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Thread: Hand position in guard

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    Hand position in guard

    Just curious. . . the "how to hold a grip" thread reminded me of something I've been wondering about (but always forget to ask at the club I go to).

    Do most people hold their hand in a thumb-up or a palm-up position in guard? And do they change that position when they extend?

    When I first tried out fencing many years ago, i was taught to hold the blade palm-up in guard, then rotate it to thumb-up during the extension. A friend of mine says that is bad form, as the rotation would tend to throw the point off. He was taught to hold palm-up and keep it that way.

    That feels awkward to me, although the only book I've seen that actually addresses this says the same thing. (The writer also recommends using only non-pistol grips. I don't know if that makes much of a difference.)

    For me, it's kind of moot. The original way I learned seems to have stuck. When I try anything else, I fence even worse than usual. So. . . just curious.

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    Senior Member Timo's Avatar
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    I read something that said the same thing. It explained it as forcing your fingers to do the work by stretched muscles limiting wrist and arm movements when extended palm up.

    But I have no actual idea of what I'm talking about...
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    Senior Member Shi no Tenshi's Avatar
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    I've always been taught thumb on top of grip, and hold that to extension. I can see some use to palm up in foil, but I'd say that seems more of a personal preference sort of thing.
    From what I was taught, thumb up makes your non-6 parries faster, which is why we preferred it, but maybe there is some solid theory behind palm up?

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    Senior Member MyrddinsPrecint's Avatar
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    Do you rotate with a french, a pistol, or both?

    Most books about fencing that are easily available are written by Nick Evangelista---- he has a few interesting things to say, but when it comes to details about current form that allows you to be competitive in modern olympic fencing.......... listen to other people.

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    Senior Member erooMynohtnA's Avatar
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    I see the majority of fencers with their thumb up. I've seen some fencers with the palm supinated, either partially or completely, but I've never fenced anyone who regularly hit with their hand supine.

    I fence with my thumb generally at 12:00 or 11:00 (lefty), but I move my blade around enough it might not be obvious. However, I often pronate or supinate depending on where I want to hit.

    I don't think it's a good idea to always hit with your thumb up, but I think it's a much worse idea to always hit with your hand turned.

    If you're fencing a like-handed opponent, it makes a lot of sense to keep your palm up, because you're angling the way your blade will bend into the main target, the chest. If you're fencing a different handed opponent, you lose that advantage. You've now angled the bend away from the chest, so you're more likely to miss or bounce off. However, if you want to hit their flank, it makes all the sense in the world to supinate.

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    Senior Member tehcow's Avatar
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    What's probably important here is what weapon you're fencing. In foil you can get away with your thumb up moreso than in epee. Even so you probably don't want it to be directly at "12 o'clock" so to speak, a little bit of supination is what I was always taught. This allows you get a good angle on the hit, forcing your opponent to make a good parry if they want to actually find your blade, and allowing you to keep your hand in the sixte line without your wrist at a weird angle.

    In epee I've been taught a more supinated position. Not entirely palm up, perhaps about 2 o'clock. This gives you a better position from which to hit the inside arm against a same-armed opponent, and against an opposite-armed opponent makes it much easier to hit their outside arm. In both cases you can make the hit through sixte with angulation, which you can't do easily with your thumb straight up.

    And just in case, you should definitely not be palm up if you're fencing sabre
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    Senior Member Greg's Avatar
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    I was initially taught to keep it supinated which in my view is really out of date. With my thumb at about 12:00 or 1:00, my arm and hand feels natural and relaxed. With it supinated or palm up, I can immediately feel the strain on my forearm and upper arm. This contributes to a slower and heavier movement. I always stay at 12:00 now. Test it out. Hold a foil at 12 then supinate. You'll feel the muscles begin to tense up.
    Last edited by Greg; 05-02-2007 at 10:10 AM.

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    Senior Member Chafunkta's Avatar
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    I was originally taught to supinate, but that was when I was learning with a french grip.

    When I switched to a pistol I was told to keep the thumb between 1:00 and 2:00 for foil, and between 12:00 and 1:00 for epee (I'm a righty). When you extend it's better to keep the thumb in the same position because it won't cause the point to wiggle around as much as when you are rotating your wrist. Just try it yourself. Get a target and try to hit one spot by keeping your thumb in the same place, and then trying while rotating your hand. You'll convince yourself which way is better.

    That all being said, there are still times when it's advantageous to turn the hand over (pronate). Like Eroomynohtna said, you want the bend of your blade to turn into your opponent's target. So if you're fencing a same handed opponent, and you're going for the low 8 target, supinating your hand can help.
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    eac
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    In foil, you should pronate or supinate depending on the angle of the target you're hitting, so as to make the blade bend outward and stick on the target. Lefty-righty, you supinate to hit the flank, and pronate to hit the chest; righty-righty, vice-versa. If you turn it the wrong way, you face high probabilities of either slipping off or grounding out or both.

