Grip (sport fencing)
In fencing, the grip, also called the handle, is the part of the weapon which is gripped by the fencer's hand.
There are four types of grips commonly used today in foil and épée: French, which is a straight handle with a pommel at the end of it, Italian, which has a short grip and two rings behind the disc-shaped guard (mostly seen in classical fencing), a hybrid of these two known as the Spanish grip (also rarely seen in competition), and the orthopedic or pistol grip (the most common in FIE competition). All of these handles optimize hitting with the point of the sword (a 'thrust'), which is the only way to score a touch with a foil or épée.
Sabre, which is the only fencing weapon that allows "cutting" with the edge of the blade, has only one kind of grip, because of the way the blade is handled. Sabre grips are generally made of plastic, rubber over metal or plastic, wood, or leather wrapped over wood.
The Italian grip, though the earliest to develop, is rarely used today in sport fencing but is common among classical fencers. Its advocates say that it has most of the French grip's agility with a much greater degree of power and stability. The Italian grip consists of a straight handle, usually just wood or aluminium covered in grip tape, as well as a crossbar (the quillions), and two rings. The fencer's fingers actually rest upon the ricasso, which is part of the blade. This not only gives great security, but great sensitivity.
The French grip is contoured to the curve of the hand and reached its modern form in the late nineteenth century. Compared to the other primary grip used in modern sport fencing, the pistol grip, the French is thought to have greater speed and maneuverability, but less strength and stability. The French grip also allows the fencer to "post", holding the grip towards the base, called the pommel, instead of holding the weapon near the bell guard. This gives the fencer a longer reach while lessening strength and stability, and allows for an expanded repertoire of counterattacks and remises of attacks.
The Spanish grip is a hybrid of the French and Italian grips. It resembles a French grip with two orthopedic aids coming from the top and bottom, which serve the same purpose of the quillions of the Italian grip. There are several types of Spanish grips, the true Spanish grip, which has a longer shaft and a pommel attached, like the French grip, the Gardiere, which some will say is the first "orthopedic grip," and is more thoroughly contoured to the fingers, and also featured a pommel, the Dos Santos with a widened area at the palm, and the Spanish offset, or Cetrulo, which lacks the pommel, and has a slightly shorter shaft. The legality of the Spanish offset is disputed, but the true Spanish grip is currently illegal in FIE competition, as it may be held by the pommel, and adds to distance.
The pistol grip (otherwise known as the anatomical or orthopedic grip) was originally developed for a nineteenth-century Italian aristocrat, L.Visconti, master of fencing, who lived in Belgium and had lost fingers in a tram accident. It contours entirely to one's hand and is held much like a pistol, hence the name. This grip has become popular among sports fencers in the late twentieth century because of the way it enhances a fencer's lateral strength for the parry (block), complements the agility and athleticism of competitors, though, critics allege, at the cost of blade sensitivity finesse. There are several types of pistol grips, such as the basic Visconti, the German, and the Russian (any of which are what most people refer to as a pistol grip), and the American, all providing a somewhat firmer hold for the user of the weapon. The subtle variations in the pistol grip may correspond loosely to different fencing styles.
In high-level fencing, pistol grips are universally preferred in foil, and are used by a large percentage of épée fencers because they allow stronger blade movements. A substantial number of épéeists at all levels use French grips while posting (holding the grip near the pommel instead of the guard) because of the longer reach. Posting is almost unheard of in foil, as it decreases one's ability to parry successfully, and thus increases an opponent's chance of a successful hit or remise.
Types of pistol grips
- Chinese (This name generally refers to the location of manufacture, not a type of grip)
- Gardere (hybrid between the French and pistol grips)**
- Zivkovic (American in-house produced model)
~~ ** Illegal in competition
- Zivkovic handles, accessed on 20 November 2006