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Thread: French grip: attack hand position

  1. #1
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    French grip: attack hand position

    I fence few months and have confusion over hand position during attack using the french grip. Classical books on fencing saying that the sword arm should rotate from partial supination to complete supination with the thumb at 3 o'clock. My coach at fencing club told me that it is better to keep the thumb at 1 o'clock. I have just talked to the coach of another club (on this subject) I am going to join and he said to me that classical approach is outdated completely and I should not compete at all if I am going to follow it. In adiditon I've found multiple discussions here trashing classical approach to fencing. So here you are my question(s):

    1. Is olympic approach so diffirent that classical foundation does not matter at all any more even if a fencer uses french grip (not pistol grip)?

    2. The coach from the new club referenced before 1950 fencing school as historical fencing. Is modern fencing dead and all knowledge build/collected last 400 years is empty jar of outdated knowledge?

    3. And the main question at last: Should I rotate my hand to complete supination with the thumb at 3 o'clock when I attack using french grip?

    All answers and opinions are higly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Senior Member telkanuru's Avatar
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    I fence with a french grip. The only time I've ever supinated my hand is to angle in for an under-the-hand shot.
    "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle

  3. #3
    Gav
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    A couple of things.

    Classical/Historical fencing is fine if that's what you want to do. There's been so much debate (quite a lot of it acrimonious) on this board that I suggest you use the search function. There are numerous threads that will address your questions in as much detail as you care to be interested in.

    There's nothing wrong with having a good grounding in technique (in fact it's a damned good idea) so long as it is applicable. It sounds to me that you have some good coaches there who have given you some good advice.

    I would like to answer one question specifically:

    3. And the main question at last: Should I rotate my hand to complete supination with the thumb at 3 o'clock when I attack using french grip?
    I really don't follow what you mean here. I've read some old classical fencing books and I don't think I've ever seen them say that in a simple attack (by which I mean a straight thrust or lunge) that you turn your hand completely. Even in those books you should just move your hand forward and up.

    The only time you should be turning your hand is on a parry or opposition hit. Complete supination (or pronation) is not normally required for these actions. There are subtleties here that I am not going to go into because you are a beginner and it will only confuse you further.

    Listen to what your coaches are telling you. Much better to have good 1-2-1 coaching than reading outdated books.
    Last edited by Gav; 10-22-2008 at 12:10 PM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member MyrddinsPrecint's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sergeant Perecz View Post
    I fence few months and have confusion over hand position during attack using the french grip. Classical books on fencing saying that the sword arm should rotate from partial supination to complete supination with the thumb at 3 o'clock. My coach at fencing club told me that it is better to keep the thumb at 1 o'clock. I have just talked to the coach of another club (on this subject) I am going to join and he said to me that classical approach is outdated completely and I should not compete at all if I am going to follow it. In adiditon I've found multiple discussions here trashing classical approach to fencing. So here you are my question(s):

    1. Is olympic approach so diffirent that classical foundation does not matter at all any more even if a fencer uses french grip (not pistol grip)?

    2. The coach from the new club referenced before 1950 fencing school as historical fencing. Is modern fencing dead and all knowledge build/collected last 400 years is empty jar of outdated knowledge?

    3. And the main question at last: Should I rotate my hand to complete supination with the thumb at 3 o'clock when I attack using french grip?

    All answers and opinions are higly appreciated.
    The current modern Olympic game prioritizes winning, and hopes that that happens with decent technique. The classical game seems to prioritize technique, and hope that that ends in win.

    Plenty of people will be much happier in one or the other, some will be fine in either. It's somewhat easier to find the modern game, however, so many of the people playing the classical or historical type games prefer technique over sportsmanship so much it turns off many of the theoretical moderates.

    You can care a lot about technique in this game, and you can care about it more than winning, and still find a happy home in modern fencing---- but to do it, you can't use classical fencing books.

