The basic position from which a fencer works. To get en garde, as told to absolute newbies by my coach:

Stand upright. Put your feet together, then turn your right foot out, so they form an L. Now take a step forward with your right foot. Sit down. No, more. No, really, you aren't sitting down nearly enough. Now stick out your right hand like you are shaking hands with someone.

That is a right handed fencer's en garde. A lefty would have his left foot forward and his left hand out. What does it look like, when done correctly? One way to get it right is to stand on a floor with narrow, long wooden floorboards. Align yourself with one board. Place your right foot on the board, going along it. Now, put your left foot down, perpendicular to the boards and your right foot. There should be about one foot (the measurement) between your feet, and the heel of your back foot should be on the same board your right foot is on. Your feet now form an L. Sit down! You need to bend your knees a lot--Ideally, each knee should be more-or-less above the corresponding toe.

This is one of the hardest things new fencers have getting right. A correct en garde hurts, especially when you are new, and the tendency while in the heat of battle is to stand up, straightening your legs. This is a bad thing. It absolutely destroys your stability, your mobility, and your lunge. Just trust me here...sit DOWN!

From the en garde, all basic fencing actions come naturally. You can lunge, extend, advance, retreat, fleche, jump--anything your heart desires. You are well guarded and extremely mobile. Not bad, huh?

One common point of confusion with en garde is what to do with your non-sword (typically left) hand. Most people imagine the traditional pose, with your hand above your shoulder, wrist limp, fingers hanging loose. This works well enough, and is the traditional method, but the only real requirements are that you don't tense up or cover target. Tensing up slows down your reactions, shortens your lunge, does awful things to your ability to fence. Covering target prevents your opponent from hitting you. It will get you anything from a warning to a point for your opponent. It can also get you a nasty bruise or broken bone if you catch a particularly fierce attack with it. (It often has no protective padding whatsoever)

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