Flicking in Épée as an Offensive Preparatory Action

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Flicking in Epee is often an exercise in feeling the pain of 500g of steel clubbing your hand and landing flat. When utilized properly as a preparatory action, it presents a lower risk means to aim for shorter targets, setting the fencer up for a deeper, explosive closing attack.

This post is intended to discuss what makes a flick work, how to avoid doing a “clubbing motion,” and drills you can work with in practice.

For starters, let’s look at a few examples of some beautiful offensive flicks:

#1 Nikolai Novosjolov 

#2 Nikolai Novosjolov

#3 Jonathan Yergler (Credit for clip goes to CyrusOfChaos)

#4 Guillermo Madrigal (Credit for clip goes to Dax68)

#5 Ari Simmons (Credit for clip goes to Jerry Simmons)

#6 Paolo Pizzo (Credit for clip goes to FIE)

Now watch one more time. This time, pay attention to three things, particularly as they work in concert together: the extension, the hand opening/closing, and the front foot landing.

  1. The Extension: Note how loose in the upper body each of these fencers are as they score on the preparatory action, and that their flick is coming through the extension. Dave Micahnik once used the analogy that an extension should come through the tricep (not the shoulder), as if one were reaching for a salt and pepper shaker at the table. A common folly of the flick is that fencers will often tense up prior to initiating the action, resulting in the flick coming out in a clubbing motion. The consequences of a clubbing flick are two-fold: the flick is more likely to land flat, and a clubbing motion may also cause the fencer to make a larger, sweeping action that exposes him/her to a counterattack.
  2. The Opening/Closing of the Hand: It’s a little bit harder to see from these clips, but if you look closely, you’ll see that the hand opens and closes to generate the bend/whip in the blade as the extension comes out. It’s probably easiest to see this mechanic in clip #2 (Novosjolov). Prior to his flick in prep, Novosjolov looks relaxed enough that it looks like he could be holding a beer. Just as the flick lands, a squeeze of the hand generates enough power to whip the blade over Pavel Sukhov’s guard as Sukhov takes six. Again, no clubbing motion here. This is an example of the power a fencer can generate simply by opening and closing the hand and “squeezing” the grip as the extension comes out.
  3. The Foot: Take a look at when the light is going off. It’s almost simultaneous with the front foot hitting the ground. Why is this? As the inertia of the fencer shifts towards his opponent, it’s the final component alongside the extension and the hand that makes these flicks both tight and efficient.(Disclaimer: I don’t physics very good, but it’s like, momentum and stuff. Or the inertia physics thing. Yeah.)

Like all things fencing, learning to flick properly takes lots and lots of practice. A good drill to work on this is as follows:

  • For the sake of practicing proper form, Fencers A and B line up in advance-lunge distance. If available, it is recommended to plug into a scoring machine.
  • Fencer A drops his/her hand in eight, exposing some target for Fencer B to attack.
  • Fencer B attempts to flick, landing the action as his/her front foot hits the ground in an advance. Fencer A attempts to counter-attack under the hand as the flick comes out.

Starting these drills with flicks over the top of the hand are good for practicing form. Once a degree of proficiency is shown, Fencer A should show different lines (e.g. 4, for Fencer B to flick to the outside of the guard as shown in clip #3 with Yergler-Canevari).

As you practice, be mindful of the three variables listed above, and if your drilling partner is wincing in pain, it probably means you’re clubbing them instead of flicking them. But if your drilling partner is really a jerk or something or is a fan of Justin Bieber, it’s okay to club them. Sometimes.

Hope this is helpful. Comment below with any questions you have!

One thought

  1. The videos are great and the mechanics of the flick are spot on. The reason you want to land nearly simultaneously withe the front foot is because the flick is far more reliable with a closinf distance between the fencers as it lands. If you land the front foot first you have exhausted most of your forward momentum (unless you commit the sin of leaning over your lunge).

    What is missing is an explanation of using the flick as a prepatory action. It is a great first step of a second intention attack. First you must have a flick that is a credible threat, if you opponent sees you throw fifteen and not land any, he is going go all honey badger and counter hard straight into your prep (Touche). Once it’s a credible threat, done properly with little prep, your opponent should feel he needs to address the threat you present. There are a couple natural defenses to the flick, counter attack into it or withdrawing the target. Counterattack has some risk because you are closing distance which increases the success rate of the flick unless you displace the target (arm) as you approach. Withdrawing the arm takes away target completely but leaves the hand low.

    The flicking fencer should think about the correct follow through after determining what could traction the opponent favors. The counterattacking fencer is vulnerable to a flick that falls short and is coverted directly to an opposition. The withdrawing opponent is vulnerable to a fast continuation to a high line or a pause to take an opposition into the line chosen to attack into.

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