If you don't have a Meta key (it is often Alt) then you can use Escape, yes.
But in that case, what you want to use is Escape followed by Control + f, which we write as
That is, Emacs writes the key sequence as
ESC C-f when it talks to you about it.
A Meta key, which we write as
M-, is a modifier key, which means you press and hold it down while you press the next key. Same thing for the Control key, which we write as
C-: it's also a modifier key. And so is the Shift key.
The Escape key is not a modifier key. It's a prefix key. You press and release it, then carry on with the other keys of the key sequence. So you press and release Escape, then you press and hold down Control while you press f.
See the Emacs manual, node User Input, and the Elisp manual, nodes Functions for Key Lookup and Prefix Keys.