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Thread: Russian Grips

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    Just Joined Woopmonkeyman's Avatar
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    Russian Grips

    Well, as the title may imply, I have a rather general question about the Russian grip. Well, first of all I have only ever fenced using a French Grip, and am looking for something a tad different. One of my friends said a Russian Grip might be good for me, but i'm not completely sure about his mental state if ya' cath my drift Anyways, been Fencing for a little under 2 years now, I have faster reflexes than most people in my Fencing Club (in fact, most people I know...), and am left handed (if that matters) . Any personal experience with one of them would be appreciated, but simple knowledge is fine too.

    Thanks in Advance
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    Posting Hound Go? Fencing?'s Avatar
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    Find someone who has one, or go to a tournament where there's a vendor, and try it out for yourself- that's really the only way to know if a grip works for you.

  3. #3
    Senior Member CvilleFencer's Avatar
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    There are very good reasons that the Belgian and Visconti are by far the most common grips in fencing. They work. Russian grips tend to lead to thugish fencing, heavy parries and the like. They do not encourage subtle finger play and tend to make it way to easy to use to much wrist. There are exceptions to every rule, but I would stay away from the Russian, most of the Zivkivics and any other "trendy" grip out there that a lot of fencers try even though they have gotten the same advice I just gave you from other fencers and coaches. It almost seems like having a handful of grips that you thought were nifty at one point and came to realize they don't meet the needs of a higher level game later on is some sort of fencing right of passage...

    Decide if you would rather go with a visconti or a Belgian (talk to your coach about the attributes on each), find a size that feels good in your hand and then go one size down. Also, make sure you are using a pistol grip with your fingers. You do not wrap your hands around them. I see this mistake all the time. You should be manipulating the grip with your fingers and not the wrist hand very much at all. What I tend to tell my fencers is that if don't see daylight between your palm and the grip when looking at it from above, you need to adjust your grip. If you have freakishly small hands, caveats apply...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woopmonkeyman View Post
    Well, as the title may imply, I have a rather general question about the Russian grip. Well, first of all I have only ever fenced using a French Grip, and am looking for something a tad different. One of my friends said a Russian Grip might be good for me, but i'm not completely sure about his mental state if ya' cath my drift Anyways, been Fencing for a little under 2 years now, I have faster reflexes than most people in my Fencing Club (in fact, most people I know...), and am left handed (if that matters) . Any personal experience with one of them would be appreciated, but simple knowledge is fine too.

    Thanks in Advance
    I agree that Russians are a bad idea. I mean the grips; the people themselves are great.

    However, I once went to fencing camp and my coach used a Russian grip with the top prong sawed off, so it was essentially a French grip with a right angle in it to provide more support.

    I don't know if you'll want to start sawing grips apart when you're not sure what you want yet, but it's something to think about.

    You might like the Belgian over the Visconti; it seems to me that the way you hold it is a bit closer to the French.

  5. #5
    Senior Member keropie's Avatar
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    Go find a vendor. Pick up a few different grips at the booth the play with. Try some that are mounted on weapons. Find one you like. Move down one or two sizes from that, and you'll probably have a reasonable grip For some reason, everyone seems to want huge grips ><
    ^^

  6. #6
    Senior Member Beloit Fencer of Old's Avatar
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    Lots of great advice above. I have to second (or third or fourth) the opinion to avoid the Russian grip. I fenced with one for a couple of years after college, and it set me back in my fencing for sure. But I can give an enthusiastic vote for the Italian Visconti over the Belgian. The Belgian (which I used for a couple of year in college) can tend to float in your hand unless you are REALLY USING IT THE RIGHT WAY...which is thumb and forefinger holding the grip, the three remaining digits (assuming you haven't had any shop accidents) only "aiding" in holding the grip. I personally love the Italian Visconti with a flat top where the thumb goes...TCA used to make one, but I'm not sure if they still do...which helps to keep you from wielding the grip like a club.

    Also, as mentioned above, go small on the grip. Trust us on this.

