AskDefine | Define foible

Dictionary Definition



1 a behavioral attribute that is distinctive and peculiar to an individual [syn: idiosyncrasy, mannerism]
2 the weaker part of a sword's blade from the forte to the tip

User Contributed Dictionary



(1640-50) From faible "feeble".



  1. weak.


  1. A quirk, idiosyncrasy, or mannerism; unusual habit or way (usage is typically plural), that is slightly strange or silly.
    Try to look past his foibles and see the friendly fellow underneath.
  2. A weakness or failing of character.
  3. Part of a sword between the middle and the point, weaker than the forte.


Related terms


A quirk, idiosyncrasy, or mannerism; unusual habit or way
A weakness or failing of character
Part of a sword

Extensive Definition

Definitions and explanations of terms and maneuvers in fencing.


; Advance-Lunge : An advance followed immediately by a lunge. The extension can occur before or during the advance, but always before the lunge. A good long-distance attack, especially in combination with Handwork. An Advance, followed by a lunge might have a tempo of 1-2---3, but an advance-lunge should have a tempo of 1--2-3.; Ballestra Lunge : A different type of attack to the lunge, the Ballestra lunge involves feint lunging then actually lunging the second time. This attack throws your opponent off balance if used correctly. However, poor execution often results in the attacking fencer losing the point. ‘Ballestra’ is the French term for a cross-bow bolt. ; fanuk ^ : A participating athlete ; Cross Over : An advance or retreat by crossing one leg over the other; see also Pass Forward (passe' avant) and Pass Backwards (passe arriere).; In Quartata : An attack made with a quarter turn to the inside, concealing the front but exposing the back. This attempts to move some of the target out of harm’s way during an attack or a counter-attack. This attack is often used if the opponent flèches off the strip to your inside and misses, as you are allowed a single counter-attack after an opponent leaves the strip. Aldo Nadi, of the Italian school of fencing, wrote an extensive description of how the lunge should be executed.; Pass Backwards : also Passe Arriere. A backwards footwork action. The front foot moves behind the rear foot on the body's outside. Landing on the ball of the front foot, the rear foot moves backwards to the ‘en garde’ stance.; Recovery : A return to en garde stance from any other position, generally by pulling backwards into en garde. Recovery from a lunge occurs by reversing the motions in a lunge, and recovering the extended arm last of all. A forward recovery involves moving the rear foot forward to return to en garde. For a center recovery, both feet move towards the center simultaneously.; Retreat : The basic backwards movement. Rear foot reaches backwards and is firmly planted, then front leg pushes body weight backwards smoothly into en garde stance.

