What is Fencing? Fencing, the art of swordsmanship, has been practiced for centuries.

First, it was to train for deadly combat—the duel. Now it is for Olympic gold. Through fencing you can acquire the reflexes of a boxer, the legs of a high-jumper and the concentration of a tournament chess player. The sport develops agility, strength, speed and cunning. And because of the speed of its action, fencing is considered the fastest martial sport. But, most importantly, it’s fun! The sport of fencing is fast and athletic, a far cry from the choreographed bouts you see on film or on the stage. Instead of swinging from a chandelier or leaping from balconies, you will see two fencers performing an intense dance on a six-feetby-40-feet strip. The movement is so fast the touches are scored electrically—more like Star Wars than Errol Flynn. Fencing is a combat sport that uses weapons. You may think of Zorro or the Three Musketeers when hearing the word ―fencing‖, but the actual sport is fast and athletic, and the bladework that Zorro does would make him lose his bout. The object of fencing is to effectively score a set number of points on your opponent before he scores that number on you. Points are scored by getting touches on your opponent. How you can get touches varies from weapon to weapon, and the target areas will be discussed on each specific weapon page. In high school and local tournaments, a strip may be on a gymnasium floor and marked with tape. A bout is usually 3-4 minutes for 5 point bouts and 3 3 minute sessions for 15 point bouts. In foil and epee, a fencer may very often use all of the time alloted to them, but in sabre, a five point bout rarely exceeds one minute.

Method of Scoring: Fencing is a very fast sport and electrical apparatus is used for registering hits. Red and green lights show valid hits and, at foil, white lights show non-valid hits. In competitions a fencer wins when 5 hits are scored in pools, or 15 hits in Direct Elimination. Teams fight to 45 hits. A bout lasts a maximum of three minutes actual fencing.

The weapons. Fencing has three weapons – the epee, the sabre, and the foil. These swords are somewhat like their ancient counterparts, but are actually much lighter. They all range from 30‖ to 35‖ long, and usually weigh under 500 grams, or about a pound.

Like any other sports equipment, there is a set of requirements to which each weapon must conform, obviously for safety reasons as well as for fair play. The Epee. The Epee has a large hand-guard and a blade which has a V-shaped cross-section. It is usually the heaviest of the three weapons used in fencing. A heavier thrusting sword. Valid hits can be scored with the point of the sword on any part of the opponent’s body. Epee fencers score touches with the tip of the blade, and are allowed to hit any part of the opponent’s body. Epeeists often train to hit the opponent’s hand, toe and leg, since these are the closest targets. The Sabre. The sabre has a basket-shaped hand-guard that completely covers the hand, and a blade which is Y-shaped in cross-section. A lightweight, very flexible sword. Hits can be scored with any part of the blade by hitting the opponent’s body above the waist. Sabre fencers can score with the tip, but more commonly use the edge of the weapon to make ―cuts‖ to the target; this makes it different from the foil and epee, which only scores by using the tip. The sabre is the only edged weapon in fencing. Sabre fencers can hit any part of the opponent’s body above the waist. Sabreurs often train to hit the opponent’s hand, since it is a close target, and the opponent’s head, since it is easy to hit with an edged weapon. It’s thought by some that the sabre is the most difficult sword to learn fencing with, since it is typically heavier and has a more opportunities for hits, and attacks are very fast. The Foil. A light, flexible sword. Hits can be scored by thrusting the point at the opponent’s trunk. Hits on the arms, legs and head do not count. The foil has a small, round hand-guard and a blade that is rectangular in cross-section. Foil fencers score touches with the tip of the blade, and are allowed to hit anywhere on the opponent’s torso, including groin, chest and back (but not including arms, hands, legs and head). Foilists train to hit the chest, but a school of technique is also built around hitting the opponent’s back with a move that bends the blade in a curve (the ―flick‖).