This article is from the Fencing FAQ, by Morgan Burke with numerous contributions by others.
These are the French, Italian, and Spanish grips. All consist of
a relatively simple handle, a large, exposed pommel, and in the
case of the Italian and Spanish grips, crossbars or similar
prongs for extra grip.
The French grip is the simplest of all fencing grips in
construction, and the most economical. It emphasizes finger
control over strength, and provides considerable flexibility, and
a variety of possible hand positions. It is the most common grip
used by novices, and remains popular (especially in epee) among
The Italian grip is noted for its strength, but is fairly rare,
partially because it requires a special tang on blades that are
used with it. It is the only ambidextrous fencing grip. Italian
grips are often used with a wrist strap, and contrary to rumour,
they remain legal in modern competition.
The Spanish grip is a compromise between the French and Italian
grips, but is illegal in modern fencing competition, due to a
technicality that forbids grips with orthopaedic aids from being
grasped in more than one manner. There are modern variants of
the Spanish grip that do not use the French pommel, and these may
be legal in competition if they fix a single hand position.