Blade Work

; Arret a bon temps : see Stop Hit.; Attack au Fer : An attack on the opponent's blade, e.g. beat, expulsion, pressure.; Bind : also Lie, Liement; An action in which one fencer forces the opponent's blade into the diagonally opposite line, (that is, from high line to low line on the opposite side, or vice versa) by taking it with the guard and forte of his own blade. See also Transfer.; Compound Attack : Also composed attack. An attack or riposte incorporating one or more feints to the opposite line that the action finishes in. A compound attack does not necessarily lose right of way during its execution; it just comprises more than one indirect action. Compound attacks are usually used to draw multiple reactions from an opponent, or against an opponent who uses complex parries. A counter-attack into a compound attack must hit a clear tempo ahead of the compound attack to be valid.; Conversation : The back-and-forth play of the blades in a fencing bout, composed of phrases (phrases d'armes) punctuated by gaps of no blade action.; Counter-attack : An attack made against, or into, an attack initiated by the opponent. In foil and sabre, a counter-attack does not have the right-of-way against the opponent’s initiated attack. Counter-attacking is a common tactic in épée, where one may gain a touch by hitting first, and avoiding the opponent’s attack. Counter attacks, especially in épée, are often accompanied by an action on the blade (beat, opposition, prise-de-fer, transfer).; Counter-Riposte : A second, third, or further riposte in a fencing 'phrase' or encounter. A counter-riposte is the offensive action following the parry of any riposte.; Coup d'arret : see Stop-Hit.; Croisé : also Cross, semi-bind; an action in which one fencer forces the opponent's blade into the high or low line on the same side, by taking it with the guard and forte of his own blade. See also Transfer.; Derobement : An avoidance of an attempt to take the blade. A derobement is a reaction to the opponent’s attempt to entrap, beat, press or take the blade, in a circular, lateral, vertical or diagonal motion.; Disengage : A type of feint. Disengages are usually executed in conjunction with an extension/attack, though technically, they are just a deception around the opponent’s blade. To use in an attack, feint an attack with an extension and avoid the opponent's attempt to parry or press your blade, using as small a circular motion as possible. Circle under the opponent's blade. The first extension must be a believable feint in order to draw a reaction. Be prepared to proceed forward with a straight attack if no parry response is forthcoming.; Engagement : During an encounter between two fencers, the point at which the fencers are close enough to join blades, or to make an effective attack. Blade contact is also referred to as an engagement, whether just standing there, during a parry, attack au fer, or prise de fer.; Extension : The simplest action of attacking. A simple offensive action, consisting of extending the weapon arm forward. The point should move in the smoothest possible line towards the target, without wavering. Excess motion can ruin the control needed for precise, consistent hits.; Feint : An offensive movement resembling an attack in all but its continuance. It is an attack into one line with the intention of switching to another line before the attack is completed. A feint is intended to draw a reaction from an opponent. This is the ‘intention’, and the reaction is generally a parry, which can then be deceived. If a feint does NOT draw a reaction, you should be prepared to immediately abandon it, or continue with it with no deception, turning it into a real attack. Feints made without conviction will not produce the desired effect.; Glide : An attack or preparatory movement made by sliding down the opponent’s blade, keeping it in constant contact. ; Insistence : Forcing an attack through the parry, using strength.; Moulinet : In sabre, a circular cut. A moulinet is often composed of a parry, usually prime or seconde, moving thence into a circular cut. This action, while flashy and impressive, is slow, since the action pivots around the wrist and elbow, and is rarely used in modern sabre. In Historical Fencing, this is the circular motion of the fighter's blade around the opponent's blade. The hilt does not move during this maneuver.; Point-in-Line : An established threat made with the extended arm. A point-in-line is a static threat, created by one fencer by extending the weapon and arm prior to any actions in a phrase. In foil and sabre, a Point-in-line has right of way, therefore, if the line is not withdrawn, any attack launched by the opponent does not have right of way. This can be likened to a spear poking up from the ground: If you throw yourself upon it, you have only yourself to blame. A successful attack on the blade will invalidate a point-in-line or causing the opponent to withdraw his/her arm. In épée, Point-in-line has no right of way, but is still a good idea.; Preparation : Any action that precedes the actual launch of an attack. Preparation usually consists of actions against the opponents blade to take it out of line, or to provoke a reaction. In foil and sabre, any action that occurs during a phrase or conversation that precedes the establishment of right-of-way on the part of a fencer, often accompanied with a movement forward. In calling the actions in a foil or sabre bout, a referee may indicate preparation on the part of one fencer, meaning the fencer was moving forward without establishing right-of-way, and was vulnerable to an attack made during this time.; Prise de Fer : (French : Literally take the steel); also “Taking the Blade”; an engagement of the blades that attempts to control the opponent's weapon. See also beat, press, expulsion, bind, croisé, envelopment, opposition, transfer.; Reprise : An indirect renewal of an attack that missed, was short, or was parried. Formerly, this was defined as an attack after a return to en-garde, or a withdrawal of the arm after a failed attack. Currently, a reprise is defined as a continued attack that uses an indirect action to reach the target. This indirect action may consist of a change of line, opposition, a withdrawal of the arm, or other action that does not immediately threaten the target. In foil and sabre, a reprise does not have right of way over a direct riposte. ; Salute : A blade action performed before a bout or lesson. Indicates respect and good sportsmanship. A handshake is usually exchanged after a bout.; Stop Cut : also Stop Thrust, Stop-in-Time. A counter-attack that attempts to take advantage of an uncertain attack. A properly performed Stop Hit allows a fencer to counter-attack into an oncoming attack, hit his opponent, and then still parry the oncoming attack (allowing a possible valid riposte as well). It may try to break the continuance of an attack by 'stopping' into it. However, it is still a Counter-attack, and does not have Right-of-Way against a continuous attack.; Opposition : engagement in one line, and continuing the control with that same line. Also, moving the blade laterally, controlling with the same side of the blade, and the same line of the opponent’s. e.g. quarte to sixte, septime to octave, and vice-versa.; Whip-over : In sabre, a touch that results from the foible of the blade whipping over the opponent's guard or blade when parried. Whip-overs are usually not counted, and formerly were a way of saying that even though the blade hit, it was parried prior to body contact, and was not valid. However, with the advent of electric sabre, whip-overs are being allowed more often. The FIE has resolved this by introducing a new standard of stiffness for sabre blades (put into effect in 1999).

