|   F E N C I N G   |
This is a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) with answers, compiled
for the UseNet newsgroup rec.sport.fencing.  It is intended to reduce
repetitive discussions on the Net by addressing commonly raised topics.
This document is maintained by Morgan Burke (Email: morgan@sitka.triumf.ca).
Contributions, corrections, and suggestions are welcome.
Most of the questions and answers pertain to FIE (Olympic) Fencing;
Japanese fencing (kendo, kenjustsu, iaido, etc.) is treated in a separate
FAQ list ("Japanese Sword Arts") that can be found in the newsgroups
rec.sport.fencing or rec.martial-arts (contact Neil Gendzwill,
Part I of this FAQ deals with common questions about fencing, rules of
competition, and equipment.  Part II is a list of resources that are
useful to the modern fencer (eg. suppliers, references, glossary).

v3.02 *** Last Revised 1994-Jun-14
PART I: General
1.1  What sports and martial arts comprise fencing?
1.2  Which is the best weapon?
1.3  Is fencing going to be eliminated from the Olympics?
Getting Started:
1.4  Does it hurt?
1.5  What is the best weapon for a beginner to start with?
1.6  How long does it take to become good?
1.7  What qualities make a good fencer?
1.8  How much does it cost to get involved in fencing?
1.9  How do I find a good fencing club?
1.10 What kind of equipment should I buy?
1.11 Is FIE homologation worth the price?
1.12 What kind of cross-training will help my fencing?
1.13 How can I improve my technique without the help of a coach?
1.14 What is right of way?
1.15 What constitutes an attack?
1.16 What constitutes a parry?
1.17 What are the new sabre rules?
1.1  What sports and martial arts comprise fencing?
     The Olympic sport of fencing is comprised of three weapons:  foil,
     epee, and sabre.  The rules governing these three weapons are
     determined by the FIE (Federation Internationale d'Escrime).
     Briefly, the FIE weapons are described as follows:
     Foil:  Descended from 18th century court sword training weapons, the
        foil has a thin, flexible blade with a square cross-section and a
        small bell guard.  Touches are scored with the point on the torso
        of the opponent, including the groin and back.  Foil technique
        emphasizes strong defense and the killing attack to the body.
     Epee:  Similar to the duelling swords of the mid-19th century,
        epees have stiff blades with a triangular cross section,
        and large bell guards.  Touches are scored with the point,
        anywhere on the opponent's body.  Unlike foil and sabre, there
        no rules of right-of-way to decide which attacks have precedence,
        and double hits are possible.  Epee technique emphasises timing,
        point control, and a good counter-attack.
     Sabre:  Descended from cavalry swords of the late 19th century,
        sabres have a light, flat blade and a knuckle guard.  Touches
        can be scored with either the point or the edge of the blade,
        anywhere above the opponent's waist.  Sabre technique emphasises
        speed, feints, and strong offense.
     The most popular of eastern fencing techniques is kendo, the Japanese
     "Way of the Sword".  Kendo is fought with a bamboo shinai, intended
     to resemble a two-handed Japanese battle sword.  Combatants wear
     armour, and strike to the top or sides of the head, the sides of the
     body, the throat, or the wrists.  Accepted technique must be
     observed, and judges watch for accuracy, power, and spirit.  See the
     Japanese Sword Arts FAQ for more information.
     Other martial arts that include elements of swordsmanship are:
     Aikido -- self defence against armed and unarmed attackers.  Includes
        using and defending oneself against Japanese sword techniques.
     Arnis, Escrima -- stick fighting.
     Iaido -- the Japanese art of the draw.
     Kenjutsu -- the unadulterated Japanese martial art of the sword.
     Kung-fu -- a Chinese martial art that includes many sword techniques.
     Modern Pentathlon -- the "soldier's medley", a sport that recreates
        demands placed on a pre-20th century military messenger:  running,
        swimming, shooting, equestrian jumping, and epee fencing.
     Single Stick -- an ancestor of sabre fencing.
     SCA -- the "Society for Creative Anachronism", an organization that
        attempts to re-create the lifestyle of Medieval Europe, including
        jousts and tourneys.  Emphasizes heavy weapon and shield
        techniques, the use of armour, Florentine fencing, and fencing
        in the round.  Additional info on the SCA can be found in the
        newsgroup rec.org.sca.
     Tai Chi -- another Chinese martial art that includes many sword
1.2  Which is the best weapon?
     Such a question is an open invitation to religious warfare.
