In the sport of fencing, the phrase en garde is called by the director of a match as a signal for the fencers to assume the prescribed position for the beginning of the match. At LANCE Training or during our shows, you’re much more likely to hear one fight partner saying en garde directly to another as a verbal cue that they are ready for the fight to begin, like a quarterback shouting “hut” at the start of a play in football as opposed to the umpire calling “batter up” during a baseball game. It’s more informal, more peer-to-peer, but no less necessary between fight partners.
When it comes to characterization, LANCE performers treat the phrase en garde almost as performative dialogue rather than as an official term. It is a kind of trope-ish shorthand that can signal to the audience a few things about a character all at once:
- They’ve had some formal instruction in combat
- They are a principled person, a person with honor, a person who values fairness
- They are dignified, possibly aristocratic.
One last use of the phrase en garde is as a state of being. You’ll often hear LANCE Trainers telling students to “get en garde”, meaning that they want the student to assume a ready stance. Granted there are lots of guards a person can take at the beginning of a fight. En garde is simply choosing one of these stances and doing it.
And that’s en garde in a nutshell! Which word should we do next in our Fightcabulary series? Let us know in the comments below!