This set of instructions were created for a class at the University
of Atlantia (SCA) in 1993.
Footwork for Duello is more complicated than footwork for modern sport
fencing. This system was developed so that footwork and movement could
be easily described, taught and practiced in drills. These are not necessarily
the step names used in period (not all of these steps are even descried
in period sources), but these are convenient names for calling out instructions
Try to do the footwork smoothly, without jerking, bobbing or rocking.
All of the steps should work together in combinations, so try to move
from one step to another smoothly and naturally in an unforced manner.
All movement starts with a good basic stance called a guard.
- Right Hand Guard (RH, Engarde)
- The right foot is in front and pointed towards your opponent. Left
foot is a foot's length behind, heels in line and at 90 degrees to
the right. Knees are comfortably bent. The body is upright, straight
and turned at a 45 degree angle, halfway between the angle of the feet.
The head is towards your opponent. Arms are in a comfortable position,
ready for combat. Note: Keep your right knee pointed towards your opponent
or your body will tend to twist.
- Left Hand Guard (LH, Left Engarde)
- Same as Right Hand Guard, but with the left foot forward. This is
a more defensive guard, but several strong attacks can be made from
Variations on the basic guard:
- Lean your body slightly forward towards your opponent. Don't lean
too far forward (which exposes the head), backwards (which exposes
the legs) or over sideways (which exposes your rear).
- Bend your knees to a greater of lesser extent. An extreme bend reduces
target area, but can reduce sideways mobility. A slight bend has a
height advantage and allows a full range of movement, but more of the
body is exposed as target.
- The rear foot can turn to something less than 90 degrees to the front
foot. Many period fencing manuals show the feet at about a 45 degree
angle. Do not turn your front foot away from your opponent, since this
can interfere with lateral movement.
The amount of separation of the feet is important to your stance and
can be Medium, Narrow or Wide.
- Medium — Feet are at the distance descried
above for the basic Engarde. This is the most stable position.
- Narrow — Feet are close together. This is
not as balanced as the Medium stance, but since any step you take will
be relatively large it is a good starting position for movement.
- Wide — Feet are far apart. This stance is
well balanced (if not exaggerated) and target area exposure can be
reduced, but it is less flexible for moving than the Medium stance.
There are four general types movement: linear, lateral, oblique and
circular. These can be described as follows:
- Linear— Straight line directly towards or
away from your opponent.
- Lateral— Straight line sideways directly.
- Oblique— Straight line on a diagonal, either
forwards or backwards.
- Circular— Any movement which describes a curved
or circular path.
- Advance (Adv, Jab Step)
- As in Modern Fencing, start from Engarde, move forward with the lead
foot and bring up the rear foot to come back into guard. Stay in the
same guard as you began with. Movement can be linear or oblique.
- Retreat (Rtr)
- Similar to the Advance, move backwards starting with the rear foot
and pull back the lead foot to come back into guard. Stay in the same
guard as you began with.
- Half Pace (HP)
- Half of an Advance or Retreat in which the rear foot is brought up
join with the front foot, either heel-to-heel, even or crossed slightly
in front. This has the advantage of getting your center and starting
point closer to your opponent without endangering your body, but your
mobility will be temporarily limited. This step can also be done retreating,
or starting with feet joined and then stepping into a standard Engarde.
Two Half Paces will take the same time and space as one Advance or
- Inside (In, Cross step)
- Lateral movement to the inside (your front side) of the Guard you
are in. Step sideways with the rear foot, opening up to your opponent
slightly. Then bring the lead foot over to return to Guard. Movement
can be oblique or slightly circular as well as lateral. Note: This
step can also be done by stepping across with the lead foot, then bringing
the rear foot over to return to guard. This is particularly good when
fighting behind a shield, but can leave your rear exposed if not done
- Outside (Out, Cross step)
- Similar to the Inside step, this is a lateral movement to the outside
(your back side) of the guard you are in. Step sideways with the lead
foot, opening up to your opponent slightly. Then bring the rear foot
over to return to guard.
This can also be done stepping across with the rear foot, then bringing the
lead foot over to return to guard.
- Half Compass (HC)
- This is a circular/lateral step to the outside. Step with the rear
foot even with and behind your lead foot, similar to a Half Pace. Then
step with the lead foot into Guard.
- Change (Cng.In)
- Change guard from RH to LH, or LH to RH, done in two movements. To
do a Change to the inside, bring the rear foot up and slightly sideways
so it is even with the lead foot. Then swing the lead foot back to
come into Guard. This movement can be done in place, laterally, or
- Change (Cng.Out.)
- The Change can also be done to the outside by bringing the lead foot
back and sideways so it is even with the rear foot. Then swing the
rear foot forward to come into Guard.