    First off, even if you're a classical fencer, people teach fencing better than books teach fencing. Your body is different than my body is different than Evangelista's body, and so what ought to be 1 o'clock on you might be 2 o'clock on me.

    The knowledge isn't useless. We still do many of the things that were good 50 years ago, 100 years ago. Footwork hasn't changed much recently, and despite intuition, footwork is much more important than exact hand position. And many will tell you that footwork is much more important than bladework in general. However, it's a competitive game. It's constantly evolving. The game as played 5 years ago is partially irrelevant to the game played today. The game played 1 year ago is partially irrelevant--- but not nearly to the degree that the game 100 years ago is irrelevant. Gear gets better. Humans get taller, healthier, more athletically sound. People live longer. All of these things affect the game long term.

    So figure out what your motivation is. If you care about technique and don't so much care about winning, that's fine. Try to find a modern coach who stresses perfect technique from the beginning. If you can't, consider classical. If you do care more about competing in the current game, stop reading books, and watch youtube movies instead, or watch the better competitions until the bitter end.

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    Senior Member parrythis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sergeant Perecz View Post
    I have just talked to the coach of another club (on this subject) I am going to join and he said to me that classical approach is outdated completely and I should not compete at all if I am going to follow it.
    A better way to say the same thing would be, "If you are going to compete, do not rely solely on the classical approach."

    Much of what is taught in the classical approach forms a good foundation. Modern competitive fencing, however, requires one to build upon that. When it gets right down to what's important and what's not, there are about 20 or 30 other things you should be more concerned with than whether your thumb is at 12 o'clock or 3 o'clock. When you get your timing, tactics, footwork, and mental focus where they need to be, it won't much matter where your thumb is oriented.
    One test is worth a thousand opinions.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sergeant Perecz View Post
    3. And the main question at last: Should I rotate my hand to complete supination with the thumb at 3 o'clock when I attack using french grip?
    According to my coach, the Italian approach is that your thumb should always point to the outside of the target - so, for example, if you hit your opponent on their left flank, you should be fully pronated. If you hit their right shoulder, thumb at about 1 o'clock. I also remember being told that if you hit your opponent in octave, you should supinate your hand for safety reasons - if the blade snaps, the broken end won't put a hole in the other person.

    I hope that helps, although I don't know how relevant any of it is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parrythis View Post
    When it gets right down to what's important and what's not, there are about 20 or 30 other things you should be more concerned with than whether your thumb is at 12 o'clock or 3 o'clock. When you get your timing, tactics, footwork, and mental focus where they need to be, it won't much matter where your thumb is oriented.
    QFT

    While I teach a modern hand position (modern as in Crosnier described nearly 60 years ago...) with thumb between 11 & 1 o'clock, I first learned the classic french position of a full or nearly full supinated hand. I have some students who desire to learn a classic style, for whatever reason, and I'm more than willing for them to work with their hand supinated. In the end, there are many other things for a new fencer to learn, that thumb position is very minor. The angle relation of weapon to forearm... that's a different matter... :-)

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    I do something called "pommeling" but I don't know if that's the correct term. I basically forfeit more point control for more distance. I don't use the french grip anymore, but I used to a while ago.



    By the way, I've tried using fencing books before, but they never helped me. They're useful in clarifying terms and giving examples of scenarios, but the real deal is fencing on your own.

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    Senior Member piste off's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iFence View Post
    By the way, I've tried using fencing books before, but they never helped me. They're useful in clarifying terms and giving examples of scenarios, but the real deal is fencing on your own.
    It is even better against somebody else.

    R-
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by iFence View Post
    I do something called "pommeling" but I don't know if that's the correct term. I basically forfeit more point control for more distance. I don't use the french grip anymore, but I used to a while ago.



