Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Is it cool to fence with French grip foil?

Foils with the French Grip are available for beginner fencersOften times I see novice fencers fencing with the pistol grip. When I talk with their parents the typical reply is “every other kid in their class are using pistol grip so my child doesn’t want to be not cool”.

Kids tend to believe that once they hold a pistol grip this shows that they are better fencers than they are, more advanced and cool.

This is especially true for foil, where after some level or age you could not find a fencer with French grip, so kids will want to belong to the pistol grip camp. And oftentimes parents and coaches give in to the social pressure the children apply to them.

As a fencer, parent and coach I can tell you – that’s wrong!

Pistol grip is excellent in experienced hands!

But initially you must train with French handle.

Your mastery of the weapon, hand and arm movement, precise point control – all that is best trained with French grip. As you do not want to cut corners with basic fundamentals of fencing for your child.

Recently I read a book of Sergei Golubitsky “Fencing is my life!”. One of the photos in this book was a photo of him in his cadet age fencing a French grip! Golubitsky even emphasized there how important it is to start training with the French grip and continue for a long time until you really can control your weapon in the way you should.

By the way, later on you can convert French grip foil to a pistol, so your expense is not thrown.

So if your fencer started fencing relatively not far ago, is a novice fencer with only few competitions under  his belt, regardless of his or her age, regardless of what other kids fence, do your child a favor – convince them to stay on the French grip a little longer. They will thank you later.

If my advice is not sufficient to you, listen to one of the greatest fencers of all times who fenced French until his cadet years.


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  1. Tibo Smolders

    Just wanted to ask something.
    I’m still a novice fencer, just started fencing this year and I’ve already decided to stick with foil. My school’s club recommends to take both saber and epee classes before truly picking which weapon to select. We began with French grip and then those of us who chose to take extra classes were given pistol grips to use during electric fencing. I felt that my point control actually improved. So what I was wondering, is whether or not you would recommend to have a few different weapons for competitions (french for dry, and pistol for electric).
    Thank You

    • Igor Chirashnya

      Hi Tibo,
      There is no need to have different weapons for different needs. If you have few electrical weapons all with pistol grip you can practice with them in every drill: targets, private lessons, bouting.

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