    right-of-way.  Full extension is not necessary.

    Yet another class of fencers perceives the flick as bending of the
    rules that comes close to cheating: the flicker gains an unfair
    advantage by using a dubious attack form that cannot be easily
    defended against.  While they may be dubious, flicks can be easily
    defended against.  Flicks are notoriously susceptible to being
    attacked on the preparation.  They can also be parried, although the
    parries have to be wider and more precise than for inline attacks.
    Lastly, defence is often as simple as controlling the distance, since
    flicks will miss or land flat if the defender opens or closes the
    distance at the right time.

    Another concern with flicks is that some fencers dislike them because
    they are non-traditional and rely on blade properties that did not
    exist in the golden age of duelling.  Such concerns are of relevance
    to historical re-creations of fencing, such as one finds in stage
    fighting or the SCA.  The sport of fencing, however, is not a
    simulation of 17th century murder techniques, but a modern, dynamic,
    highly technological sport that honours those techniques that work
    today, not just the ones that worked a couple of centuries ago.

    Many flicks are preceeded by a flurry of out-of-line feints that look
    like random waving of the foil.  Many fencers object that this waving
    often takes the right-of-way.  It should not; right-of-way can be
    taken at the earliest when the arm starts its final extension.
    Right-of-way is lost as soon as the blade starts moving away from the
    target; the flicker/waver is vulnerable to an attack on the
    preparation at that time.

    Regardless of how one feels about the flick, it is widely accepted as
    a legitimate attack, and is very dangerous in the hands of a skilled
    fencer.  It is important for experienced fencers to know how to use
    it and/or defend themselves against it.

Link to the next chapter: How do I find a good fencing club?