Hey fedi, by chance, do we have any fencers here, or modern?

If so: what are your thoughts when you fight? What do you focus on, what goes through your head?

Alternatively, does anyone here know good 1st person accounts of fencing? Both fiction and non-fiction is good.

This poor sod has and nobody to ask. 🤡 My own fencing experience is sadly limited to larping and a semester of foil in college and (I was terrible at both 🤣)

Glad you asked ... yes, I've been fencing and fighting in the #sca for well over three decades.

Fighting headspace is weird, and if it's really ticking over, the thinking only happens between moments of engagement. If you are thinking while you are actually attacking or blocking, you're probably missing the shot or block - which has predictably bad results.

This is why most fights tend to be 'bursty' - short flurries of action and then a reset. (more to come)


with respect to the reset, if one side/person is more experienced, then they are still fighting when the other side wants to reset, and that tends to result in victory.

focus needs to be diffuse, because otherwise one tends to get target lock. If you look at fighting/fencing videos, especially of novices, there's a tendency to throw repeated shots into the same location, rather than being aware of the overall situation and adjusting targets appropriately.
(one more coming)


That's all a gross oversimplification, of course, but it's a place to start.

to summarize: you can start with a plan, but it's out the window once things get rolling; thinking in the heat of the action is not a surivival strategy; hard focus can lead to narrowing your own options. (But don't get distracted, of course;-)

Any help?

@AspiringLuddite Yes, thank you! Wonderful, that's precisely the kind of insight I'm looking for.

I'd love any more thoughts if you want to share, or recs (video especially) if you have any.


How much detail do you want;-)

And are you looking for specific styles or weapons? There's a lot of stuff out there ...


hmm, honestly not sure what level of detail I need 🤔 I'm trying to write 1st person where the characters are sword fighting, so what I'm really looking for are the impressions, the way one thinks, etc. Or even how a fighter like that would think outside of a fight - I'm looking at videos where professional swordfighters rate movie fights, for example.

Any bladed weapon is good, specifics not needed - I'm actually writing Star Wars fanfic 😆

@AspiringLuddite I'm really going for the "soft bits". So often swordfights in books slip into blow-by-blow descriptions - "IKEA swordfights", pretty much. I don't like to read that, so I sure as heck don't want to write that, either.

@annathecrow I fenced at Uni, though it was a long time ago. Was getting pretty good before both ankles gave out in 3rd year and I had to quit. Happy to share some thoughts/experiences from that time.

@LearnTribe awesome. Basically, I'm writing 1st person PoV of people in sword fights, so I'm interested in the way one thinks and... "perceives" would be a good word, while doing it. Any kind of insight is good!

(Obviously, "fencing as sport" is very different from "fencing as fight for life", but it's better than pulling it from thin air completely XD)

Once your mask (helm if you prefer) is on, everything is focused. Your peripheral vision is very limited, and your own breathing is the main thing you can hear - especially as your adrenaline floods and your heart beats faster as you wait for the call to begin.
You can't see your opponents eyes, so a lot of your attention is on their feet - the blade is a distraction, because any serious attack begins from footwork unless you're carelessly close.

The actual fighting is extremely fast, so is mostly instinct drilled by practice.
There are pauses when you can try observe looking for "tells" of what they'll do, or poor positioning or footwork that you can create an opening - which you can also cause by adjusting your own steps so the distance changes unexpectedly, stamping instead of stepping, or taking an extra half step back then leaning forward as they try to close.

@naga I can't see the OP because I don't federate with that instance

@Garrison Ok. It was asking for people knowledgeable about fencing.

@annathecrow I passed this on the the son of a friend. The son replied:

Interesting one. I've not done fencing in a little while, but the thing I always focussed on during a fight was a spot somewhere between my opponent's wrist and the tip of their foil. That usually gave me a pretty good indication of what they were doing and where they were going.


@annathecrow (cont'd)

We were always advised against focussing on our opponent's feet because you can use clever footwork to throw someone off balance, but their foil is usually a good indicator of direction and intent. You can see the elbow pull back if they're preparing to lunge. Or at least, that was the tell I always looked for.

[... good 1st person accounts of fencing?]

The only instance that comes immediately to mind ...


@annathecrow (cont'd)

... is the time that my opponent and I both decided to lunge at exactly the same moment, tried to dodge the other mid lunge and ended up flying past each other at great speed. We sort of stood there for a moment before coming out of the crouched duelling pose and turning around to look at each other, both a bit baffled as to what had happened.


@annathecrow (cont'd)

... Both fiction and non-fiction is good.

The Princess Bride would be my obvious answer for fiction, but I'd be surprised if that one hadn't already crossed your mind.


Probably not quite what you were looking for, but I don't think I have sources that will do much better.

Good luck!

@ColinTheMathmo thank you! And your friend's son as well. Very interesting insights.

I had not considered Princess Bride, and I think that's a good bit more comedic than I'm aiming for... but who knows, maybe it could still be useful :D

@annathecrow There was a thread a while ago pointing out that the dialogue in the book (and to a lesser extent in the film) is based on real people and real techniques.

It's a bit like the observation that in Brave when the three make archers get it wrong, the mistakes they make are perfect exemplars of real mistakes novice archers make.

I can try to find references if you like, but my time just now is limited, and it might take a while.

@ColinTheMathmo oh, yeah, I've heard that as well! They quote specific techniques.

Don't worry about looking for references, it's just a quick research for making personal writing a bit better :)

@annathecrow My mom used to fence, but I don't know if she'd be good as a resource since I don't think she was really competitive about it. Mostly I think she was focused on not dropping her sword. XD

Seriously, actually. They used to need to literally tie it to her hand until she got a pistol grip foil. Her hands just didn't work for a regular grip and she ended up ruining her wrists. IIRC she didn't get to use the new sword for that long before she had to quit.

@bluestarultor oh whow, didn't think THAT could be a problem! That's actually really interesting, thank you!

@annathecrow Her swords are still in her old room (she moved out; I stayed XD), so if you want pics, I can take some. She also has a saber, but that's probably less visually interesting. I can demonstrate how the pistol grip is held. She taught me and my brother as kids to keep us from fighting with cooking skewers instead. Literally safer to use real equipment than kitchen utensils. :)

@bluestarultor oh lol, that last bit 😄

I'm not looking for specific weapons, so I don't need those photos, but you're very kind to offer.

@annathecrow I went to a fencing after-school club as a teenager for a couple of winters, but I wouldn't call that representative 😅

Mostly I was relying on muscle memory from training to parry and react, and using my higher brain functions to look for openings and puzzle out a strategy for how to win the bout.

I was a "defensive" fencer though, so I usually played an endurance game where I would wait to exploit openings my opponent gave me as they tired and lost concentration.

@annathecrow I spent a similar amount of time with foil and sabre, I think.

There were only two épées in our club, so sadly only the most experienced people got to use those, unfortunately.

I remember having a huge grin on my face the entire time throughout each bout, but I doubt it psyched out my opponents because of the face covering 😂

@TrechNex thanks! That's useful to me as well. Maybe it's not an expert's PoV, but that just means it shows the things that are shared, vs those that differ - and it's still more than I have 😅

@annathecrow used to do rapier, not v good but did for a few years

1 what i think they're probably about to do
2 where our blades are
3 where our feet are
4 the shortest path between each point and the other person's body
5 my next move

@carcinopithecus thanks! I don't think anyone mentioned point 4 yet, and it makes a lot of sense.

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