Flick (fencing)

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Jeremy Cadot (L) executes a flick against Tao Jiale in the 2013 Challenge International de Paris Semi-final Cadot v Tao Challenge International de Paris 2013 ts184536.jpg
Jérémy Cadot (L) executes a flick against Tao Jiale in the 2013 Challenge International de Paris

The flick is a technique used in modern fencing. It is used in foil and to a lesser extent, épée.

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.

Foil (fencing) fencing weapon

A foil is one of the three weapons used in the sport of fencing, all of which are metal. It is flexible, rectangular in cross section, and weighs under a pound. As with the épée, points are only scored by contact with the tip, which, in electrically scored tournaments, is capped with a spring-loaded button to signal a touch. A foil fencer's uniform features the lamé, a jacket, a glove, so called knickers, long socks, shoes, an 'under-arm protector', a mask. For women, young children and all who choose, a chest protector, and the foil. It is the most commonly used weapon in competition.

Épée a number of different bladed weapons

The modern épée derives from the 19th-century Épée de Combat, and is the largest and heaviest of the three weapons used in sport fencing.


The 1980s saw the widespread use of "flicks" — hits delivered with a whipping motion which bends the blade around the more traditional parries, and makes it possible to touch otherwise inaccessible areas, such as the back of the opponent. This has been regarded by some fencers as an unacceptable departure from the tradition of realistic combat, where only rigid blades would be used, while others feel that the flick adds to the variety of possible attacks and targets, thereby expanding the game of foil.


The flick consists of an angulated attack with a whipping motion that requires the defender to make a widened parry, and exploits the flexibility of the blade. If parried, a properly executed flick whips the attacker's blade around the parry. This is a valid strategy in modern fencing, since any depression of the tip with sufficient force while contacting valid target area constitutes a touch. In pre-modern fencing, judging was done by side judges, so a touch had to land and stick long enough to be reliably counted.

The flick should not be confused with whipover attacks, which occur in sabre when an attack is struck with such force that the blade "whips over" the opponent's blade when parried.


Ghislain Perrier executes a flick against Choi Byung-chul (facing) in the 2013 Challenge Revenu Choi v Perrier Challenge Revenu 2013 t145016.jpg
Ghislain Perrier executes a flick against Choi Byung-chul (facing) in the 2013 Challenge Revenu

The advent of the flick, among other factors, has caused the gap between classical and modern fencing to widen. In classical fencing, the touch scored with the flick is seen as cheating, because the fencer has changed the shape of his blade. Also, even most professionals cannot land their flick at every attempt. It takes much practice. If executed properly, a flick can displace the point by bending the blade to such a degree so that the tip of the blade is at angle of almost ninety degrees from the forte of the blade. This significant change allows for an otherwise impossible touch. For these reasons, the flick is the subject of much controversy. As of 2005, timing of fencing equipment has been changed to lengthen the time necessary that the weapon's point is pressed against the target for a valid touch to register. This was done to reduce the use of the flick and encourage the use of more traditional thrusts. This change is widely controversial, as it changes more of the game than just the ability to flick (such as giving fencers the ability to "lock-out" a riposte). Still, though, more skilled fencers have been able to continue using flicks in their tactics, although much less than before.

Ironically, flicks were not entirely an artifact of electronic scoring. In 1896, The Lancet published an account of an early "electric scorer" and claimed among its advantages, that "flicks, or blows, or grazes produce no result." [1] Nevertheless, it is the introduction of electronic scoring to high-level competitive foil in the 1950s that is often blamed for the rise in the flick's popularity. In 2004-2005, in an effort to curtail the use of flicks, the FIE raised the contact time required to trigger the scoring apparatus from 3±2 milliseconds to the current 15±1 milliseconds. This has not made flicks impossible, but it has made them more technically demanding, as glancing hits no longer register, and it is essential that the point arrives more or less square-on. Before the rule was changed, the blade could bend more easily so the back and flanks were easier to hit and score.

<i>The Lancet</i> journal

The Lancet is a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal. It is among the world's oldest, most prestigious, and best known general medical journals.

<i>Fédération Internationale dEscrime</i> international fencing governing body

The Fédération Internationale d'Escrime, commonly known by the acronym FIE, is the international governing body of Olympic fencing. Today, its head office is at the Maison du Sport International in Lausanne, Switzerland. The FIE is composed of 153 national federations, each of which is recognized by its country's Olympic Committee as the sole representative of Olympic-style fencing in that country.

