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Feint is a French term that entered English via the discipline of swordsmanship and fencing. [1] Feints are maneuvers designed to distract or mislead, done by giving the impression that a certain maneuver will take place, while in fact another, or even none, will. In military tactics and many types of combat, there are two types of feints: feint attacks and feint retreats.

Swordsmanship or sword fighting refers to the skills of a swordsman, a person versed in the art of the sword. The term is modern, and as such was mainly used to refer to smallsword fencing, but by extension it can also be applied to any martial art involving the use of a sword. The formation of the English word "swordsman" is parallel to the Latin word gladiator, a term for the professional fighters who fought against each other and a variety of other foes for the entertainment of spectators in the Roman Empire. The word gladiator itself comes from the Latin word gladius, meaning "sword".

Fencing sport

Fencing is a group of three related combat sports. The three disciplines in modern fencing are the foil, the épée, and the sabre; winning points are made through the contact with an opponent. A fourth discipline, singlestick, appeared in the 1904 Olympics but was dropped after that, and is not a part of modern fencing. Fencing was one of the first sports to be played in the Olympics. Based on the traditional skills of swordsmanship, the modern sport arose at the end of the 19th century, with the Italian school having modified the historical European martial art of classical fencing, and the French school later refining the Italian system. There are three forms of modern fencing, each of which uses a different kind of weapon and has different rules; thus the sport itself is divided into three competitive scenes: foil, épée, and sabre. Most competitive fencers choose to specialize in one weapon only.

Military tactics science and art of organizing a military force and techniques

Military tactics encompasses the art of organising and employing fighting forces on or near the battlefield. They involve the application of four battlefield functions which are closely related – kinetic or firepower, mobility, protection or security, and shock action. Tactics are a separate function from command and control and logistics. In contemporary military science, tactics are the lowest of three levels of warfighting, the higher levels being the strategic and operational levels. Throughout history, there has been a shifting balance between the four tactical functions, generally based on the application of military technology, which has led to one or more of the tactical functions being dominant for a period of time, usually accompanied by the dominance of an associated fighting arm deployed on the battlefield, such as infantry, artillery, cavalry or tanks.



A feint attack is designed to draw defensive action towards the point under assault. It is usually used as a diversion to force the enemy to concentrate more manpower in a given area, to weaken the opposing force in another area. [2] Unlike a related diversionary maneuver, the demonstration, a feint involves actual contact with the enemy.

In military terminology, a demonstration is an attack or show of force on a front where a decision is not sought, made with the aim of deceiving the enemy.


A feint retreat is performed by briefly engaging the enemy, then retreating. It is intended to draw the enemy pursuit into a prepared ambush, or to cause disarray. For example, the Battle of Hastings was lost when Saxons pursued the Norman cavalry. This forfeited the advantage of height and the line was broken, providing the opportunity to fight in single handed combat on a neutral vantage point, a battle for which the Saxons were not ready. The Parthian shot is another example of a feint retreat, where mounted Parthian archers would retreat from a battle and then, while still riding, turn their bodies back to shoot at the pursuing enemy.

Parthian shot

The Parthian shot is a light horse military tactic made famous in the West by the Parthians, an ancient Iranian people. While in real or feigned retreat their horse archers would turn their bodies back in full gallop to shoot at the pursuing enemy. The maneuver required superb equestrian skills, since the rider's hands were occupied by his composite bow. As the stirrup had not been invented at the time of the Parthians, the rider relied solely on pressure from his legs to guide his horse.

You wound, like Parthians, while you fly,
And kill with a retreating eye.

Historic use

Arabia during Muhammad era

The Islamic Prophet Muhammad made extensive use of feints. One of the earliest examples was during the Invasion of Banu Lahyan. Muhammad set out in Rabi‘ Al-Awwal, or Jumada Al-Ula, in the 6 AH (July 627 AD) with 200 Muslim fighters and made a feint of heading for Syria and then soon changed route towards Batn Gharran, where 10 Muslims were killed in the Expedition of Al Raji. Bani Lahyan were on alert and got the news of his march. The tribe then immediately fled to the mountaintops nearby and thus remained out of his reach. On his way back, Muhammad despatched a group of ten horsemen to a place called Kura‘ Al-Ghamim, in the vicinity of the habitation of Quraish, in order to indirectly confirm his growing military power. All the skirmishes took 14 days, after which he left back for home. [3] [4]

The Invasion of Banu Lahyan took place in September, 627 AD in Rabi‘ Al-Awwal or Jumada Al-Ula, 6 AH of the Islamic calendar.

Batn Gharran was a location in Saudi Arabia during the Islamic Prophet Muhammad's era. Muhammad ordered the Invasion of Banu Lahyan which took place here. Muhammad set out in Rabi‘ Al-Awwal or Jumada Al-Ula in the year six Hijri with 200 Muslim fighters and made a feint of heading for Syria, then soon changed route towards Batn Gharran, the scene of where 10 Muslims were killed in the Expedition of Al Raji.

