FENCING TERMS GLOSSARY


Hear something recently that made you scratch your head? Do your kids come home from practice and you can only understand half of what they’re saying? Never be at loss again. We’ve gathered all the most commonly used modern fencing terms and separated them into easy to understand categories for your consumption. If you’re looking for a specific term, press ctrl+f on your keyboard (or ⌘+f on an apple computer) to search for it. Or click here for a link to a fully alphabetized version. Enjoy!

Basic Terms:

Terms that any new fencer or parent should become familiar with. Learn these terms and you’ll be able to speak the lingo at any practice or tournament! Or at least you won’t be completely lost.

  • Advance: Basic forward movement from En Garde position.
  • Bout: A spar between two fencers, at a competition or at practice.
  • Director: Also Referee. Official that determines the outcome of a touch.
  • En Garde: Ready position for fencing. Also said by directors to indicate they wish the fencers to get ready for the touch.
  • En Garde Lines: Lines on the Piste that indicate where to take a ready position.
  • Epee: One of the three fencing weapons. Epee is characterized by its large bell guard and tapered blade. Largest of the three. Touches in Epee are scored solely based on who hits first. Touches can only be scored with the point of the weapon. Target is anywhere on the body.
  • Foil: One of the three fencing weapons. Foil is characterized by its light weight and circular hand guard. Touches are scored only with the tip, and right of way is in place to determine who is awarded a point. Target is the torso, including the groin but excluding the arms and head.
  • Parry: Defensive Action that stops an offensive action, such as blocking an attacking blade with your own - see also Parry with Distance or Distance Parry.
  • Recover: Moving from an extended lunge back into En Garde.
  • Referee: Also Director. Official that determines the outcome of a touch.
  • Retreat: Basic backward movement from the En Garde position.
  • Right-of-Way: Right-of-Way is given to the fencer that initiates their attack first. Right-of-Way can be given for a successful stopping of the attack as well.
  • Riposte: Offensive Action made after successfully parrying.
  • Saber: One of the three fencing weapons. The only weapon that can score with a cut as well as a thrust. Target is the entire body above the waist. Touches are scored with Right-of-Way. Saber fencers are not allowed to cross over their feet moving forward.
  • Salute: A gesture of respect in which the fencer flourishes the blade before and after a bout. Salutes vary by discipline, but the most common acknowledges the opponent, the referee, and the crowd.
  • Strip: Also Piste. Court on which fencing action takes place. A strip is 14 meters long and at least 1.5 meters wide. Moving off the back end of a strip awards a point for the opponent. Going off either side of the strip stops the fencing action and penalizes the fencer distance. If this causes them to go off the end of the strip, a point is awarded.

Equipment:

Catch-all term for fencing gear. Most common and important to know equipment listed here. Things of a more fiddly nature aren’t included. Now you’ll know what your armorer is talking about next time their mouth opens!

  • Bayonet: A type of body cord for Foil and Saber characterized by a single electrical connection between the wires and the weapon.
  • Bell Guard: The metal at the base of a weapon that covers and protects the hand.
  • Body Cord: The trio of wires that runs under a fencer’s jacket to be used with a scoring machine.
  • Chest Protector: A molded plastic protector that guards a fencer’s chest. Typically used by women.
  • French Grip: A grip characterized by its slight bend.
  • Handle: The grip of the weapon.
  • Head Cord: Also Mask Clip. Wire that connects the Lamé to the Mask.
  • Knickers: White pants required in most fencing competitions.
  • Lamé: Conductive jacket used to indicate and score with electric machines.
  • Maraging Steel: A steel alloy used for making blades for the three weapons. Blades made out of this alloy is required for FIE tournaments.
  • Mask Clip: Also Head Cord. Wire that connects the Lamé to the Mask.
  • Pistol Grip: A grip used in Foil and Epee, characterized by its similarity in shape to that of a pistol.
  • Plastron: Also Underarm Protector. A garment worn under the jacket for additional safety. Covers part of the fencing arm, and about half of the torso.
  • Pommel: The fastener that attached the grip and the guard to the tang of the blade.
  • Reel: The part of the scoring machine that connects the fencer to the machine.
  • Scoring Box: An electric box that indicates which fencer hits their opponent. Some models come with score-keeping as well.
  • Shims: Device to test the proper separation of tip from barrel.
  • Test Weights: A cylinder-shaped weight to test depression force of the tips in Foil and Epee. The weapon’s tip must be able to hold up the weight without setting off the scoring box. The weight for foil is 500g. The weight for epee is 750g.
  • Two-pronged Cord: A type of body cord for Foil and Saber characterized by two electrical connections between the wires and the weapon.
  • Whites: The non-electrical ‘white’ fencing clothing.
  • Wire (Blade): The wire that runs the length of the blade in Epee or Foil. This wire needs to be unbroken for electric scoring to register properly.
  • Wire (Cord): One of the three wires that runs inside a body cord. These wires need to be unbroken for electric scoring to register properly. Also commonly used to refer to Body Cords.

