What types of fencing are there?

Discussion in 'The European Art of Fencing' started by Bob Hubbard, May 30, 2007.

  1. Bob Hubbard

    Bob Hubbard Retired

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    I've seen reference to Italian style and German style, also theatrical and Olympic, etc.

    So, what styles are there, and how do they differ?
     
  2. bakxierboxer

    bakxierboxer Yellow Belt

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    Very definitely: French.
    "Less Definitely": Spanish, Belgian.

    Some folks base the definitions on the grip type.

    Pete
     
  3. tellner

    tellner Senior Master

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    The Olympic sport of fencing is based on the French style.

    Stage fencing is just that, a choreographed system designed to look good on stage. It bears the same relation to fighting with swords as Peking Opera.

    The Spanish and Italian historical styles are much different than the French. They have a small following. Maestre Ramon Martinez has some excellent videos and books on the subject.

    A few underground Korps preserve German schlager-play. Good luck finding them.

    The SCA and similar hobby groups have evolved their own styles of fencing. Some are working from old military cutlass and sword manuals or the scant existing literature on backswording/single stick - a sport which uses a wooden basket-hilted broadsword.
     
  4. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    Do you mean fencing as in

    Privacy fences
    Picket fences
    Split rail fences
    Standard post and rail fences
    Residential chain link fences
    Commercial chain link fences
    Security chain link fences
    Vinyl coated chain link fences
    vinyl privacy fence
    3 rail vinyl fence
    Concave picket fence
    Perimeter vinyl fence
    Dog ear shadow box vinyl fence
    Concave shadow box fence
    Aluminum perimeter fence
    Base of aluminum fence
    Residential wrought iron fences
    Commercial wrought iron fences

    Or fencing as in
    http://www.answers.com/fencing

    Sorry I just couldn’t’ resist. (Hangs head in shame and walks away :uhyeah:)
     
  5. bakxierboxer

    bakxierboxer Yellow Belt

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    I think it's simply that the French, as they are wont to do, simply got there firstest with the mostest in terms of regulations. If there is anything that "needs" "regulation" they are on it like "stink on *****".
    Are you actually going to say that F1 racing is "French" simply because the French also set up the F.I.A.?

    The only marked difference technique-wise would be the "French Parry" which is difficult to do with anything other than the simple French Grip.
    The Italian and Belgian grips have a cross-bar that supposedly enhanced tip control and were often used with a wrist-strap to aid in supporting the blade without "muscling" it. This kind of grip largely prevented the kind of wrist flexibility that allowed the French Parry (Bell-clapper).
    Other than that, there were some differences in "elan" that were best evidenced through footwork and attack patterns.

    I fenced during the 50s.
    I have no idea what their followings amount to these days, but I suspect that you would be hard put to find a French Salle in Italy, Germany or Hungary.

    The SCA stuff actually resembles 18th and 19th century work more than the modern... heavier "more realistic" weapons require more wrist/elbow/arm than the modern flyweight sporting gear.

    Pete
     
  6. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Master Black Belt

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    Pedantism alert! :)

    Historical Fencing: Also referred to as Historical European Swordmanhsip, Western Martial Arts, Renaissance Martial Arts, and Medieval Martial Arts. Usually this is taught along with non-swording aspects of the art, such as grappling, dagger fighting, etc. This includes many distinct martial arts.

    Classical Fencing: This is the use of the sporting weapons of epee, foil and saber, with the attitude that they are training for an earnest encounter with sharps (a duel), which would be the smallsword and duelling saber. Some classical fencers practice rapier and smallsword. Usually (or maybe always?) done without electronic scoring.

    Sport Fencing: The sporting use of the foil, saber and epee. The emphasis is on winning a bout, not surviving a lethal encounter. Double-kill scenarios are adjudicated by who hits first. A fast, fun, and challenging sport.

