Here you will find some basic terms and definitions. Please be aware that these definitions are based on how we practice and teach and may not be representative of other clubs or organizations. Some terms apply only to classical fencing, some apply only to historical and some apply to both. In addition, some of these terms represent complex concepts that are only very basically described here. We will be adding terms and definitions periodically so please check back. If there is a term missing that you would like to see listed here, please contact us.

Attack: An offensive action that threatens your opponent enough that he must prevent your attack from succeeding or be hit.

Cavatzione: Similar to the degage, or disengage, in classical fencing, a cavatzione is a device used for changing lines in which you move your blade around your opponent’s.

Classical Fencing: Classical fencing includes foil, epee, and sabre. It approaches these weapons from a martial perspective in that each hit is evaluated to see if it would have done actual damage if the weapon were sharp.

Corps a Corps: When your guard or body touches your opponent’s guard or body. In classical foil, corps a corps halts the action.

Counterparry: In classical fencing, a parry executed with a circular motion that serves to either deliberately change lines or because the lateral parry failed.

Cut: A cut is an attack executed using the edge of the blade, in weapons designed for cutting.

Degage/Disengage: In classical foil, this is an evasive action on the attack (trompement) where one avoid’s his opponent’s blade by moving into a different line.

Derobement: An evasive action while defending. (See also: counterparry, trompement)

Etude: A predetermined set of actions, similar to a kata or military parade.

Flat: An invalid hit. Flats can be scrapes, lay ons, bad angles, or any other hit that had sufficient force but would not have done sufficient damage if the weapon were sharp.

Footwork: Specific actions of the feet for use in fencing. Some types of footwork include but are not limited to: advance, retreat, lunge, cross step, chasing step, passing step, volte, incartada, pasada soto, crouching stop-hit, and ballestra.

HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts): Historical martial arts originating in Europe.

Light: An invalid hit that may be placed appropriately but lacks sufficient force to do any real damage, if the sword were sharp.

Manual/Treatise: Historical sources written by individuals who lived and taught at a time when their art was an unbroken and/or living tradition.

Master: Because there is no unbroken tradition of WMA, we recognize only historical masters. They include individuals who were identified as masters in primary source literature, recognized by the nobility and attached to their court, operated fencing academies of their own, or were tested and certified by a fencing guild.

Octave: In the classical foil supinated lines of attack, the low outside line. Pronunciation: ock-tav

Parry: An action executed with your weapon that prevents your opponent’s attack from hitting you. There are other methods for avoiding your opponents attack that do not use your weapon, such as body evasion.

Pronation: The “overhand” hand position where the thumb is positioned anywhere from 9 o’clock to 11 o’clock. Not suitable for beginners.

Quarte:  In the classical foil supinated lines of attack, the high inside line. Pronunciation: kart

Riposte: An attack executed immediately after a parry.

Septime:  In the classical foil supinated lines of attack, the low inside line. Pronunciation: sep-teem

Sixte:  In the classical foil supinated lines of attack, the high outside line. Pronunciation: see-s

Sport Fencing: The competitive sport of fencing which includes lighter, electrified versions of foil, epee, and saber. This is the type of fencing you would see in the Olympics and is not what we practice at SIF.

Supination: The “underhanded” hand position, where the thumb is anywhere from the 1 o’clock to 3 o’clock position.

Thrust: An attack executed with the point of the weapon, thrust directly into the body.

Trompement: An evasive action while attacking. (See also: degage/disengage, derobement)

WMA (Western Martial Arts): Historical martial arts originating in the western world. This term encompasses Historical European Martial Arts, as well as arts that are excluded from the term HEMA because of the geographic distinction of “European,”

"Although some of these actions may seem difficult to perform, none the less you should take care to practice them well, as all aid a man who heeds the points, lines, times, and measure that ultimately govern this activity."
Camillo Agrippa