Weekly we pose a catechism question to our fencers as part of their lessons. A catechism is a method of instruction by question and answer, normally used in religion, but with a historical connection to fencing. The first fencing catechism was published by George Heintz, the Master of the Sword at the US Naval Academy, in 1895. We think it is a good way to teach fundamental knowledge, and we dedicate this catechism to the memory of Master Heintz,
Questions are in no particular theoretical order, with the most recent question at the top:
(16) QUESTION – what is an invitation?
ANSWER – a movement to create an apparent, but false, opportunity to
draw an opponent’s attack or counterattack.
(15) QUESTION – what is a first intention action?
ANSWER – an attack or riposte executed to hit the opponent in one or multiple tempos of continuous attacking action.
(14) QUESTION – what is preparation?
ANSWER – any actions taken to create the conditions for a successful final action of an attack or counterattack
(13) QUESTION – what are the three standard hand positions applicable to all weapons?
ANSWER – pronation (fingernails down), supination (fingernails up), and middle (thumb up)
(12) QUESTION – what are the zones of the strip?
ANSWER – the box between the on guard lines, the two maneuvering areas between the box and the warning area, and the two warning areas.
(11) QUESTION – what are the basic parries in each weapon? And what lines do they defend?
ANSWER – FOIL AND EPEE – 6th outside high line, 4th inside high line, 7th inside low line, 8th outside low line.
ANSWER – SABRE – 3rd outside high line, 5th head and high line, 4th inside high line, 2nd outside low line.
(10) QUESTION – what are the five distances?
ANSWER – Out of Distance, Long Distance (Advance Lunge Distance), Medium Distance (Lunge Distance), Short Distance (Extension Distance), In-Fighting Distance.
(9) QUESTION – what are the three general types of renewals of the attack, and which ones are performed from the lunge?
ANSWER – Remise, Redouble (both performed from the lunge), and the Reprise (performed from a recovery to guard).
(8) QUESTION – what are the common four simple attacks? Which ones are direct and which indirect?
ANSWER – straight thrust/cut (direct), disengage, coupe, and counter-disengage (all indirect).
(7) QUESTION – what are the five categories of attacks?
ANSWER – simple attacks, compound attacks, takings of the blade, attacks on the blade, and ripostes.
(6) QUESTION – what is a tempo?
ANSWER – the amount of time required to perform a simple action, footwork and/or bladework.
(5) QUESTION – when do you need preparation for an attack?
ANSWER – whenever the distance the blade must travel or the geometry allows the opponent to successfully parry or counterattack.
(4) QUESTION – what are the lines and where are they measured from?
ANSWER – high line, low line, inside line, outside line, all measured from the guard of the weapon.
(3) QUESTION – what is smoothness in movement?
ANSWER – clean, steady progression of movement with no hesitation and the most direct track of the movement along that of the technique.
(2) QUESTION – what is distance?
ANSWER – the physical distance the point or edge of the weapon must travel in order to hit the target.
(1) QUESTION – what are the parts of the weapon?
ANSWER – the blade, divided into the tang, forte, foible, and point and capped by a button (in foil and epee), the guard, a thumb pad, the grip, and a pommel.