Teaching the Flèche

Stealing the wikipedia definition - the fleche is described as:

“In a flèche, a fencer transfers his weight onto his front foot and starts to extend the arm. The rear leg initiates the attack, but the ball of the leading foot provides the explosive impulse that is needed to drive the fencer toward the opponent.”

One of the benefits of coaching in 2015 is the wealth of video content from A Grades, European and World championships. The FIE hsa done a sterling job here, and long may it continue.

The traditional way of teaching the fleche involves a an extension of the arm, a lean forward, followed by the crossover of the back foot after or with the landing of the hit.

And it feels… slow. Sluggish. Traditional fleching is an off-balance exercise, it’s a fall towards the opponent with directional force followed by a recovery.

Sabre of course doesn’t have the fleche. Sabre has the flunge, where the fencer jumps towards the opponent, with the intention of landing the hit before the feet cross over on the landing.

Watching epee, I’m seeing a mix of some traditional fleching, but a not insignificant lean towards sabre-esque flunging, although with an earlier crossover. The action is closer to a jump forward, with the arm leading, aiming for a more horizontal position before crossing the foot over and landing.

So… I’ve been working on a few methods for teaching this. The objective is to teach the action using two jumps. The first jump is made on the spot, and isued to prime the fencer and load the action. On landing the first jump, the legs and bent deeper and the arm starts the extension forwards. As the arm extends, the fencer pushes against the ground, propelling themselves forwards, landing the hit and bringing the back foot over the front foot. The aim is to train the “loading” and the propulsion.

These exercises work best when they’re done initally with no equipment, and then with equipment with the coach acting as target. No further than long lunge distance.

Exercise 1: On the spot.

Fencer sits on guard. Fencer jumps high, lands, extends arm, straightens body and jumps again. Repeat.

Exercise 1a: Leading the hand. If the fencer has issues with the extension of the arm before the second jump, grip the hand of the fencer. As the fencer finishes the first jump, pull their arm straight and continue to pull as they extend the legs for the second action.

If they faceplant, they’re probably doing it right.

Exercise 2: Over a barrier.

Using a small hurdle, fencer stands with hurdle on non-sword side. Fencer sits in en-garde, jumps over hurdle, landing in en-garde, extends arm, straightens body and jumps again.

Exercise 3: Both ends.

Place one hurdle one side of coach, one hurdle opposite the coach. Repeat exercise two, but after completion, coach rotates and starts the action on the opposite side. Perform in sets of four to six repetitions, then allow short break (15-30 seconds) before resuming.

Exercise 4: Add context.

Introduce an exercise operating at short, medium and long distance. We use: Coach beats blade, fencer beats back, hit to wrist. Fencer engages blade in sixte, lunges to inside body. Fencer recovers, disengages blade and fleches to body.

Exercise 5: With speed.

Repeat exercise four. After the lunge, as the fencer recovers, the coach taps his blade on the ground and moves to quarte. Fencer must complete the recovery and land the hit from the fleche before the coach parries the blade.

I’m finding some success with this technique, students are showing a marked improvement in their ability to launch a quick fleche over a short distance. I’ll try to post some video when I get a chance.