Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Good Article

I thought the below was a very good article so I want to preserve it. I'm still digesting it all myself. Even though I can't read it Escrime Passion looks like a really good magazine and like it contains many things that that leaflet American Fencing lacks.

The Maitre d'Armes Lesson

How to execute the perfect lunge

by Maitre Yann Sibille

"Action which consists in planting a leg to the ground, then extend the body from this leg by executing a movement forward with the other leg in a given direction." This is the definition of the lunge as presented by Georges Hebert in his second volume of Physical Education, virile and moral in the natural method.

It is a fundamental movement in fencing and in weightlifting which allows to stretch, a lunge is usually done forwards or backwards. In modern fencing it has the scope to get closer to the opponent in one move to touch him with a direct hit. The lunge therefore is a move which has the final goal to touch someone, contrary to a simple forward motion.

Even though it looks easy to execute, the lunge actually is a movement that requires a perfect coordination and a violent muscular effort if we want to attain the desired result: to cut the distance which separates us from our opponent to score a touch on him. The amplitude of the movement can vary according to the distance separating the lunger from the opponent, but in any case a lunge to be effective must follow certain common rules.

Deconstruction of the movement

To start with it is essential to adopt a good en garde stance and especially to have the legs correctly bent/flexed and it is crucial to be at the right measure/distance from the opponent.

1. Extend the arm with the tip threatening the opponent
What not to do: start with the legs before the point. It's the point that announces the start of the lunge. If the legs announce the movement, the result is a great loss of precision for what concerns the point. This is detrimental for epee and for foil in particular and today, with the new timings (essentially the new blocking times). An alert opponent will catch this fault and all he'll have to do is to extend his arm and to touch you in counterattack while your arm is still short (not fully extended) and before your forward foot touches the floor.

2. Advance the foot few centimeters from the floor. As you almost brush the floor with the forward foot, push on/with the back leg. Plant the heel first on the strip, then the point of the foot. It's important to keep the foot as close as possible to the surface of the strip to save time in the movement but also to help the forward displacement.
What not to do: don't lift the forward leg and then put the foot down a little further out in a vertical movement. The progression must be made parallel to the floor, and must be as quick as possible. This is also specified in the FIE glossary where the lunge is defined as an action consisting of an extension of the back leg combined with a push forward of the front leg.

3. At the conclusion of the lunge movement, the back leg must be well outstretched. The two heels must remain in the same alignment. Note that the back arm is naturally stretched along the body during the extension. What we have is a transfer of equilibrium for the upper part of the body. In the en garde position the back hand is positioned at shoulders level. At the completion of the lunge, the back hand is placed close to the back thigh. With this movement, the fencer maintains a perfect equilibrium of the upper part of the body and avoids that the back shoulder to sag.

4. The knee should be perpendicular to (over) the foot. It is not necessary to push the lunge to the extreme because it would make more difficult to recover and get back en garde in case your first attack did not score a touch. On the other side it is important that your knee is always over your foot even if you execute in the end only a half lunge.

5. The fencer must make an effort to keep his trunk straight. One must look at his opponent, not at his shoes, otherwise the upper part of the body will tend to sag/sink.

At the conclusion of the lunge, the bellgard must be at eye level while they look at the opponent.

How to prevent falling

To prevent that a beginner fencer change the line of the shoulders during the lunge movement and that he doesn't fall while losing all point control one should concentrate on several points:

- While pushing on the back leg the forward knee must be turned towards the outside. This will prevent the rest of the body to fall towards the inside and will help to keep the trunk, therefore the point in line with the target.
- Make sure to keep the contact of the back heel with the floor.
- Never lower your head during the movement.
- Keep the line of the shoulders.
If you still have the tendency to fall consult your coach. The answer may not be technical or mental but could well be physiological: a weakness in the abdominal muscles, for eaxample.

Return to the en garde position

In fencing, the return to the initial position happens rarely since very often the action is stopped because of a touch, valid or not, depending on the weapon. However, for an optimal return to the en garde position, one must push towards the front, important, but not too much. As we said earlier, the deeper the lunge and the knee forward in rapport to the foot, the harder the return to the en garde position.

A good return to the en garde position is defined by many stages:

1. Unlock the back knee
2. Push towards the back with the forward leg and bring the back arm to the en garde position
3. Shorten your arm, but do not do so in epee since it must remain outstretched in case your opponent tries to hit you while you return en garde.
4. Regain your en garde stance well flexed on your legs in case you should decide to quickly start a new action.


1. Keep your arm extended
2. Bring the back leg forwards at the same time that you return to [almost] a squat position. Don't hesitate to stay very flexed and start immediately a new lunge forwards. Usually, the second lunge goes "probing" deeper than the first one.


1. Extreme lunge, i.e., a lunge pushed to the extreme
2. Fleche after the lunge
3. Half lunge


The lunge is one of the more worked moves during basic training in fencing. It is necessary to do it over and over again and must be executed many times to correct small defects which produce a non optimal lunge. With beginners, the main defect is in the loss of equilibrium caused by the wrong placement of the knee or to an upper body not sufficiently toned or strong enough. With experienced fencer, the lunge takes place after a series of movements. It is important therefore to connect well these movements with the execution of the lunge. This becomes a job of coordination between steps, retreats, jumps forwards, sliding steps, balestra ... and the extension of the arm followed by the lunge.

To really exploit and master the lunge allow the fencer to develop a physical game and to maintain a certain distance from the opponent. The fencer "builds" his own lunging distance The amplitude/extension of the lunge is personal and depends on two fundamental parameters:the muscular tone of the back leg and the flexibility and suppleness of the adductctos. A regular work of stretching of the adductors allow increasing the amplitude of the lunge. However, a deeper lunge requires power from the front leg to go back to the en garde stance as quickly as you lunged.

