Susan and Ken Reed’s Life, Universe and Everything

A System of Movement for Duello

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 quickly.

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 this position.

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 Retreat.

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 quickly.

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 slightly oblique.

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

Exercises should be repeated on the opposite foot.

  1. 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.
  2. Starting in a right foot stance, 1) Advance 2) Advance, ending in narrow stance 3) Lunge, staying in wide stance and 4) Pass Forward.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.