    Theatrical Fencing: Fencing done for TV, movies and the stage. The emphasis is on telling a story with the fight, and protecting the actors, especially their eyes. The goal is to not hit the other fencer. Realistic technique is usually ignored. Most modern misconceptions of sword technique are the result of taking theatrical fencing (which is an art form) for swordsmanship, which is a martial art.

    Mensur fencing: Practiced in German fraternities underground. The goal to fence without moving, thus ensuring head wounds. The scars are considered a mark of distinction. Now done with protective head gear, called a pauk helm (I think), and a padded sleeve. Schlager blades used for some practice rapiers are derived from mensur blades.

    La Canne: French cane fighting. Some are sporting, some are not.

    Bartitsu: A hybrid of eastern and western fighting methods, using a cane.

    La Grande Baton: French fencing using a four foot staff. Like La Canne, it is taught as part of the Savate cirriculum.

    Jogo do Pau: Portuguese staff fighting.

    SCA fencing: Fencing in armour, scoring for hits. Emphasis is on safety and fun. Much protective gear is worn, except for their rapier fencing. Little to no "proper" technique for some, while others are accomplished swordsmen. Contact is generally heavy and hard. Historical fencing had much of its genesis in the SCA, though the two groups are now divergent. Competitors may use any weapon combination that seems fun to them. There is some crossover of membership between Historical Fencers and SCA.

    Best regards,

    -Mark
     
  7. tellner

    tellner Senior Master

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    Thank you Langenschwert! You hit the nail firmly on the head while I hit it a glancing blow to the thumb :) One correction: Bartitsu was a comprehensive form of British Ju Jutsu. It included the use of the walking stick but also wrestling, Judo, boxing and a few other bits and pieces.

    Bakxie, you're off course by at least twenty degrees. The basis of Olympic-style sports fencing is the classic French style. Spanish fencing, aka La Verdadera Destreza is a completely different animal. It's done in the round with rapier or rapier and dagger. The stance, the footwork, the handwork, the techniques and the strategies and tactics are entirely different. The historical Italian style is a bit closer to what you are familiar with but is (again) radically different, largely because it is not fenced on a straight narrow strip for the purpose of getting five points by the buzzer.
     
  8. Steel Tiger

    Steel Tiger Senior Master

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    Excellent post Langenschwert! Covers just about everything.

    I was particularly interested in the reference to bartitsu because it was listed as one of the fighting skills the Sherlock Holmes had, along with fencing and singlestick. I had always wondered what it was supposed to be. Conan Doyle spelled it Baritsu, however.
     
  9. RITFencing

    RITFencing Orange Belt

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    Actually, there are many different schools of thought for modern fencing (as many as there are coaches, it sometimes seems,) though the French one is very prevalent and can be extremely effective (I personally am a huge fan of French bladework; it's very simple, efficient and does not rely on keeping physical control of the opponent's blade. In this respect, French bladework did not change nearly as much as Italian.)

    Traditionally, the French school emphasized feints and disengages, deceiving the opponent's attempt to parry. This required fine tip control and manual dexterity, which led to the French grip as we know it today. The Italian school, however, was markedly different; it used strong blade action and physical control of the opponent's weapon, which led to the Italian grip and its riccoso, or crossbar for added power and a wrist strap for more power at the sacrifice of control. Once upon a time the French also used something called a martingale (NOT the same as an Italian wrist strap, though it is a very common mistake) to secure the fingers to the grip; this did not provide nearly the same power as the Italian method but also did not have the same impact on control. The two did in fact use very different technique, though there were certainly similarities.