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    Senior Member VorpalCat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CvilleFencer View Post
    There are very good reasons that the Belgian and Visconti are by far the most common grips in fencing. They work. Russian grips tend to lead to thugish fencing, heavy parries and the like. They do not encourage subtle finger play and tend to make it way to easy to use to much wrist. There are exceptions to every rule, but I would stay away from the Russian.
    Interestingly enough (to me), I fence with Russians instead of a more 'standard' pistol grip because I found the opposite was true for me: with the other pistols, I found my game getting broad and heavy, despite maintaining a light, open grip. With the Russian grip, my fencing stayed in my fingers and was more light and agile. As Cville said, exceptions exist so just something to keep in mind. (Of course, now he's got me wondering what would happen if I gave the Belgian another go. )

    Quote Originally Posted by CvilleFencer View Post
    Also, make sure you are using a pistol grip with your fingers. You do not wrap your hands around them. I see this mistake all the time. You should be manipulating the grip with your fingers and not the wrist hand very much at all. What I tend to tell my fencers is that if don't see daylight between your palm and the grip when looking at it from above, you need to adjust your grip.
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    Just Joined Woopmonkeyman's Avatar
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    Pretty much avoid the Russian Grip and look at either Visconti or Belgium? I'll look into those, thanks guys. Also, what is better about a smaller grip? do they make you faster or something?
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  9. #9
    Senior Member restlesscheese's Avatar
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    They are easier to hold, and hence give you more control over the weapon, methinks. They also alleviate the grip of death problem. Someone else could explain it better. (Or more correctly)
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    That Guy Craig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by keropie View Post
    For some reason, everyone seems to want huge grips ><
    I see this alot. People grab a grip and it fits nicely in their hand and they say "AHa, this is the grip for me". The problem is that the grip fills their hand, leaving no room for the fingers to do the work. The result: actions made with the wrist and when that gets tired they start making parries and disengages from the elbow.

    You want to be able to hold the grip with your thumb and forefinger and be able to move the grip around in your hand with just those two fingers. It should be comfortable but not fill the hand.

    Craig

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    Quote Originally Posted by CvilleFencer View Post
    There are very good reasons that the Belgian and Visconti are by far the most common grips in fencing. They work. Russian grips tend to lead to thugish fencing, heavy parries and the like. They do not encourage subtle finger play and tend to make it way to easy to use to much wrist.
    Quote Originally Posted by mrbiggs View Post
    I agree that Russians are a bad idea. I mean the grips; the people themselves are great.
    Quote Originally Posted by Beloit Fencer of Old View Post
    Lots of great advice above. I have to second (or third or fourth) the opinion to avoid the Russian grip. I fenced with one for a couple of years after college, and it set me back in my fencing for sure.
    I strongly disagree with all the above statements about the Russian handle. I've fenced with several different styles of pistol grip, and the Russian handle is far and away the one that lets me use my fingers the most. It's like a French handle with the option of a little mechanical assistance when needed. It felt a bit clunky in my hand the first time I held it, but I quickly got over that when I saw and felt how well it worked for me.

    By contrast, I can barely even hold a Visconti for very long without doing damage to my hand. Obviously, there are a lot of people who swear by them, so it's clear that everybody's different and you have to try the various types of handle -- in different sizes -- yourself. I can't fathom how the Zivkovic handle could let you be anything but "fisty", but I have a friend who swears it improves his point control. <shrug>

  12. #12
    Senior Member CvilleFencer's Avatar
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    Well, as counterintuitive as it is to want a grip that is "less comfortable", there are a couple of reasons it is the right answer. The first is that you should control the finer manipulation of the weapon with your fingers, not your wrist, hand or arm. If you have a big ol' comfy grip that you can wrap your hand all the way around, you know like a "pistol grip" on a real pistol, then you are going to do so and will be using your wrist and whole arm. As a direct result you will have a very hard time mastering subtle and small coupes, disengages and softer/sneakier bladework.

    The second reason to avoid a big ol' comfy grip you can get your whole hand around is that, well, it is comfy and you can get your whole hand around it. As you have probably noticed, fencing uses a lot of muscles in new and interesting ways compared to any other way you have probably every used them before. Your fingers (unless you are a strings musician, masseuse or something of the like) are not used to moving the way that they need to for really good point control and weapon manipulation nor are they strong enough, at least at first. If you have a big grip that your hand fit's readily into they will never have to learn and build up that muscle memory and strength because you will be working from the wrist/arm.