Offensive Actions:

A movement with the hand or feet with the intention of striking your opponent. These terms have everything to do with scoring a hit!

  • Appel: Or Half Advance. Forward movement of only the front leg. Often used to disrupt opponent’s sense of distance.
  • Attack: Offensive action made by the extension of the arm and continuous threat of your opponent. Often precedes Lunge or Fleche
  • Attack in Preparation: An attack into an opponent’s preparation of the attack.
  • Attaque au Fer: An attack on the opponent’s blade, such as a beat.
  • Ballestra: French for ‘sudden leap’. A quick jump forward.
  • Bind: where the fencer takes control of their opponent’s blade and forces it into another line.
  • Composé Attack (Attack Composé): Also Compound Attack. An attack or riposte that incorporates one or more Feints.
  • Compound Attack: Also Composé Attack. An attack or riposte that incorporates one or more Feints.
  • Coupé: A specific execution of a Disengage where the fencer avoids the opponent’s blade by moving their blade up and over the opponent’s Parry.
  • Disengage: Avoiding blade contact while your opponent is actively seeking it through actions such as a Parry or a Beat.
  • Extension: An attack composed of the extension of the weapon arm.
  • Feint: An offensive movement that resembles an attack to draw a reaction from an opponent, usually to open a line for a true attack.
  • Fleche: An aggressive action in which the fencer launches themselves at their opponent, often breaking footwork for a running motion.
  • Flick: In Foil and Epee, a cutting motion that causes the blade to bend and ‘flick’ the point towards the target.
  • Flunge: Or “Saber Fleche”. A leaping attack that starts similarly to a Fleche, but avoids crossing the feet to retain legality in Saber.
  • Half Advance: Also Appel. Forward movement of only the front leg. Often used to disrupt opponent’s sense of distance.
  • Lunge: Most common attack finisher. Performed by pushing the front leg forward from an En Garde position. The fencer lands, legs apart, with the front leg bent and the back leg straight.
  • Opposition: The term given to controlling the opponent’s blade to perform an action without risk of counter-attack.
  • Redoublement: An additional offensive action made after a previous offensive action has failed. A redoublement is an indirect attack. See also Renewal, Remise, Reprise.
  • Remise: An additional offensive action made after a previous offensive action has failed. A remise is a direct attack. See also Renewal, Reprise, Redoublement.
  • Renewal: An additional offensive action made after a previous offensive action has failed. There are three types of renewal: Remise, Reprise, Redoublement.
  • Reprise: An additional offensive action made after a previous offensive action has failed. A reprise takes place immediately after a recover into the En Garde position. See also Renewal, Remise, Redoublement.
  • Riposte: Offensive Action made after successfully parrying.

Defensive Actions:

A movement with the hand or feet with the intention of avoiding a hit or stopping an opponent's attack. These terms will keep your opponent at bay.

  • Beat: Hitting the top two-thirds of your opponent’s blade. Gives Right-of-Way. Hitting the bottom third of the blade allows for a Riposte from your opponent.
  • Counter-Attack: An attack made after and into your opponent’s attack
  • Counter Parry: Indicates a circular parry. Also common vernacular to indicate a parry after a riposte. However, the official term is simply Parry.
  • Counter Riposte: Indicates a second or further riposte.
  • Counter-Time: An attack in response to the opponent’s counter attack.
  • Distance Parry: Also Parry with Distance. Defensive Action that stops an offensive action with only spacing, such as moving out of the way of an attacking blade - see also Parry.
  • Mal-Parry: French for “bad parry”. A parry that does not block the opponent’s attack. Not performed intentionally.
  • Parry: Defensive Action that stops an offensive action, such as blocking an attacking blade with your own - see also Parry with Distance or Distance Parry.
  • Parry with Distance: Also Distance Parry. Defensive Action that stops an offensive action with only spacing, such as moving out of the way of an attacking blade - see also Parry.
  • Point-in-line: Where the fencer’s sword arm is held straight and the point of the fencer’s arm continuously threatens your opponent. Gives Right-of-Way
  • Prise De Fer: A Beat that deflects the blade. Often used synonymously with Beat.
  • Stop Cut: A counter-attack that allows the fencer to hit his opponent and still parry the oncoming attack (either with distance or blade).