Let's equally stress that equilibrium is essential for the perfect lunge to keep the point threatening the target. In fact the ultimate goal of the lunge is to touch your opponent. A correctly executed lunge which doesn't touch the opponent has not completed its mission. Without keeping his equilibrium the fencer loses point control. Lastly, a correctly executed lunge is a pleasure for the eyes and a golden opportunity for the photographers (see the lunges by B. Guyart at the Athens Olympics, of F. Jeannet, or Flessel-Colovic or Pozdniakov).

Friday, June 16, 2006

There isn't enough fiction about modern fencing...
Maybe I'll write some

Fencing, by its very nature, brings out a very powerful force in people. It is not a sport where you run or play alongside others, constantly changing direction, trying to avoid the tackle or the box-out. In fencing you are staring straight into the shining eyes of another human being and have no other option but to do so. The object of the sport will inevitably bring two clashing together, breathing one another's breath, struggling for dominance, willing the other just a little closer. To her, it was no wonder then, that precarious relationships rose and fell monthly at the club. She herself had, on occasion, eyed a long lean man in a white jacket with a quiet what-if sort of reverie. But these ideas she dismissed as rapidly as they arose. That is not what she was there for.

As the club door swung shut behind her with a bang, she was broken from such musings and tried to focus on the task at hand. There was not much activity yet, but the regulars were milling along the walls, warming up or testing equipment. She dropped her bag and herself to the floor. Tucking her chin, she concentrated hard on tying her shoes, trying to clear her mind of unnecessary clutter; there would be plenty of time for a boyfriend after the World Cup. True, she was aiming for one two years in the future, but she would need at least that long to get ready if she even wanted to break into the top 32. She began mentally ticking off the women in the Section she would need to surpass as she began to slip into her jacket, her eyes now traveling around the room carelessly.

The unlooked for glance she met caused her confusion at first. He was sitting on the opposite side of the room - at the far end of one of the strips. He seemed as surprised as she that their eyes had met, but it was a moment before he had the presence of mind to look away. Before the connection broke, her brain attempted to define the emotion behind his gaze: thoughtful? hopeful? interested? It was the last one that caused her the most consternation and all thoughts of a World Cup were diminished as the girl inside her overcame the athlete. And all the while her hands continued to work with practiced efficiency at arranging bodycords and pulling up socks, she was wondering what the long look had meant. Of course she knew him, the basics, but mainly as a teammate. She knew he was fast and strong, but was susceptible to low line shots. They had even shared quiet words on occasion about training or upcoming tournaments. But "interested", she would never have guessed.

Finding nothing left to do to get ready, she sat again, waiting for maestro to begin the practice. Naturally, she told herself, she was overreacting. Too much training and not enough socializing had put her in such a state. She chanced another look in his direction, but he was stretching and his eyes were on the floor this time. Definitely overreacting she decided, but when they were called to salute, she purposefully chose the far end of the floor, opposite him, just in case. There was a Cup to think about.

Hmm...Maybe I won't. It's a little silly I think.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Tourney Reflection v. 10

I don't mind going to Charlottesville for a tournament. It's a pleasant, not overly long drive, and though the venue is in dire need of some AC, at least you don't have to sit on someone's lap while you're waiting to fence like at the Richmond space. So Saturday morning I got up, got my iPod and a cup of hot tea to keep me company on the way and set out to fight some foil.

I should have stayed in bed.

I don't know what was wrong - I didn't feel like I was fencing poorly, but my point was just not finding the lame. I just kept telling myself (and everyone else) that it was because I've only been practicing epee for the last couple months, in preparation for Nationals. Fortunately, I did fare better in epee which almost gives that foil excuse some weight. Almost.

Sunday was C and Under epee. They actually drew up the pools, we were getting ready to fence and then...oh wait, we need to do it all over again. So they redrew the pools and I ended up with only four bouts to fence. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, since it's almost a given I will lose the first bout (which I did). But I won two after that and then lost to a kid who was six feet tall and built mainly from toothpicks. I was feeling pretty good about this showing. My spouse, who came to watch, said my fighting looked great and I believe him as he is not shy about telling me when I do NOT look great. So after waiting around for more than an hour (waiting seems to be a favorite pastime in the Virginia division) I finally got my first round DE fight. It turned out I was the higher seed - though I'm not convinced my pool was as competitive as everyone else's. But I have seen my opponent fight before and though he is mainly a foilist, he is certainly an experienced and capable fencer. It was 15 - 12 in the end, for him and I got to go home for the day (actually a relief after waiting over four hours to fight five bouts).

Overall, I am optimistic about epee, and though my to-do list titled "How to Get Better at Epee" gets longer everyday, it is clear. Though not everything on it is easily achievable.

1) Find the right balance of passivity and aggression for the opponent. I think I would've gotten a few more touches if I had been more patient.
2) Evaluate what is working and what isn't more quickly. If I could've done this in the DE, I think I could've won. He was incredibly vulnerable under his wrist and I was able to hit it about every time that I went for it.

Oh and about a thousand other things that I am too tired to think of tonight.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Lazy Update

So there are 19 teams confirmed right now for Sr. Women's Team Epee for Nationals. I don't know how this works. I'm hoping it means a round of 32 with a bunch of byes so that we don't have to fence the top rated team on our first round. I'm sure we must be seeded toward (at) the bottom since none of us are rated. But that doesn't seem to matter - everyone seems to be looking forward to our big adventure.
Atlanta Ho!