Glossary of Terms

A glossary of terms commonly used in fencing

Absence of blade

when swords are not in contact


to step forward


the last three fingers of the sword hand


the process of describing actions occurring in a fight, usually a phrase preceding a hit


creating an angle between the weapon and the sword arm by flexing the wrist and pronating or supinating the sword hand

Annulment of hit

a valid hit which is disallowed because of an infringement of the rules or a technical fault


beating the ground with the ball of the foot, either as a 'front foot' or 'rear foot' appel


friendly combat between two fencers


an initial offensive action made by extending the sword arm and continuously threatening the opponent's target


ducking or moving sideways to avoid being hit

Back edgethe edge of a sabre blade opposite to that of the cutting edge


a short, sharp jump forwards; usually used as a preparation.


a fight-off to determine a result in the event of a tie


crisp striking movement of the opponent's blade creating a deflection, or obtaining a reaction; used as a preparation


a soft, padded attachment to the lower part of the mask to protect the neck and throat


taking of the foible of the opposing blade diagonally from high to low line, and vice versa


the main component of a sword on which the hilt is mounted

Body wire

wire worn under a fencer's clothing to connect the sword terminal to the retractable spool cable, when using the electrical apparatus


a fight for a specific number of hits

Breaking ground

stepping back


white, knee-length trousers made of robust material; side fastening must be on the non-sword-arm side, and legs must have fastenings below the knees

Broken time

when a pause is introduced into an action which is normally performed in one movement


actions which are performed with an unacceptable level of force or violence which causes discomfort to the opponent


soft covering over a non-electric foil or epee point


the rhythm in which a sequence of movements is made

Ceding parry

a parry formed by giving way to an opponent who is taking the blade

Change beat

a beat made after passing under or over the opponent's blade

Change of engagement

re-engagement of the opponent's blade on the opposite side by passing under or over it

Chest protectors

shields the breast, sternum and ribs from strikes when fencing

Circular parry

deflection of the opponent's attacking blade by making a circle with the sword point

Close quarters

when two fencers are close together but can still wield their weapons


aggregate of individual bouts or team matches required to determine a winner

Compound actions

two or more single actions performed together as one continuous action

Compound attack

an attack comprising one or more feints

Compound prises de fer

two or more consecutive takings of the blade, alike or different, with no loss of blade contact

Compound riposte

riposte comprising one or more feints


the rules governing the method of fencing for each weapon


bell-shaped guard of a foil or epee

Corps a corps

bodily contact between the fencers in a bout


the action of extending the sword arm and grazing lightly down the opponent's blade, maintaining contact throughout

Counter attack

the offensive action made while avoiding, or closing the line against, an opponent's attack


an indirect action which deceives a change of engagement

Counter-offensive action

see counter attack


seecircular parry


a riposte following the successful parry of the opponent's riposte or counter-riposte


an action made by the attacker into a counter attack which is provoked by the opponent


see cut-over


the taking of the foible of the opposing blade from high to low line, and vice versa, on the same side as the engagement

Crosse grip

a moulded grip with finger protrusions, used on foils and epees


a hit at sabre made by striking with the edge of the blade

Cut-over (coupe)

an indirect action made by passing the blade over the opponent's point


not being hit by the opponent's offensive actions, either by parrying, avoiding, or moving out of distance


actions made after a pause; usually attacks or ripostes


evasion of the opponent's attempt to beat or take the blade while the sword arm is straight and the point is threatening the target


when both blades break contact


extension of the sword arm accompanied by the lunge

Diagonal parry

deflecting the opponent's attacking blade by moving from a high line guard to a low line guard on the opposite side and vice versa


actions made without passing the blade under or over the opponent's blade

Direct elimination

method of competition organisation where winners are promoted to the following rounds and losers are eliminated after one fight

Disciplinary code

by taking part in a fencing competition, fencers 'pledge their honour' to observe the rules for competitions and the decisions of judges and to be respectful towards the president and the members of the jury


indirect action made by passing the blade under or over the opponent's blade


turning or ducking to remove the target area from its normal position, resulting in the non-valid target being substituted for the valid target


to be eliminated from a competition due to cheating or bad behavior, or by default, eg late arrival


a compound attack which deceives the opponent's circular parry

Double action

when both fencers choose exactly the same moment to make an offensive action

Double defeat

in epee only; after the time has expired, if both competitors have received the same number of hits (or neither has scored a hit), they are counted as both having received the maximum number of hits being fought for, and a defeat is scored against each, except in direct elimination where the fight goes on without limitation of time until there is a result

Double hits

in epee only, when both competitors register a hit on each other simultaneously, the difference of time between the two hits being less than 1/25 of a second

Double prises de fer loss of contact between the first and second prise de fer


seeding of fencers to determine the bouts in a competition

Duration of bout

actual fencing time allowed during a bout, ie a stop clock is started at the beginning of a bout, stopped each time the president halts the fencers and started again when the bout is restarted

