Below is an essay from our own Prevote de Armes Paul Geraci. Dr. Geraci does not claim that his "true touche" is his design. Instead, he credits his fencing master and others. Still, I have not seen this method written under any other name. We have discussed this issue of the "true touche," but I think that you should read from the source. Mark Brandyberry The True Touche by Prevote de Armes Paul Geraci I had fenced for many years using the German grip. Strangely, I had always felt limited. While my point was fairly accurate, I was not a “hand touch artist”. If one cannot hit the hand in modern epee, they will be forever denied champion status. It was not until taking lessons with Yakov Danielenkov, a Russian master, that I learned why the German grip was inhibiting my point control. Under the advice and supervision of my teacher I (grudgingly) switched to the Belgian grip. Within one month my point control had dramatically improved. Within two months I earned a higher ranking. It is here that I will explain the many varieties of pistol grips, the correct way of handling them, and how to make the “true touche”. Every touch should be concluded with a petite flick or miniature coupe. This is how one can get the point to stick and not slide off the target. It is also how a touch may score a target that the eye cannot completely see, such as above the bell. However, this is not a whipping motion; it must be done with the fingers. Invariably some movement may creep into the wrist, but the master will limit this. This technique’s application will vary depending on the type of grip. The Belgian grip offers a prong for the middle finger. This acts as a fulcrum. The thumb pushes down as the middle finger gives a gentle squeeze. Inevitably, this action will be accompanied by a slight pulse from the wrist. This action is a tiny flick or miniature coupe and should be practiced both by itself and at the end of the extension. This allows the fencer to correctly place the point to the target and it allows for the fingers to perform the work. It literally snaps the point down
onto the target. This is vital! If the wrist, elbow, or shoulder are used for targeting, hitting the hand will rely more on chance than skill. While proponents of the French grip testify that the subtle finger play used to manipulate the straight handle is not present in pistol grip technique, the truth is quite contrary. The finger work is just as, if not more important, in handling the pistol grip varieties. Fig. A The Belgian grip. Note the ridge between the middle and trigger finger. Notice that two grips, the German and the Russian, do not have the prong or ridge for the middle finger. This makes the true touche difficult to perform. The German does offer a groove for the middle finger and its slim design allow for comfort. The elongated tang however, often interferes with infighting. It is often sawed off, although this does further affect the balance. The Russian grip should be favored by those with large hands. Often the subtle ridges and grooves are wasted on fingers that are too wide to be accommodated. This may also invite a stronger sense of physical play, often in a Russian style. That is to say a tight guard, point elevated, and often in pronation. The American grip is also used by fencers with unusually large hands. One must remember that many epee fencers exceed six and half feet in height and may need a larger grip. The visconti offers a ridge for the middle finger that can be used as a fulcrum to snap the point down. These grips come in multiple sizes to accommodate a wide range. The Spanish offset offers a prong similar to the Belgian, however it does not balance the epee blade as well as the other varieties. Furthermore, there is some question of legality regarding this grip as some claim it has potential to be held in more than one way. Exercises for the True Touche I like to start every lesson, be it beginner or advanced, with this drill. These exercises are suitable for both foil and epee and should occupy the first 3-5 minutes of the lesson. The student stands at en garde while the master takes position with the blade below the student’s in sixte. The pupil’s blade must be slightly elevated in order to have a position to drop from. The master moves the blade away in tempo and steps forward. The student gives a gentle squeeze of the fingers without extending the arm or moving the bell and lands the touch on the plastron.
Strive to make the touch in the same spot every time. This should be repeated several times. Later the same exercise may be done targeting the inside pocket of the elbow. The second exercise starts from the same position. The master disengages to quart and steps forward. As soon as the student sees movement, they will disengage to sixte and elevate the point. Then giving a gentle squeeze with the fingers, bring the point down on the target. All of this should be done without pause. Especially the moment where the pupil’s blade reaches the highest point after the disengage. The idea is to have a brief moment of relaxation between he disengage and the touch. Use the momentum of the disengage to carry the point up then snap the point down to target. The third exercise is identical with a double. Therefore the master performs two disengages without pause and steps forward. The student disengages twice without pause and sticks the touch. Again, there is no extension, only the drop of the point with the fingers. During these exercises, it is recommended that the pupil not wear a fencing coat or plastron. Much of the master’s attention needs to be set on the amount of tension in the pupil’s shoulder. The coat often hides this, however in a light shirt, the master can easily identify when the student needs to relax. After a lunge, a gentle laying of the flat of the master’s weapon on the student’s shoulder will ease the muscles and correct the position. Later drills may be executed with the extension or lunge with the true touche suffixing the action. END