Fencing Glossary

Compiled and Edited By Rich Hamper

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Absence [of the blade]: Where the blades aren't touching, either because you've deliberately refused to engage, or because you've deceived the opponent's attempt to find the blade.

Abstain: As a judge, when you vote that you're not sure if a touch was made, or if made, whether it was on-target or off-target.

Advance: Moving toward the opponent by stepping first with your front foot, followed by your rear foot, while keeping the orientation of your feet constant relative to one other.

Aids: The middle, fourth, and little fingers of your weapon hand, used in controlling the movements of your foil or epée and varying the strength of your grip.

Aller: [Fr. for "Go"] Director's command telling the fencers that they may begin fencing.

Angulated Thrust: a thrust made with the blade held or moving at a marked angle with the hand´s direct line toward target.

Angulation: Moving the your weapon to the target at an angle, rather than in a straight line, so as to avoid your opponent's weapon.

Appel: Stamping your front foot on the floor twice, which signals the Director that you're requesting a halt in the action. (Pronounced "a-pel")

Appuntata: (It.) A remise from the lunge position with a tap of the front foot on the floor. A renewed attack consisting of a stop thrust or time thrust into an anticipated delayed riposte--an immediate continuation of the attack.

A propos: An opportune moment to launch an action. (Pronounced "ap-ro-po")

Arret: A stop thrust or stop cut. (Pronounced "Ar-rett")

Assault: A fencing bout (generally in exhibitions performed where no score is kept).

Attack: The initial offensive action made by extending your weapon arm towards the opponent and continuously threatening your opponent's target.

Attack in Time:A stop hit.

Attack into Preparation: An offensive action made while your opponent is setting up to attack.

Attack [on the Blade] (or Attack au Fer): Offensive actions taken against your opponent's weapon. Attacks on the blade include the beat, bind, coulé (glide), croisé, envelopment, froissément. and press.

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Balestra: (It.) An attack made in two motions: (1) by jumping forward with both feet landing simultaneously and, then, (2) lunging.

Barrage: A fence-off between two or more fencers who are tied in the near-to-final standings.

Battement: A beat. (Pronounced "bat-ma")

Bayonet (or Bayonet Connector): One type of electrical body cord connector used for foils, which requires a push and a twist rather than a plug-in action.

Beat (or Beat Attack): An attack made by sharply rapping the middle or weak part (foible) of your opponent's blade. A battement.

Bell Guard: The metallic part of the weapon that protects your hand. [See Guard ( or coquille)]

Belly Cut:In saber fencing, a horizontal cut to your opponent's stomach.

Benderole: (Fr.) A diagonal chest cut.

Bib: The chin and throat protector attached to your mask.

Bind: An attack which engages the opponent's blade and moves it diagonally to the opposite quadrant (i.e. from the inside high to the outside low, or outside high to inside low, etc.). A liement.

Black Card: Used to punish a fencer for an extremely severe rule violation in a fencing competition. A fencer receiving a Black Card is expelled from the competition.

Body Cord: The electrical wires, running from your weapon's plug-in connector down your arm and out the back of your fencing jacket, connecting your weapon to the reel.

Bout: A formal "combat" between you and another fencer.

Bout Line (or "Fencing Line" or "Line"): An imaginary straight line passing from the rear heel through the front foot of one fencer and continuing through the front foot to the rear heel of the opponent as they face each other in the fencing position.

Bout plane: An imaginary two dimensional plane that rises from the bout line perpendicular to the fencing strip.

Break (the game): To interrupt the opponent's actions by retreating out of distance or by intercepting his feint prior to the finale of his attack.

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Cadence: The rhythm of a fencer's movements.

Caver: (Fr. for "cave") Angulation. (Pronounced "cav-ay")

Ceding Parry: A yielding parry. Allowing the attacker to keep control of the blade during a prise de fer ; as the prise de fer is completed, the defender then bends his arm into the line in which the prise de fer has carried his blade. By doing this, the attacker's point, during his final thrust, falls into the forte of the defender's blade and is deflected from the target.

Change Beat or Bind: A beat or bind preceded by a circular motion, passing under the other side--a circular beat or bind.

Change [of engagement]: The act of engaging in a new line; a reorientation of the relative positions of yours and your opponent's blades made by moving your blade from the engagement, via a circular motion, to the new engagement;

Chest Cut: In saber fencing, a diagonal cut to the opponent's chest.

Closed Line: A line of engagement when the defender's weapon is protecting the line to a straight thrust.

Composed attack (or Compound attack): An attack with more than one blade movement.

Conversation: Back-and-forth blade play in a bout, composed of phrases separated by periods of no action.

Cross: An advance or retreat made by crossing one leg over the other, as in a passé avant (forward cross), a passé arrier (backwards cross) or a Russian Lunge. Don't confuse this with the croisé, which is blade action.

Copertino: (It.) A false coupé, made without changing the line.

Corps à Corps: (Fr. for "Body to body.") A clinch. The clinch is a penalty offense in all weapons except epeé, since it prevents fencing actions from proceeding normally. (Pronounced "core-ah-core")

Coulé: A glide. A type of opposition attack or counterattack. (Pronounced "ku-lay")

Counter-attack: An attack against an attack.

Counter-coupé: A coupé which deceives your opponent's change of engagement.

Counter-disengage: A disengage which deceives your opponent's change of engagement.

Counter-parry (or Circular Parry): A parry made by moving your point in a circular motion such that your blade returns to the original line of engagement.

Counter-riposte: A riposte made after parrying the opponent's riposte.

Counter-time (or contre-temps): An action made against an opponent's stop thrust or stop cut; a second intention attack.

Coup d'Arrêt: A stop thrust. (Pronounced "ku dar-ay")

Coupé: A simple attack made-in one motion-by lifting your point over your opponent's point and extending your weapon arm so that your point threatens the opponent's target; a cutover. (Pronounced "ku-pay")

Coup Lancé: A launched hit; an attack that starts before, but lands after the halt-a valid hit except when time runs out.

Croisé (cross or semi-bind)): A defensive action which engages your opponent's blade and moves it vertically to the opposite line, typically done by reversing your hand from a quarte parry into a seconde parry and finishing in a low line. The croisé is the same movement as a bind except that with a croisé there's no lunge; the croisé is a simultaneous parry and riposte rather than an attack. (Pronounced "qwah-zeh")

Crossbar: The projecting parts of the Italian hilt which provide leverage to the grip.

Cuissarde: That part of your fencing jacket that protects the groin. (Pronounced "kwi-sard")

Cut: In saber, an offensive slice or chop with your blade's edge.

Cutover: A disengage that passes over the point of the opposing blade; a coupé.

Cutting [the line]: Interrupting your opponent's feints with a sweeping action of your blade.

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Deceive (or Deceiving the blade): Any action which deliberately avoids contact with your opponent's blade.

Degagement: a disengage.

Demi-contre [parry]: A half counter-parry (e.g., from fourth to seventh, or sixth to eighth lines).

Demi-disengage: A half disengage (e.g., from the high to low, or low to high lines).

Demi-volte: A half turn done with one foot (90 degrees of a full 180 degree turn)

Derobement (or Avoidance or Evasion): Action of avoiding (or deceiving) your opponent's attempt to take your blade or to attack. (Pronounced "de-robe-ma")

Development: A simple thrust and lunge executed as one movement.

Director: The presiding judge of a fencing bout (aka "President").

Disarm: Forcing the opponent to entirely release his grip on his weapon.

Disengage: When your blade passes from one line of engagement into the opposite line by passing under your opponent's blade.

Disengagement: A simple attack, or riposte, which moves from the line of engagement to the opposite line by passing under your opponent's blade.

Distance: See Fencing Distance

Dolté: Using small finger movements to control your weapon.

Doublé (or Doublé Attack): An attack consisting of two disengages in the same line, deceiving a counter-parry. (Pronounced "du-blay")

Double-disengage: An attack involving two disengages in the same line and a disengage to the opposite line, deceiving a counter-parry and a lateral parry.

Double touch: When both fencers hit each other "simultaneously" (i.e., within 40-50 ms of one another).

Dry fencing: Fencing without electrical scoring equipment.

[Direct ] Elimination: A form of competition where a fencer retires after losing one bout.

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Engagement [of the blades]: When two fencers' blades make contact with one another.

Envelopment: Taking your opponent's blade by describing a circle--with both your blade and his or hers)-- so that they return together to the line of engagement. (Pronounced "en-vel-op-ma")

Épée: One of the three fencing weapons. The épée is a thrusting weapon having a triangular-shaped cross-section. Épée target includes the entire body of a fencer.

Escrime: French term for "fencing." (Pronounced "ay-screem")

Esquive: Any body movement made to avoid being hit, such as ducking, side stepping, withdrawing, etc. (Pronounced "es-kee-vay")

Extension: Thrusting with the weapon arm.

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False attack: An attack, usually involving a lunge, made with no intention of hitting. It's designed to test the opponent's defensive reactions or to finesse him into parrying and riposting so that you can parry and counter riposte.

Feint: An offensive action, which does not involve a lunge, that simulates an attack or the beginning of an attack. It's designed to draw a reaction or parry.

Fencing Distance: The space between two fencers at any given moment.

Fencing Plane: Same as Bout Plane.

Fib: (It.) A glide.

FIE (Fédération Internationale d'Escrime): The regulatory organization which governs all international fencing.

Finale: (Fr.) The last movement of an offensive or defensive action.

Finta In Tempo:(It. for "Feint in time.") A stop thrust, usually made against an attempted prise de fer.

Flanconnade: (It.) An action directed against the opponent's flank.

Flèche: (Fr.) "Arrow." An attack made by leaping or jumping forward with your rear foot crossing past your front foot. (Pronounced "flesh")

Flick: A wide coupé-usually one to your opponent's back or shoulder.

Flying [parry riposte]: A parry and riposte made in one motion, usually as a coupé.

Foible: The forward part of the blade near the tip; the weakest part of the blade.

Foil: One of the three fencing weapons. The foil is a thrusting weapon only having a blade that's quadrangular in shape. Foil target is restricted to the torso.

Forecut: A stop cut.

Forte: The part of the blade nearest the bell guard; the strongest part of the blade. (Pronounced "fort")

Froissément: An attack on your opponent's blade with a strong, sharp, accentuated glide along the blade so as to deflect it; a graze. (Pronounced "f roys-ma")

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Glide: An attack executed by engaging your opponent's blade and sliding along it straight to the target. A coulé.

Glove: The protective garment worn on your weapon hand. The fencing glove must cover the opening of the jacket sleeve and extend at least halfway up the forearm.

Graze: A glide (coulé) forcefully executed.

Grip: How you hold the weapon. Also, the handle by which you hold the weapon.

Guard (or coquille): The protecting part of the hilt of your weapon; the bell guard.

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Handle: The part of the hilt you hold in your hand, may be French, Italian, Russian, Belgian, Visconti, or a wide variety of other molded styles.

High Line: That part of the target area above an imaginary horizontal line drawn through the center of the target.

Hilt: That part of your weapon that's composed of the bell guard, handle, and pommel.

Homologated: Certified for use in FIE competitions [international competitions] (e.g., 1600N and 800N clothing; maraging blades; etc.)

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Imbroccata: (It.) A time thrust in the outside low line.

Impression: Use of a fencing movement to mislead your opponent as to your true intent.

Incontro: (It.) A double touch.

Indirect attack: A simple attack into the opposite line of engagement.

Induction: When you provoke a desired fencing action from your opponent.

In Line: Point in line.

Inquartata: An evasive maneuver made by pivoting on the front foot and making a demi-volte with the rear foot to the outside line, often accompanied by a stop thrust.

Inside Line: Part of the target toward the unarmed hand from an imaginary vertical line drawn through the center of the target.

Insistence: Forcing your attack through your opponent's parry.

[First] Intention: An action you make with conscious intent to score.

[Second] Intention: An action you make to trap your opponent, such as a false attack intended to draw the riposte.

Invitation: An opening or action you make to provoke the opponent to attack.

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Judge: In non-electrical competition, an official whose job is to watch the fencer and determine if a touch has or has not landed.

Jump: A forward or backward movement where both of your feet leave the ground simultaneously and land simultaneously (as in the first part of a Balestra).

Jury: In non-electrical fencing, the four Judges and the Director who conduct a competitive bout.

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Liement: The bind. (Pronounced "lee-a-ma")

Line: The main direction of attack: high-outside, low-outside, high-inside, or low-inside. The line may be "open" or "closed", depending upon the relative positions of the attacking blade, the target, and the defending blade.

Line of Engagement: The line on which yours and your opponent's blades come into contact.

Lunge: One of the two basic postures of fencing used to attack an opponent out of arm's reach.

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Mal-parry: A parry that fails to prevent an attack from landing.

Manipulators : The thumb and forefinger; used to control your weapon and its blade motion.

Maraging Steel: A special steel used for making blades; stronger and breaks more cleanly than other steels.

Mask: The fencer's protective wire-mesh headgear.

Martingale: A short strap around the handle and grip which restrains the weapon from being deflected and keeps it in a safe position.

Measure: The distance between fencers.

Mezzo-cercho: (It.) The first foil parry of the Italian school, executed as a half circle

movement of the blade upward (Septime haute; see Neuvieme).

Middle (or Milieu de la Lame): The middle third of the blade between the forte and the foible.

Moulinet (swinging thrust): A complete circling action of the saber-forward and then away from the body-pivoting on the elbow, used as a drill and as a means of delivering certain cuts in combat. (Pronounced "mo-lee-neh"). In foil and épée, a thrust delivered with an overhand swinging motion from the wrist.

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Neuvieme (or "Septime haute"): an unconventional parry sometimes described as blade behind the back, pointing down (an octave variant), other times similar to an elevated sixte. (Pronounced "noo-vi-em")

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Octave: The eighth parry of the French school, defending the outside low line, with the hand held supinated. (Pronounced "ock-tav")

Off-target: In foil and saber, a touch made on the non-valid surface (non-target area) of the fencer.

On-Guard (or En-garde): The position a fencer assumes at the start of a bout. Also, a Director's command telling the fencers to assume the en-garde position and prepare to fence.

One-two: An attack consisting of two disengages in laterally opposite lines.

One-two-three: An attack consisting of three disengages in laterally opposite lines.

Opposition: An action where your blade keeps contact with your opponent's blade and pushes it aside.

Orthopedic Handle: pistol grip; any molded handle.

Outside Line: That part of the target toward the armed hand from an imaginary vertical line drawn through the target's center.

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Parry: A defensive blade and/or guard action that deflects an attacking blade. Parries may be made either by opposition or by percussion.

Pass: An attack made by crossing the feet (e.g., a flèche, a Russian Lunge, etc.). Also refers to when you're moving past an opponent.

Passé: An attack that passes the target without hitting. (Pronounced "pah-say")

Passate Sotto: (It.) An evasive action by a defending fencer executed by placing the unarmed hand on the floor and, at the same time, doing a rear lunge.

Pattinando:(It.) An advance-lunge.

Phrase d'armes (or Phrase): An uninterrupted series of blade actions (such as an attack, riposte, and counter-riposte).

Piste: The strip.

Pistol [grip]: Any of the molded handles used in foil and épée; an orthopedic grip.

Plaqué (or Coup Plaqué): a point attack that lands flat. (Pronounced "pla-kay" [or "koo pla-kay"])

Plastron: Auxiliary protector used by coaches to absorb the impact of hits.

Plate: The fencing strip.

Point (or Touche): The theoretical puncturing tip of the fencing weapon. Also, what the Director awards in foil and saber when the fencer having the right-of-way hits the opponent's valid target; or in épée, when a fencer scores a valid hit first in a fencing action.

Pointe d'arret: An attachment to your weapon's tip (foil or épée) that aids in registering hits (either electrical or non-electrical). (Pronounced "pwen-da-ray")

Point in line: When the defending fencer aims the point of his or her blade at the opponent's target area by extending his or her weapon arm straight from the shoulder.

Pommel: The part of the hilt at the very end which acts as a counterbalance to the blade and holds the weapon together.

Pool: A grouping of fencers who fence each other to determine relative ranking.

Pool Unique: A form of competition where everyone fences everyone to determine relative rankings.

Preparation: The initial phase of an attack, before right-of-way is established.

Presentation: Offering your blade for engagement by your opponent.

President: The Director (derived from presiding over a Jury).

Pressure (or Press): A blade attack made by contacting your opponent's blade and pressing it (varying degrees of pressure can be applied); a lateral press on the opponent's blade.

Prime: A position that protects (covers) low and inside, thumb toward six o'clock, hand over-pronating with the weapon's point down.

Priority: A system of awarding touches to saber fencers when a simultaneous attack occurs in which the right-of-way cannot being clearly established.

Prise [de Fer] (Fr.: "taking the iron"): A "taking" or contacting of the opponent's blade in an offensive or counter-offensive action; taking the blade. (Pronounced "pree-z [deh fair]")

Pronation: The hand with the palm facing downwards (used in the second, third, and fifth parries in foil and épée).

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Quarte (or carte): The fourth parry or guard position, defending the inside high line.

Quillons: The crossbar of a sword (as in the Italian foil or épée).

Quinte: A position that covers (protects) the inside high area, the weapon point being higher than the hand, which is pronated. (Pronounced "kant")

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Radoppio: (It.) A reprise d' attack executed by lunging and immediately recovering forward, then lunging again.

Rassemblement: Withdrawing from the on-guard to a standing position. (Pronounced "ras-em-bleh-ma"), used in épée as a defensive movement.

Rear-lunge: Forming a lunge without forward motion by extending the rear leg and arm into the lunge position.

Recovery (or Recover): Returning to the on-guard position after lunging.

Red Card: Used to punish a fencer for repeated minor rule violations or a single major rule violation; results in the opponent being awarded a touch.

Redouble (or Redoublement): a second attack made from the lunge position (e.g., a radoppio). (Pronounced "re-du-bleh" [or "re-du-bleh-ma"])

Remise: Following an original attack, a simple, immediate second offensive action by the attacker-made in the same line without pulling back the arm-against an opponent who doesn't immediately riposte; in other words, renewal of an attack that originally missed or was parried. (Pronounced "rem-ees")

Repêchage: A form of competition where the losing fencer in a bout, who's eliminated from directly qualifying to the next round, fences another losing fencer for a second chance to qualify. (Pronounced "reh-pe-shaj")

Reprise d'attack (It: Ripresa D´attacco): A new attack executed immediately after a backward or forward return to on-guard. (Pronounced "re-pree-z da-tac")

Retreat: To move away from the opponent by stepping first with the rear foot, followed by the front foot, keeping the orientation of the feet constant relative to each other; to step back.

Ricasso: (It.) The flat part of the blade above the crossbar suitable for gripping; on an Italian foil or épée, the flattened part of the blade (tang) within the bell guard, between the bell guard and the cross bar.

Right-of-Way: When the fencer meets all the conditions necessary to score a touch. The convention in foil and saber fencing which prevents double touches by specifying a set of conditions under which only one fencer can score a touch at any given time.

Riposte: An offensive action made by the fencer who's parried the attack. The riposte may be direct or indirect, simple, or composed. (Pronounced "rip-ost")

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Saber: One of the three fencing weapons. The saber is a cutting and thrusting weapon, and the hilt has a knuckle bow on the guard to protect the hand. Saber target is the entire body above the hips.

Salle d'Armes (or Salle): A fencing school.

Salute: Using your weapon, a courteous gesture to the opponent, jury, and possibly the audience, at the start and end of the bout. The salute may be a simple or elaborately choreographed as in the civilian and military versions of the "Grand Salute".

Second (or Seconde): The guard or parry defending the outside low line with the weapon hand in pronation; a position that covers the inside low area, with the weapon's point lower than the hand, which is over-pronated. (Pronounced "sec-own")

Semicircular Parry: a parry that moves in a half circle from the high line to the low line (moving from the high line to an Octave or a Septime).

Sentiment-de-fer: A sense of the blade, feeling for the blade.

