The Epee

Basically, epee originates from the duelling sword and so therefore, the whole body is the target. The scoring is also different to foil in that when both fencers hit at the same time, it is recorded as a double hit.

Epee was first introduced into the Olympic games of 1900, held in Paris. The year 1908 saw Team Epee introduced into the London Olympics. In 1936 the Electrical Scoring System was used first at the Berlin Olympics.

Basics

The basics of epee differ from those of foil. Although in Britain fencers start on foil then transfer to epee, in Europe, it is epee first and last. The stance (on guard position) needs to be correct to protect against any direct attack to the advanced target, that is the arm. The stance also needs to be shorter than at foil.

The front knee is not so bent (so as to avoid attacks to the knee), and body-weight is on the balls of the feet, not on the heels as in foil. The body is upright, and the sword arm further extended, but relaxed. The forearm is well covered by the guard and the hand is slightly in supination, that is thumb at one o’clock, point slightly below opponent’s guard (octave position).

When practising epee, imagine you have a torch and keep the beam directed to the hand at all times. The result of this is that the guard protects the arm, the point, body and legs, and dérobements can also easily be performed.

Common faults in practising epee are as follows:

  • Body-weight too far forward.
  • Body-weight on back leg.
  • Stance too large.
  • Too half of body leaning forward.
  • Wrist bent as in foil, showing hand and forearm. Sword-arm too extended, causing tightening of shoulder.

The measure is different from that of foil:

  1. Long distance: advanced target (hand, wrist and forearm).
  2. Middle distance: knee or foot.
  3. Short distance: normal foil distance (the body)

Footwork

Duels in films show that footwork must be very mobile in order to hit on different parts of the body, and to avoid being hit.

Attacks

As at foil, the lunge and also the fleche are used at epee. With the fleche, an attack can be made from a long distance and, with a taking of the blade in high sixte to the body, leaves no room for a dérobement.

The Half-Lunge

The half-lunge is a useful method of provoking your opponent instead of a feint with a step. With this provocation, a compound movement can be executed. It is imperative in all attacks to have the arm behind the guard.

Return to guard either with the rear foot or front foot, is done with the arm extended and the point threatening the opponent’s arm. If these movements are followed by a lunge, it is a reprise. In order to hit the various parts of the target, the epeeist should make use of simple or compound attacks, with or without preparations.

Firstly, straight thrust or disengage to the advanced target or with angulation. Secondly, simple attacks to the body by straight thrust or disengage. Looking at the technique straight thrust at the wrist or forearm, on top, below, outside and inside, or disengage to the following places mentioned above. Make sure in all cases you are covered before lunging. If the opponent is well covered it is necessary to use a preparation.

Angulation Attacks

This is usually made at forearm or wrist and is a movement designed as a straight thrust with the final part angulated, getting the point over and moving the hand out of the way of the opponent, as the top of the hand is higher than the point. Underneath, the hand is lower than the point. For angulation outside arm, the hand finishes in pronation. For angulated hits on the inside, the hand finishes in supination.

Angulated attacks are recommended to fencers who have an extended arm. A sharp beat could help an angulated attack to succeed. For instance, beat quarte hit inside; beat tierce hit underneath.

Compound Attacks

These are attacks with two or more periods of fencing time. One with compound attacks. Next, attacks on withdrawal of the hand. As at foil, compound attacks deceive one or more parries. With the withdrawal of the hand, use offensive actions with one or more feints, finishing with a straight thrust as the opponent withdraws his hand.

When doing compound movements with one feint, you either finish at the most advanced target. the medium target or, finally, the body. if two feints are used. you would finish with the point at the body. Attacks made on the opponent’s withdrawal of his hand finish either at the advanced target or at the body.

At epee, feints that are commonly used are simple, straight thrust or disengage; compound, one-two, double. top and below or below top. Feints are co-ordinated with opponent’s engagement(s). Good leg action is necessary for the success of these attacks. All feints are combined with steps on half lunges and preparation must be careful, otherwise a counter offensive will score.

Finger play is important because any movement of the arm will uncover the target. therefore making it vulnerable to a counter attack and in compound attacks it is best to deceive the parries.