    However, with the inclusion of orthopedic or "pistol" grips, fencers found that they could get more control than a French and more power than an Italian. Today in modern foil fencing, you will be extremely hard pressed to find a high level fencer who uses a French grip (I think there was one in the last 20 or so years) but you will find epeeists who do so. They do not do this for added control or "sentiment du fer" (feeling of the blade) however, but out of a desire for extra reach. They hold the weapon a few inches down the grip (also called posting or pommeling), giving up control and power for those extra inches. Ironically, this forces a bladework that is in some respects similar to old school French fencing; relying on disengages and other actions off the blade, not taking many parries. There are large technical and other tactical differences, however, due to the different nature of the game (which has become much more athletic and dynamic, and much more focussed on the footwork as opposed to the bladework over the last 30 or 40 years, and the techniue much more open to personal interpretation of the fencers and coaches) as well as the physical differences; holding the weapon by the pommel can allow a fencer to attack different lines and with different angles. Also, please note that some very successful French grip epeeists will still choke up on their weapons at times and fence more on the blade to keep an opponent guessing; this malleability of hand position makes the French an extremely versatile, though difficult to use, grip for epee.

    Does that make it superior to the pistol, though? In my opinion, not for most people. The French grip is very good for someone fencing a certain type of game and can still add a few tricks tactically when someone changes their hand position, but even held as it was originally intended it will never give the same power and control that an orthopedic does, and therefore the vast majority of competitive fencers use a pistol grip.


    Actually, fencing has a larger following in the US today than ever before, and it is still going strong in Europe, as well as gaining some hold in Asia (the Korean and Chinese teams are both very good, and a Japanese foilist named Ota is insane; I believe he's currently ranked fifth in the world in Men's Foil.)

    I would not really call most SCA stuff realistic, but I will give you "heavier." It's very difficult to create truly realistic sword fighting (Western OR Eastern) when we all know that the likelihood of getting into a fight with swords is, thankfully, fantastically rare. As far as the weaponry, many dueling swords were actually quite slim towards the end of the Renaissance as armor grew more and more obsolete. Speaking in terms of instruction, there are groups of people who purport to follow traditional sword texts, but some of them are hit and miss. There may well be some out there who train just "how it was," but I am not an expert in that field and so would feel hesitant recommending any particular group. In any case, the artificiality inherent in any sword based martial art is going to be a barrier to reality; if we really trained to defend ourselves with these things, not only would it become very unsafe in training, but it would be very impractical as the last time I checked, people don't carry swords and armor about with them in their day to day lives.

    Well, most people don't. I have a bunch of epees in my car, but I'm a professional fencing coach, so I have an excuse. :)
     
  10. bakxierboxer

    bakxierboxer Yellow Belt

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    Maybe 10 degrees.
    I didn't feel like going into the whole song and dance, leaving it at "different footwork" and "elan".

    Pete
     
  11. bakxierboxer

    bakxierboxer Yellow Belt

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    Thanks for bringing me current.

    Pete
     
  12. RITFencing

    RITFencing Orange Belt

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    My Pleasure. :)
     
  13. krieger

    krieger Yellow Belt

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    I feel dumb asking this, but is Foil, Saber, amd Epeé, part of English fencing?
     
  14. tellner

    tellner Senior Master

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    Let's say that it's the modern sport of fencing. The sport is based on the French style of classical - as opposed to historical - fencing more or less. The three weapons are descendants of the small sword, the rapier and the cavalry saber, much reduced and optimized for sport.
     
  15. RITFencing

    RITFencing Orange Belt

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    Sort of... it's an evolution of classical French and Italian fencing, which in turn is an evolution of other things. As far as the different weapons, there are various arguments of where they came from.

    I have heard cavalry sabre and northern Italian dueling sabre both listed as the ancestor of modern sabre fencing, and as far as the foil and epee, it gets even more difficult.