    Fine bladework uses the fingers very much and is not unlike playing and instrument. Learning to play the violin or guitar is not a comfortable or easy thing. Much easier to just play the air guitar or direct an imaginary string section with your pencil. Learning proper hand/finger position and bladework/accuracy is sort of similar, at least in my mind. A smaller, less comfortable grip forces you to use your fingers more and keeps you more aware of what you are doing.

    There may be other reasons also, but those are the two big ones for me...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goldgar View Post
    I strongly disagree with all the above statements about the Russian handle. I've fenced with several different styles of pistol grip, and the Russian handle is far and away the one that lets me use my fingers the most. It's like a French handle with the option of a little mechanical assistance when needed. It felt a bit clunky in my hand the first time I held it, but I quickly got over that when I saw and felt how well it worked for me.

    By contrast, I can barely even hold a Visconti for very long without doing damage to my hand. Obviously, there are a lot of people who swear by them, so it's clear that everybody's different and you have to try the various types of handle -- in different sizes -- yourself. I can't fathom how the Zivkovic handle could let you be anything but "fisty", but I have a friend who swears it improves his point control. <shrug>
    I wasn't trying to say that it's bad for everyone. It's just that most fencers prefer a Belgian or Visconti.

    Odds are that he won't like the Russian.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrbiggs View Post
    I wasn't trying to say that it's bad for everyone. It's just that most fencers prefer a Belgian or Visconti.

    Odds are that he won't like the Russian.
    I wonder how many fencers have even tried more than one type of handle. When I first picked up a pistol grip, I used a Belgian, because that was what my coach used. It wasn't until years later that I tried any other handle, and that was only because I needed to borrow someone else's weapon. But I preferred the Russian handle the first time I fenced with it -- though I still use Belgian grips on my foils, because ... well ... I don't know why. Historical reasons, I guess.

    Anyway, I don't dispute that the majority of foil fencers use Belgian or Visconti. I'd guess the Visconti is the most popular handle style. But I don't know that any natural superiority of the handle is behind that, because I don't think most fencers really try a variety of handles.

  15. #15
    Senior Member piste off's Avatar
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    To discount the Russian grip out of hand (sorry, about that) is foolish.

    I agree completely with Goldgar's assessment - in fact before this thread I assumed it was common knowledge that the Russian was the pistol grip with the most freedom in fingering. Why did I think that? Partly because I studied for years under Lajos Csiszar and he felt that, and knowbody stessed the importance of fingering (in particular the thumb) more than him.

    But if you think about it... this should not be a revelation. The Belgian has the prong underneath that in my experience hinders fine movement. The Italian Visconti has groves which guide the hand to a specific postion (although this is what I use primarily today, and can use it only after years with the french and emphasis on fingerplay).

    Except for the "horn" on top (which some people chop off), the Russian is like a shorter version of a dog-legged french (e.g. Fabrice Jennett).

    I'd also take exception to the "go smaller" school of thought (been there). In the end, go with what is comfortable - and each person's hand is different (I still can't understand those folks that use German visconti's as they feel to me to be "half a grip"). My hands are huge, and I can only use french or XL pistol (Italian Visconti or Russian).

    You also don't have to "see daylight" when you are holding the grip. This is not to suggest having a death-grip, but you can be firm yet finger as well (some liken it to "holding an egg"). Try having a loose grip when fencing someone like Jan Viviani and you will not see daylight, you'll see stars.

    Rick
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    Senior Member MyrddinsPrecint's Avatar
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    One of the things that DRIVES ME CRAZY is the fact that pretty much every pointy-weapon member of my team has a grip that's bigger than their hand, and holds it in death grip. ......... And because I "fence sabre", I'm mostly ignored on this front.

    Is there any way that I, as a sabre fencer, could actually convince team members to try a smaller grip?

  17. #17
    Senior Member piste off's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MyrddinsPrecint View Post
    One of the things that DRIVES ME CRAZY is the fact that pretty much every pointy-weapon member of my team has a grip that's bigger than their hand, and holds it in death grip. ......... And because I "fence sabre", I'm mostly ignored on this front.

    Is there any way that I, as a sabre fencer, could actually convince team members to try a smaller grip?
    I don't believe the answer is going smaller. It is in getting them to use the grip properly.

