Guest Post #2: Non-Combativity, Bringing the Attention to Epee (By Mike Still)


Hey faithful readers! I am pleased to include my former college teammate Mike Still, who has been kind of enough to provide my second guest post. Here, Mike discusses non-combativity and what it has brought to the game of fencing (namely epee).I plan to do a post soon on how to properly incorporate the rule into your tactics.  I have included an obligatory picture of Mike and I in college, with what appears to be Mike trying to milk me.

The concept of the Non-Combativity rule is an excellent addition to the sport of epee.  Shocker right?   I hated it at first too and like most of us by now have that stinger that they shoulda won but lost because they didn’t quite use non-combativity right.  Well I do actually think the rule is good but think it might still need to be tweaked.

Hi everyone I’m, I’m Mike.  One of Damien’s former teammates from Brandeis University.  Go Judges! I currently coach at a Lilov Fencing Academy and a local high school. I too fell prey to the coach more compete less mantra.  No I’m not an alcoholic but I do in fact like the new non-combativity rule and am excited to see how it transforms the sport.  I think that Non-Combativity could be the push to make the spectator’s experience more exciting in epee!

Fencing has been gaining popularity and is being filmed in increasing amounts.  With the addition of video replay, coaches and fans on their phones & tablets more and more bouts are being recorded and watched.  This provides for many opportunities and one I’m sure the USFA has thought about is spectators and advertising!  Celebrity fencers like Tim Morehouse and Mariel Zagunis have helped turn sabre into a sport that people get excited about watching.  Don’t you get excited when you hear about fencing from outside of the “fencing world?”

Epee has long been considered the “slow weapon” because what spectators see is not as active as sabre of foil.  One of the reasons for this extreme patience and “jumping around” as many sabrists mockingly describe it is because Epee derives itself from an actual first blood rapier duel.  You can hit your opponent anywhere and they will bleed, hence you win the duel. Don’t worry sabre is just as bad ass, it comes from cavalry.

Yeah that’s right guys charging on horseback trying to hack each other to pieces.  Don’t worry animal rights activists, they didn’t aim for the horse, it was too expensive.  But anyway back to epee where you might be fighting to the death and not just first blood this way you might have the chance to stab your opponent 15 times before they go down.

As a result of this constant danger, epeeists are perpetually fighting an offensive and defensive battle.  Without right of way, any touche scores.  Tactics and strategy become major factors and you need to learn how to control and manage the distance.  For you non fencers out there, think anytime and anywhere you stab them they bleed.  This makes an attack riskier so epeeists do not commit to an attack as willingly, the full action might need a little more foresight.  Compared to sabre where as soon as the director says fence they launch an assault, not quite as ruthlessly as an NFL cornerback snorting adderrall.

Adding Non-Combativity forces epee fencers to always be engaged in combat.  Duh right? That’s what the rule says “Non-Combativity.”   It may cause you to forgo that second thought about a certain action which in fact gives the lead up, changing the dynamic of your bout.  The passivity rule forces us to always dangle just within distance, develop a greater passive awareness of time, and increase athleticism.

Wait, I thought fencing was a sport for the unathletic right?  In my experience that’s what most non-fencers think.   Just ask Jason Pryor who has taken advantage of the new rule and won the most recent Div 1 Men’s Epee North American Cup.  “I’m in the best shape of my life and I feel like if I take a passivity call, that’s more time that they have to constantly fence … they’ll eventually run out of gas.”

I can’t wait to watch epee evolve as a result of this new rule.  In fact it gets me a little more excited about that next DE to try and use the rule to my advantage.  But then again I always love a good bout!

Mike Still

Lilov Fencing Academy
West Essex Regional High School

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