Each person grasps the right hand of their partner in a special handshake whereby each of their thumbs rests on top of their partner’s hand.
Each person extends and points their index finger towards their partner, creating a ‘foil.’
On the call of “ON GUARD,” each person aims to be the first to tag their partner somewhere below their waist.
Play several rounds, or swap partners.
Video Transcript for Finger Fencing
presented by Mark Collard
This exercise celebrates the suave and sophisticated nature of a duel or a sword fight.
So for example we start off Reno, where we actually clasp hands in a real sort of funky way where we just grab each other’s thumbs like this, and you just wrap around my hand like that too.
And then with our pointer fingers we point them towards each other. Great. Each of these fingers becomes our foils or our swords. Okay?
From this position, and I am know dedicating this activity to Errol Flynn one of the most famous Hollywood swash-bucklers of our time, well maybe not our time, but certainly of the time.
He was very sophisticated and he would have his toes pointed at the front, have his hand at the back. And of course if we were involved in a duel how would you normally start a fencing duel? What sort of French word would you use to start the activity?
En Garde, so the game starts with an En Garde. When we got the En Garde the game starts and each of us Reno are trying to tag the other using the end of our sword or our finger somewhere below our opponent’s waist. Okay?
So I’m trying to tag you somewhere below the waist, you’re trying to do the same for me. Okay we are obviously working against each other. For a quick three second demonstration let’s just see what that might look like.
Are you ready?
En Garde. Hang on a second you haven’t started yet. Start with the en garde and…
(En Garde, then they try to tag each other in Finger Fencing)
Okay. Oh gotcha!
Alright, so you’ve got the basic idea.
You start with one hand, if you get a little tired on that then swap over to your left. Your object is to tag your partner somewhere below the waist. Have a bit of fun. It’s clearly involving a bit of a stretch as well.
(Partners begin their duelling in Finger Fencing)
Ah gotcha. It’s just a flesh wound.
Okay let’s try and swap hands.
Ten more seconds….
(group continues Finger Fencing…)
How To Play Narrative
Ask everyone to find a suitable Errol Flynn partner and a space to engage in a grand duel. Invite one promising ‘swash-buckling’ volunteer to step forward to help you demonstrate this exercise.
This is where your zany over-the-top impression of Errol Flynn will impress everyone to give it a go.
First, you need to dress for the part, so slip into your fencing suit, put on your mask, and ‘swish-swish’ your foil. Bow to your partner, and then extend both of your right hands forward to join in one of those cool, funky handshakes, you know, where you clasp your partner’s thumb-on-top type of handshake.
From this position, you each extend your index finger out as if you were pointing down the forearm of your partner. Announce with a flourish that this finger is… your foil (sword.)
Place your other hand elegantly in the air behind you a la sixteenth-century style (as if holding a lantern,) turn side-on and lift the toe of your front foot, and voila – you’re ready to engage in ‘mortal combat.’
With a call of “ON GUARD!” the match begins.
Feet shuffle and foils swish everywhere. The first person to touch the other with their finger (foil) somewhere on the body below their waist (and beyond their wrist), exclaims “TOUCHÉ” and is declared the winner.
Play several rounds, swap hands, and/or swap partners. When ready, try a variation below (see Variations tab.)
Practical Leadership Tips
If necessary, emphasise the fact that all tags are supposed to be below the waist, to avoid fingers getting stuck in places they shouldn’t be going.
You’ll need plenty of space for people to move during this exercise. Pairs start in close, but very quickly begin to advance and retreat on one another all over the place.
Suggest that if, after 20 seconds, a winner has not been declared, start a new round, or swap arms.
Ideally, the two partners should be closely matched in terms of height, strength, etc, but at the end of the day, it’s all about having fun.
You could integrate Finger Fencing as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s abilities to make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Demonstrating Empathy & Compassion
Recognising Strengths In Others
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Build Positive Relationships
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Making Reasoned Judgements
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a high energy burst of physical activity.
In a small way, you could argue that the effort required to successfully (and safely) play this tag game speaks to the benefits of having developed a range of positive and healthy behavioural norms. For example, you could invite your group to consider their interactions and behaviours and reconcile these with their full value agreement (if it exists.) Go to the Reflection Tips tab for some useful conversation-starting questions.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Finger Fencing could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Less-Dominate Arm: Use your left arm to create the foil.
Safe Zone: Designate a tight boundary inside which the action can take place. If someone steps outside the boundary, they are considered tagged.
Double Trouble: While attempting to tag your opponent with your finger, try to tag one of their feet with your foot as well.
Fun, high-energy tag game for pairs & large groups.
Useful Framing Ideas
I love the movies, and when I was young, some of my most favourite movies were those involving any swash-buckling adventures – think Pirates of the Caribbean – and lots of sword fights. And as an Australian, I was quite fond of Hollywood’s favourite swash-buckler, Errol Flynn. He was suave, and sophisticated, and always fought his way bravely out of any situation. Well, this next activity is dedicated to Errol…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun & energetic partner tagging game:
What did you quickly learn as you started to engage with your partner?
How difficult was it for you to either evade a tag or make a tag?
Did you observe or encounter any behaviours that concerned you?
What specific skills did you use to play successfully?
The inspiration for Finger Fencing, and many more energetic partner activities, was sourced from the following publication: