Advice For Beginners

It would be fantastic if one could locate the world’s best fencing master as a tutor at the start of his profession. Unfortunately, the master would not accept an inexperienced fencer. Furthermore, most fencers do not live in an area with elite fencing masters. This is especially true in the Midwest of the United States (where I now live), albeit there are exceptions. A dear friend and owner of a local landscaping company in Texas has found it impossible to drive less than 6 hours to find a suitable fencing instructor!

The trouble with studying under inexperienced fencers is that you will undoubtedly pick up on their faults as well as good movements, and these acquired bad features are tough to unlearn. It is also difficult to learn fencing from a book, however I would strongly recommend Aldo Nadi’s fencing book, which is available from numerous fencing equipment providers.

If you live in California, Washington, New Jersey, New York, or Colorado (the USFA’s headquarters), you will have access to good clubs and fencing experts. Hungarian (for saber), Italian (for foil and epee), American (for epee), Bulgarian (for distance and timing), and Rumanian are my favorite fencing styles (for point control). I should include the German saber fencing style, as the German fencers I’ve fenced with have varied and extremely effective techniques, as well as the English foil and epee fencing styles. Of course, there are other styles that are different and come from other nations that I have not had the opportunity to understand in depth, despite fencing against individuals who were competent in them.

Here are a few thoughts and guidelines when starting:

1. Your arm will most likely be bent too much at the elbow. Straighten the arm and then slightly bend it. Make certain that it is aimed towards your opponent.

2. Highlight the wrist actions. The wrist and hand should not be tense. Excellent parries and beats are produced by a little bend of the arm and a twist of the wrist.

3. The front toe has a tendency to flex inward. This will cause the blade to be misdirected, so maintain it in line with the blade.

4. The lunge has a propensity to tumble sideways. By moving your left arm back, you can keep your equilibrium.

5. The first few steps may be clunky. When en garde, put most of your weight on your rear foot and aim to maintain the lower part of your front leg vertical. After coming en garde, lift your front foot and assess your balance.

Deep lunges will work your leg muscles and make you feel uncomfortable. It will take a lot of repetition to train your muscles for a deep lunge, so expect some struggle.

7. Your weapon arm’s elbow will tend to shift away from the body. This causes the weapon’s point to be misdirected. Maintain a vertical elbow in line with your forward leg.

8. Your back arm may jerk forward. As a result, there may be an imbalance and misdirection. It is part of the target in epee and saber, thus keep it towards the back with the palm up.

9. The arm and leg tend to move in tandem. The sluggish movement of the leg foreshadows your strike to your opponent. The thrust always starts the attack, followed by the front leg in your lunge. Even if you are a skilled athlete, the odds are that you will struggle to learn this exercise.

10. A quick thrust is dependent on the requirements listed above, as well as another. The thrust will be slow if the arm is tightened before the thrust. A fast thrust actually begins with a loose fist, arm, and elbow, triggered by a very quick tightening of primarily the big muscle of the upper half of the arm. I remember a match with a ranked epee fencer who told me after the final touch that it was the fastest thrust he had ever seen.

11. It is your and your fencing master’s responsibility to put everything together. Practice in front of a full-length mirror so that you can see all of your body’s movements. Some beginners grow disheartened as a result of the required physical coordination. However, it is not required to complete all of these tasks immediately. You will be pleasantly pleased if you try them in the order provided above and look for improvement with practice.

Have fun out there and be safe. En Garde!