This is a working glossary of fencing terms sponsored by the Pan American Fencing Academy and included in our Fencing Term of the Day posts on Facebook and Twitter.  Additions are made several times a week.  Term definitions are subject to regular revision – the intent is to capture the key meaning of the term in a short, and easily remembered definition.  This is a glossary of modern terminology; those interested in classical or historical fencing terms should visit the glossaries maintained by the Classical Academy of Arms or the Center for Historical Fencing.  Sources include: (1) the current glossary of the United States Fencing Coaches Association, (2) Tyshler and Logvin Sports Fencing (2015), (3) Harmenberg, Vaggo, Schmidt, Boisse, Mazzoni, and Pingree Epee 2.5 (2015), (4) Handelman and Louie Fencing Foil (2014), (5) Rogers Advanced Fencing Techniques (2013), (6) Paul, Miller, Beasley, and Bottoms, Epee Fencing (2011), (7) Sowerby Fencing (2011), (8) Borysiuk Modern Saber Fencing (2009), (9) Wojciechowski Theory, Methods and Exercises in Fencing (no date), (10) Beke and Polgar, The Methodology of Sabre Fencing (1965), (11) Magill Motor Learning and Control (2004), (12) Schmidt and Wrisberg Motor Learning and Performance (2004), (13) USA Fencing Operations Manual (2016 update), (14) FIE Brief glossaries of fencing (2016), (15) Rogers Fencing Essential Skills Training​ (2003), (16) Vass ​Epee Fencing​ (2011 second edition), (17) Paul, Miller, Beasley, and Bottoms Epee Fencing (2011) , (18) Rogers High Performance Fencing ​(2015), (19) Kenney, Wilmore, Costill ​Physiology of Sport and Exercise ​(2012), (20) Crosnier A Guide to Judging and Presiding at Foil & Sabre​ (1950), (21)  British Fencing ​Glossary of Terms ​ (2016), (22) USA Fencing Fencing Rules ​(2016).    Definitions of terms do not necessarily follow the definitions in a specific source, but attempt to capture the most relevant meaning of the term.



Action on the Blade – deliberate contact with the opponent’s blade to deviate it from the line in an attack. (16)

Actual Attack – an attack executed with the intent to hit (see False Attack in contrast). (2)

Appel – a stamp with the flat of the front foot, originally to startle an opponent, but now as an accelerant.

Arm – a withdrawal of the weapon arm before launching a thrust or cut. (14)

Assault – friendly combat between two fencers in which the score is not kept to determine a result. (14)(21)(22)

Assembly – upright position taken either forward or backwards with the legs and arms straightened and the feet joined. (14)

Assistant Moniteur – an entry-level professional coach capable of teaching basic lessons and helping to manage group classes.

Attack – an offensive action initiated with the intent to score a hit (see Actual Attack and False Attack). (2)

Attack on Preparation – an attack on the opponent during his or her approach to execute an attack. (2)

Attack on the Blade – a blade preparation that uses force to set the opponent’s blade in motion from the desired line of attack.


Back Edge – the top approximately one-third of the sabre blade opposite the cutting edge. (21)

Balestra – a short forward jump used to accelerate movement, often combined with a lunge.

Bind (US) – a transport that moves the opponent’s extended blade from one line to the diagonally opposite one.

Blocked Drill – a drill in which a skill is repeatedly practiced under the exact same conditions. (12)

Broken Time or Broken Tempo – the insertion of a deliberate pause into an action normally performed in one tempo. (17)(21)


Change Parry – a circular change of engagement with a lateral parry to transport an attack into a new horizontal line.

Closing the Line – using the blade to close an opening and deny an opponent the opportunity to hit the target in that line

Compound Attack – an attack of two or more tempos in which the first action is a feint, and the final action the attack. (14)

Continuation – imprecise term for a prolonged offensive action, especially after the parry. (14)

Control of Engagement – engagement with control of the blades allowing an opening for only the controlling fencer. (2)

Counteroffensive Actions – actions which prevent, constrain, or stop an attack by threatening to score a touch on the attack.

Conversion of the Weapon Hand – turning the hand from pronation to supination or vice versa. (14)

Countertime – an action taken to defeat an opponent’s time action (stop or time hit).

Coupe – an indirect attack that passes the blade around the point of the opponent’s weapon.

Critical Gap for Scoring – the last 4 to 6 inches the blade must travel to score a hit. (3)

Cutting Edge – the front edge and upper back edge of the sabre blade. (14)


Defensive System – a group of coherent, interrelated parries capable of meeting a full range of attacks. (16)

Development – extension of the weapon arm followed by the lunge. (14)

Disengage – an indirect attack that passes the blade around the bell (guard) of the opponent’s weapon.

Double – a disengage followed by a counterdisengage to deceive an opponent’s circular parry.

Double Preparations – two preparations taken one after the other. (5)


Encounter Attack – in Epee an attack designed to result in simultaneous reciprocal touches. (2)

Engagement – contact between the blades in a commonly accepted guard position. (2)

Evasion – a displacement of the target area to avoid or delay a touch or hamper the attack. (2)


False Attack – an attack made not to hit, but to provoke a response for reconnaissance or in preparation (see Actual Attack in contrast).

Feint – blade, foot, or body action to cause an opponent to react, thereby creating an opportunity to score.