Parry-related terms

; Line : The main direction of an attack (e.g., high/low, inside/outside), often equated to the parry that must be made to deflect the attack; see also point in line.
Each quadrant has two parry positions which guard it. (Moving to this parry position is what protects that quadrant, not necessarily the static position of the parry.)
The lines are generally designated by the primary parries which cover the quadrant (Outside High is the ‘Six Line’ for foil and épée, the Inside Low is the ‘Seven Line’....) Most openings or attacks are made to a specified line, and you refer to a deception or change of target as ‘changing lines.’; Neuvieme : Parry #9; blade behind the back, pointing down; alternatively, similar to elevated sixte. Originally used in sabre, to defend the back against a passing or overtaking opponent. Covers the outside line on the back.; Parry : A simple defensive action designed to deflect an attack, performed with the forte of the blade. A parry is usually only wide enough to allow the attacker's blade to just miss; any additional motion is wasteful. A well-executed parry should take the foible of the attacker's blade with the forte and/or guard of the defender's. This provides the greatest control over the opponent's blade.
Parries generally cover one of the 'lines' of the body. The simplest parries move the blade in a straight line. Other parries move the blade in a circular, semi-circular, or diagonal manner. There are eight basic parries, and many derivatives of these eight. (see Prime, Seconde, Tierce, Quarte, Quinte, Sixte, Septime, Octave, Neuvieme). See also Lines.
In foil, the opponent's blade should not only be deflected away from the target, but away from off-target areas as well. An attack that is deflected off the valid target but onto invalid target still retains right-of-way. In sabre, the opponent's blade need only be deflected away from valid target, since off-target touches do not stop the phrase. Sabre parries must be particularly clean and clear to avoid the possibility of whip-over touches. In épée, a good parry is simply any one that gains enough time for the riposte; opposition parries and prise-de-fer are commonly used, since they do not release the opponent's blade to allow a remise.; Opposition Parry : deflecting the incoming attack without ever losing contact with the blade from the initial engagement.; Semi-Circular Parry : A parry that moves from a high line to a low line, or vice versa. The parry can also cross the body. The parry must be made in a semi-circle to provide the enveloping movement needed to trap the attacking blade.; Pronation : The position of the hand when the palm is facing down. See supination.; Quinte : Parry #5; blade up and to the inside, wrist pronated. The point is higher than the hand. This parry, more than any other, is subject to different interpretations in different schools (in foil and épée). In foil and épée, this parry generally covers the inside low line, since the pronated wrist can push further down that the supinated wrist (in Quarte). If the point and hand are lifted, this parry can also cover the inside high line with a sweeping action upwards, carrying the opponents point over the outside shoulder. In sabre, the blade is held above the head to protect from head cuts.; Septime : Parry #7; blade down and to the inside, wrist supinated. The point is lower than the hand. Covers the inside low line.; Supination : The position of the hand when the palm is facing up. See Pronation.

Non-Olympic weapons and styles

; Broadsword : A military sword and fencing weapon popular in the 18th-19th centuries, similar to a heavy sabre. Beginning only in the late 20th century, this term came to be inappropriately applied to almost any straight-bladed, double-edged, single-handed cutting sword, especially of the Medieval and Renaissance eras.; Great Sword : also Two-handed Sword. A large cutting sword, generally double-edged, intended for use with both hands. Great Swords could be as tall as the swordsman, and were often used as front-line offensive weapons in late 17th Century warfare. Manuals detailing the use of two-handed swords are among the earliest extant, dating back to the 14th Century.; Smallsword : Also court sword. A light dueling sword popular in the 18th century. These were, as often as not, a fashion accessory as much as a gentleman’s weapon, and were decorated as such.

Olympic weapons and their parts

; Foible : The top third of the blade. This section of the blade is weaker in terms of leverage, and is used for beats, presses, and other motions where speed is needed and leverage is not crucial.; Forte : The bottom third of the blade, so named for the strength in leverage that it provides. Always perform your parries with the forte. Hitting the opponent with the forte is not recommended.; Guard : also Bell and Bell Guard. A Cup-shaped metal (steel or aluminum) weapon part which protects the hand. Foils use small concentrically mounted bell guards, épées use larger offset-mounted bell guards, and sabres have a knuckle guard that wraps around the hilt to protect from cuts to the hand.; Italian Grip : A traditional hilt with finger rings and crossbar. Used only in foil and épée. The Italian grip provides more ‘grip’ than the French grip, but less than a ‘pistol-grip’. The finger rings and crossbar are descendants of the swords that used quillions.;Pistol Grip : A modern, orthopedic grip, often shaped vaguely like a small pistol (generally with more protrusions than a real pistol’s grip). Varieties are known by names such as Belgian, German, Russian, and Visconti. Orthopedic grips were introduced to aid a fencer who has lost some fingers and was unable to use a traditional grip. ; Pommel : From the old French word for 'apple'. This fastener affixes the grip and guard to the tang of the blade. It has female threading, but the threaded hole does not go all the way through as is the case with a nut. It is screwed on to the distal end of the tang, locking guard, grip and electric connector is position by compression and friction. The pommel traditionally acts as a counterweight on non-orthopedic grips of foils and épées, and on all sabres. In electric sabre, it is covered with plastic as to not interfere with the detection of valid hits by allowing stray currents. Orthopedic (pistol-grip) weapons use only a pommel nut, usually fitting inside a cylindrical hole in the grip.; Ricasso : An unsharpened portion of the blade in front of the quillions. In complex rapier and smallsword hilts, the ricasso is behind the guard, or the forward portion of the hilt. ; Three Prong : A type of épée body wire/connector; also an old-fashioned tip that would snag clothing, to make it easier to detect hits in the pre-electric era.


