As a beginning sport fencer there are fencing terms and words that will confuse you at first. Because fencing is a traditionally French sport, it only makes sense that so many of the terms are French. But never fear, you don’t need to learn a new language—just get a grasp on a few phrases.  Beginning fencers come in all ages as this is a challenging, aerobic sport that builds balance, dexterity, and grace. Before you sign up for classes you may want to do a bit of research on the sport.

Basic Fencing Moves

When you lead with an arm extension and push off your back leg while kicking the front leg forward in an explosive burst, this is called a lunge. This is a very common move and is a part of most attacks.

Despite its effectiveness, the fleche attack where you cross the back foot over the front foot to cover more distance is illegal. Using the fleche, or cross-over, will result in an annulment of any hits scored.

A response to the fleche is the flunge which combines the power of a lunge with the added distance gain of the fleche without using the cross-over strategy. This is a very effective move for gaining ground but is difficult to land properly.

Direction in French

Refereeing of sport fencing is done by an arbitre using French terminology. That means that you need to know what the command and direction fencing terms mean in order to effectively compete.

Just like runners hear “ready, set, go”, fencers hear etes-vous prets? En garde, Allez!  These are roughly translated to mean the same thing.

There are also terms that you will hear which are the announcements of moves and attacks in French. As long as you know what you are attempting and are deflecting blows from your opponent, you won’t do any illegal parries or thrusts and don’t need to know those terms just yet. You’ll pick them up along the way.

Types of fencing:

  • Epee is scored by points made using the tip of the blade anywhere on the body.
  • Foil only sores touches of the tip of the blade within the torso area.
  • Sabre allows points to be scored with the top and sides of the blade from the bend of the hips to the top of the head.

As you learn more about fencing, the different fencing terms and a few phrases of French will be understood and even roll off your tongue easily.