Feint Parry – blade action simulating a parry to cause an opponent to commit to the next or final part of an attack.

First Defensive Triangle – in sabre the guards of first, second, and fifth. (15)

Flank – the portion of the target located below and to the outside of the fencer’s weapon arm. (14)

Fork Thrust – a bent arm jabbing thrust executed in infighting. (16)

Forte – the strong of the blade, the one half to one third of the blade closest to the guard.


Glide – an attack executed as a direct action with opposition along the opponent’s blade in the line of the opponent’s guard.

Growth Mindset – the understanding that your abilities are characteristics that can be developed. (18)

Grub Screw – small screw used to secure the foil and epee tip in the barrel of the point.


Half-Parry – a small, preliminary blade movement in response to the opponent’s feint. (16)


Indirect Attack – a simple attack that starts in one line and ends in or transits another.

Individual Lesson – a fencing lesson in which one fencer is taught or trained by the fencing master. (10)

Invitation – a blade, foot, tempo, distance. or  psychological ruse creating an opening as a trap for an opponent’s attack.


Lateral Parry – a simple parry with the blade moving horizontally across the body from one line to another.

Line – target segment defined by guard position; used to define guard positions and location of both attack and defense.

Long Distance – the distance at which an opponent theoretically can be hit with an attack by advance-lunge.


Maintaining Distance – use of footwork to maintain a set distance between two fencers; negates closing or opening the distance.

Masking – distracting the opponent from forthcoming actions to cover your tactical intentions. (2)

Match – the aggregate of the bouts fenced between the fencers of two teams in a team event. (14)(22)

Materially Valid Hit – a hit which lands clearly and distinctly on any part of the fencer’s body. (20)

Medium Distance – the distance at which an opponent can be hit by an attack with a lunge.

Movement Time – the amount of time between the start and completion of movement. (11)


Neutral engagement – engagement with neither fencer having the advantage in blade position. (2)


Offensive-Defensive Position – sabre position from which the fencer may attack or defend. (15)

One-Two – a two tempo compound attack, with disengage feint, and a disengage attack returning to the original line.

Opposition – forceful action on opponent’s blade to direct it outside the limit of the fencer’s target area.


Phrase – an unbroken series of fencing actions between two fencers with the intent to land a hit. (17)

Point Hit Speed – the speed of the point in the last 4 to 6 inches of movement toward the target to hit. (3)

Pommeling – an epee technique of holding the French or specialized grip of the weapon by the pommel to extend reach.

Preparation – blade, body, or foot movement to create the conditions for a fencing action. (17)

Principle of Defence – the opposition of the fencer’s forte against the opponent’s foible. (15)(21)

Progressive Actions – actions made with the point or cutting edge continually moving toward target. (21)

Pronation – horizontal hand position with the palm down and knuckles up. (14)

Provocation – a false action taken to stimulate an opponent to attack.


Random Drill – a drill in which one or more known actions and/or conditions are practiced in random order. (11)

Reaction Time – the time interval between the start of stimulus (opponent’s action) and the initiation of a response. (11)

Redirection – from the line of engagement a strong counter-action against an opponent’s blade. (2)

Redouble – renewal of an attack in a different line without recovery to guard.

Relative Point Speed – the relationship between Point Hit Speed and opponent movement. (3)

Remise – renewal of an attack in the same line without recovery to guard.

Repechage – a double elimination system for tournaments, typically used between the rounds of 32 and 8. (13)

Reprise – a renewal of the attack after recovery (forward of backwards) to guard.

Response Time – Reaction Time plus Movement Time, the total time to react to a situation on the strip. (11)

Riposte – an attack (offensive action) following a parry (defensive action).


Second Defensive Triangle – in sabre the guards of third, fourth, and fifth. (15)

Serial Drill – a drill in which two or more known actions are repeatedly practiced in the same sequence. (4)

Short Distance – distance at which the opponent can be hit by an extension with no added footwork.

Shoulder – the point at which the tang joins the forte of the blade.

Simple Attack – an attack executed in one continuous movement in one tempo.

Simple Parry – a parry executed in a single continuous movement in one tempo.

Simultaneous Attack – an attack started at the same time by both fencers. (14)

Subconscious Timing – the instinctive selection of the moment in which to attack. (5)

Successive Parries – a series of parries executed in response to a compound attack. (14)

Supination – horizontal hand position with the palm upward and the knuckles down. (14)(15)


Tacticsthe combination of technique, distance, timing, initiative, movement, and psychology to gain touches in a bout.

Taking of the Blade – a blade preparation that uses leverage to move an opponent’s blade from the desired line of attack.

Tempo – the period of time required to perform one simple fencing action (either blade or footwork).

Through Cut – a circular sabre cut made pulling through the target with the flat of the blade.

Training Effect – the response of the body to prolonged exercise, can be measured as the performance loss when training stops. (18)(19)

Training Maturity – the number of years an athlete has been training for their sport. (18)

Transition – movement from one blade position to another. (16)

Transport – a taking of the opponent’s blade using leverage to move it from one line to another.

Trompement – deception of the opponent’s attempt to parry the attack or riposte. (15)


Uncovered – a position of the weapon arm and blade in which a line is not closed. (17)


Valid Hit – a hit that arrives correctly on the target under the rules for the weapon. (15)(20)


Weapon Arm – the arm holding the foil, epee, or sabre. (14)

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