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My A to Z theme is fencing and swordplay, focusing mainly on fencing terminology, but with a few favorite movie fencing moments thrown into the mix too.
Get a Grip! (And a Guard)
Grip: the handle of the weapon.
Guard: the metal cup or bow that protects the hand from being hit. Also, the defensive position assumed when not attacking. We're focusing on the weapon at this point.
a pic of the three main fencing weapons, showing the whole weapons. Notice the different guard structures for each.
A French grip is held lightly in the hand, using the thumb and forefinger primarily. The rest of the fingers are wrapped lightly around the grip as "aids" to help steady the weapon. The grip should be held "lightly in the hand as if holding a bird, not too tight and not too loose."
Pistol grips can be used for foils and epees, and they are sometimes called Italian, or Belgian, because pistol grips originated there and are still manufactured there.
Sabres only have one type of grip, shown here.
I have only used the French grip, and the sabre grip. Why? Because although my first coach used both pistol and French grips, he wanted all of his students to use the French grips to strengthen our hands and be prepared for a variety of weapons. He felt the best fencers could fence with all three weapons, without having to fuss over grip styles. The pistol grip is very popular with competitive foil and epee fencers who do not fence sabre because it is easier to hold onto in a bout, and gives the hand more support. I wanted to fence sabre so I stayed with a French grip on my foil. Besides I became so fond of my first grip that I actually took apart my first foil, when the blade went bad, so I could put together my second foil with my original leather grip.
If you take a look at the guard on all three fencing weapons, you'll see some major differences that come from the different target areas for those weapons.
Foil fencers only target the torso, front and back, so the guard on foils is fairly small. It just protects the hand from random, accidental strikes.
Epee fencers target the whole body, with the exception of the back of the head and neck, so the guard on the epee is large. Many points are scored by hitting the opponent on the hand and wrist. The larger bell shaped guard protects that area.
Sabre fencers target the upper body from the waist up (except the back of the head and the neck), and points can be scored on the hand and wrist. So the guard for the sabre protects that area, and reflects the fact that a sabre fencer can make both side cuts and point thrusts for points.
Rapier, with Italian cup hilt. Rapier fencing is popular with the S.C.A. and although it isn't competed with in fencing circles, it is occasionally discussed. Rapiers (dulled, and not edged like this one) are used in the S.C.A. and points are scored with both the edge and the point, which again is reflected in the guard's shape. Traditional weapons like this never have pistol grips.
I could have fun finding pictures of swords and their grips and guards all day. :)
Other fencing terms for G:
Glide: an attack or feint that slides along the opponent's blade, also called a coule.
Guard as in En Garde, which means to take a defensive position, or get ready for an attack. The director (referee) of a bout usually tells both fencers "en garde" before the action begins and both fencers are required to stand a certain length apart in their guard positions before the director starts the bout with a signal.