Thoughts on the Double-Touch

“To touch and not be touched”
Attributed to Molière, “toucher et ne pas l’être” is the axiom of classical fencing, and the CCF motto. It is avoiding the dreaded double-touch by putting theory of self-preservation into practice.

This is in stark contrast to a sport-fencing ethos which has evolved into a game of lightening-fast reflexes in order to be the first to give a touch, regardless of receiving a touch afterwards.  Although athletically admirable, the desire to be first in the race to the touch without historically proven technique is only possible with foiled practice weapons.  To do so with sharps… well, it is a dance with death.

But the touch is so seductive.  Until one reaches the psychological state of caring more about form than touch, the temptation to give in to speed instead of timing, to reach further down center-line instead of opposing, is far too tempting for most. What inevitably results is a fencing bout that favors the fastest, and one that is decidedly not classical.

A classical bout is a conversation that relishes the phrase. A bout between a classical fencer and a sport-fencer is really two people talking past one another because classical and sport systems are quite literally incommensurable. Fencing an opponent that rushes to the touch while putting him or herself in peril stifles the conversation, or talks over their conversation partner.

Typical steps to reduce double-hits have varied from simply “throwing them out” by not counting them, to one-touch bouts, and many things in between.  Dr. Milo Thurston of the Linacre School of Defense in Oxford, recently shared their school’s strategies to reduce double-hits in competition. It is worthy of your consideration, and best viewed at the original source, Linacre on Google+ which is linked to below.

Note: Dr. Thurston’s original comments about this have been retired along with Google+. However, he has been kind enough to summarize his recollections in the comments below.

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4 Responses to Thoughts on the Double-Touch

  1. knirirr says:

    Many thanks for the link.
    We’re thinking of a different variant next year, which I will write up as well.

    • Scott says:

      With Google having closed down Google+, I am wondering have you migrated your strategies for avoiding the double-touch (broken linked above) to a different platform? I cannot seem to locate the same information on

      • knirirr says:

        Unfortunately, I think that content has been lost – sorry about that.
        IIRC it might have been an article about a system we were trying out at the time that went something like this:
        – If a fencer scores a clean hit, they have the advantage.
        – If they score another clean hit when they have the advantage, they win the bout.
        – If something messy occurs, e.g. an exchange, neither has the advantage.
        It’s very simple, and mostly seems to encourage defence, as a mistake even when one is ahead can cause that advantage to be lost or even switched to one’s opponent.
        A possible disadvantage is that inexperienced and/or aggressive fencers may repeatedly exchange and prolong the bout.
        We’ve had considerable benefit from varying rules for training or assaults. Even so, the touch is rather seductive as you say.

      • Scott says:

        Thanks so much for your response on this issue!

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