Q&A: Asymmetry

Penny Willis asks: "Hi-I'm just starting fencing, and very nervous for the most ridiculous reason... I heard that if you fence for a long time, one of your thighs can get pretty thick. Also, is it ok if I fence right and left? I'm pretty OCD, I must have right with my left."

Hi, Penny! Welcome to fencing! Yes, it is true that if you fence for a long time one of your legs (your leading leg) will get somewhat thicker than your other, but in my experience, only so as you would notice if you were wielding a tape measure. Otherwise, you may be conscious of it (e.g. if one of your pants legs feels a bit tight--I've had this experience), but nobody else will. I've seen guys who have fenced all their lives have one leg somewhat thicker, but, again, not so as to make anyone who wasn't looking for it notice. The asymmetry is really no greater than some people have anyway. E.g. my left foot is a whole size bigger than my right. I make sure to mention this whenever I'm measured for shoes, but otherwise, it's hardly a problem.

Privileging one or the other side by only fencing right or left is another thing. Most fencers fence consistently to one side, just as most people are single-handed when they write. But some of the very best fencers, my coach included, can fence with both hands. The only reason that you wouldn't want to practice both sides is the expense: you would have to have weapons (and gloves) for each hand since the grips are designed for only one. I don't know of any ambidextrous grips nor can I think how you would design one. But maybe others have solved this problem, too. You would also want to have a back-zip jacket and lame (if you're fencing foil) so that you wouldn't have the zipper on the wrong side. Of course, this applies only for foil and epee. Perhaps if you're fencing sabre you can just switch hands without changing grips, but I've never fenced sabre, so I don't know.

[Update from one of my sabre friends: "The sabre grip is generally ambidextrous, so there would be no problem if you were fencing dry sabre. However since you mentioned a lame, we are probably talking electric sabre. For electric sabre the grip is fine, but you would need to swap the socket to the other side so it does not interfere with the back of your hand and limit your range of motion. The other expenses are similar. Like foil, you will need a backzip lame to address the zipper on the wrong side issue. While like foil, you will also need a different handed glove, it must also be conductive on the cuff, making for a potentially more expensive glove than a foil/epee equivalent."]


  1. Hi Penny! I (and other fencers I know) have asymmetrical calves (trailed leg bulges more), shoulder muscles and wrist (leading arm developed more.) But a lot of it depends on how prone you are to put on muscle. I know other folks who get very strong without picking up bulges at all...



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