A parry is a fencing bladework maneuver intended to deflect or block an incoming attack.
To execute a parry, fencers strike the opponent's foible, or the area near the tip of the blade, with their forte, or the part of the blade near the bell guard (or handle) of the weapon. This deflects the opponent's blade away from them, protecting them and placing them in a good position to strike back. Approximations of the precise parries are made often during bouts, but are usually accurate enough to be classed as parries.
In épée, because of absence of priority rules (see right-of-way), a parry can be classed as any deflection of the blade that prevents the opponent's attack from landing.
The primary function of a parry is to prevent an opponent's attack from landing. During a bout, parries are commenced from the "en garde" (neutral) position, when an opponent's attack is considered threatening.
A parry is usually followed by a riposte , which is an attack back against the original attacker. More advanced fencers can, instead of immediately riposting after successfully taking a parry, initiate a prise de fer ("taking of the blade") in which they move the opponent's blade to a different position and then hit them.
In foil and sabre, the rules governing the parry give it tactical significance as well: there is a rule known as priority, or "right-of-way." The first fencer to commence an attack gains the priority. If the attack results in a successful hit, only the fencer who has the priority is awarded a touch (regardless of whether the fencer without right of way has made a touch). A successful parry causes the attack to fail, and hence the priority is transferred to the defender (who is now the attacker). Taking a parry, therefore, means that the attacker is in an awkward position (with their arm extended and sometimes off-balance), having just committed to attacking, and the defender has the priority, as well as the best position to riposte, or strike after parrying.
There are eight parries in the classical systems of épée and foil fencing. Parries are classified based on three attributes: 1) The direction of the blade in relation to the hand: up or down. 2) The position of the blade in relation to the fencing line: inside or outside. 3) The rotation of the wrist in the hand holding the weapon: supinated (palm up) or pronated (palm down).
The parries are numbered from one to eight, with the numbers often referred to by the old French terms: prime, seconde, tierce, quarte, quinte, sixte, septième, octave.
For a right-handed fencer, the inside line is to the left, and the outside line is to the right; thus the parries prime, quarte, and septime deflect the opponent's blade to the left (inside), while the parries seconde, tierce, sixte, and octave deflect the opponent's blade to the right (outside), as shown.
The phrase "counter-parry" indicates a parry that is done in response to an opponent's parry (that is, to block the riposte which follows up the opponent's parry.) This is not to be confused with the contra- (or "circular") parry, in which a semicircular motion is used to make a parry from the opposite side from the attack.
Because sabre parries defend against both cuts (attacks with the edge) as well as thrusts (attacks with the point),the sabre parries are slightly different from the corresponding épée or foil parries; most notably the parry 5 ("quinte"), which defends against a head cut in sabre (an attack that is not allowed in foil or épée).
|Name||Description (foil and épée)||Description (sabre)||Diagram|
|Prime - Parry 1||Blade down and to the inside, wrist pronated. Sometimes known as the "Looking at your watch" Parry.||Blade points down and "cutting edge" faces away from the fencer's chest side. To stop low-line cut to chest.|
|Seconde - Parry 2||Blade down and to the outside, wrist pronated.||Arm half-extended laterally, blade pointing forward with downward incline, cutting edge facing away fencer's flank side. To stop low-line cut to flank.|
|Tierce - Parry 3||Blade up and to the outside, wrist pronated. Not often used in Foil, and in Épée only as a block to wrist flicks.||Standard en garde but rotated so cutting edge faces further in the flank direction, i.e. guard kept low, sword upright with a slight forward tilt, cutting edge facing 45° to the outside. To stop outside high-line cut to flank or shoulder.|
|Quarte - Parry 4||Blade up and to the inside, wrist supinated. |
This parry can be Lateral or Circular, as can most all parries.
The Contre Parry. The Circular Parry, also known as "Contre Quarte", is a circular or oval shape. It begins in either the neutral or quarte position, and with a twist of the wrist it ends in the carte parry.
|Similar to tierce on the chest side or prime flipped upside-down; guard low, cutting edge facing away from chest, sword upright with slight chest-direction tilt. To stop high-line cut to chest.|
|Quinte - Parry 5||Blade up and to the inside, wrist pronated. Not often used in Foil or Épée||Blade held up almost horizontally with bent arm, cutting edge facing upward and forward, blade has a slight tilt meaning that the point is higher than the guard. To stop cut to head.|
|Sixte - Parry 6||Blade up and to the outside, wrist supinated. |
This parry can be Lateral or Circular.
The Lateral Parry is from Quarte to Sixte. The Circular Parry, also known as "Contra Sixte", is a D shaped parry, dropping the points and bringing it up on the inside bringing your point back towards your En Guard line.
|The arm position is a mirror image of quinte (supinated, forearm vertical on the quarte side of the head). Point is diagonal across the body covering the head, but towards the opponent, and slightly upwards (or forwards for a direct riposte in opposition). To stop cut to head. (Rarely or never used in modern sabre)|
|Septime - Parry 7||Blade down and to the inside, wrist supinated. Point dropped, the wrist is in the same place as in Quarte. |
This parry is semi-circular, the point is dropped from Quarte to Septime (or the opposite).
|Very similar to Tierce, but the blade is held upside down, with the palm facing and being level with the temple. To stop cut to the flank and back. (Rarely used in modern sabre)|
|Octave - Parry 8||Blade down and to the outside, wrist supinated. Point is dropped, the wrist is in the same place as in Sixte. |
This parry is semi-circular, the point is dropped from Sixte to Octave (or the opposite).
|(not used in sabre)|
|Neuvieme - "Parry 9"||In addition to the eight classic parries, several parries are proposed as "parry nine". It is usually considered a parry that protects the back, point down.|
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 weapon's 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.
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. The foil is the most commonly used weapon in competition.
The épée, sometime spelled epee in English, is the largest and heaviest of the three weapons used in the sport of fencing. The modern épée derives from the 19th-century épée de combat, a weapon which itself derives from the French small sword.
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 centuries. 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.
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.
The sabre 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.
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.
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. In the April 2020 update of the rules, the sport was renamed 'Fencing Combat'.
The flick is a technique used in modern fencing. It is used in foil and to a lesser extent, épée.
In fencing, the grip is the part of the weapon which is gripped by the fencer's hand.
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.
Jean-Louis Michel (1785–1865) was a Haitian master in the art of fencing, sometimes hailed as the foremost exponent of the art of fencing in the nineteenth century.
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.
Prise de fer is a movement used in fencing in which a fencer takes the opponent's blade into a line and holds it there in preparation to attack. Translated from French, the phrase prise de fer means "taking-the-blade" or "taking-the-steel". Alternate spellings include the plural Prises de Fer or "Les Prises de Fer", and (incorrectly) Praise de Fer. There are four prise de fer actions: opposition, croisè, bind, and envelopment. However, each fencing master and fencing doctrine has a separate view of prise de fer. William Gaugler lists all four actions under Prise de Fer in his dictionary of fencing terminology, while Roger Crosnier in his book Fencing with the Foil only mentions the croisé, the bind, and the envelopment as prise de fer actions. Any prise de fer action requires that the blades be engaged, and it works best against an opponent who uses and maintains a straight arm. Additionally, a successful action demands surprise, precise timing, and control.
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.
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