Parry (fencing)

Parry (fencing)

A parry is a fencing bladework manoeuvre intended to deflect or block an incoming attack.



To execute a parry, fencers strike the opponent's foible, or the area near the tip of the blade, with their forte, or the part of the blade near the handle of the sword. This deflects the opponent's blade away from them, protecting them and placing them in a good position to strike back. Approximations of the precise parries are made often during bouts, but are usually accurate enough to be classed as parries.

In épée, because of absence of priority rules (see right-of-way), a parry can be classed as anything that prevents the opponent's attack from landing.


The primary function of a parry is to prevent an opponent's attack from landing. During a bout, parries are commenced from the "en garde" (neutral) position, when an opponent's attack is considered threatening. In foil and saber, the rules governing the parry give it tactical significance as well:

In foil and sabre, there is a rule known as priority, or right-of-way. To gain a point, a fencer must land a hit while having the priority. The first fencer to commence an attack often gains the priority. If the attack results in a successful hit, the fencer gains a point. However, if the attack fails, the priority is transferred to the defender. Defending with a parry causes the attack to fail, both physically and as far as the priority rule is concerned. Taking a parry, therefore, means that the attacker is in an awkward position (with their arm extended and sometimes off-balance), having just committed to attacking, and the defender has the priority, as well as the best position to riposte, or strike after parrying.

More advanced fencers can, instead of immediately riposting after successfully taking a parry, initiate a prise de fer ("taking of the blade") in which they move the opponent's blade to a different position and then hit them.


There are eight parries in the classical systems of epee and foil fencing. Parries are classified based on three attributes: 1) The direction of the blade in relation to the hand: up or down. 2) The position of the blade in relation to the fencing line: inside or outside. 3) The rotation of the of the wrist in the hand holding the weapon: supinated' (wrist up) or pronated (wrist down).

Name Description (foil and épée) Description (sabre) Diagram
Prime - Parry 1 Blade down and to the inside, wrist pronated. Sometimes known as the "Looking at your watch" Parry. Blade points down and "cutting edge" faces away from the fencer's flank side.
Seconde - Parry 2 Blade down and to the outside, wrist pronated. Arm half-extended laterally, blade pointing forward with downward incline, cutting edge facing towards fencer's flank side.
Tierce - Parry 3 Blade up and to the outside, wrist pronated. Not often used in either Foil or Épée. Standard en garde but rotated so cutting edge faces further in the flank direction, i.e. guard kept low, sword upright with a slight forward tilt, cutting edge facing 45º to the flank side.
Quarte - Parry 4 Blade up and to the inside, wrist supinated.[1]

This parry can be Lateral or Circular, as can most all parries.

The Counter Parry. The Circular Parry, also known as "Contre Quarte", is a circular or oval shape. It begins in either the neutral or quarte position, and with a twist of the wrist it ends in the carte parry.

Similar to tierce on the chest side or prime flipped upside-down; guard low, cutting edge facing away from flank, sword upright with slight chest-direction tilt.
Quinte - Parry 5 Blade up and to the inside, wrist pronated.[2] Not often used in Foil or Épée Blade held up almost horizontally with bent arm, cutting edge facing upward or forward, blade has a slight tilt meaning that the point is higher than the guard.
Sixte - Parry 6 Blade up and to the outside, wrist supinated.

This parry can be Lateral or Circular.

The Lateral Parry is from Quarte to Sixte. The Circular Parry, also known as "Counter Sixte", is a D shaped parry, dropping the points and bringing it up on the inside bringing your point back towards your En Guard line.

The arm position is a mirror image of quinte (supinated, forearm vertical on opposing side of head). Point is diagonal across the body covering the head, but towards the opponent, and slightly upwards (or forwards for a direct riposte in opposition).

Septime - Parry 7 Blade down and to the inside, wrist supinated. Point dropped, the wrist is in the same place as in Quarte.

This parry is semi-circular, the point is dropped from Quarte to Septime (or the opposite).

Octave - Parry 8 Blade down and to the outside, wrist supinated. Point is dropped, the wrist is in the same place as in Sixte.

This parry is semi-circular, the point is dropped from Sixte to Octave (or the opposite).

Neuvieme - Parry 9 The tip of the blade is on the inside and dropped as in Septime, while the hand is raised. For this reason, Neuvieme is sometimes referred to as "high septime". This parry is often used to sweep through the upper lines of the fencers target, or as a ceding parry.


  1. ^ de Beaumont, C.L. Fencing: Ancient Art and Modern Sport, 1960. p. 68.
  2. ^ de Beaumont, C.L. Fencing: Ancient Art and Modern Sport, 1960. p. 71.
  • Epee Fencing: A Complete System - Imre Vass (SKA Swordplay Books)
  • Know the Game: Fencing
  • Fencing: Techniques of Foil, Épée and Sabre - Brian Pitman
  • Theory, Methods and Exercises in Fencing - Ziemowit Wojciechowski

External links

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