     Everybody loves to participate, but nothing is ever settled.
     If the question means "what kind of fencing is the most fun?" then
     the answer is: it depends what aspects of fencing you enjoy the most.
     If you are fascinated by technique, bladework, and tactics, you will
     probably get a lot of satisfaction from foil fencing.  More visceral
     fencers who want to experience the adrenaline rush of a fast,
     agressive sword fight will want to try some sabre.  Most epee fencers
     consider themselves practical, no-nonsense sword fighters who rely on
     as few artificial rules as possible.  Enthusiasts of more medieval
     combat styles, involving armour and heavy weapons, should consider
     joining the SCA or a kendo dojo.
     On the other hand, if the question means "which weapon is the most
     deadly?"  the answer will depend on a lot of factors, not the least
     of which are the skill of the combatants, the presence of armour, the
     military and cultural context, and the rules of the fight (ie. is
     this a street fight, a gentlemen's duel, or open field warfare?).
     Most swords are highly optimized for performance in a specific
     environment, and will not perform well outside it.  Comparing two
     swords from completely different historical contexts is therefore
     extremely difficult, if not downright silly.
     Then again, perhaps the question means "which style of fencing is
     the most realistic?"  It must be said that questions of realism have
     little relevance to an activity that has almost no practical
     application in the modern world other than sport and fitness.
     Historically, however, epees have the closest resemblance (among FIE
     weapons) to real duelling swords, and the rules closely parallel
     those of actual duels (sometimes being fought to only a single
     point).  Other martial arts with a high realism factor include
     kenjutsu and some aspects of SCA fighting.
1.3  Is fencing going to be eliminated from the Olympics?
     Although fencing is one of only four sports to have been 
     involved in every modern Olympic Games since their inception 
     in 1896, it has been mentioned as one of the disciplines 
     that will be eliminated from the Games following Atlanta 1996.
     According to Gilbert Felli, Sports Director of the International
     Olympic Committee, the IOC plans to refine future games in 
     various ways, including:
        -- limiting the number of athletes to 15000
        -- increasing participation by women
        -- eliminating "so-called artificial team events"
        -- limiting sports of a similar type
        -- modernizing the Olympic program
        -- encouraging sports that provide a good television spectacle
     Fencing is currently undergoing serious revisions to its rules
     and structure to improve its value as a (televised?) spectator
     sport, perhaps in the hopes of retaining its Olympic status.
     Lobby efforts to save fencing's Olympic status have been underway
     for at least a year.  Olympic fencing is safe through 1996, and
     has even been expanded to include women's epee for the first
     time.  The status of Olympic fencing for the 2000 games should be
     determined by now, but news has not yet reached the author.
1.4  Does it hurt?
     Not if done properly.  Although executed with appreciable energy,
     a good, clean fencing attack hurts no more than a tap on the
     shoulder.  Reckless and overly aggressive fencers can
     occasionally deliver painful blows, however.  Fencing *is* a
     martial art, so you should expect minor bruises and welts every
     now and again.  They are rarely intentional.  The most painful
     blows tend to come from inexperienced fencers who have not yet
     acquired the feel of the weapon.
     The primary source of injury in fencing is from pulled muscles
     and joints.  Proper warm-up and stretching before fencing will
     minimize these occurences.
     There is a risk of being injured by broken weapons.  The shards
     of a snapped blade can be very sharp and cause serious injury,
     especially if the fencer doesn't immediately realize his blade is
     broken, and continues fencing.  Always wear proper protective
     gear to reduce this risk.  FIE homologated jackets, britches, and
     masks are ideal, as they are made with puncture-resistant fabrics
     such as kevlar.  If you cannot afford such extravagances, use a
     plastron (half-jacket worn beneath the regular fencing jacket),
     and avoid old and rusty masks.  Always wear a glove that covers
     the cuff, to prevent blades from running up the sleeve.
     Fencing is often said to be safer than golf.  Whether or not this
     is true, it is an extraordinarily safe sport considering its
     heritage and nature.
1.5  What is the best weapon for a beginner to start with?
     Foil is the most common starter weapon.  It is an excellent weapon
     to begin with if you have no preferences or want to learn
     generalized principles of swordfighting.  Transitions to the other
     weapons from foil are relatively straight forward.  Foil is an
     abstracted form of fencing that emphasises proper defence, and
     cleanly executed killing attacks.  Historically it was a training
     weapon for the small sword, so it is well suited for the purposes of
     learning.  However, it is far from a simple weapon, and many
     experienced fencers return to foil after trying the others.
