Thoughts on the Gardere Grip
The Gardere Grip has been said to be “The marriage of the French & Pistol grip” and is still illegal in most (if not all) U.S. competition circles. Since 2005 there have been numerous threads on Fencing.Net listing the Pros and Cons of both practicing and competing with such a grip.
My stance is that this is more of a “political issue” than anything else. What we are looking for when we decide if a weapon is legal or illegal is “unfair advantage.” I would think that if this was the sole case, than pistol/orthopedic/ergonomic grips would be outlawed as well. With the added ease of gripping, the fencer has an “unfair advantage” in power. As for pistol grips being used as practice weapons (I strongly encourage French Grips in my school), I align with the more “traditional” coaches that postulate that pistol grips make the fencer more susceptible to heavier recruitment of the arm muscles, whereby proper fencing comes from the wrist and fingers.
This is the first time I’ve ever used the Gardere grip and I must say, I encountered an initial ‘liking’ to it and to the change in grips. The prongs and grooves secure the hand onto the weapon whilst keeping the same control via the thumb & index finger (aides). My only complaint is that the pommel draws inward and doesn’t align itself to the center of the wrist, as would be the case with the French grip. A slight balance issue, but one that I’m sure I’ll gradually get used to.
To my students and readers, (in my opinion) the Gardere doesn’t give the fencer an “unfair advantage” as the superior fencer will prevail apart from any of these small changes (same feeling goes for pistol grips). However, the best practice weapon remains the French/Italian grip (second, the Gardere). For competition and for recreational activity, I would encourage my student to find “The sword/grip that best suits you, personally.”
While you’ll never see a modern Olympic fencer fencing without a pistol variation, it would be most refreshing to see someone representing and dominating with the French grip in the near future.
Coach Michael Joyce