Foil and epee? can you do both? Sabre?

Can you compete at a high level in multiple weapons? While some can, most find it problematic to say the least. That said....
egypt2Fencing in Skirts Members of the fencing team cross foils, 1900epee-usa
Of all the combinations, I find foil and epee the most challenging. I think many would rightly disagree with that observation, but disagreements are embedded in fencing. I’ll state my case.

It is true that foil and sabre share right of way rules and are frequently combined
, to my mind however, it is the depth of target that makes epee and sabre more compatible. Consider the target ares and distances. The hand being the closest target. Well, that is my opinion anyway, the different stance, grip and nature of epee and sabre are also less likely to confuse the student (and yes, I’m still a student). Foil and sabre also are very distinct from each other by their physical nature. Such physical differences offer less issues in my opinion with muscle memory and visual cues.

In foil and epee the actions are very similar but for target depth and resulting distance and right of way rules. I have heard from fencers and elite foil coaches that one can do everything right (as a foilist) and still get hit in epee! Yep! I have myself described an observation, that some foil coaches consider epee the same as foil but the off target hits count! I don’t think personally that this is accurate, but my point being that foil and epee are so similar that for most students, at least for those that compete at the higher levels, it is a confusing and indirect path to mastery. Well, for most of us this may be true, but I’m sure you will find exceptions (use the contact me feature at the bottom of this page to expose my delusions).

So is there merit in studying two or even three weapons? I would say absolutely yes (though perhaps one would be pistol, if I was inclined to sarcasm). The specific choice should be considered with the intent of offering new insight into the fencers primary weapon and technique. A timid foil or epee fencer would do well to study some sabre. A foilist can benefit from learning binds and oppositions common in epee. A sabre fencer can do with some point control learned in epee. An epee fencer can benefit from specific second intentions actions found in foil and sabre. Sometimes, and don’t discount this, spending some time with another weapon can just be fun. It can also help when we get stuck in a rut and want to advance those little gray cells.

So here I am, needing to take my own advise (this is indeed a rare thing) I have started giving foil lessons again. Heck, I may even teach sabre (I use to fence both). What have I learned as a coach, is that teaching more then one weapon has the same advantages and disadvantages as to the competitive fencer. Having fun is not a bad thing at all, but I’ll still be “epee centric," it’s my thing, but here comes foil and sabre and the opportunity to learn something new!

with gratitude,
coach Geoff