Pistol Grip vs. French Grip

Discussion in 'Fencing Discussion' started by Christian Edwards, Oct 6, 2018.

  1. Christian Edwards

    Christian Edwards Rookie

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    I am about to buy a new sword because my previous one broke. I have only fought with french grip and I know that pistol grips add better point control. I am relatively short (I'm only 5'2) and I fence Epee. I was wondering which grip I should get and if it is a pistol grip, then which pistol grip.
     
  2. jjefferies

    jjefferies Podium

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    My understanding is that pistol grips make it easier to hold the weapon, i.e. have a stronger grip. Whether or not that aids in point control is dependent upon the fencer but most agree that the pistol grip because it has more strength is better for parrying. French grips are just as accurate for point control is my understanding. Regarding the kind of grip to get, that is a very personal choice. You should experiment to find which kinds/models work best for you. Frankly the less expensive ones appeal to me but you can pay any amount you want. Once you settle on a particular model and manufacturer ( they do differ by manufacturer) then I prefer to have all my weapons have the same model grip.
     
  3. Christian Edwards

    Christian Edwards Rookie

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    Okay. Thank you very much!
     
  4. EldRick

    EldRick Podium

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    You can get up to an extra 3-4cm of reach by "posting" with a french grip (holding it at the back, toward the pommel), which can help compensate for shorter arms, and might be important to you.
     
  5. AllezCat

    AllezCat DE Bracket

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    First of all, you do know that if you break a blade, you can get a new blade and re-use all the other parts, right?

    In my experience as an epee fencer and coach, French vs. pistol has relatively little to do with height and a lot to do with your natural instincts as an epee fencer. If you're an attack/counterattack/remise "outreach the heck out of people" guy, you can try pommeling a French grip. If you're a parry-riposte, "take their blade and feed it to them" kind of guy, use a pistol grip.

    One student I had a while back came to me when she'd been fencing about a year (Y14 age). She was used to finishing close to last in every tournament she fenced. One day before her lesson, she said "Can we work on taking the blade? I want to be able to take the blade better, I really suck at it." I told her, "That's not the kind of fencer you are", walked over to the club rack and grabbed a French grip epee, and said, "Here, hold this by the end." We did a few lessons with the French grip, and she proceeded to finish 2nd in the local Div 2 qualifier and top four in DV3WE at Summer Nationals. By the time she left for college, she was an A.

    On the other hand, I had a veteran fencer who was about 6'4", and wanted to try pommeling to increase his already considerable reach. I told him that I didn't think it would fit his style very well, but he was a big boy who could make his own choices, so we tried it for a season. Dismal failure - every time he went to attack, he would pull his arm back so he could scoop up the blade. Then he'd end up too close, standing on top of people while he tried to figure out how to hit them. A year later, all his Leon Paul "tennis racket" grips went in the trash and he switched back to pistol grips.

    I have had the occasional student who had good point work pommeling the French grip, but also pretty good parries with it as well. Such fencers are less common, in my experience.

    In my opinion, there's no reason to get a French grip epee unless you're going to pommel it. If you're not going for the extra reach, use a grip that's more natural to hold correctly and execute proper technique with.

    For the foil fencers who are lurking, the answer is much simpler: unless you're kid whose hands are so tiny that you can't find a pistol grip you can hold, use a pistol grip. At foil, even the French don't use French grips any more in competition.

    Regarding which kind of pistol grip to use, you'll just have to try various different ones and see what's comfortable. Visconti is kind of the "canonical" pistol grip, but there are lots of different styles and even subtle differences between brands of a particular style. The one grip I would recommend you avoid is the Belgian. Yes, it's different and seems cool (I went through that phase myself), but in my experience, Belgian grips lead to a locked fist and bad technique. Reading your other thread, if you want to learn to flick with an epee, don't get a Belgian grip. You'd find it easy to whack people hard on the knuckles with it, but extremely difficult to execute a flick properly so it actually goes off.

    Once you find a grip you really like, buy about half a dozen of them. You never know when the company might go out of business or stop making them, or just change the mold a little so the shape isn't as comfortable as it was.

    TL;DR: pick the grip that suits your style of fencing. (And maybe ask your coach.)
     
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  6. Christian Edwards

    Christian Edwards Rookie

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    Thank you very much. The Belgian grip was one grip I already really wanted to avoid because it was uncomfortable in my hand.
     
  7. anton_fairfax

    anton_fairfax Rookie

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    What is the reason for this? I personally can’t stand a French grip in foil but many fencers at my club avoid pistol grips and choose French, I’ve never really understood why, but I’ve also never had a good argument for why they should consider changing... (not that it’s any of my business really!)
     
  8. sdubinsky

    sdubinsky DE Bracket

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    You can't get the torque necessary to parry well at a high level, and the extra reach isn't useful.