2005 Timing Specifications: The new 2005 timings have increased the Impact Time from 1-5 ms to 13-15 ms, and decreased the Blocking Time from 750 +/-50 ms to 300 +/-25 ms. Thus, the blocking time has been effectively halved. This leads to situations (described above) where a riposte is "locked out". 'Lock-out' refers to the mechanism of the electronic scoring system which disallows additional touches after a certain margin of time after the first hit.

Related Research Articles

Parry (fencing)

A parry is a fencing bladework maneuver intended to deflect or block an incoming attack.

The remise is a renewal of an attack in fencing. It is performed when one fencer's attack has failed, either because their opponent has parried or they missed. If the attacker immediately continues their attack in the same line, they have executed a remise. The name also is applied to repetitions of other actions which did not initially succeed. The remise is at the bottom of actions in taking priority.

Classical fencing is the style of fencing as it existed during the 19th and early 20th century. According to the 19th-century fencing master Louis Rondelle,

A classical fencer is supposed to be one who observes a fine position, whose attacks are fully developed, whose hits are marvelously accurate, his parries firm and his ripostes executed with precision. One must not forget that this regularity is not possible unless the adversary is a party to it. It is a conventional bout, which consists of parries, attacks, and returns, all rhyming together.

Riposte Wikimedia disambiguation page

In fencing, a riposte is an offensive action with the intent of hitting one's opponent, made by the fencer who has just parried an attack. In military usage, a riposte is the strategic device of hitting a vulnerable point of the enemy, thereby forcing him to abandon his own attack.

Sabre (fencing) discipline of fencing

The Sabre [ pronounced : ˈseɪbə ] is one of the three disciplines of modern fencing. The sabre weapon is for thrusting and cutting with both the cutting edge and the back of the blade. Unlike other modern fencing weapons, the épée and foil, where the methods of making a hit are scored using the point of the blade.

Outline of fencing Overview of and topical guide to fencing

Fencing – family of combat sports using bladed weapons. Fencing is one of four sports which have been featured at every one of the modern Olympic Games. Also known as modern fencing to distinguish it from historical fencing.

Attack (fencing) offensive movement in fencing

In fencing, an attack is "the initial offensive action made by extending the arm and continuously threatening the opponent's target". In order for an attack to be awarded successfully, the fencer must accelerate their hand and feet towards the target. If the fencer does not accelerate the hand or foot, this is a preparation.

Rapier Combat is a style of historical fencing practiced in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). The primary focus is to study, replicate and compete with styles of rapier sword-fighting found in Europe during the Renaissance period, using blunted steel swords and a variety of off-hand defensive items. Participants wear period clothing while competing, along with or incorporating protective equipment for safety. Members of the society sometimes refer to the sport as simply rapier.

In fencing, the grip is the part of the weapon which is gripped by the fencer's hand.

Flèche (fencing) fencing technique

The flèche is an aggressive offensive fencing technique used with foil and épée.

The Amateur Fencers League of America (AFLA) was founded on April 22, 1891 in New York City by a group of fencers seeking independence from the Amateur Athletic Union. As early as 1940, the AFLA was recognized by the Fédération Internationale d'Escrime (FIE) and the United States Olympic Committee as the national governing body for fencing in the United States.

Priority or right of way is the decision criterion used in foil and sabre fencing to determine which fencer receives the touch, or point, when both fencers land a hit within the same short time-frame. After this window, if one fencer had already landed a hit, the electrical scoring apparatus would "lock-out," or fail to record, an opponent's subsequent hit, and thus the one fencer to land a hit is awarded the touch. In épée fencing, if both fencers land valid hits at the same time, they each receive a point. Because of this foil and sabre are considered conventional weapons.

Fencing practice and techniques of modern competitive fencing are governed by the Fédération Internationale d'Escrime (FIE), though they developed from conventions developed in 18th- and 19th-century Europe to govern fencing as a martial art and a gentlemanly pursuit. The modern weapons for sport fencing are the foil, épée, and sabre.

Anja Fichtel German fencer

Anja Fichtel-Mauritz is a German fencer. At the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, she won in the individual and team competitions, and she won the individual competition of the World Championship in 1986 and 1990. She was winner of the World Championships in 1985, 1989, 1993 as a member of the national German team and second in team competition at the 1992 Summer Olympics. From 1986 until 1996 Fichtel held the title of German champion.

The oldest surviving manual on western swordsmanship dates to around 1300, although historical references date fencing schools back to the 12th century.

Fencing tactics movement or approach used in competitive fencing

Tactics are very important to playing well in modern fencing and although technique is important in the sport, using an array of tactics will help fencers make the most of that technique.

This is a glossary of terms used in fencing.


  1. "Fencing: an Electric Scorer". The Lancet. 141 (3643): 37–38. 1896-06-24. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(02)19908-9.