In the classical period it was common for fencing (and many other sports) to be promoted for its value in contributing to the individual's good health. For example, Maestro Generoso Pavese included in his 1905 Foil and Sabre Fencing a 5 page encomium "The Beneficial Effects Resulting from the Use of Fencing as a Physical Exercise" by Thomas Yarrow M.D. This was perhaps a longer than normal advocacy for fencing for health, but the message was not unusual at the time.
Enter Maestro di Scherma Leonardo Terrone, a graduate of the Italian Military Fencing Masters School at Rome. After teaching in Venice and London, he emigrated to the United States in 1902, taking a position at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. By all accounts Terrone was an unusual personality with an absolute belief in his own skill, reinforced by his competitive success fencing in open international tournaments in Italy, and a willingness to believe that anyone who disagreed with him was his enemy for life.
What makes Terrone unique among Fencing Masters of the time, and to this day, was that a doctrine of equal bilateral development of both sides of the body was critical to the athlete's success. This extended to an analysis of each movement to ensure its anatomical and physiological correctness. To this end he developed a School of Right and Left Handed Fencing. When we consider our standard understanding of what makes a school of fencing a School:
(1) An established doctrine of fencing - that fencers should develop and demonstrate equal proficiency with both the right and left hands.
(2) A unique weapon - Terrone developed three increasingly effective models of the Terrone Foil designed specifically to be used in either hand.
(3) Literature describing the School - Terrone wrote a substantial body of lessons for teaching his method, and in 1959, some years after his death, his students published his book as Right and Left Handed Fencing.
(4) Students - he never had a large pool of adherents, but he did develop successful competitors, both for Intercollegiate Fencing Association and Amateur Fencers League of America competitions.
(5) Some form of organization - a small Left and Right Handed Fencing Association was formed by adherents of the School.
The key missing element is a body of Masters to teach the School. Terrone's teaching was deeply personal, and, given his personality, it is difficult to imagine him sharing the stage with another professional. This resulted in the School disappearing after his death (although the central core of his students may have continued to practice his technique for some time), much as was the case with Siebenhaar's Dutch Method.
With a unique method of fencing, unique rules were required. Terrone was very critical of how competitions were conducted by the Intercollegiate Fencing Association and the Amateur Fencers League of America were conducted. Essentially that critique was focused on the level and type of training, the abandonment of principles of sword use in the duel, and a search for victory that led to sloppy and unscientific fencing with a drive to the bottom on the quality of technique. To address the problem, Terrone created specific rules for right and left handed fencing:
1. A fencing bout should not be judged by the point total, but rather by the struggle of the mind between the two opponents as could be recognized by an experienced fencer from the actions of their muscles. Tournaments should be exhibitions of mind control. Only experts with well-trained minds and great character should be appointed to serve as judges.
2. Only the hit without being hit should count.
2.a. The fencer should put his or her opponent in a sate of psychological inferiority before lunging.
2.b. If the opponent less psychologically prepared attacks in error into the lunge, the score should be awarded against him.
2.c. If both fencers lunge, demonstrating inadequate psychological preparation, neither hit should be allowed.
3. All bouts should be fenced on a strip 20 t0 25 feet in length by 3 feet in width.
4. Stepping off the strip with one foot results in a touch against the fencer.
THE FORM OF THE BOUT:
5. Each regular bout should be fenced in the following order:
- The first touch is fenced with both fencers using their left hands.
- At the end of the first touch the fencers change ends of the strip and fence the next touch with both using their right hands.
- At the end of the second touch the fencers change ends of the strip and fence the next touch with one fencer using the left hand and the other the right hand.
- At the end of the third touch the fencers change ends of the strip and fence the next touch with the fencer who fenced the last touch with the left hand now fencing with the right hand and the other fencer fencing with the left hand.
- If at the end of the four touches the score is tied, a deciding touch will be fenced with both fencers using their preferred hand.
6. If time does not permit the regular bout format, a shortened format may be used:
- The first touch is fenced with the left hand by both fencers.
- The second touch is fenced with the right hand by both fencers.
- If at the end of the two touches the score is tied, a deciding touch will be fenced with both fencers using their preferred hand.
7. The length of the bout in a tournament should be 5 to 10 minutes.
8. The target:
8.a. To score a touch the hit must arrive on the torso from the waist to the collar bone, including the back, and including the upper arm.
8.b. If the opponent crouches to hide the target, a hit to the mask counts as a touch.
9. The hit: To be counted as a hit:
- The foil blade arrests with a slight upward arc,
- The wrist is at the height of the target,
- There is the impression of a proper grip, and
- The nature of the hit permits a pause of a couple of seconds on the target.
10. Feints: A feint executed with a bent arm and a feint executed with the point out of line are incorrectly executed and an attack against either has priority.
11. The same procedures for the conduct of the bout were to be used in bouts at sabre with the following sabre specific rules:
11.a. The target is the body above the hip line, including the arms and head.
11.b. The carving cut (we believe this is a slicing cut) on the forearm only scores it is well executed so that there is no double hit.
11.c. The point stop thrust on the forearm executing a carving cut is a source of weakness and will be ignored.
Pavese, Generoso; Foil and Sabre Fencing; [fencing manual]; Press of King Brothers, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America; 1905.
Terrone, Leonardo F., Right and Left Handed Fencing; [fencing manual]; Dodd, Mead and Company, NewYork, New York, United States of America; 1959.
Copyright 2020 by Walter G. Green III
Right and Left Handed Fencing Rules by Walter G. Green III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.