Grand Assault of Arms

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Grand Assault of Arms 1895

An assault of arms observed by the President of the Republic. Illustration from Le Petit Journal, June 1895.

The Grand Assault of Arms is the ultimate test of martial skill among classical fencers. The grand assault proper developed in the late 1860’s and early 1870’s in tune with the economic and historical forces that gave birth to France’s gilded age, La Belle Epoque. According to Robert Milton, the sports column writer for the French newspaper Le Figaro, this was “a time when everything is made grand – Grand Review or Grand Minister. It is thus that we announce the Grand Assault”.

Each year classical fencers from various localities both national and international travel to New York City to participate as individual practitioners of classical fencing from traditional fencing schools, university clubs, and study groups. Over a span of two days the fencers contend with one another in a grueling test of fencing skill with many participants fencing more than one weapon.

Preliminary assaults are held on the first day to determine the finalists in each weapon, and on the second day the finalists meet to determine the winners in each weapon category. These finals occur within an elaborately organized event that is open to the public. Professional fencing masters and instructors also participate with exhibitions of skill presenting demonstrations of various schools and weapons both classical and historical.

2018 Grand Assault of Arms

November 10th & 11th, 2018

Community Education & Recreation Center, 180 Ninth Street, Jersey City NJ

***   Registration closes at midnight on Thursday, November 8th (Friday morning)   ***

Weapons to be Fenced: Foil, Dueling Sword, Sabre, & Small-sword (new this year)

Sunday Open to the Public

The public Sunday program for the Grand Assault of Arms includes demonstrations of both Classical and Historical fencing as well as an exposition of 19th century fencing memorabilia. The program ends with the finalists of Saturday’s tournament.

 Join our Association

Support our archival efforts and professional tournaments as a sustaining member of the Association for Historical Fencing. Become a member today and receive a 25% off your Grand Assault registration fees!


Qualifying Round for Foil

The Association for Historical Fencing maintains the view that the Grand Assault of Arms should serve as the ultimate test of martial skill among classical fencers. To this end formal assaults are governed by the idea that they should, as closely as possible, mimic a serious encounter between skilled individuals, despite the fencing weapon’s point being covered. Consequently, fencers must primarily consider their defense in their fencing to achieve this ideal. To encourage this demonstration of skill in the Grand Assault, we have introducing qualifying rounds for foil only. They are designed to ensure that only fencers who adhere to sound martial technique will take part in the formal Grand Assault.

To qualify, each fencer must adhere to Classical foil technique and form, distinguished by clarity and distinction in the actions, precision in timed actions, and regularity in the execution of actions. Regularity refers to exact, orthodox execution as opposed to imprecise, unorthodox execution of technique.

The following are the nine criteria by which each fencer will be evaluated in the qualification assaults:

  1. Fencers must demonstrate fully developed simple and compound attacks.
  2. Precise blade control in all offensive and defensive actions.
  3. Awareness and control of the measure.
  4. Balanced controlled footwork.
  5. No jabbing; a thrust started with the elbow behind the body is considered a jab.
  6. No brutality and heavy handedness.
  7. No forcing “infighting”.
  8. No covering of target by doubling up or twisting the body or with the arms. In addition either twisting the body or passing must not bring the unarmed shoulder and/or arm forward.
  9. Fencers must demonstrate that they can sustain a phrase of arms.

Foil Qualification Procedure

  1. Each fencer is required to fence twice against an adversary designated by the host organization.
  2. In order to qualify, the fencer must receive a Satisfactory mark in all nine criteria from a panel of three judges evaluating the qualification assaults.
  3. It is the responsibility of each fencer to fence so that they can demonstrate all of the criteria required within the two assaults.
  4. The panel of judges will mark the fencer’s evaluation sheet as Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory for each criterion where the judgment is unanimous. If the judges disagree on any of the criteria after two assaults, the fencer will fence a third assault so that the judges can re-evaluate and reach a unanimous decision.
  5. All fencers who qualify will be entered into the formal Grand Assault, which will be held immediately after all the qualifying assaults are finished.
  6. Scores will not be counted in the qualifying assaults and will have no bearing on the placement of fencers in the tournament.

Tournament Rules

All fencers fencing are required to read, understand, and adhere to the rules. Please review the tournament rules here, as they have been recently updated.

Schedule of Events

November 10th

2:30 – 3:00 – Participant & Equipment Check In

3:00 – 5:00 – Qualifying Rounds Foil

5:30 – 7:30 – Tournament, Dueling Sword, Sabre and Small-swrod

7:30 – 8:30 – Dinner Break

8:30 – 10:30 – Tournament continues

November 11th

11:30 – 1:30pm Tournament Foil Preliminaries

2:00 – 4:30 – Public Presentation and Finals


Please direct all inquiries about the Grand Assault of Arms to the AHF Event Coordinator:

Additional information

Membership Status

Participant – AHF Member, Participant – General

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