At epee, there is a greater appreciation of fencing measure compared to foil, owing to the advanced target.

In coaching the movement, the coach should find it easier to give the reality of actual combat.

Defence

The épéeist should adopt an offensive defensive action concentrating on point thrusts. Except in long attacks where the foil parry can be used, it is chiefly parry riposte combine, that is opposition with the guard-riposte. Basically, the premier parries are ones that deflect the blade to the outside in sixte, counter sixte, octave and counter octave. The secondary parries are quarte, counter quarte, septime, prime and seconde. Prime is useful for prises de fer in sixte.

Whilst the short parry (used against long attacks) is identical to the foil, the long parry needs different techniques. There is more emphasis on the point action and it should also be executed with extension of the arm while at the same time retreating. Parries can be circular, semi-circular or direct. They can be done with opposition or ceding.

Against compound attacks use successive parries: sixte, counter-sixte, counter sixte-quarte.

Beat Parries

Depending on the position of the opponent‘s point, beat parries are made higher or lower than the hand. Without displacing the hand. beat sharply on the extended blade and riposte quickly to wrist or forearm. The riposte can be done with angulation so as to avoid the remise.

With short parries, as used in foil, parries must be executed with opposition. Limit the hand movement it you do move after the blade. With long parries, the coach’s attacks should be made to hit and at correct fencing measure in order to get the pupil to execute correct opposition parries.

Ceding Parries

Ceding parries are used against prise defer actions which divert the blade into another line than intended. Ceding parries are mostly done in prime or low quarte. When the opponent takes the blade which is extended when it is deeply committed, cede with the blade either into low quarte or prime, then riposte. When this movement is going well, the coach can do a counter-time action, draw a stop hit and take the blade for the pupil to cede. A variation can be counter-time on a derobement.

Ripostes

At epee, the fencer can score with stop hits with opposition (extended parries), while the foil fencer cannot. There are two ripostes: those that follow beat parries and those that follow foil parries. Ripostes should be done with a prise de ferto avoid the remise; chiefly the croisé or opposition. If the point is past the target, disengage under after a high sixte.

If the opponent retires, oppositions and binds are preferable.

After a Ceding Parry – After low quarte, direct the point either to under arm or croisé to flank with a step forward.

With prime straight riposte to thigh or body, direct the point before finishing with a step forward.

Preparations at Epee

All actions that assist in the culmination of the attack are called preparations: leg movements, blade movements or a combination of both. Foot movements, as mentioned in the foil section on pages 37-8, plus the half lunge.

Sword-Arm Preparations

Engagements, actions on the blade, feints, false attacks, invitations with absence of blade. Leg and arm movements can be coordinated. These can be executed with a beat preceding a step forward; a beat with a step forward; or a beat after the step forward. A beat with a step forward can also be done on the front foot or back foot. Three examples of offensive action are:

Step/Lunge – When the attacker starts to withdraw his arm point high, the opponent beats quarte, followed by a feint with step at the hand on top, as the attacker retires, follow with a straight thrust with a lunge.

Step/Fléche – On guard, feint low, beat septime, it attacker dérobes, take sixte opposition with a step, follow with either an extension, lunge or finish with a fleche.

Halt-Lunge/Lunge – Beat quarte, followed by a feint and half-lungs to top of the forearm. The attacker counter-attacks at inside of arm, you do a bind to octave to the thigh or body.

With all these preparations, many variations can be achieved by using just a step/lunge. step/fleche, finally half-lunge/lunge. There is plenty of work to be done before you need to think of advanced epee.

Counter-Attacks

A counter-attack can be offensive or offensive-defensive. It can be simple or compound, with or without footwork. Simply, it can be done without the blade or with opposition.

Counter-attacks without the blade can be divided into stop hits ordérobements, simple or compound. The stop hit is executed by extending the arm on an attack, either straight or with angulation. To keep fencing measure to the extended target, it is usually combined with a step backward. This movement can also be done with an evasion of the target: inquatata. A stop hit can be made with counter disengage or in counter-time.

