Glossary of Terms

Bad Mistake: an error that is committed while attempting to perform an action is exacerbates a bad habit. E.g. attempting a stop cut when out of position or getting caught in quicksand. To be contrasted with a Good Mistake.

Book on the Head: movement that is done in balance such that the fencer could balance a book on their head.

Compound attack: an attack that switches target mid-way through the action as a result of the defensive moves by the opponent. Not to be confused with a feint.

Feint: attacking to a target with the intention of drawing the opponent’s blade there in defense, only to switch targets at the last movement. Not to be confused with a compound attack. In the feint, it is the intention from the beginning to switch targets, and is usually the result of an analysis of the opponent, seeing a pattern where they favour a particular action.

The First moment: the tempo in which a change happens, either a change in direction or of speed. One takes advantage of the first moment if one reacts within the first moment to this change.

Flat: a pause in momentum. When occurring on attack of the opponent:  the time when back foot moves to its advanced position forward.

Fortune Favours the Brave: A translation of the Latin proverb: audentes Fortuna iuvat. In fencing it means there is an advantage to being aggressive. Particularly in sabre, where priority is important and parries are more difficult, there is an advantage to attacking as, all other things being equal, the attacker will score the touch.

Good Mistake: an error that was committed while attempting to perform an action is is fundamentally sound. E.g. going so far back in defense that one exits the strip or waiting so long to see where an attack is going that one is late in attempting a parry. To be contrasted with a Bad Mistake.

Main Target (sabre): the main target in sabre is the head. It is the default target.

Open Eyes Attack: an attack where the target is not predetermined. The fencer attacks towards the target that they see is open in that moment.

Pinching the Distance: shortening the distance between a fencer and their opponent.

Point in line (Modern use, sabre): Extension of the sword arm and blade, such that it points directly at the opponent’s target area. Used to take away the speed of a faster opponent. More than one tempo long and never used to score.

Quicksand: the area of the strip just behind the on guard line. So called because it is often the location where fencers (particularly sabre) stop moving.

Second intention: feinting with one movement in order to draw a particular reaction from an opponent before quickly reverting to the real intention. Can be done in either attack or defense. E.g. Feinting a quart parry in sabre to draw attack to the weapon side, then quickly going back to tierce parry when the attack is launched.

Simple Trap or Inside Trap: where both feet move forward to pinch the distance between a fencer and their opponent, instigating the attack from the opponent, before moving out to a safe distance.

Note: A trap must be dangerous to be effective. It must convince the opponent to attack when thus provoked. Get too close in the trap, and you won’t be able to move out of the way when the attack comes. Don’t get close enough and it won’t provoke an attack but will give up priority.

Speed is for s***: the absolute level of speed a fencer achieves is far less important than the level of acceleration. Speed is easy to adapt to, changes in speed are not.

A Tempo: the time it takes to do one action. Tempos are relative, meaning they are smaller at higher levels of fencing, due to the higher speed at which it takes place.

Tracers Work Both Ways: a military aphorism adapted to mean when one is attacking and is close enough for the opponent to take one’s blade, one is in turn close enough to launch their attack.