Posture and form are among the most important things to master in any martial art. Fencing teaches fencers to fight with their right foot in front. Why not the left foot? To understand why fencers place their right foot in front you’ll need a short history lesson.
Left Foot First
The origin of the left foot first stance is simple; most people are right handed. Striking with your main hand starting in the rear causes the swing to travel a greater distance and build up momentum. This provides more power to the attack compared to quick jabs or stabs from the front. Ancient texts from across the globe, dating back to the era of the longsword and katana, shows nearly every stance with the left foot forward. This trend was more than just standard practice for combat techniques. Spiraling staircases in castles were designed to give the defender, who would walk down the stairs, more space to swing the weapon in their right hand.
Technology Changes, but War Doesn’t
The focus on heavy blows went unchanged until the invention of lighter dueling swords, like the saber and rapier, and the rise of firearms. Heavy armor became obsolete and unarmed combat was far less significant than it was when armored combat was standard. Firearms and dueling swords were far easier to use and carry compared to longswords, claymores, and Zwei-handers which were clunky and cumbersome. The meta-game, or current trends, of warfare became focused on quick and decisive blows rather than piercing armor and grappling.
No, Right Foot First!
Modern fencing leads with the right foot first due to its emphasis on speed and agility. Reach is another crucial advantage gained by fronting the right foot. Lighter weapons reduce strain on the user, allowing for longer duels and quicker movements. Combining speed and reach opens up opportunities for aggressive moves and fighting styles.
Fencers Leaping In
The shift from strength to speed paved the way for the philosophy of “one hit kills” to take over the fencing meta. This influenced how people sparred and dueled by emphasizing landing the first blow at any cost. Catching your opponent off-guard is crucial to this strategy, and sudden leaps and lunges are effective ways to achieve that goal. These aggressive techniques are more feasible when you lead with the right foot than the left.
Stances of fencers putting the right foot forward originated from fencing, and its effects are far reaching. It resulted in the “one hit kills” mentality which now prevails in other martial arts. Making the right foot as the lead foot influenced the development of modern boxing, karate, and other fighting styles.