Dérobement

You have your sword-arm extended on attempt to contact the blade. With use of your fingers dérobe, or even do two successive dérobements. Counter-attacks are made at all positions of the arm: top, below, inside or outside.

Counter-Time

Counter-time or second intention is really a defensive-offensive movement on a counterattack.

First there is the preparation, then the parry of the opponent’s counter-attack and last the riposte. You can make the invitation either by hand, or foot, or a combination of both. The parry used can be opposition, or beat; the opposition parry controls the blade. The riposte by prise de fer is preferable.

A sense of distance is needed with counter-time, as you should not be hit with the counter-attack. A good practice is for the coach to make either negative actions or positive actions, depending on the pupil’s distance. The parry is done with the arm extending and the prise defer begun without stopping, but make sure the parry comes before the riposte and the prise de fer is not large. The counter-time can be parried and the attacker can then do a renewed attack.

Renewals

At epee, renewed attacks can be either offensive or counter-offensive.

The Remise

The remise is a replacing of the point in the same line of the parry. The redouble finishes in the opposite line or in the same line; there is no withdrawing of the arm. The remise is done on a straight thrust on the use of indirect riposte or after a compound attack, the use of successive parries.

The Redouble

This is done by disengage or two disengages. These movements can be done on a halt-lunge, lunge with a reprise (forward or backward) with a fleche, returning to guard, or from the on guard position. With all lessons, the coach must make sure the pupil returns to on guard covered, correctly making him counter-attack, followed either by remise or redouble. This can be done by the coach threatening the target.

Distance is an important factor. Counter-attack as coach advances, in continuation, so the pupil reprises. In getting the pupil to reprise only, the coach should step back during the lunge. If the coach goes too soon, the pupil will do a step lunge. Angulated hits in epee should only be taught when the pupil has sufficient expertise.

Attacks on the Blade (Preparations)

The Prise de Fer

Reference has already been made to prises de fer either in attack or defence but be cause of the advance target and the use of the counter-attack, the control of the blade is more important at épée. At epee, the use of prises defer is done with a straightening arm because of the long distance; also, the blade should remain in a straight line with that of the forearm.

Points to look out for – Arm and leg co-ordination. Use of too large a movement in trying to gather the prise de fer. Lack of opposition at the finish of the movement.

When attacking, use prise de fer mostly in opposition and bind, finishing outside sixte and octave against a right-handed opponent

Ripostlng – Riposting is used a great deal to avoid the danger of remise. For riposting, oppositions and croisé are used. It is dangerous to do a bind from septime to sixte or from quarte to octave since you are drawing his point across the body. Against a left-hander the opposite action is used.

The prise de fer should be done when the Opponent’s sword is extending, because if extended, there is a greater chance of a dérobement. To gain control, the forte must trap the foible or top of the guard. If not, there is a chance of losing the opponent’s point. The movement must be completed before lunging or fleching.

At épée attacks on the blade are either:

  1. To open the target.
  2. To provoke a reaction.
  3. To notice negative response.

Attacks can be made on the above preparations, either with the sword-arm extended for classical attacks or slightly bent for angulated attacks. Beats used are quarte and septime. Tierce and seconde, although strong, to uncover the forearm.

Pressures push the Opponent’s foil aside, followed by a simple attack, direct or indirect, but seldom compound, because of the counter attack.

The Froissement

This is a sharp displacement of the opponent’s blade controlling it from foible to the forte. When against an opponent with a largely extended arm, only do the froissement from tierce and seconde. If you do not control the blade sufficiently, opposition can be applied to your blade, also a dérobement can be effected.

With attacks on the blade, you must develop finger play and arm and leg co-ordination. The coach can ensure that the beat is done on the last part of the footwork before the lunge to verify the balance of the pupil. Do a dérobement; if unbalanced, you will go on to the coach’s point.

Be careful when doing attacks on the blade: ensure that actions are not too large with the hand or forearm and that you do not push too far after engaging the blade. Be sure that the attack follows immediately after the attack on the blade.

In practice, the pupil must find the target and this should not be made too easy. He must be made to learn to seize the slightest opportunity afforded him.

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