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    Gav
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    Quote Originally Posted by bxtr View Post
    Just curious. . . the "how to hold a grip" thread reminded me of something I've been wondering about (but always forget to ask at the club I go to).

    Do most people hold their hand in a thumb-up or a palm-up position in guard? And do they change that position when they extend?

    When I first tried out fencing many years ago, i was taught to hold the blade palm-up in guard, then rotate it to thumb-up during the extension. A friend of mine says that is bad form, as the rotation would tend to throw the point off. He was taught to hold palm-up and keep it that way.

    That feels awkward to me, although the only book I've seen that actually addresses this says the same thing. (The writer also recommends using only non-pistol grips. I don't know if that makes much of a difference.)

    For me, it's kind of moot. The original way I learned seems to have stuck. When I try anything else, I fence even worse than usual. So. . . just curious.
    Hmmm....

    The description of your hand position is a little confusing.

    To me it reads like your hand is completely supinated and then you rotate when you hit - is this correct? I wouldn't do that as it will make attacking actions uncomfortable and effect your point accuracy.

    With the traditional french grip hand position then your hand would be supinated - however you wouldn't need to pronate it to hit. I'm racking my brain and no, I can't think of someone, or even a manual, that would recommend that. However I will add that I may be picking you up wrong because of your description. Any chance of seeing some footage or a picture?

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    Senior Member Allen Evans's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gav View Post
    Hmmm....

    The description of your hand position is a little confusing.

    To me it reads like your hand is completely supinated and then you rotate when you hit - is this correct? I wouldn't do that as it will make attacking actions uncomfortable and effect your point accuracy.

    With the traditional french grip hand position then your hand would be supinated - however you wouldn't need to pronate it to hit. I'm racking my brain and no, I can't think of someone, or even a manual, that would recommend that. However I will add that I may be picking you up wrong because of your description. Any chance of seeing some footage or a picture?
    Nope, Gav, I think you have the gist of it. I know several coaches who taught this (probably still do). It's awkward and wrong, but it's what they teach.

    A

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    Do you rotate with a french, a pistol, or both?
    Both. I learned using a french grip years ago, then just did the same thing with the pistol grip when i started fencing again a few months ago.

    I wouldn't do that as it will make attacking actions uncomfortable and effect your point accuracy.
    I figured how I learned was probably wrong, but at the time, I didn't have anything else to compare it to.

    Guess I'll start trying to *un*learn it.

    Most books about fencing that are easily available are written by Nick Evangelista---- he has a few interesting things to say, but when it comes to details about current form that allows you to be competitive in modern olympic fencing.......... listen to other people.
    The book I read that mentioned hand position was by Evangelista. I like a lot of what he says, but he does have some very opinionated opinions that he confuses with facts. I don't think he actually called pistol grips the Antichrist, but he came very close.

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    Senior Member SJCFU#2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bxtr View Post
    I don't think he actually called pistol grips the Antichrist, but he came very close.
    Strangely enough a number of people here have a similar opinion regarding Nick Evangelista.

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    Senior Member MyrddinsPrecint's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bxtr View Post
    The book I read that mentioned hand position was by Evangelista. I like a lot of what he says, but he does have some very opinionated opinions that he confuses with facts. I don't think he actually called pistol grips the Antichrist, but he came very close.

    I'll come clean--- when I was once told I had something like a day and a half to prepare 8 minutes on the history of fencing, I used an Evangelista. When it comes to how things used to be, he's an easy and useful source.

    When it comes to techniques that find success in modern olympic fencing as it exists today....... Evangelista can't help you all that much. Some of it's right (almost by accident) but much of it is just bad and wrong.

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    Classic French school for both foil and epee calls for the hand to be supinated (palm up) or pronated (palm down) for almost all actions. This is true for both the french grip and the orthopedic grip. However, the thumb up (12 to 1 o'clock) has been taught for over 50 years now. (First reference I have handy is Crosnier's Fencing with the Foil from 1951.)

    Many classically trained fencers will supinate the hand to a greater extent. Indeed, that is how I learned. What is true is that you do not want to roll the hand as you extend. If you start with the thumb at the 12 to 1 o'clock position, keep it in that position throughout the thrust. (Except when the hand needs to roll perform the action.)

    There are some advantages to the classic fully supinated hand, but when taken as part of the entire game, the slightly supinated position has proven to be more effective.

    John Farmer
    Coach, Oak Ridge Fencers Club

    ps. Please lets not get into a Nick Evangelista is terrible, is great, etc.... flame war. Well let's just not go there.

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