Classical fencing is comprised of three different weapons (swords); the
foil, the epee and the saber. The foil is a practice weapon that
was and is used in the classroom to teach combat technique. The
epee is the duelling sword and the saber is another type of duelling
sword that employed cutting actions as well as thrusts.
The Italian Foil
The Italian foil is a unique weapon that has its foundation in the
Italian rapier. For information on the rapier and rapier combat
you may go to http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~wew/fencing.html.
The following picture shows a foil with the names of the major parts.
Pommel: Used as a counterweight on the sword and to hold everything
together. The part of the blade called the tang goes through the
grip and the pommel is screwed onto the tang.
Grip: The part of the sword that you hold onto.
Quillon: The cross bar of the sword. The blade goes through
the quillon block.
Ring: Helps to stabilize the guard against the quillon block.
Ricasso: Unsharpened part of the sword blade that is held between
the thumb and forefinger.
Bell/Guard: Part of the sword that sits in front of the hand to
Blade: The lethal part of the sword. On duelling swords
that point is sharpened.
In the Italian
tradition (which dates back to at least the 16th century in this
regard) the position of the hand is very important. There are
four cardinal hand position and three intermediary positions. The
cardinal or primary positions are numbered prima, seconda, terza and
quarta (one through four). The image to the right shows the four
primary positions. The secondary positions lie half way between
the primary. For example half way between first and second is
called prima in seconda (first in sedcond). These hand positions
will be used a lot during the course and so must be memorized.
Later we will discuss the onguard and invitations (an invitation is
well... an invite to attack in a specific line. This will be
discussed in more depth later). The guard positions are also
number one through four and must not be confused with the hand
positions. So, you may be asked to take a specific guard with
your hand in a specific position. Unless otherwise noted the hand
position will either be quarta (fourth) or terza in quarta (third in
The Onguard (stance)
Your on guard is your starting position. It should be a defensive
position that is used as the basis or starting point for your offence
The picture to the
right shows a standard onguard in the third guard with the hand in the
fourth position. Note that the body is upright and weight
centered over the legs and the feet approximately a should's width
apart. The knees are flexed to facilitate easy movement.
The elbow of the weapon arm is bent with the elbow resting
approximately one hand width from the torso. The forearm just
above parallel to the ground. The non-weapon arm is held up and
behind as in the picture, with the hand loose. In fact the whole
body must be loose. This facilitates graceful movement.
Preparing to Fence
Every time to go to fence (or to do any other strenuous activity) you
should get ready by stretching out. You will need to stretch the
following areas: the hamstring, achilles tendon, back, hips and sides,
neck, shoulders, arms (including the wrists) and especially the
groin. A regimen for this will be given in class. As soon
as you get to the gym you should start stretching out and warming
up. Everyone should be ready by no later than 10 minutes after
the class start time. If you have a standard routine that you
have used in other sports please use that routine. If not, use
the routine that is given in the class.
Sources of Extra Information
You may visit the following sites for more information on classical and