; Bout : An assault at which the score is kept. Usually refers to a match between two fencers in a competition. This is the term used in the US to generally denote any combat between fencers, replacing the terms ‘match’ and ‘assault’. ; Double : A double touch. in épée, two attacks that arrive within 40-50 ms of each other. This time margin is handled by the scoring machines, which lock out any touches after the time limit. Double touches are not allowed in foil and sabre.; Match : The aggregate of bouts between two fencing teams. ; Salut des armes : A sort of a choreographed demonstration of arms, consisting of sets of fencers saluting, attacking, parrying, drilling and performing set routines in chorus.

Officiating and rules enforcement

; Black Card : A severe penalty. A black card is used to indicate the most serious offences in a fencing competition. The offending fencer is expelled immediately from the event or tournament, regardless of whether he or she had any prior warnings. A black card can also be used to expel a third party disrupting the match.; Red Card : Used to indicate repeated minor rule infractions or a major rule infraction by one of the fencers; results in a point being given to the other fencer, and often the annulment of any touch which would have been made by the offending fencer.; Yellow Card : also avertissement, warning. Used to indicate a minor rule infraction by one of the fencers.

Fencing objects, other than weapon parts

; Lamé: The electrically conductive jacket worn by Foil and Sabre fencers. In foil, the lamé extends on the torso from the shoulders to the groin area. It also covers the back. In sabre, the lamé covers both arms, the torso from the shoulders to the waist, and the back. Sabreurs also wear a conductive glove cover, called a manchette on their weapon hand. The lamé is connected to the body cord with an alligator clip causing it to be conductive. ; Strip (Piste) : The fencing area, roughly 14 meters by 2 meters. The last two meters on each end is hash-marked, to warn a fencer before he/she backs off the end of the strip. Retreating off the end of the strip with both feet gets a touch against. Going off the side of the strip with one foot halts the fencing action. Going off the side with both feet gets a penalty of the loss of one meter. After each touch, fencers begin again at the center of the strip, 4 meters apart.


; Cadence : The rhythm and sequence of a series of actions. Cadence is used to set, at some level, a pattern of actions, causing the opponent to anticipate the rest of the sequence or pattern. The rhythm or sequence of actions can be altered at the proper time to take advantage of the opponent’s anticipation.; In Time : When a stop-hit arrives at least one fencing time before the original attack. see also Stop Hit.


; Displacement : Moving the target to avoid an attack; dodging. ; Opposition : An attack that is made fully in contact with the opponent's blade. The purpose is to control the opponent's blade from the starting point (usually a parry) throughout the attack. This is often used as a counter-offensive technique, especially in épée, but can be a problem if a disengagement is made by the opponent. Also Lateral Transfer. ; Preparation : The initial phase of an attack, before right-of-way is established.; Redoublement : A new action that follows an attack that missed or was parried. This is distinguished from a remise, reprise, or riposte by being a NEW action. See also redoublement under Footwork.; Reprise : An indirect renewal of an attack that missed or was parried. This is a continuation of an attack, and does not have priority (in foil and sabre) over a direct riposte.''; Salle : (French: "room") A fencing hall or club.

Stage Combat and Non-Sport Fencing


foible in Finnish: Luettelo miekkailutermeistä
foible in French: Glossaire de l'escrime

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

bad habit, besetting sin, blemish, bug, catch, crack, crotchet, defect, defection, deficiency, drawback, eccentricity, failing, failure, fault, faute, flaw, frailty, hang-up, hole, idiosyncrasy, imperfection, inadequacy, infirmity, kink, little problem, moral flaw, peculiarity, preoccupation, problem, quirk, rift, shortcoming, snag, something missing, taint, vice, vulnerable place, weak link, weak point, weak side, weakness
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