En Garde

The “En Garde” is the fencer’s ready position from which one attacks or defends with equal facility. The distance between the feet is approximately double the length of the foot plus a few centimetres. The body weight is distributed equally between both feet. The contentious issue is the use or misuse of the rear arm.

Biomechanically the traditional raised rear arm with the elbow slightly lower than the shoulder is the more efficient position. It opens up the thorax allowing the maintenance of full chest capacity. It ensures stability of the shoulder girdle and when a fencers lunges the forearm will tend to drop. If the hand is supinated and the shoulder blades drawn together balance on the lunge is assured. A controlled exchange can take place while a smooth return to guard is facilitated.

Many fencers these days let their rear arm hang down by the side. Because of the laws of action and reaction, anytime we use one arm in an action of force or energy it has an effect on the other (both being attached to the shoulder girdle). It follows therefore, if the rear arm is hanging down it’s likely to be flung sideways and/or upwards. The first tends to swing the sword arm and weapon across the body and the target. The second is from low to high causing the rear shoulder to lift and the shoulder of the sword arm to dip. The buttock juts up and out, and the head falls forward.

Fencers, despite all the negatives, score, but how much easier, if; with a little discipline and attention to detail they can be more efficient and effective. It goes without saying the classical academic “En Garde” does looks infinitely better as well.

These days all the youngsters want to look “cool”, not for them the controls of yesteryear. They want to do their own thing, and like sheep, they follow the loudest and most nonconforming personalities with attitude.

If it means looking cool (a synonym for sloppiness) for the rear arm to be flung wildly around we end up with all helicopter and no jet.

(c) Maitre d’Armes Michael A. O’Brien 29/04/2008


~ by obrienfencing on 29 April, 2008.

One Response to “En Garde”

  1. Totally agree Maitre, however, “On Guard” is the English – and the French is “En Garde”

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