Septime: The guard or parry defending the inside low line with the weapon hand in supination. (Pronounced "sep-teem")

Sforzo: (It.) The froissément.

Simple attack: An attack or riposte that involves no feints or blade play.An attack executed in one fencing "time," such as a thrust disengage, counter-disengage, coupé, and counter-coupé.

Simultaneous [action]: When both fencers launch attacks which occur so close together that the Director can't establish who had the right-of-way (i.e. at the same fencing "time.").

Sixte: The guard or parry defending the outside high line with the weapon hand in supination. (Pronounced "seh-s")

Steal the Time (or Steal the Tempo): An action taken to touch the opponent's target before the opponent's final movement.

Stepped-on Flèche: a flèche that begins with a vigorous step by the front foot, followed by a slower crossover.

Stop Cut: In saber, a cutting action made at the moment the opponent initiates some action (usually an attack).

Stop Hit (or Stop Thrust):A thrust you make made as your opponent starts an action (usually an attack).

Strip: The fencing floor area: 14 meters long by 1.5 to 2 meters wide.

Substitution [of target]: In foil and saber, replacing or covering valid target area with invalid target (e.g., covering part of the lamé with an arm). Hits made on the substituted surface may be scored as valid hits.

Supination: The hand with the palm facing up.

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Tac au Tac [riposte]:A riposte made immediately after a percussive parry by bouncing forward off the opponent's blade. (Pronounced "tak-oh-tak")

Taking the Blade: Making contact with the opponent's blade in preparation for an attack; includes prise de fer, envelopment, croisé, bind, and the glide.

Tang: The part of the blade that's inserted into the handle.

Target: The area of a fencer's body specified by the rules as the legitimate scoring surface.

Tempo: A general term describing time relationships of fencing actions, related to cadence.

Temps perdu: Fencing actions (usually composed) executed with a pause or syncopation.

Three-prong Connector: an épée body cord connector which you plug in.

Thrown Point: A flick.

Thrust: A simple attack-made in one motion-where the point of the weapon moves directly toward the target with a full arm extension.

Tierce: The guard or parry defending the outside high line with the weapon hand in pronation. (Pronounced "tier-s")

Time [fencing] (or Fencing Tempo): Fencing time is the time required to perform one simple fencing action. There's no clock measurement of this time; it's subjectively determined by the Director.

Touch: When the point or edge of your blade hits your opponent's valid target.

Transfer (also "Transport"): An action on the opponent´s blade that moves it from one line to another while maintaining contact with the blade. A croisé, bind, or envelopement.

Traversone: (It.) A diagonal chest cut: banderole.

Trompement: A deceiving of the opponent's attempt to parry.

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Underarm Plastron: The inner protective garment worn under the standard fencing jacket required by the rules for competition; a garment that protects the arm pit under the weapon arm.

USFA: United States Fencing Association. Have their own web site: www.usfa.org.

USFCA: United States Fencing Coaches Association. Have their own web site: www.usfca.org.

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Valid: When it's ruled that a touch has been scored on the legitimate target area.

Vest [electrical] (or Lamé): The electrically conducting over-garment which is worn over the standard foil jacket to distinguish valid, on-target hits from invalid, off-target hits.

Volta: A turning or rotating of the fencer's body.

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Warning: Formal notice made by the Director to a competitor that a rule infraction has taken place and that penalties may be applied.

Whip-over: In saber, a touch resulting when the foible of your blade whips across your opponent's bell guard or blade when parried.

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Yellow Card: A warning given a fencer for a minor rule infraction.

Yielding [parry]: A parrying technique which uses the opponent's pressure on the defending blade to divert the defending and attacking blades into another line where the line is then closed.



  • •United States Fencing Coaches Association (USFCA) "Glossary of Fencing Terms"
  • FOIL, SABRE, AND ÉPÉE FENCING by Mexwell R. Garrett, Emanuil G. Kaidanov, and Gil A. Pezza.
  • YOUR BOOK OF FENCING by C-L de Beaumont.
  • MODERN FENCING by Clovis Deladrier.
  • THE ART AND SCIENCE OF FENCING by Nick Evangelista
  • •Various sources found on the Internet

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Sunday, January 20, 2008