     Sabre can also be an effective starter weapon, for a few reasons.
     Like foil, it has rules of right-of-way to emphasize proper defense,
     and its de-emphasis of point attacks can be a relief to a beginner
     who doesn't yet have much point control.  Also, many low-level sabre
     competitions are still fenced dry, meaning that it can be the
     cheapest of all weapons to compete in (although electric sabre is
     definitely the most expensive weapon to compete in).  However, sabre
     differs from foil and epee in a few key respects that can reduce its
     effectiveness as a starter weapon if the fencer plans to try the
     others in the future.  Among these differences are the
     aforementioned de-emphasis of point attacks, and a different sense
     of timing and distance.
     Epee can sometimes be a good starter weapon for two reasons.  First,
     the rules are simple and easy to grasp, and second, the competition
     costs are lower, since no lame' is required.  However, the apparent
     simplicity of the sport can obscure its subtleties to the beginner,
     and make progress difficult later on.  Furthermore, the lack of
     right-of-way in epee can make transitions to the other two weapons
     difficult, if put off for too long.
1.6  How long does it take to become good?
     There is a saying that it takes two lifetimes to master fencing.  By
     the time anyone has come close to "mastering" the sport, they are
     long past their athletic prime.  Some may feel that this is a
     drawback to the sport, but most fencers see it as a great strength:
     fencing never becomes dull or routine; there are always new skills to
     master, and new grounds to conquer.
     A dedicated novice who practices twice per week will be ready to
     try low-level competition in 3-6 months.  Competition at this point
     should be viewed as a learning aid, not as a dedicated effort to win.
     Serious attempts at competing will be possible after 2-3 years,
     when the basic skills have been sufficiently mastered that the
     mind is free to consider strategy.
     A moderate level of skill (eg. C classification) can take 3-5 years
     of regular practice and competition.
     Penetration of the elite ranks (eg. world cup, A classification)
     demands three to five days per week of practice and competition, and
     usually at least 10-15 years of experience.
     Progress can be faster or slower, depending on the fencer's aptitude,
     attitude, and dedication.  Rapid progress normally requires at least
     three practices per week, and regular competition against superior
     The average world champion is in his late 20s to early 30s and began
     fencing as a child.
1.7  What qualities make a good fencer?
     There are many.
     On the athletic side, speed and endurance must rank foremost.  Other
     traits that can be exploited are strength, precision, and flexibility.
     Quick reaction time is extremely important.
     On the intellectual side, a good mind for strategy and tactics is
     essential.  The ability to quickly size up your opponent and adapt
     your style accordingly is essential.
     Psychologically, a fencer must be able to maintain focus, concentration,
     and emotional level-headedness under intense conditions of combat.
     Stress management, visualization, and relaxation techniques are all
     helpful to putting in winning performances.
     As far as body type goes, it is always possible to adapt your style
     to take advantage of your natural traits.  Even so, height seems to
     be useful in epee, but not necessarily in sabre.  Small or thin
     people are harder to hit in foil.  A long reach helps in epee, and
     long legs are an asset in foil.
     It should be noted that left handers usually enjoy a slight advantage,
     especially against inexperienced fencers.  This may account for the
     fact that lefties make up 15% of fencers, but half of FIE world
1.8  How much does it cost to get involved in fencing?
     Beginner's dry fencing setup:  about $100 - $200 US
        Includes: cotton jacket, glove, dry weapon, mask
     FIE Competition setup:  about $500 - $1000 US
        Includes: FIE 800N jacket & britches, FIE 1600N mask, at least
           2 electric weapons, body cord, socks, glove, shoes, lame
           (foil & sabre only), sensor (sabre only).
        Note: costs can be as much as halved by avoiding purchasing
           FIE certified equipment.  While such equipment is required
           at national (Canada and Europe, but not USA) and
           international levels of competition, most local tournaments
           will overlook it.  If you use a cotton or synthetic knit
           jacket, however, be sure to wear a plastron underneath.
     Club costs vary, but are usually on the order of $50-$100 per year
     for each day per week of fencing.  Many clubs will provide or rent
     equipment to beginners.
1.9  How do I find a good fencing club?
     Start with your local Provincial or Divisional fencing association.
