Fencing has the Greatest Footwork!

Mark Lynn

Master Black Belt
Apr 21, 2003
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Roanoke TX USA
Kenpodoc said:
I wondered why no other martial art has the killer footwork of fencing.

Back on topic. I think that American Kenpo does include the "killer" footwork" of fencing. I'm sure other arts do also. When I started EPAK I noticed that the footwork I had learned fencing was included and expanded on. I don't think that the footwork is unique, it's just that there are only so many ways to move your feet. Kenpo did systemetize the footwork and provide the language to describe your movement.


I agree here with Jeff

Granted I only took fencing for a period of about 6 months with my son so I have very limtied experience with it. But I thought the "stances" were real similar to what I learned in Japanese style of karate (Americanized version of Wado influenced by a shotokan instructor).

Both the elongated back stance (T stance) and the stance used for lunging which was real similar to zenkutsudachi (please forgive my bastardized spelling). The feet position for the Back stance was the same really for the Americanized TKD I took as well only the bodies center was moved backwards towards the rear foot instead of more towards the center in the Wado and fencing footwork.

The same thing is present in many other forms of martial arts look at the backstance in Modern Arnis and it's real similar as well, just different weight distribution. And you have the lung aspect in the diving throw or your thrusts with the knife (Modern Arnis example again).



Orange Belt
May 31, 2007
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Bay Area, CA
Speaking as a professional fencing instructor (a friend on MT got me to join once she found that they had a fencing subforum. Hello to everyone, by the way) footwork in fencing requires and builds a tremendous sense of balance, foot discipline, sense of distance, leg strength, lightness of feet, sense of tempo, timing, speed and acceleration.

That being said, it does not directly translate well to any sort of fist fight or other activity where there is a great deal of lateral movement (there is lateral movement in fencing, but not a great deal of it. The focus, as was mentioned above, is on forward and backward motion) or where there are methods of attack that do not involve something at least tokenly similar to a fencing weapon.

Fencing footwork, like just about everything else in fencing, especially modern Olympic style fencing, is highly specialized and while it requires many of the same qualities as another combat sport or martial art (I think my list above is a good wish list for someone developing their footwork in any sort of martial activity) it expresses those in a way that is very good for fencing, and not necessarily for other things. As such, it can be an excellent cross training tool for those wishing to develop these qualities, but should not be taken as a technical foundation.

As far as fencing's relationship to Jeet Kune Do, I'm not going to make the same tired statements that so many dabblers post on the forums at fencing.net, and I'm sure appear from time to time here. I will, however, add what I know from my own experience: An old coach of mine made The Tao of JKD required reading for me because of the fencing specific parts of it. Not things about fighting that are adapted from fencing or which could be adapted to fencing, but things describing tempo, attacks, counter attacks, distance, etc in fencing terminology. I have never studied Jeet Kune Do, and I stopped doing various eastern martial arts when they started to interfere with my fencing, so I will not say to what degree things were influenced by his exposure to fencing. I have seen people with heavy eastern martial arts backgrounds come to fencing and become much better for the cross training, again primarily because of the footwork, but also because of the keen senses of distance and tempo (both hand and foot tempo) as well as the tight timing required and encouraged by it.

To end my tangent before I start talking about things I know effectively nothing about, and continue where I DO know something, there are many different schools of thought within fencing as far as the footwork is concerned, both with the use (the proper time, distance and tactical situation) and execution (tempo, speed, form) of certain techniques. If one were to look at, say, the Polish National Team vs the Russians vs the Hungarians vs. the Germans vs. the French vs. the Italians, one would see six (or more!) distinct different sets of footwork, each of which can be very effective on an international level. One thing I have learned in my time fencing for different coaches, teaching different students and observing fencing from very bad local high school teams to olympic gold medal bouts is that there is definitely not one unified "Fencing." There isn't even a unified "Foil Fencing," "Epee Fencing," "Sabre Fencing," or even "Aladar Kogler's 18 year old students at the New York Athletic Club" fencing. Especially at a high level, each fencer and coach has their own interpretation of things, from as abstract as the proper moment to steal distance from an opponent who is trying to use their footwork to prepare an attack to how one should stand in their on guard position. Each variation has many subtle plusses and minusses that the fencers learn about and adopt or abandon over the years as they develop their own style of fencing, which tends to be influenced not only by the coaches and fencers that they train with, but also their own personality and preferred tactics.

Sorry if I wrote a book there, but that's what happens when you get fencers, especially coaches, talking about footwork.

Thunder Foot

Purple Belt
Jul 26, 2006
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L.A., CA
The stance does need to be modified for the following reasons:

1) the groin is open if the lead foot is pointing straight ahead ( a little turn inward does the trick
2) since the rear hand is not part of the offense in fencing (really only used for balance) you need to bring the rear shoulder, hip and foot out and forward a bit to make them accessible
3) the manner in which fencers hold their head, and thus their chin, needs to be changed when impact matters

What fencing does bring to your fighting is absent in most other martial arts, namely control of timing, tempo and distance. Many martial artists just stand in front of each other and trade punches, hoping that they either can miraculously block more or have a stronger chin than their opponent. Fencing's lunge and fencing measure concept offer its exponents a means to safely use distance and the threat of a stop hit to avoid this problem. Furthermore, fencing has developed in such a manner that quick, efficient offense by virtue of econmic, gap-closing tactics is a staple of the sport. Not wading in rhythmically, but explosive forward movement. The contrast between a well executed lunge and the simple shuffle step advance employed by most martial artists is staggering.

Regarding body positioning, many martial artists today stand too square and offer up too much of their body as a target. This tidbit was first expressed by boxers I trained with and then affirmed by my fencing training; why present more target surface area than necessary?

It seems that fencings linear footwork combined with boxings lateral and circuluar footwork is a hard combination to beat.

Analogous to Bruce Lee's thoughts in many of his notes! The JKD stance is much more sideways than most other arts out there, and that's to present less target surface area and to give structural alignment advantage to use of the lead and and foot. Bruce believed in putting the strong side forward and deduced that most of the striking would be done with this side due to it's advantageous position of being close to the opponent. Its these ideologies in which many of his students agree he adopted from fencing.