    The foil might be a small sword or court sword descendant, but I would consider it most likely to come from the practice swords used to train younger children and newbies, which had a safety tip called a fleur (French for flower) on the end. I think this not only because of the similarities in the names (on French produced scoring machines, the setting for foil is even labeled as "fleur") but because foil was traditionally thought of as the academic weapon, a science upon which other fencing could be based. Each weapon has since taken it's own evolutionary path, especially over the past 20 or 30 years, but many fencing clubs still start students out on the foil before allowing them to try other weapons. (Personally, I think that foil is now the most difficult weapon for a new student to pick up because the scoring rules are as complex as sabre and it is the most technically difficult of the three to land a valid touch as only the point must be used and only the back and torso are considered valid target. In sabre, it is very easy to land a valid touch becuase the edge of the weapon may be used, and in epee, the scoring rules are the simplest: if your light goes on, you get a point.)

    As far as the epee, the exact evolutionary path is probably the most difficult to ascertain since it is derived from duels to first blood. Many different types of swords were used for this, from various types of rapiers to small swords, back swords, court swords, etc, so I would hazard a guess that the modern epee is an amalgam of many things.
     
  16. geezer

    geezer Grandmaster

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    In reading through these posts, I sense a bit of a disconnect between the modern sport fencers and the historical, "martial-arts" fencers. It's a bit like listening in at the dinner table when two entirely different conversations are going on!

    I have a background in Wing Tsun and Filipino Eskrima, and just recently joined an "historical" rapier fencing club. Although the rapier fencing is done primarily as a diversion, I do find that it has bona fide martial applications. As Tellner and others have already pointed out, that is because of the looser rules. We fight on and off-line, on all kinds of terrain, with various combinations of single or double sword, sword and dagger, buckler, cape, and so forth. Under certain circumstances, grabbing the blade may be permitted, and upon closing, pommels, punches, kicks, elbows and grappling may enter into the equation. We try to keep in mind the historical approaches of Spanish, Italian and French schools of various periods, but modify the techniques and footwork to suit what works... as people most certainly did in any period! Even in our own time, I've never seen a real fight that looked like the perfect pictures of a martial-arts manual. (Check out the famous fight between Emin Boztepe and William Cheung to see what I mean).

    At any rate, the essence of my Eskrima training, is "transition" and "adaptability". Our weapons work with stick and blade translates to improvised weapons and empty hand skills. And Eskrima (at least the two systems I've trained in) owes a lot to historical Spanish blade arts. That is not to in any way discount the Filipino roots of the art. I am just saying that the systems I study are clearly a hybrid of many influences. And the fencing skills involved have very real self-defense applications. Now that I am also doing a bit of free-form rapier work, I can definitely fit some of the skills involved into the overall matrix of self-defense techniques I have already acquired. I believe that no less a figure than Bruce Lee was able to do the same with concepts from sport fencing. However, I find it even easier to make that connection with this loosely "historical" form of rapier fencing with it's more combat inclusive rules.
     
  17. Jeff Richardson

    Jeff Richardson Yellow Belt

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    With an emphasis on MOST I would agree. And, I play with the SCA fairly frequently. However the SCA is a large organization and it might be usefull to realize that some of the best historical practioners and researchers on the continent come from that very organization.

    How do you come to this conclusion? They did it historically, we do it today. The fact that there were schools all over Europe in the period of these weapons suggests that training for earnest use of these weapons was and could be done relatively safely. Add todays high quality fencing masks and things get much safer.

    We get our share of bruises and minor injuries but not any more than most traditional karate schools that train in earnest.

    Jeff
    http://duellatoria.com/
     
  18. schlager7

    schlager7 White Belt

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    If I may, one misconception which leads to the "disconnect" is the belief that modern competitive sport fencing is descended from the practices of the battlefield. Modern fencing is, instead, primarily descended from the practice taken up to prepare one to defend their honor in a duel.

    Like the duel, modern fencing has codes of allowed behavior and forbidden behavior. Like the duel, modern fencing attempts to create a level playing field in terms of weapons/eqipment used. Other aspects, like the salute before and after a bout are also derived from the etiquette of dueling.

    There is some poor, grainy footage from a 1938 newsreel of a duel in France to first blood...

    http://campechesteel.proboards15.com/index.cgi?board=duels&action=display&thread=2463
     

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