     If you don't know how to find them, contact your national fencing
     body (see section 2.1).  Your national body may maintain a list of
     known fencing clubs in the country.  Otherwise, your local
     association will be able to tell you about recognized clubs in your
     area.  Many universities and colleges also sponsor fencing clubs
     and teams that will often accept non-students as members.  You
     might also check out courses or camps offered by local community
     centers.  Once you have a list of potential clubs, you will want to
     evaluate them and your needs.  Desirable qualities vary, depending
     on your skill level and what you want to get out of fencing.
     Ask the following questions when selecting your club (if you're not
     sure what you want, "yes" is a good answer to all these questions):
     Does it have an active beginners' program?  Are there enough fencers
     of your own skill level?  Are there some fencers above your skill
     level?  If you don't have your own equipment, does the club provide
     it?  Does the club have ample electric scoring boxes and reels?  Does
     the club emphasize the same weapons that you are interested in?  Do
     club members compete regularly?  Does the club have a master or
     coach?  Has he/she had many competitive successes either fencing or
     coaching?  Can you get individual lessons and instruction?  At no
     extra cost?
     Lastly, atmosphere is important to any social endeavour.  Choose a
     club that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed without sacrificing
     the athletic spirit that is essential to progress.
1.10 What kind of equipment should I buy?
     This FAQ does not endorse particular brands, but will point out
     some of the things to consider when purchasing equipment.
     Equipment merchants are listed in section 2.2.
     CLOTHING:  FIE homologated clothing is the most expensive 
     available, and is required at the highest levels of competition.  
     It includes special fabrics (such as kevlar or ballistic nylon) 
     around vital areas such as the chest, belly, and groin, and is 
     highly resistant to punctures by broken blades.  Alternatively, 
     you can purchase kevlar underclothes and wear regular cotton 
     outerwear.  If not using FIE clothing, cotton or synthetic 
     jackets should be utilised in conjunction with a plastron.  Most 
     jackets are left- or right-handed.  Sabre fencers may wish to 
     consider extra protective padding and elbow protectors.  Athletic 
     cups are helpful for men, and breast protectors are essential for 
     women. A glove for the fencing hand is essential; it should cover 
     the sleeve cuff, and have an opening at the wrist for the body 
     wire.  For the anal-retentive, FIE rules state that fencers must 
     wear only white, and that skin must not show between the socks and
     pant legs.  For casual and beginner fencers, sweat pants or
     baseball knickers are reasonable alternatives to genuine fencing
     MASKS: The best have FIE 800N or 1600N bibs to protect the neck,
     but cost considerably more than the regular varieties.  For foil,
     masks should be well-insulated to prevent touches to the head
     from conducting to the lame' and registering as a touch.
     Electric sabre masks must be conductive, on the other hand, to
     allow head touches.  Newer masks have stronger mesh and larger
     bibs, which is better both in terms of safety, and target
     coverage in foil.  Avoid old and rusty masks, and consider
     subjecting a used mask to a punch test before using/purchasing
     LAME'S: Stainless steel is preferred, as they are much more
     corrosion resistant than older copper ones.  Your lame' should
     come to your hip bones, and be form-fitting but not tight.  Most
     lame's come in right and left-handed versions, but ambidextrous
     (back-zip) versions are also available.  Regular rinsing or
     careful hand-washing of your lame' (especially immediately after
     a tournament or practice) will improve its lifespan.  Avoid
     folding, crumpling, or abrading it.
     WEAPONS: There are a large number of variables to consider when
     shopping for blades, including stiffness, length, durability,
     flex point, weight, balance, and (of course) price.  Which
     qualities a fencer prefers is largely a matter of taste.  The
     length and thread of the tang may also be an issue.  A wide
     variety of grips are available to epee and foil fencers, but
     choice is also a matter of preference.  Guards come in various
     sizes and weights.  Some fencers will also have preferences
     between 2-prong and bayonet body cords and connectors.  Maraging
     steel foil blades are required at the highest levels of
     competition.  They are about twice the price of regular blades,
     but are supposed to be more durable, and break more cleanly.

     SHOES:  Fencing shoes are ideal, but often expensive.  Indoor
     court shoes, volleyball shoes, and even wrestling shoes are good
     alternatives.  Many styles of running shoe provide inadequate
     lateral stability.
