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Glossary of Terms

Fencing has its own unique set of terminology.  To provide a common framework, the United States Fencing Coaches Association (USFCA) developed a standardized set of definitions for coaches to use.  The below information was adapted from this larger compilation of terms developed by the USFCA.


Advance:  To move towards the opponent by stepping sequentially with first the front foot followed by the rear foot, restoring the orientation and distance of the feet relative to each other.


Attack:  The initial offensive action made by extending the weapon arm towards the opponent’s valid target and continuously threatening the opponent’s target.


Beat:  Tapping the opponent’s blade sharply on the middle or upper part of the blade to initiate an attack or provoke a reaction.


Bout:  What an individual “game” is called in fencing.


Counter-attack:  An offensive response to an attack, made without parrying. 


Counter-riposte:  Any riposte made after parrying the opponent’s riposte or counter-riposte.


Disengage(ment):   An evasive action taken to deceive an opponent’s lateral search for the blade. 


Engagement:  When two fencers’ blades are in contact.


Épée:  One of the three fencing weapons.  The epee is a thrusting weapon only and the target includes the entire body of the opponent.  There is no “right-of-way”. 


En Guarde:  The “ready” stance in fencing, characterized by offering the option of either attacking or defending in the most balanced and economical way.  Also, a command issued by the referee.


Feint:  A false thrust or cut designed to make the opponent parry or otherwise react.


Foil:  One of the three fencing weapons.  The foil is a thrusting weapon only; the target is restricted to the entire torso in front, the bottom portion of the bib, and the torso above the waist in back.  Foil is bound by the “right-of-way” convention.


Invitation:  Provoking the opponent to attack in whichever line one is opening; a deliberate uncovering of the target.


Lamé:  (Pronounced La-may)  The electrically conductive over-garment worn over the standard fencing jacket in foil and saber.


Lunge:  The basic offensive fencing movement made to deliver an attack to an opponent out of arm’s reach.


Off-target:  A touch made upon a non-valid surface of the fencer (foil only).


Parry:  A defensive action using the blade to stop the opponent’s blade. 


Remise:  A simple, direct, and immediate offensive action following the original action, without withdrawing the arm.


Retreat:  To move away from the opponent by stepping sequentially with first the rear foot followed by the front foot, restoring the orientation and distance of the feet relative to each other.


Right of way:  The convention in foil and saber fencing which provides a fencer the right to score a touch.  The fencer who attacks or establishes a point in line has the right of way.  Once attacked, the defender obtains the right of way by successfully making a parry.


Riposte:  An offensive action made by the fencer who has parried the attack.


Saber:  One of the three fencing weapons.  The saber is a cutting and thrusting weapon; the target is the entire body above the waist except for the hands, and the weapon is bound by the convention of the “right-of-way”. 


Simultaneous action:  When both fencers attack (i.e., begin extending their arms offensively) at the same time.  Since this results in neither fencer having right-of-way, both hits (in foil and sabre) are annulled.


Strip:  The fencing field of play, 14 meters long by 1.5-2.0 meters wide; the piste.


Target:  That area of the fencer’s body that is specified by the rules as legitimate scoring surface.  Varies with the weapon (foil, epee, saber).


Touch:  The arrival of the point or edge of the blade upon the opponent’s valid target area, as specified by the rules.


Warning:  A formal notice made by the referee to the competitor that a rule infraction has taken place and that a penalty is being applied. 

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