List of Fencing Skills

List of Fencing Skills

For an outsider, fencing may seem like a sport too complicated to understand. However, contrary to popular belief, fencing is an incredibly easy sport to begin practicing, and once you practice, it is even easier to understand everything that is going on. Checking the skills in the list below will certainly help you understand fencing better.

Fencing Skills

  • Retreat
  • Advance
  • Lunge
  • Fleche
  • Parry
  • Disengagement
  • Attack/Riposte Compose
  • Counterattack


The retreat is the footwork movement that fencers use to move backward. Fencers retreat to move away from the opponent and thus avoid being touched. In a retreat, the fencer will first move the back leg and then follow with the front leg, without ever leaving the basic fencing stance or crossing the legs.   


The advance is the fencing movement that fencers use to move forward. While you can definitely score immediately after and advance, it is more common that a fencer attacks with a lunge or fleche, which are preceded by an advance. An advance is done by first moving your front leg forward, followed by the back leg, without ever leaving the fencing stance, or crossing the legs.


The lunge is the most basic and most used attacking movement used in fencing. A lunge is an explosive movement forward, which is used to touch the opponent and score a point. It consists of thrusting the front leg of your fencing stance forward and moving your arms and body along, by using the explosiveness of your back leg.


A fleche is another footwork technique used to score. Essentially, the goal is the same as in a lunge, and it is also most commonly used when attacking. A fleche is a "running attack," it consists of shifting all your weight to your front leg, which will then thrust you forward in a running motion. Fleches in saber look a bit different than fleches in foil and epee, as you can't cross your legs.


The parry is the main defensive movement in fencing. A parry is the simple movement of blocking the opponent's attack with your blade. The movement is done to stop the opponent from touching you and scoring. After a parry is done, the fencer who stopped the attack may have the chance to touch the opponent immediately after, in what is called a riposte. 


A disengagement is a simple offensive action, which consists of moving the blade to avoid the opponent's parry. Now imagine you are fencing someone and you try to touch them in the middle of their chest. Their natural instinct is to use their blade to stop you, that is, doing a parry. In that case, to avoid being parried, you escape by moving your blade under the opponent's blade, and trying to hit somewhere else, let's say, the shoulder. The movement done to avoid the parry and hit the opponent is a disengagement!

Attack/Riposte Compose

A compose action is one in which the fencer does one or more feints, with the goal of tricking the opponent. In simpler words, a compose action is one where the fencer pretends to hit in a place, but actually finishes the action in a different place. A compose action can be done either when attacking, or when doing a riposte, trying to score after a parry.


In addition to attacking and defending, counterattacking is also an important part of fencing that is not always seen by those who don't know the sport well. A counterattack is when a fencer tries to score during the opponent's attack, without really trying to parry or defend him or herself in any way. While how a counterattack looks like and when it is done varies between the three weapons, the concept is essentially the same.