1.11 Is FIE homologation worth the price?
     If you are competing internationally, or at the elite level in
     Canada, FIE homologated protective gear (clothing & mask) is
     required.  FIE (maraging) blades are required in foil only.  FIE
     homologated gear generally costs twice as much as regular gear.
     FIE homologated clothing and masks definitely provide the best
     protection money can buy, and are generally very high quality.
     If safety is a big concern for you, or you plan on serious
     competition, then the cost is worth it.  Otherwise, there are
     non-homologated brands that provide reasonable protection for
     considerably lower cost (but also cheap brands that provide poor
     protection).  Homologated clothing comes in varying weights,
     depending on the materials used.  Kevlar tends to be heaviest,
     whereas ballistic nylons tend to be lighter.  Note that FIE
     homologation includes both 800N and 1600N clothing; the latter is
     twice as strong.
     FIE (maraging) foil blades have a reputation for lasting
     considerably longer than regular steel blades, and are supposed
     to break more cleanly.  Many fencers find them a superior value.
     As they vary in character in the same way as regular blades,
     similar caution should be exercised when purchasing them.
     Maraging epee and sabre blades do not seem to be so well
     received, and are not required for FIE competition.
1.12 What kind of cross-training will help my fencing?
     The best training for fencing is fencing.  Fencing development is 
     asymmetrical and few other sports use the same muscle groups, so 
     this is a difficult question whose answer depends largely on what 
     aspect of your training you really want to focus on.
     Cardiovascular fitness and leg strength always help, so anything that
     enhances these will be beneficial.  Cycling, swimming, and aerobics
     are good examples.  Running, sprinting, soccer, basketball, and
     similar sports can also be helpful, although some athletes dislike
     the stresses they put on the knees.  Racquet sports like tennis,
     badminton, squash, racquetball, and table tennis are also excellent,
     and will exercise your weapon arm in addition to your legs.
     Many martial arts have physical and mental demands that are similar
     to fencing, and can improve both your fitness and your intellectual
     approach to the sport.  Technique and tactics very rarely translate,
     Weight training can help, if done properly, but the athlete must
     remember that flexibility, speed, and technique are more important
     than raw strength.  Endurance training should have priority over
     bodybuilding.  Strength training can help, provided it doesn't build
     too much bulk.  Most fencing weight-training programs concentrate
     heavily on leg and lower-body development.
     Some fencers maintain that juggling improves reactions, hand-eye
     coordination, and use of peripheral vision.
     Many coaches and fencers suggest occasional fencing or workouts with
     your opposite hand, both to improve skill and balance your muscular
1.13 How can I improve my technique without the help of a coach?
     It is very easy to acquire bad habits and poor technique if you do 
     not have the guidance of a knowledgable fencing master, coach, or 
     fellow fencer.  If you are serious about improving your fencing, 
     quality coaching is always your best investment.  However, a 
     disciplined fencer still has options if decent instruction is not 
     available on a regular basis.
     Firstly, a solid knowledge of fencing theory and regulations is a 
     must.  The freelance fencer should study the FIE Rules of 
     Competition and a good fencing manual (see Section 2.3).  The 
     fencer should test and apply this knowledge by presiding whenever 
     possible.  An appreciation of good fencing style is also 
     essential, so that the fencer can readily identify weaknesses in 
     his own and other fencers' techniques.  Observation and comparison 
     of skilled or accomplished fencers will develop this ability.  
     Training videotapes and videotapes of high-level competitions (see 
     Section 2.5) are also helpful in this regard.
     The freelance fencer must be open-minded and critical of his own 
     technique, so that he can recognize problems before they develop 
     into habits.  Discussion of his weaknesses with training opponents 
     will help him clarify the areas that need work.  If possible, he 
     should videotape his bouts and review them to spot defects in his 
     tactics and technique.  
     The fencer should seek out opponents who will strenuously test 
     his weaknesses.  More experienced fencers, left-handers, those 
     whose tactics are particularly effective, and even those with 
     annoying (ie. difficult) styles should be courted on the practice 
     strip.  When fencing less skilled opponents, the fencer should 
     restrict his tactics to a small set that require practice, and 
     resist the temptation to open up if he should start losing.
     The opportunity to participate in footwork and line drills should 
     never be passed up.  When he can find an agreeable partner, the 
     fencer can do more personalized drills to exercise his weak areas.  
     (Of course it is courteous to indulge the needs of one's partner 
     when he in turn works on his own training.)