    You made me think of something. I am primarily an epee fencer, but my early Maestro and college coach were both saber fencers. I routinely took saber lessons to loosen the arm and practice fingering. Particularily on the latter, the more I think about it I don't think the "pointy" weapons are as good at helping develop fingering. Saber teaches you to roll the fingers, squeeze and pulse when necessary and really put emphasis on the thumb. More so then using the french in my opinion.

    Perhaps getting them to experiment with Saber (at least in lessons) would be a better route. I know this might be heresy to some, but they will be better fencers for it.

    Rick
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  18. #18
    Senior Member CvilleFencer's Avatar
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    I have used just about every type of grip there is out there, including the Russian. Most fencers I know who have been fencing a while have played around with different grips for that matter. I can get some finger play out of a Russian, because I understand the concept and application of proper finger play. It is still limited since the Russians are just very, very large (and heavy) for most people.

    I am sure that coach (insert name with lots of consonants here) who starts off from the beginning teaching proper finger play and viciously attacks a Russian grip with a saws all to turn it into something else, could teach fingering on (something like) a Russian grip. Also, an experienced fencer coming over to a Russian from some other grip once they have learned how to hold a grip properly to begin with may be able to do quite well. Also people missing a finger or two, people with arthritic or freakish large hands that just can't wrap them around a proper grip and people from Mars with only three digits on each hand may have better luck with a Russian.

    However for a line of thought along "My coach or club does not put much thought or emphasis on grip selection (since I am looking on a forum instead of asking my coach after a private lesson) and considering that I will probably be mostly on my own figuring out how to use/hold/manipulate said grip, what would be some good options?" The answer to that line of thought is not go buy an Absolute Russian grip (obscenely large grips!) cause they are just the greatest thing ever if you can't hold a normal grip, have a coach that is despatical about teaching in depth fingering technique on odd grips and want to never be able to borrow a weapon from a friend if your weapons go out at a tourney.

    Some people will do well or even excel with oddball grips like the Russian, some Zivkivics, the "American" or any of a handful of other darkhorse style grips. I think you will find that those people who do well with them have had good coaching and/or went to them for a specific reason after using a standard grip. However, and this is a fun little game for the doubters, walk around a Div 1A NAC and watch or ask the fencers to learn two things: 1: How many decent fencers use oddball grips? 2: How many decent fencers use grips that are to big for their hands? You may find the answers interesting.
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    Senior Member erooMynohtnA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by piste off View Post
    To discount the Russian grip out of hand (sorry, about that) is foolish.

    I agree completely with Goldgar's assessment - in fact before this thread I assumed it was common knowledge that the Russian was the pistol grip with the most freedom in fingering. Why did I think that? Partly because I studied for years under Lajos Csiszar and he felt that, and knowbody stessed the importance of fingering (in particular the thumb) more than him.

    But if you think about it... this should not be a revelation. The Belgian has the prong underneath that in my experience hinders fine movement. The Italian Visconti has groves which guide the hand to a specific postion (although this is what I use primarily today, and can use it only after years with the french and emphasis on fingerplay).

    Except for the "horn" on top (which some people chop off), the Russian is like a shorter version of a dog-legged french (e.g. Fabrice Jennett).

    I'd also take exception to the "go smaller" school of thought (been there). In the end, go with what is comfortable - and each person's hand is different (I still can't understand those folks that use German visconti's as they feel to me to be "half a grip"). My hands are huge, and I can only use french or XL pistol (Italian Visconti or Russian).

    You also don't have to "see daylight" when you are holding the grip. This is not to suggest having a death-grip, but you can be firm yet finger as well (some liken it to "holding an egg"). Try having a loose grip when fencing someone like Jan Viviani and you will not see daylight, you'll see stars.

    Rick
    I don't think most fencers dismiss the Russian without trying it. I think most fencers pick one up once and think "what an uncomfortable piece of crap" and put it back down. I simply can't manipulate a Russian because it's too blocky. Imagine taking a grip that fits your hand perfectly then taping some legos to it in arbitrary places, and that's what it feels like to me.

  20. #20
    Senior Member piste off's Avatar
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    CvilleFencer,

    What you wrote makes a lot of sense and is insightful. Do you feel that people are using grips too big becuase they are simply the wrong size for that person or that in general, people should downsize?

    I think it was Johnnie Cochran that said "If the grip don't fit, you'll fence like sh**!"

    Rick
    "Some people are born great fencers, some people achieve fencing greatness, and some people have it thrust upon them."

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