Escrime Artistique and Classical French Fencing

I display no ability in French by explaining that escrime artistique can be translated as “artistic fencing.”

If you’re not familiar with it, escrime artistique  is a theatrical sort of fencing, akin to stage fencing or stage combat.  Unlike the fencing we practice, escrime artistique is choreographed and deliberately dramatic, comprising wide movements and flourishes.  (This is not to suggest that there isn’t an athletic component to their fencing:  like ballet, escrime artistique seems to hide its athleticism behind its elegance.)  These fencers practice performances and then, like the artists they are, give spectacles to audiences.  Apparently, escrime artistique frequently includes period costumes and a range of weapons, such as broadswords, rapiers, and smallswords.   Done well, it is visually entertaining.  You can see some examples at the following links:

Judging from its Internet presence, escrime artistique is one of the most common forms of fencing in France (the other being, not surprisingly, sport fencing).  But I’m a little confused by this.  On the one hand, I think its sensible that fencers in France—home of the Three Musketeers, Chevalier de Saint George, and La Boesserie—would use this medium to carry on their country’s rich tradition of fencing, even right down to leather tunics, huge belts, and high leather boots.  After all, this is not unlike our country’s Civil War buffs who gather in historically-correct costumes to re-enact select battles.

But on the other hand, I am surprised that I can’t find more Internet representation of classical French fencing (escrime ancienne, I think).  I’ve searched for a while now and I think I’ve found a place or two, but those places don’t seem to provide any videos, making it difficult to discern if they practice the sort of fencing we do.  (Personally, this is an important goal for me:  I’d like to go to France and learn classical or historical French fencing from traditionally trained instructors or maîtres.)

I should note that I could be wrong here.  I have found it difficult to find any French website, club, or salle dedicated to classical fencing (as defined by fencing in the 18th and 19th centuries).  But perhaps I haven’t searched with the right terms or maybe my French translation skills are worse than even I think.  Still, if you find any sites that you think are candidates, feel free to email me about it.

In the meantime, enjoy the videos above.  And practice your lunges, everyday.

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1 Response to Escrime Artistique and Classical French Fencing

  1. S.Wright says:

    Have you seen this site?
    Using google translate, it appears to include the correct period (sorry, but I haven’t had a French class since I was 14 years old).

    Also, from a cultural perspective, I wonder if there is a French corollary to what is done in CCF. From my searching, and apparently yours, it would appear that most all escrime ancienne is escrime artistique.

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