     Lastly, the fencer should remain aware of his bout psychology and 
     mental state when fencing, and try to cultivate the mindset that 
     in his experience produces good fencing.
1.14 What is right-of-way?
     Right-of-way is the set of rules used to determine who is awarded the
     point when there is a double touch in foil or sabre (ie. both fencers
     hit each other in the same fencing time).  It is detailed in the 
     FIE Rules of Competition, Articles 232-237 (foil) and 416-423 
     The core assumption behind right-of-way is that a fencing bout is 
     always in one of three states:
         -- nothing significant is happening
         -- the fencers are conceiving and executing their actions
         -- one fencer is controlling the action and tempo and the other
            is trying to gain control.
     Since no points will be scored in the first situation, we can ignore
     it.  In the second situation, the fencers' actions have equal
     significance, and it is impossible to award a touch.  Both touches 
     will be annulled and the bout will be resumed where it was 
     The third situation is the tricky one.  The controlling fencer has
     the right-of-way, and his hit has precedence over any hit from the
     other fencer.  The job of the director is to decide which
     fencer was NOT controlling the action, and annul his touch.  If he
     cannot decide, the director should abstain, annul BOTH hits, and
     resume the action where it left off.
     Control (and right-of-way) is taken whenever one fencer threatens
     the other with his blade.  A threat can be either an attack (see 
     question 1.15), or a "point in line" that is established before 
     the opponent attacks.
     Control (and right-of-way) is lost when an attack misses, falls
     short, is broken off, or is deflected away from the target by a
     parry or other engagement from the defender.  The defender has a
     split-second window of opportunity to return the attack
     (ie. riposte) before the attacker recovers; if he does so, he
     takes over right-of-way and the tables have turned.  Otherwise it
     is a toss-up; the first fencer to initiate an attack will sieze
     the right-of-way anew.
     The right-of-way relationships between common fencing actions are as
     - derobement has right-of-way over attacks on the blade
     - attacks on the blade have right-of-way over the point in line
     - point in line has right-of-way over the attack
     - the simple attack has right-of-way over the stop-hit
     - the stop-hit has right-of-way over the renewal of the attack
     - the stop-hit in time has right-of-way over the compound attack
     - the riposte has right-of-way over the renewal of the attack
     - the counter-riposte has right-of-way over the renewal of the riposte
     - the remise of the attack has right-of-way over the delayed riposte
1.15 What constitutes an attack?
     According to Article 10 of the FIE rules of competition, "the 
     attack is the initial offensive action made by extending the arm 
     and continuously threatening the valid target of the opponent."
     One common misconception is that a straight or straightening arm 
     is required to assert the attack.  In fact, it is not required 
     that the attacker's arm become straight or even nearly so.  It is 
     sufficient if the arm extends, however little, from its normal on-
     guard position.  A long arm is still good style, though, since it 
     gives superior reach and clearly shows the fencer's intent.  While 
     the attack can often be asserted with minimal extension, 
     retraction of the arm will almost always be interpreted as a break 
     in the attack.
     A threatening weapon is normally interpreted to be one that will 
     hit the opponent if nothing is done to prevent it.  In other 
     words, a weapon threatens if it is moving towards the target in a 
     smooth, unbroken trajectory.  This trajectory can be curved, 
     especially if the attack is indirect, compound, or involves a 
     cutting action.  Hesitations and movements of the blade away from 
     the target will usually be perceived as a break in the attack.
     Another common misconception is that a point attack does not 
     threaten unless the point is in line.  This is not generally true.  
     An out-of-line point does threaten if it is moving towards the 
     target on a smooth, unbroken trajectory.  The most common example 
     of this is the coupe' (cut-over), in which the blade is pulled out 
     of line to avoid the the opponent's blade, and then returned into 
     line to finish the attack.  Coupe' takes the right-of-way 
     immediately, even though the point is initially pulled away from 
     the target.  So-called "flicks", relatives of the coupe' that 
     involve whipping the foible of the blade around parries or 
     blocking body parts, can also take the right-of-way when the blade 
     starts its final forward stroke.
     Many fencers are under the mistaken impression that a bent arm or 
     out-of-line point constitutes a preparation, and therefore that 
     they can rightfully attack into it.  If the bent arm is extending 
     and the out-of-line point is moving towards the target, however, 
     this assumption is usually false under modern fencing conventions.  
     A successful attack on the preparation must clearly precede 
     the opponent's initiation of the phrase or a hesitation in his 
     attack, or else arrive a fencing time ahead of his touch.

