At the club I always advise the children to start fencing with a ‘French grip’ foil and to practice with one for at least a few years before moving on to a ‘pistol grip’. I am often asked about my reasons for this, especially as anyone watching the Olympic foil fencing at Rio this past summer would have noticed that all the fencers there used a pistol grip. I want my young fencers to be aware, that the smaller they can make an action, the more efficient it will be and therefore the faster they can make it. This can be a challenge when all Hollywood film duels seem to make the actions in their sword fighting scenes as big as possible to thrill their audiences.
Controlling the point of your foil by moving your wrist is slow and easy for your opponent to see. Using just the forefinger and thumb, a fencer can shave valuable time of each action and make their opponents moves appear cumbersome and obvious. Starting out with a pistol grip encourages the pupil to use their wrist, but starting with a French grip promotes using just their fingers in order to make small movements.
If the pupil is struggling to use their fingers, one good idea is for them to hold the handle of their foil with just their forefinger and thumb. They then rest their three remaining fingers on the outside of the guard. From this position, I ask the fencer to either write their name in the air with the point of their weapon, or to do the blade work section of the club session using this grip. We will encourage children to try this out at the club. Enjoy scoring many hits using just your fingers!