    For completeness' sake, there is one top-level fencer named Juan Unda who uses a french grip to get some really weird angles, but he's the only one.
     
  9. DangerMouse

    DangerMouse Podium

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    I agree with everything AllezCat wrote above, but want to add one thing. As a beginner, you may not know if French or pistol grip is actually right for you. Have you tried a club pistol grip or borrowed one from a friend? If not, then buy another French grip epee until you've tried a few different pistol grips to see if you like them. The armorer at your club should be able to help you convert your French grip to a pistol grip in less than half an hour, but you can't convert a pistol grip to French if you don't like it.
     
  10. EldRick

    EldRick Podium

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    "For completeness' sake, there is one top-level fencer named Juan Unda who uses a french grip to get some really weird angles, but he's the only one."
    And Jason Pryor.
     
  11. K O'N

    K O'N Podium

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    I think "one top level FOIL fencer" was implied. There are a lot of top epee fencers using french grips.
     
  12. robert

    robert Made the Cut

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    In epee try both and learn both, and especially so if you have a coach or training partner who can explain the best repertoire of each. 1. You will find which one fits you best and 2. you will better understand the other grip for when you face a fencer using it. The other thing is many clubs do not have a wide range of sparring partners so it lets you present a different look when sparring.
     
  13. robert

    robert Made the Cut

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    The Leon Paul Tennis racket style handle will let you flip a pistol cut tang to that style of French grip. I am one who gave away or tossed in the toolbox all my Belgium, Visconti and Hungarian grips and went to a mix of Harut, Leon Paul tennis racket, Russian and Dragonetti grips.
     
  14. jdude97

    jdude97 Podium

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    There are a handful of epeeists who use the French grip not pommeling (with occasionally going to pommeling as a surprise/sneak switch). It can be very effective since people underestimate the skill of the fencer and the ability to parry with the French when not pommeling. With that said, it's very rare.

    I'm an epeeist who once wanted to fence foil at the club but the only ones I could borrow were French grips. I decided to mix it up and pommel it which was surprisingly effective. Just had to do some counterattack-get aways with the extra reach and evade the parry in attack. Also since in foil you don't need to hold the blade to parry, the lost blade command of pommeling is minimized. I have seen one vet foil fencer have success with the French extended at NACs.
     
  15. dcchew

    dcchew Podium

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    I'm a vet epee fencer who uses a Harut Grand Prix French grip which is a cross between the traditional straight French grip and a pistol grip. The hand position is further back but not a pommeling position. Surprisingly, I can do hard parries and takes of the blade without any real difficulties.

    I switched to a French grip because I was having fencer's elbow problems using a pistol grip. The Harut grip allows me to relax the hand more while having something that fits my hand in a similar fashion to a pistol grip.

    This is just something to think about.

    BTW, the foil fencer that jdude97 reference to that uses a French grip is a good friend of mine. He tells me that he fences foil just to improve his footwork and counterattack timing. Many of the local vet foil guys just hate to fence him.
     
  16. Gav

    Gav is a Verified Fencing ExpertGav Moderator!!

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    If you've only fenced french stick with it.

    If you want to switch to an ortho grip (aka pistol) then why not borrow one at the club first and try it out?

    Neither gives you more/better point control; good practise and coaching does that.

    Rule of thumb:
    Ortho = more strength on a parry, more energy can be transferred into the blade. Neither of these is useful unless you use them correctly.
    French = more reach. (Just because I don't list a lot of options doesn't mean I don't think there's a lot of enjoyable subtlety here).

    They are both slightly different games. I've been a French grip fencer but mostly used an ortho. I really like the French grip game. My advice to you directly is to watch high level epee a lot. You can learn a ton about how to deploy french grip fencing from the likes of Grumier, Minobe and Uyama. Or from a slightly earlier period try the French Jeannet brothers. They all have a very different game but they all use the French grip.

    People will go mad and tell you grip x is better than grip y but it's all BS because it really depends on how you fence, where you are in your development & what sort of environment you fence in.

    Sounds to me like you're still quite new to the sport so try and have fun first before worrying on esoteric specifics.
     
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  17. Inquartata

    Inquartata Podium

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    FIFY

    "French = more reach. Not useful unless you use it correctly." :)
     
  18. piste off

    piste off Podium

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    Even the misinformation about Belgian grips?

    Surprised.
     
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  19. Gav

    Gav is a Verified Fencing ExpertGav Moderator!!

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    Fair.
     
  20. DangerMouse

    DangerMouse Podium

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    Yeah, maybe not that. I need to read some posts more closely...

    I do discourage beginners from using belgian grips unless they have good finger control with a french grip because if you grip it too tight it really locks everything into an inflexible position.
     

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