     Sabre fencers must also consider Article 417 of the Rules of
     Competition, which states when the attack must land relative to
     the footfalls of a lunge, step-lunge, (and fleche, historically).
     Attacks that arrive after the prescribed footfall are deemed
     continuations, and do not have right-of-way over the
     counter-attack.  Sabre fencers must also remember that whip-over
     touches can be interpreted as remises, and not mal-parries.
1.16 What constitutes a parry?
     According to Article 10 of the FIE Rules of Competition, "the 
     parry is the defensive action made with the weapon to prevent the 
     attack from arriving".
     A successful parry deflects the threatening blade away from the
     target.  It is not sufficient merely to find or touch the
     opponent's blade;  the fencer must also exhibit control over it.
     If the attack continues without any replacement of the point and
     makes a touch, it retains the right-of-way ("mal-parry" by the
     defender).  If the attacker must replace the point into a
     threatening line before continuing, it is a remise (renewal of the
     attack) and does not have right-of-way over the riposte.

     A well-executed parry should take the foible of the attacker's
     blade with the forte and/or guard of the defender's.  This
     provides the greatest control over the opponent's blade.  In
     other cases the parry can still be seen as sufficient if the
     attacking blade is sufficiently deflected.  In ambiguous cases,
     however, the benefit of the doubt is usually given to the fencer
     who used his forte/guard.  For example, if a fencer attempts to
     parry using his foible on his opponent's forte, it will often be
     interpreted in the reverse sense (eg. counter-time parry by the
     attacker), since such an engagement does not normally result in
     much deflection of the attack.  A foible to foible parry could
     potentially be seen as a beat attack by the opposing fencer
     depending on the specifics of the action.

     In foil, the opponent's blade should not only be deflected away
     from the target, but away from off-target areas as well.  An 
     attack that is deflected off the valid target but onto invalid 
     target still retains right-of-way.
     In sabre, the opponent's blade need only be deflected away from
     valid target, since off-target touches do not stop the phrase.
     Cuts are considered parried if their forward movement is stopped
     by a block with the blade or guard.  Otherwise, sabre parries
     must be particularly clean and clear to avoid the possibility of
     whip-over touches.
     In epee, a good parry is simply any one that gains enough time
     for the riposte.  Opposition parries and prise-de-fer are commonly 
     used, since they do not release the opponent's blade to allow a 

1.17 What are the new sabre rules?

     The precise wording of the USFA implementation of the new sabre
     rules is as follows:

     In a simultaneous action where both fencers hit, no touch is
     awarded.  Fencing will resume from the point at which the referee
     stopped the action.  If only one fencer hits in a simultaneous
     action that hit is scored.

     Any forward movement with the rear foot crossing the forward foot
     is forbidden and will result in an immediate halt. A fencer who
     crosses the forward foot with the rear foot will be given a
     YELLOW CARD for the first offense (unless a YELLOW CARD has
     already been issued) and then a RED CARD for all subsequent
     repetitions.  A touch will be annulled if at any time during a
     phrase the fencer crosses the forward foot with the rear foot,
     i.e., in the preparation of an action, during the action or
     immediately following the action.  An action made by that
     fencer's opponent will be allowed provided that this action
     started prior to the halt.

     Be aware that the application of these rules may result in two
     touches being scored on one action.  Example: Fencer Y has
     received a YELLOW CARD at the start of a pool bout for not being
     equipped with a security device to prevent the body cord from
     becoming disconnected from the weapon.  Fencer Y is defeating
     Fencer Z by a score of 4-3.  Simultaneous actions result in
     double hits but Fencer Y made the attack with a fleche (the rear
     foot came in front of the front foot); Fencer Z made an attack
     with an advance lunge.  The touch by Fencer Y is annulled.  The
     touch by Fencer Z is awarded.  Fencer Y is given a RED CARD.
     Fencer Z wins the bout 5-4.

Author: Morgan Burke (morgan@sitka.triumf.ca)
Contributors: special thanks to Suman Palit, Guy Smith, Greg Dilworth,
	Kevin Taylor, Eric Anderson, Blaine Price, Steve Hick, Kim
	Moser, David Glasser, Bryan Mansfield

(C) 1993, 1994 Morgan Burke
Permission is granted to copy and distribute all or part of this document
for non-profit purposes.