Fencer’s Portfolio: Katherine Holmes (USA)

2021. 4


“American Big M” is a made-up noun (by the author) that describes fencers who are always extending their arms and are very strong, which is a “common trend” (as the author observed) in the American Senior Women Epee Fencing group.

This article is an analysis of this type of fencer. Please don’t attack the author or any individual fencer because of the noun. The author respects all individuals.

What does “American Big M” mean?

“American Big M” is a made-up word. It describes a style of fencing that is very effective to a lot of people. The story behind this starts with my competitions in America.

I have been to a lot of tournaments in America. The thing that struggled me the most, or the type of fencer that frustrated me the most is — “American Big M”. I have seen this style almost every competition I go to (in America), and as I observed, this unique style of fencing is very effective, and is quite common among senior fencers and old ladies.

“American Big M” is the type of senior women epee fencer that:

  1. Are Super strong
  2. Very Defensive (rarely attacks)
  3. Always extends their arms
  4. (SENIOR fencer: slow)

Not to lie, but they usually get good scores, like very often. And to be honest, this type of fencing is pretty annoying — especially to arrogant young people (and typical fencers)

If you fence this type of fencer for your first time, you might as well feel this style frustrating. Mostly because you feel like this style is not “typical fencing”, but they just keep on winning points, no matter how hard you try. Now I will bring you an analysis of this type of fencer.

The Analysis:

One very good example of this type of fencer is— Katherine HOLMES. She is an American Senior Women’s Epee fencer, and she currently ranks 3rd in America, and 22nd in the world ranking. I am personally a fan of her fencing.

(An article about her: http://realwomanonline.com/kat-holmes-is-going-for-gold-on-multiple-fronts/)

Why do I use her as an example? Because she is the perfect representation of “American Big M” style fencing. And she is at the international world level.

So how exactly does she fence? What made her so good at the “American Big M” style?

(So this is way she is a “American big M type fencer, she is strong, always extends her arm, and very defensive)

En Garde position:

Leaning forward

She is leaning forward very much and the rare leg and the body makes a straight line.


She rarely moves her rare leg. She always uses her front leg to move, and lifts the front leg quite often.

She likes the pattern: advance one step, retreat 2 steps


Tip to the guard (right on top)

She usually controls her distance from her tip to the opponent’s bell guard (right on top). This pointing to the hand gives pressure to the opponent and also easy for her to hit the hand. This is also a good distance for her because she is fully extended at this point, whereas her opponent is usually half-extended. So it would be less likely and more harder for her opponent to attack at this point. She is taking control at this position.


When she is in the previous position (extend arm and tip pointing to the hand), if her opponent doesn’t respond (or she is able to take the blade), she will attempt to take the blade and try to go in. Otherwise her actions are provoking her opponents to go forward, so that she can counter-attack on the arm (stop hit)

Stop hit is especially useful in this style, since you are “always” extending your arm, whereas your opponent will always be a second slower than you because they have to extend their arm to attack. Your stop hit will be much faster than your opponent’s because you don’t have to go anything, but wait for them to come and aim at the shoulder.

You might as well do a c shape position (as shown in the picture) to try to avoid your opponent from hitting you, but also extends your reach of hitting at the same time.

Is there any way to overcome this style?

I talked a lot about how great this style is and how it works so well. But how do we DEFEAT this style? What are some ways to deal with it?

Be patient:

The thing this type of fencer wants YOU to do — be more active in attacking so that they could easily spot timings.

You will attack, in fact, if you are not aware, because they will NEVER attack you first (intentionally). Their first choice is to wait for you to attack. And they are pretty good at dealing with what happens next. So if you’re a speed fencer, you’re in big disadvantage. Even if you hit by coincidence, there’s a good chance you’ll lose in the long term, because the strategy is wrong. Be patient and wait for the timing.

Perfect Hard Hit:

Since Holmes is at the world level, her opponents usually have really accurate and light hand hits. This is very technical, but there is a good chance this could work.

Moreover, once you’re ahead of them, there’s a much better chance for you to win, because their default method (waiting for you to attack), won’t really work anymore.

Also just aim round their hand/arm when you attack

This one’s timing is when Holmes didi a series of attacks, and has become lax. Tohe (FRA) comes in with that timing.

Make them Rush:

When they rush, they lose their advantage of defence, which is something they are usually very good at. Their attacks are relatively weaker than their defence.

Making them rush also gives you tons of good timings, because they will be pushing you and making attempts to attack. That’s when great timings come in.

(Holmes made a mistake of doing a big parry, while her opponent disengaged beforehand. (and I think it’s because that Holmes panicked so she did such a big parry)

When her arm bands:

This works best when she is agitated and has to go forward because you are taking the lend. When she attacks, she won’t make big moves (such as lunge, fleche), so it’s easier for you to get away. Just one step away is enough. Now when she takes a rest, quickly repost.

These are the some ways I found during myvideo studying of her fencing. If there’s anything you want to add on, please comment down below. Thank you for reading, and hope you got some very useful information from this analysis!

(Katherine Holmes)

Here are the video references:






Article About her: