Youtube Fencing Lesson Clips

•5 October, 2012 • 1 Comment

Presiding difficulties, conflicts and resolutions

•2 July, 2008 • 1 Comment

When fencers present themselves at competitions, they are often nervous and apprehensive. It takes one or two bouts usually for many to come to terms with the uncertainties and the fear of looking foolish, or not doing their best etc. It is most important that the person presiding over these contests has the following qualifications;

·         Experience

·         Knows the rules and the interpretations

·         Understands fencing time

·         Is decisive and accurate and

·         Has a full understanding of priority and right of way

There are three main areas of confusion that is generated by some Presidents in the sport of fencing. If we accept that in our local and state level there is no evidence of bias the three problems areas can be identified;

1.       Simultaneous attack

2.       Attacks into attacks

3.       Attacks on preparations

Simultaneous Attacks

For a simultaneous attack to take place, two people need to conceive of an action exactly at the same precise second with the same priority and exactly the same choice of time with the lights registering appropriately. A true simultaneous attack is therefore rare. Unfortunately a simultaneous attack is too often called when presidents cannot sort out actions from both fencers that result with a coloured light and fencers are called to halt and put back on guard. It is important to realise that this inaccurate call is not fair. In most cases one fencer is denied a point that he or she has won whilst the opponent has been awarded a point that is not deserved.


Attacks into Attacks

What appear to be simultaneous attacks to inexperienced presidents is in fact an attack into an attack. One fencer initiates that attack and the opponent in response tries to beat him or her to it. Experienced presidents know instinctively from which end the attack is initiated.


Attacks on Preparations

The third area of confusion is separating and recognising attacks from preparations of attack. For example, a step forward is a preparation, not an attack!

Often fencers step forward, hesitate momentarily in their resolve and then stick out their arm when the opponent legitimately attacks on that hesitation. If the attack is compounded with the step forward, is continuous and no arm withdrawals, (redoubles), then the attack has to be paid.


In any event the fencers must understand the theory and when presiding they must develop skills in anticipation, reading the play and decision making.

Fencers can be disappointed about a loss, but philosophical if they were “out fenced”. However we are at great risk of them becoming discouraged as a serious result of poor decision making, haphazard arbitration and indecision from referees.


Presiding is a very difficult role. It takes time, training and experience to become competent. Queensland Fencing is bright and motivated; we are growing stronger each year. “Near enough” is not good enough if our aim is to become Australia’s premier fencing state.


(c) Maitre d’Armes Michael A. O’Brien 2/07/2008


Presiding and Judging for Beginners

•2 July, 2008 • Leave a Comment

At a competition involving school fencing, we recognise a level playing field seldom exists. Often, few of the aspiring fencers have personal attire and equipment.  Borrowed weapons, masks etc. abound, apprehension reigns, while an enterprising and confident few are raring to go.

In this situation, skilful and experienced presidents are worth their weight in gold. The competitors must be guided through situations which will stimulate them to wish to repeat the experience. Most importantly, the president must exude authority without the overbearing attitude we sometimes witness and be fair and absolutely in control. It is mandatory that the youngsters are protected from hurt or injury and those rough or spiteful actions are nonexistent. In the cases of loss of control, emotional or otherwise, cautionary advice rather than punitive actions is preferable. It is a wise move to gather the contestants of a poule and explain to them priority, right of way and timing. Insure then that only one of four responses is acceptable from the judges and thus provide for an uncomplicated contest. The four responses are “yes”, “no”, “off target”, and “I abstain”. The answers are therefore brief and concise, and allow the president to be efficient in his analysis of actions and exchanges.

Should the president find one or two of his jurors are inaccurate or failing in any way, he can situated them on the same side of himself so he see what they see and can better gauge their efforts. A quick explanation, sorting out the differences between ripostes, remises and redoubles plus what a valid hit is as disposed to a flat hit or a pass is helpful. Doubtful hits too, can be a bone of contention, which new fencers will need to grasp.

All’s well that ends well and though some may be disappointed with their outcome, so long as they are not  discouraged it has been a successful experience.

(c) Maitre d’Armes Michael A. O’Brien 2/07/2008

The Class Lesson

•26 June, 2008 • Leave a Comment

                Most fencers commence their fencing journey in a class situation. It takes a great deal of effort to keep a group together for a long enough period to impart the skills necessary to reach basic free-play standards. In a group of would be fencers, our class would be made up of people ranging in ages, size, sex, interest, etc. Some, one in every seven statistically, are left handed. Others will prove more capable, and some may not be able to keep up. Include the ever present distractions, absenteeism and we can consider ourselves lucky if half the group emerges triumphant.

As we make a start and introduce the class to the sport and to each other. It is a good idea to stress safety factors and care of equipment. We then   can explain the purpose:- to hit and not be hit, the target areas, the lines of engagement, grip, stance, weight distribution, and footwork.

We now dispense with the line out stage and the class begins work in pairs. We introduce the rows A and B format where the two rows face one another and respond to the coach’s instruction and making use of the system of progressions.

     The most complex actions can be broken down to the simplest form by this method but first of all we make use of another formula.

1.       Definition – Define the action, stroke, parry, or any movement you wish to impart to the class

2.       Demonstration – Demonstrate the movement you wish the class to learn

3.       Explanation – Explain, where, how, why, when the movement may be used

4.       Faults to be avoided – Point out the risks and consequence of errors

5.       Execution – The class then proceeds to carry out the exercise

For the purpose of explanation of the system of movements by progression we will demonstrate with the disengagement in four progressions, then in three then in two and finally in one smooth action.

The class forms two rows A and B.

1.       On one, row A presses the blade gently against B’s. Row B then uses this pressure to lower his blade while maintaining the hand in the same plain.

2.       On two, row B raises their blade on the other side of A’s blade.

3.       On three, row B extends the sword arm.

4.       On the command four row B lunges.

The class will now execute the disengagement in three progressions, this time row A initiates the action.

1.       On the command one, Row A lowers the point of the foil and raises it on the opposite side

2.       On two, extend the sword arm and on three lunge

The next instruction will be to disengage in two progressions e.g. one lower the blade raise on the opposite side and extend in one smooth action.

Finally on command disengage; the attacking row will execute the action in one smooth movement.

(c) Maitre d’Armes Michael A. O’Brien 26/06/2008

Training Principals and Variables

•24 June, 2008 • Leave a Comment


Training Principals


Hard work

Concentration and focus


Decision making

Organised individuality


Over load process


Tolerance to training

Retentive memory

Recovery processes

Ability to hang in mentality

Gradual adaption and reversibility

Sense of touch and distance

Variation of training routines

Reaction time

Training environment and atmosphere


Nutritional preferences

Ability to move from immobility


Other Major Factors and Components

Physical effort

Dedication and courage

Fatigue factors


Performance factors

Assessment skills

Technical control of skills


Fitness in preparation of physical and mental application

Analytical skills

Self pride

Respect for all opponents regardless of perception

Self confidence in one’s ability

Ability to relax between bouts


(c) Maitre d’Armes Michael A. O’Brien 24/06/2008

The Fencing Lesson

•17 June, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The one on one individual lesson is the best opportunity to develop a fencer’s mechanics and skills. The rapport between coach and pupil allows for variation, experimentation and exchange thereby honing the pupil’s ability to cope with a wide range of actions and manoeuvres. The coach doubles as teacher and sparring partner, much as does a boxing trainer and the boxer. He submits bout situations, sometimes accommodating, sometimes surprising, and varying the degree of difficulty and changes in tempo. The traditional character of the duel is maintained with a combative style lesson involving fault finding, correction and athleticism.

The lesson is very much a developer, physically as well as mentally. It should be maintained continually for at least 12 to 15 minutes in order to obtain a cardio-vascular training effect. The intensive bouts usually following the individual lesson, ensures that the fitness quotient is built into the fencer’s routine. In the off season, some fencers add an isotonic and or an athletic component to their programme. Quite often fencers reflect their coach’s attitudes and techniques, but their mannerisms and personalities remain, as every single fencer has his own idiosyncrasies, characteristics, and temperament.

It is worth remembering that, for a fencing coach giving lessons intensively, one after another in a training session, the mental and physical effort is energy sapping in the extreme. A few coaches retire prematurely from the stress, while others continue until they drop. Coaching can be an addiction (There is no other way to describe it).There also is a saying, “old fencing masters like old soldiers never die” but the young ones wish they would.

Sometimes the question arises, why coach at all? The answer is that to coach talent, and be part of the reasons for the unfolding of skills, is enormously creative and rewarding.

Lesson presentation mechanics:

1.       Cues, contacts, pressures, invitations, openings etc.

2.       Presentation of the blade, emphasising point proximity to target

3.       Rock step and dismissal of the blade


Lesson requisites:-

1.       The lesson must simulate the bout

2.       The lesson must be mobile and a sense of distance emphasised

3.       The lesson must have continuity

4.       Conditioning of exchange reflexes

5.       Control of the point

6.       Manipulative and point passing skills developed           

7.       Anticipation, and ability to identify and correct faults

8.       Enhancement of touch and feeling for the blade

9.       Proximity of point in presentations

10.   Appreciation of touch, timing, cadence and rhythm


•10 June, 2008 • 1 Comment

Tactics in fencing, as in any struggle for superiority, involves stratagems, manoeuvres, diversions etc. Good tactics are based on good mechanics. One does not erect an edifice with defective materials. When opportunities arise to score or defend, technique has to be assured. A fencer cannot vacillate in determining which way to move. His conditioned reflexes, if properly tuned, will automatically respond for him.  If a fencer has to ponder which action to take in that split second of opportunity it is already too late, and any tardy reaction then is an exercise in futility.               

Experienced fencers make many more false attacks than genuine ones. They impart to these false attacks the character of real ones. The rationale is to lull an opponent into a sense of security and then surprise him.

Fencing is a neural activity. Emotions and fatigue go hand in hand in the intensity of conflict. Even the most experienced campaigners can become tired and edgy depending on their wellbeing, preparation, or lack of and the importance of the contest.  No competitor has a mortgage on self doubt or apprehension when the stakes are sufficiently high.

Tactics are as numerous and varied as are the personalities of competitors involved. Every action can be met, thwarted or countered. This explains the chess player like attitude of experienced fencers as they deliberate, and calculate in second and even third intention what they intend to do. These same fencers, as the occasion demands, can in a split second explode into an intensity of effort that defies the calmness of the seconds before.

For the novice fencer, particularly those well trained academically but yet to confront the vicissitudes of intense competition it can be somewhat of a shock. Suddenly all their training appears of no avail. Aggressive unknown opponents come rushing at them with all kind of unorthodox and broken time actions. Many such opponents have had substantial experience, also with some successes. They can be enterprising and effective until they meet the more complete adversary who can cope with their limited skills. He will oppose their attacks by parrying at the very latest moment or using counteroffensive actions e.g. stop hits and or time hits. He will often hurriedly yield ground to cause the attacker to over extend making it easier to parry his enforced final action. Conversely experienced fencers will move in at the appropriate moment surprising the aggressor and causing him in most instances to move back. In this event a hit can be scored on the breakaway. If he stays put; maintain the closed position until the referee calls halt. The aggression has been frustrated and confusion will take its toll.

Generally, good tactics require concentration and focus at the highest level throughout the entire bout for any lapses a price will be paid. Awareness of distance, timing, and skilled observations of Mannerisms proclivities, inclinations and tendencies, and anything else that can be garnered by an imaginative competitor reaps a just reward.

(c) Maitre d’Armes Michael A. O’Brien 10/06/2008


•22 May, 2008 • 1 Comment

Fencing Time all fencers are obliged to know of and understand fencing time. It is nearly impossible to define, but the nearest and generally acceptable definition is that it is the time it takes to make a simple movement of arm, blade, body or all combined.

Priority is the first claim to a point by the fencer that the rules determine is entitled to it. Priority situations arise usually in circumstances of contentious double hits.

