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).

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