French or Pistol Grips?

Discussion in 'The European Art of Fencing' started by SFC JeffJ, May 31, 2007.

  1. SFC JeffJ

    SFC JeffJ Grandmaster

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    While fencing which did you prefer, one of the many "pistol grips" or the classic french grip?

    Myself, I preferred the french for épée, which most of my fencing was. I wish I could have done more with the Italian grip, but the french made sure that isn't allowed anymore.
     
  2. RITFencing

    RITFencing Orange Belt

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    Definitely pistol, though I should start French gripping again for my epee game. I prefer to fence off the blade and I'm very tall, so a French grip held down around the pommel makes a very good choice.

    It's not from the French... it's from the fact that an Italian grip provides no advantage not gained by a pistol. The French grip came about because the French style of fencing was very off the blade and relied on subtle feints and disengages, whereas the Italian grip came about because of the Italian school's emphasis (at the time, at least) on strong blade actions, always controlling the opponent's blade with beats and opposition.

    However, when orthopedic or "pistol" grips came about (the first one, the Belgian was created for a Belgian fencing master who has his hand crushed, I believe in a train accident) and began to gain more popularity, the fencers found that they could have all the strength of an Italian grip with far superior blade and tip control, and so use of the Italian grip in modern fencing has slowly vanished.

    There will occasionally be someone who tries one out in competitions, but they have never achieved any real success with it. This, however, is not so much because of the grip as because it tends to attract beginners who are dabbling with various bits of fencing apocrypha and sometimes get the urge to resurrect the old grip, or from a classical fencer who decides to try out the modern game and finds that they are very, very different (I will attempt to avoid a flame war here and say only that modern fencing has taken an very divergent path, especially over the last 20 or 30 years, from classical fencing. I will not say which I think is superior, but classical fencing is no more successful in a modern environment than modern fencing is in a classical one.)

    While there is a great deal of politics in the fencing world, especially at a high level, I can assure you that the Italian grip was not a victim of it. It was simply phased out by a very organic process in which fencers discovered that there were options which did all of the same things better.

    That being said, if you want to learn to fence Italian foil or epee, I would highly encourage you to look into it. Just bear in mind that it is a very different game and will not be directly applicable to modern fencing.
     
  3. KnightlyMongoose

    KnightlyMongoose White Belt

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    That is really interesting, thanks!
     
  4. RITFencing

    RITFencing Orange Belt

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    No problem. :)
     
  5. DRay

    DRay White Belt

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    I prefer pistol grips partly because that was what I was first taught with, but mainly because I find the point-control and the stability of grip to be invaluable at epee. When I would fence people that used French grips, I discovered quickly that unless they had taken the time to master disengages, coupes, and other ways to avoid a blade it was too easy to beat them using beats a binds. I did try French grips at one time, but I found that I couldn't execute my blade-work as well, nor could I hit people on the hand and wrist as easily.

    Just my personal preference. I don't think either grip is superior or inferior overall.
     
  6. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    I think that a lot depends upon your personal preferences. I rather prefer the French grip, but I also have a foil with a Hungarian long grip and an epee with an American grip. I don't fence any better with any one of the three grips; if I'm off of my game, grip choice will make no difference. I do find that there are things that I can do more easily with a French and things that I can do more easily with a pistol. Sort of a six of one, half dozen of the other.

    Daniel
     

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