    By the way, I've tried using fencing books before, but they never helped me. They're useful in clarifying terms and giving examples of scenarios, but the real deal is fencing on your own.
    It's little hand to notice from this picture, you might need a steeper downward cant, especially when you pommel, a steeper downward cant ease the some of the stress place on your hand because you dont have to constantly bend your wrist down. Also some says pommelling gives you great point awareness thus improve your point control. You probaly just dont notice it yet cuz your hand are still adjusting to the load.
    Anyway, pronation and supination with french suppose to give you more angulation for accuracy and strength. There is really not a practically set rule to dictate exactly how much pronate/supinate for a hit. You just gotta experiment youself and see what works for you. For my own experience, I think my thumb is at 3 o'clock when hit to the body of a lefty( I am righty) and 9 o'clock when hit to the body of a righty.

  11. #11
    Senior Member telkanuru's Avatar
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    I'd also hold the grip further back and get a better grip and pommel.

    I'll see if I can snap a picture tonight @ club.
    "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle

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    Senior Member Superscribe's Avatar
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    I had a coach who worked a lot with Sebastiani (Francais) and i was told that a little supination was good. Why was it good? For me, and for a lot of people, it helps with the finger play and fine blade movement for small actions. Supinating your hand uses a different set of muscles than when you pronate and hold yoru hand neutral. Simply ask your coaches WHY they say the things they do.

    Also, how you supi-pronate your hand has a lot to do with simple geometry. People cant their blades all sorts of ways. Most popular way to do it is down and to the inside line (down and left for righties, down and right for lefties). If i go for the left hip of a left handed fencer, of course i'm going to supinate because of the advantages i receive from how my blade is angled (it's harder to parry, and i have a better chance of hitting, blah blah blah).

    The idea of supinating and pronating is not outdated, but WHEN to rotate your hand HAS changed because of how the dynamics of our game have changed. I doubt any coach will argue with that.

    I fence 'modern' foil. I have experience with epee. I've had a lesson or two from like... 9 very different coaches.
    Everyone relax cause I got it....

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    Whatever works for you, really.

    If you can score touches and defend yourself with the hand supinated or proanated, then go for it.

    Personally, when I teach and when I fence, I generally want rotation of the hand to be the same in an extension as it is when on guard because twisting during that extension makes it that much harder to put the tip on target. Of course, there are some actions which change the angle of rotation, and that's fine; I'm just talking about general terms here.

    If nothing else remember this: Fencing is a fight, not a beauty contest. Scoring without being scored upon is the essence of the game; the rest is just details and should not be placed in front of this.
    "If I were ever to challenge you to a duel, your best bet would be battle axes in a very dark basement." Misquoted from The Prisoner

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    Senior Member telkanuru's Avatar
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    Here's how I hold my french grip 98% of the time. I have a tendancy towards a lot of beats, flicks, and takes. (Sorry for the blurry, but you get the idea)

    "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle

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    Senior Member peet's Avatar
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    Nice team colors on the glove....

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    Senior Member telkanuru's Avatar
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    Well, the only medical tape around is (you guessed it) green and yellow, and the glove has a lot of holes.

    Because it's Dave, and he's like that.
    "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle

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    Senior Member MyrddinsPrecint's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by telkanuru View Post
    Well, the only stuff around is (you guessed it) green and yellow.

    Because it's Dave, and he's like that.

    Fixed it for you.

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    Listen to your coach

    You would be better off listening to your coach . . . If you want to progress and do well in competition.

    If it's classical fencing and history you'd like to dabble with then join a group of likeminded peeps. . . I think they are the folks involved with reniessance fairs and such.

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    Posting Hound oiuyt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by telkanuru View Post
    Well, the only medical tape around is (you guessed it) green and yellow, and the glove has a lot of holes.

    Because it's Dave, and he's like that.
    Dave pokes/cuts lots of holes in your glove?

    -B
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  20. #20
    Senior Member Peach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oiuyt View Post
    Dave pokes/cuts lots of holes in your glove?

    -B
    No, grammatically he said it (the glove) is Dave. So Dave has a lot of holes.
    “The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it's as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.”
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