The terms used in modern fencing had their origins in the fencing schools of France of the late 17th and early 18th Centuries. The terms from the 16th and early 17th Centuries are based primarily on those defined and described by the Italian masters of the period. Those that study in the classical Italian tradition will recognize many of the terms used by the historical masters. The chart shown below to the right are the hand positions used in the classical Italian school and will be used to help describe hand positions used in historical fencing.


Advance              To move forward.


Agente                 The active combatant, i.e., the one making an initial attack.


Counterattack      An attack during the opponent’s attack that is performed in stesso tempo.


Cut                       An attack made with the edge of the sword.


Debile/debole      Weak part of the blade.


Dui tempi            Two times. Used in conjunction with parry-riposte actions.


Fendente              A vertical attack in a downward direction.


Forte                    Strong part of the blade.


Gathering Step    An advance forward where both feet move.


Guard                  A defensive posture. Also called a ward.


Guardia                Italian for guard or ward.


Guardia alta         high guard


Imbroccata          This attack is made over the adversary's blade, hand or dagger. The blade travels in a downward direction and the hand is held with the knuckles up (as in a modern prime or high tierce). In the classical Italian school the hand will be in first or first in second position.


Incartata              A foot movement where a quarter turn is made. Also spelled inquartata.


or Mandritti         Cuts from the right side.


Measure/misura   The distance between you and your adversary.


Montante             A vertical attack made in an upwards direction.

Parry or

Parare                  To decline, put by or turn a thrust or blow. To defend with the sword to prevent a cut or thrust from arriving.


Passare                Walking. In Italian this verb indicates to step.


Patiente                The combatant who is on the defensive waiting for the Agente’s attack.


Pugnale                dagger


punta della spada point of the sword


Punta Riversa      This attack is delivered from the left side to any part of your adversary's body, high or low. (The modern term for this attack would be an attack from quarte) In the classical Italian school the hand is held in the fourth position.


Retreat                 To move backwards.


Riposte                An attack after a parry performed in dui tempi.


or roverso            These attacks are the same as the mandritti except they are made from the left side instead of the right.


Sgualembrato      An oblique downwards motion attack.


Sgualimbro          See sgualimbrato.


Slope Pace           An angular step forward to the right or the left.


Spada                   sword


Stesso Tempo      Single time. Term used in conjunction with counteratttacks where the defense and offense are done at the same time.


Stoccata               This attack is made under the blade, hand or dagger. The hand is typically held in half pronation, although it may be held in other positions. This attack is normally made to the belly. In the classical Italian school the hand will be in second or second in third or third position.


Stramazzone        This is a slicing or cutting blow made with the part of the sword closest to the point. Called a tramazzone by Marozzo. The stramazzone is made with the wrist and the point makes a circle.


Tempo                 Time or timing.


Thrust                  A thrust is an attack made with the point of the weapon.


Tondo                  A circular cut delivered horizontally.


Traverse              A step to the side.


Void                    To dodge your opponents blade. A type of void is the volte which is a specialized foot movement to avoid a thrust. The movement is performed by counter thrusting at your opponent with your right foot foremost and while thrusting to step behind and forward of your right foot with your left. This move will turn your chest away to the left from your opponent and if performed correctly will show your back to them.


Volte                   See incartata.


Ward                   See guard.