Earthing of guard

guards of electric weapons must be earthed correctly so that weapon hits do not register on them

Earthing of piste

when using electrical equipment, metal pistes must be correctly earthed so that hits do not register on them

Elbow guard

a pad worn on the fencer's sword-arm elbow for protection

Electrical apparatus

an electric box with red and green lights to register valid hits at foil, epee and sabre and white lights to register non-valid hits at foil. The apparatus is mounted centrally, adjacent to the piste and connected by floor leads to spools with retractable cables placed at both ends of the piste, to which the fencers connect their body wires

Electric weapons

foils, epees and sabres suitable for use with electrical apparatus


when both blades are in contact


the taking of the foible of the opponent's blade by making a complete circle and maintaining continual contact throughout


threatening movement of the blade made with the intention of provoking a parry or similar response

Fencing Line

when fencers are fencing each other it should be possible to draw a theoretical straight line running through both leading feet and rear heels


the side of the trunk of body on the sword-arm side

Floor judges

two judges who watch for floor hits when electric epee is used without a metal piste


the flexible half of the blade further away from the hilt


the half of the blade nearer to the hilt


deflecting the opponent's blade by opposition of 'forte to foible' while blades are engaged

Guard (of weapon)

the part of the hilt to protect the sword hand


fencing positions - see prime, seconde, tierce, quarte, quinte, sixte, septime, octave

High line

the position of the target above a theoretical horizontal line mid-way through a fencer's trunk


the assembled parts of the sword excluding the blade, ie the guard, pad, grip and pommel Hit:to strike the opponent with the point of the sword clearly and distinctly and with character of penetration. A cut with a sabre


a system used in competition to determine a fencer's seeding after the first rounds. The first indicator is expressed as a ratio of the number of victories and the number of fights and the second indicator is the number of hits scored minus the number of hits received


an offensive action made by first passing the blade under or over the opponent's blade


theoretical divisions of the target, corresponding to fencing guards

Low lines

position of the target below a theoretical horizontal line mid-way through a fencer's trunk


a method of getting closer to an opponent with acceleration to make an attack and while maintaining balance and making it possible for a rapid recovery to On Guard


the index finger and thumb of the sword hand


the loop of tape or leather attached to the grip and held to prevent a non-electric foil from flying out of the hand in the event of being disarmed

Metallic piste

electrically-conductive material covering the piste in order that hits on the floor do not register on the electrical apparatus


low line, semi-supinated guard on the sword-arm side

On Guard

the stance adopted in fencing

One-two attack

a compound attack which deceives the opponent's simple parry

'Open eyes'

starting a movement with no prior knowledge of how it will finish, relying on reflexes to adjust and make the correct ending


blade movement maintaining constant contact with the opponent's blade

Orthopaedic grip

general term for moulded grips of various designs used on foils and epees


defensive action to deflect an opponent's attack by opposing 'forte to opponent's foible'


the teaching of a movement in parts, ie isolating the parts of the movement demanding most skill and practising them in isolation; then putting the parts together to make a whole movement


a step forwards with an appel from the rear foot at the same time as the front foot lands


a sequence of fencing movements performed without a break


the field of play on which a bout takes place


a half-jacket with no underarm seam, worn for extra protection on the sword arm under the fencing jacket; also a padded over-jacket worn by a fencing coach when giving individual training


a metal cap screwed to the end of the blade which locks the parts of the weapon together and provides a counter-balance to the blade

Pool (poule)

the grouping of fencers or teams in a competition

Preparation of attack

the movement of blade or foot to obtain the best position from which to make an attack


high line, pronated guard on the non-sword-arm side

Principle of defence

the execution of a parry by the defencer's forte opposing the attacking foible, ie 'opposition of forte to foible'


the right of way gained by the fencer at foil and sabre by extending the sword arm and continually threatening the opponent's target

Prises de fer (takings of the blade)

see bind, croise, envelopment

Progressive actions

actions made with the sword point continually moving towards the opponent's target


the position of the sword hand with the knuckles uppermost


high line, semi-supinated guard on the non-sword-arm side


low line, pronated guard on the non-sword-arm side at foil and epee; and a high guard at sabre to protect the head


the bringing of both feet together, either forwards or backwards, so that the heels are touching with the feet at right angles and the body in an upright position


the return to the On guard position


the renewal of an action after being parried by replacing the point on the target in a different line to the original action


the renewal of an action after being parried by replacing the point on the target in the line of the original action


the competition formula which gives losers of a direct elimination bout a second chance to stay in the competition


the renewal of an action made with a lunge by first returning to guard forwards or backwards


an offensive action following a successful parry of an attack


low line, pronated guard on the sword-arm side


low line, semi-supinated guard on the non-sword-arm side


high line, semi-supinated guard on the sword-arm side Successive parries

two or more consecutive parries made to defend against compound attacks


the position of the sword hand with the finger-nail uppermost


the part of the blade on which the hilt is mounted


high line, pronated guard on the sword-arm side