Cadence is the rhythmical flow of movement, usually of successive parries as they move to find an attacking blade or close a line.

Successive Parries are an uninterrupted flow of parries covering or closing all lines.

Ceding Parries are parries that yield to authoritative takings, holdings, attacks involving binds, time thrusts and envelopments. They require perfect timing and application.

Trompment is any compound attack excluding those with a broken time component which deceives attempts to parry or deflect. It is often confused with a derobement which is an evasion of an attempt to take or attack the blade.

Counter Action Parries are often referred to as ‘cutting the lines’. They are circular parries taken in the wrong line. Experience competitors find counter action parries useful as an embroiling tactic against and overly aggressive opponent.

Riposte and Counter Riposte

A riposte is an attack after a successful parry. It can be direct, indirect, simple or compound, immediate or delayed. A counter riposte is the attacks first riposte. Any sequence of riposte carried on after the initial ripostes are all counter riposte.

(c) Maitre d’Armes Michael A. O’Brien 22/05/2008

Renewed Attacks

•20 May, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The renewed attacks often refer to as the 3 R’s:-

1.       The remise

2.       The reprise

3.       The redoublement


The remise is an immediate replacement of the point in the same line as the original attack. The tactical use of the remise is:

·         Against a delayed riposte.

·         A compound repost

·         No riposte at all

Inexperience fencers make use of the remise regularly and inappropriately. In the effort to the land a touch, they ignore the rules of priority and continue with an already failed attack against a legitimate riposte.

The reprise is a renewal of the attack after a return to guard which can be forward or backwards. It is often used to maintain momentum and pressure on the retreating adversary for the purpose of pushing him across the rear limit of the piste and scoring a point.

The redouble also, is a renewed attack other than a remise (Into any line). It can often be compound. Any poke, jab, prod and stab type of bent arm actions or movements are labelled as redoubles. Points can be scored but that type of movement is usually anathema to quality fencing.


Counter offensive actions

The stop hit and the time hit are classified as counter offensive actions. A time hit is a stop hit which is covered so that it displaces a thrust or stop hit. It is very much a component of epee skills and technique.



A derobement is an evasive tactic against an opponent’s attempt to take or attack the blade. It is good practice for use in a lesson in order to develop manipulative skills.

(c) Maitre d’Armes Michael A. O’Brien 20/05/2008

Attacks, Defence and Preparations of attacks

•13 May, 2008 • 1 Comment

Attacks in fencing, are all about options, enterprise and decision making. It is mandatory that a fencer has a good technical foundation to implement choices. Anticipation, recognition and the ability to read the play, pays dividends. The essential skills: –

1)      The maintenance of a hidden element in approach.

2)      A retentive memory

3)      A sense of touch

4)      An awareness of distance at all times

5)      A strong will to win

These components together with others engender successful outcomes.

They are four basic attacks: –

1)      Direct (Lunge and/or Fleche)

2)      Disengagement

3)      Cut over

4)      Counter disengagement

These four attacks can be made directly or in combination, with or without a broken time component.

In defence a foilist/epeeist, options are parries which are: –

1)      Lateral

2)      Circular

3)      Semi-circular

Body evasion and footwork are also crucial to protecting the target area.

The principle of defence when parrying (deflecting) is the application of the fort of the blade against the foible of the attacking blade.

General speaking, any action that is not categorised as an attack or a defensive movement is classified as a preparation.

They are three groups of preparation: –

1)      Gaining and breaking ground (footwork)

2)      Attacks on the blade (beats and change beats)

3)      Prises de feres (taking of the blades)

a.       Engagements, binds, envelopments and croise

They can be simple or compound.

Preparations are used to close lines by taking or attacking the opponent’s blade, at the same time offering insurance against stop hits and other counter offensive actions.

Footwork is necessary in approaching and escaping the efforts and energy of opponents (attacks and counter-attacks)

Together, attacks, defensive measures, with the preparations of an attack complete the trilogy of movement. The mental acuity required by a good poker player is what is needed for satisfying results as a fencer.

(c) Maitre d’Armes Michael A. O’Brien 13/05/2008