- Forward (For., Pass Step, Full Pace)
- Change guard in one movement, going forward on a line. Swing the
rear foot forward in front of the lead foot (on which you pivot) and
come into the new guard. Use your hips to snap you into guard quickly.
Like the Advance and Retreat, this can be done linear or oblique.
- Backward (Bk.)
- Similar to Forward, change guard moving backwards on a line. Swing
the lead foot backwards behind the rear foot (on which you pivot) and
come into the new guard.
- Swing Step (Sw., Change direction)
- Pivoting on the lead foot, swing the rear foot forward and place
it in front of you. Swing what was the lead foot behind you to end
in the opposite guard and facing 90 degrees,180 degrees or some other
angle from where you began. This is a very circular movement intended
to get you around to the side of your opponent's guard.
- Lunge (Lng., Stacatto, Thrust)
- An attack made by moving the lead foot forward one or two foot's
lengths while keeping the rear foot in place. This is similar to a
Modern Fencing Lunge, but without the deep bend of the leading knee
and full extension which commits you to a single line. From this short
Lunge you can follow with any of the other steps without becoming unbalanced.
Half Paces, Swing Steps and Forward Pass Steps are particularly effective
for continuing an attack after a Lunge.
Notes when Lunging:
- Your sword arm should extend just before you begin to move your body
forward. This is to avoid having your sword out of range of your opponent
and your body in range of their stop thrust.
- As with all attacks, your off-hand should be placed where it can
defend you best from a stop thrust or riposte. Do not waste your offhand
by throwing it out behind you, as in a Modern Fencing Lunge.
Drills for Footwork
These drills are based on Modern Fencing footwork drills. Some drilling
should be done at every practice by every Duellist. More experienced
fighters should get practice leading the drills. Drills with calls should
be kept to a minimum so that the class doesn't become too dependent on
- With all facing the same direction, the Instructor does the step
and calls out the command while the class follows. This is to learn
the basics of the steps and combinations.
- Silent Drill - The same as 1, but without the Instructor's calls.
Work on smooth a transition from one step to another.
- Blind Drill - The same as 1, but with eyes closed. Think of your
center, balance and position.
- Follow-the-Leader - With the Instructor facing the class, the Instructor
calls out the step while doing the opposite of the command while the
- Silent Drill - The same as 4, but without the Instructor's calls.
The class follows the Instructor's lead. Work on reacting quickly and
smoothly. Work on reacting quickly and smoothly.
- In a single large circle do the two types of change steps moving
around clockwise, then counterclockwise. Maintain the size and shape
of the circle, and try to move around the circle smoothly. Vary step
size and speed.
- In a single large circle do inside steps, outside steps and the two
types of change steps moving clockwise or counterclockwise. The Instructor
initiates the movement and the class follows. Maintain the size and
shape of the circle, and work on reacting quickly and smoothly.
- In a small circle everyone focuses past the people opposite from
them and moves around the circle using various changes and sideways
steps. The Instructor initiates the movement and the class follows.
Use peripheral vision to follow the movement. The group should try
to move all together.
- In pairs, do drill number 5. Take turns initiating the movement.
Practice moving around, reacting to your opponent and keeping proper
- Drill number 9 in full protective gear, where the initiator has a
sword and the reactor does not. Pay close attention to distance and
- Changing direction - Start with regular Change steps to the inside,
then Swing steps turning 90 degrees, then Swing steps turning 180 degrees.
These techniques are used for close-in fighting.
- The Instructor gives the class a specific step combination. Everyone
works on the combination individually for a few minutes, and then the
class does it together or in pairs in the manner of drill 2. Combinations
should be designed to teach smoothness, distance, gaining position
over an opponent and withdraw safely.
Step Combinations (Sample)
Exercises should be repeated on the opposite foot.
- Starting in left foot stance, do a 1) Half-pace to narrow stance
2) Half-pace to wide stance 3) Pass Forward to make your attack 4)
Swing Step 180 degrees and 5) Pass Backwards.
- Starting in a right foot stance, 1) Advance 2) Advance, ending in
narrow stance 3) Lunge, staying in wide stance and 4) Pass Forward.
- Starting in a left foot stance, do a 1) Half-pace to narrow stance
2) Half-pace to wide stance 3) Pass Forward 4) Half-compass 5) Half-pace
to wide stance to make your attack 6) then recover with another Half-compass
and 7) one Pass backwards (or two Pass Backwards, or a Swing Step to
the front and a Pass Backwards.
- Starting in a right foot stance, establish a pattern with 1) Change
2) Change Alt 3) Change 4) Change Alt, 5) then break the pattern by
starting a Change stepping forward with the rear foot, but follow with
a Pass step Forward to gain distance, 6) Swing Step 90 degrees to close
and attack and 7) end with a Pass Backwards or a Retreat.