Rule-Specific Terms:

Terms that refer to specific rules and have to do with  making calls or penalties on the strip. Know what your referee is saying!

  • Black Card: A card (punishment) given for the most serious offense during a competition. A black card means expulsion from one or more tournaments. Spectators can also receive black cards.
  • Bout Time: Not to be confused with Fencing Time. The time left on the clock until the period or the bout ends.
  • Corps-à-Corps: When two fencers come into body contact with one another. Stops and resets the fencing action.
  • Double Touch: In Epee, when both fencers hit at the same time, both are awarded with a touch.
  • Fencing Time: The time required to perform one simple fencing action within the bounds of a touch.
  • Foot Judge: Additional referees that will be brought in specifically to determine if a fencer is out of bounds, or in the case of Saber, is crossing their feet.
  • Hand Judge: Additional referees that will be brought in specifically to determine if a fencer is covering target.
  • Pass: When two fencers move past each other.
  • Passé: An attack that passes the target without hitting.
  • Preparation: Any action that precedes the actual beginning of the attack. See Attack in Preparation
  • Pret Allez: Pronounced “pray allay”. Used by the referee to indicate the start of the point.
  • Priority (overtime): When the time runs out in a bout with a tied score, the referee flips a coin to determine Priority (overtime). On the event that overtime finishes without a touch scored, the fencer with Priority wins.
  • Priority (Right-of-Way): Less common synonym of Right-of-Way. Not to be confused with Priority (overtime).
  • Red Card: For moderate offenses or repeated small offenses. A red card awards a point for the fencer’s opponent.
  • Red Card (Group III): For serious offenses. A group III red card awards a point for the opponent. A second group III red card is converted into a black card.
  • Simultaneous: In Foil and Saber, Simultaneous is two attacks for which the right of way is too close to determine by the referee.
  • Warning: The smallest infraction. Two warnings will grant a Yellow Card to the fencer.
  • Yellow Card: A small rule violation. Two yellow cards will grant a Red Card to the fencer.

General Terms:

Anything else you might want to know. Random jargon you’ll hear at the club and from most fencers.

  • Bracket: Also Tableau. Indicates which fencers compete against each other. A tree diagram that shows a series of bouts. Fencing is almost always single elimination (direct elimination).
  • DE (Direct Elimination): Name given to a bout in which the losing fencer is eliminated from the tournament. Most common in bracket format, and usually fenced to 15 touches.
  • Dry Bouting (or Dry): Fencing without the aid of electronic scoring machines.
  • FIE: Federation Internationale d'Escrime; French acronym that translates to International Fencing Federation
  • In-fighting: Fencing at a distance closer than the length of the weapons. The weapon has to be withdrawn to score a touch with the tip.
  • Line: Used to describe the direction of the attack. Often used “high-line”, and “low-line” to indicate attacks in that direction. See Point-in-Line
  • Match: Refers to a group of bouts between two fencing teams. Used vernacularly to refer to a Bout.
  • Piste: Also Strip. Court on which fencing action takes place. A strip is 14 meters long and at least 1.5 meters wide. Moving off the back end of a strip awards a point for the opponent. Going off either side of the strip stops the fencing action and penalizes the fencer distance. If this causes them to go off the end of the strip, a point is awarded.
  • Pod: Most common in USFA tournaments to refer to the group of 4 strips that a particular part of a bracket takes place on.
  • Pools: A term given to the round-robin format that gives initial placements into a Direct Elimination tableau.
  • Salle: Fencing club; room in which fencing takes place.
  • Second intention: Used to indicate a compound action. The first action performed by the fencer is not the one intended to score the touch. Usually a move will be initiated to draw a desired reaction out of the opponent, which the fencer will be ready to counter.
  • Tableau: Also Bracket. Indicates which fencers compete against each other. A tree diagram that shows a series of bouts. Fencing is almost always single elimination (direct elimination).
  • Two Meter Warning Lines: Lines on the Piste that indicates only two meters left until the end of the strip. The area between the two meter warning lines and the end of the strip are often hash-marked.
  • USFA: US Fencing Association. The organization responsible for the highest level of US competitions.