The Expedition of al Raji, occurred directly after the Battle of Uhud in the year 4 AH of the Islamic calendar.

Muhammad also ordered the Expedition of Abu Qatadah ibn Rab'i al-Ansari (Batn Edam) in December 629 [5] to divert the attention from his intention of attacking Mecca. He dispatched eight men to attack a caravan passing through Edam. [6]

Expedition of Abu Qatadah ibn Rab'i al-Ansari, to Batn Edam took place in November 629 AD, 8AH, 8th month, of the Islamic Calendar

China during the end of Han Dynasty

During the Battle of Fancheng general Xu Huang of Cao Wei was sent to oppose Guan Yu at Fancheng District. Knowing that most of his enemy's soldiers were composed of new recruits without training, Xu Huang did not go into battle straight away but camped behind the enemy to impose a deterrent effect. Meanwhile, he instructed his subordinates Xu Shang (徐商) and Lü Jian (呂建) to oversee the digging of trenches around the nearby enemy stronghold of Yancheng (偃城) to deceive the enemy into thinking that it was trying to cut off supplies into Yancheng. The deception worked, with the position being abandoned, which yielded Xu Huang a foothold on the battlefield. By then, a total of twelve camps had been gathered under the flag of Xu Huang. With the strengthened army, Xu Huang finally unleashed an attack on Guan Yu's camp. The enemy encirclement had five camps and so Xu Huang spread news that he was planning to attack the main camp. He secretly attacked the other four side camps instead. When Guan Yu saw that the four side camps had been destroyed, he personally led 5,000 horsemen to meet the attackers but was eventually outmatched. Many of his soldiers were forced into the nearby Han River and drowned. The siege on Fancheng was then lifted.

Battle of Fancheng battle

The Battle of Fancheng was fought between the warlords Liu Bei and Cao Cao in 219 in the late Eastern Han dynasty. It was named after Fancheng (樊城) in present-day Xiangyang City, Hubei, a fortress that played a significant role in the battle.

Xu Huang Cao Wei general

Xu Huang, courtesy name Gongming, was a military general serving under the warlord Cao Cao in the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. He later served in the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period under the first two rulers, Cao Pi and Cao Rui, before his death at the start of Cao Rui's reign. Xu Huang is best noted for breaking the siege at the Battle of Fancheng in 219 by routing the enemy commander Guan Yu on the field.

Cao Wei ancient Chinese state (220–265); one of the three major states in the Three Kingdoms period, with capital at Luoyang

Wei (220–266), also known as Cao Wei, was one of the three major states that competed for supremacy over China in the Three Kingdoms period (220–280). With its capital initially located at Xuchang, and thereafter Luoyang, the state was established by Cao Pi in 220, based upon the foundations laid by his father, Cao Cao, towards the end of the Eastern Han dynasty. The name "Wei" first became associated with Cao Cao when he was named the Duke of Wei by the Eastern Han government in 213, and became the name of the state when Cao Pi proclaimed himself emperor in 220. Historians often add the prefix "Cao" to distinguish it from other Chinese states known as "Wei", such as Wei of the Warring States period and Northern Wei of the Northern and Southern dynasties. The authority of the ruling Cao family dramatically weakened in the aftermath of the deposal and execution of Cao Shuang and his siblings, the former being one of the regents for the third Wei emperor, Cao Fang, with state authority gradually falling into the hands of Sima Yi, another Wei regent, and his family, from 249 onwards. The last Wei emperors would remain largely as puppet rulers under the control of the Simas until Sima Yi's grandson, Sima Yan, forced the last Wei ruler, Cao Huan, to abdicate the throne and established the Jin dynasty.

See also

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  1. "Definition of feint | Dictionary.com". www.dictionary.com. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  2. Maxwell, Garret (1994). Faoil, Foil, Saber, and Épée Fencing: Skills, Safety, Operations, and Responsibilities. Penn State Press. p. 48.
  3. Mubarakpuri, Saifur Rahman Al (2005), The Sealed Nectar, Darussalam Publications, p. 205
  4. Mubarakpuri, Saifur Rahman Al (2002), When the Moon Split, DarusSalam, p. 205, ISBN   978-9960-897-28-8
  5. Abu Khalil, Shawqi (1 March 2004). Atlas of the Prophet's biography: places, nations, landmarks. Dar-us-Salam. p. 218. ISBN   978-9960897714. Note: 6th Month, 8AH = September 629
  6. Sa'd, Ibn (1967). Kitab al-tabaqat al-kabir, By Ibn Sa'd, Volume 2. Pakistan Historical Society. p. 164. ASIN   B0007JAWMK. THE SARIYYAH OF ABO QATADAH IBN RIB'I AL- ANSARl TOWORDS BATN IDAM.