Speed and precision. Strategy and tactics. Agility and athleticism. Fencing engages us physically and mentally in ways that few other sports can. This is why so many people develop a lifelong passion for fencing. It is one of only four sports to have been included in every Summer Olympics since 1896. This rich history, combined with the enrichment of the total athlete, has enabled fencing to become an NCAA sport and a traditional sport of Ivy League colleges.
There are three distinctive disciplines in fencing: epee, foil and sabre. Each has its own specific style, rules and weapon.
The epee is descended from the dueling rapier of the sixteenth and seventeenth century. It is similar in length to the foil, but is heavier, weighing approximately 27 ounces, with a larger guard and a much stiffer blade. The valid target area in epee is the entire body. Points are scored when an opponent hits anywhere on the body with the point of the weapon. For a hit to be valid, it must be delivered with at least 750 grams of pressure, which is detected by a spring-loaded tip wired to an electronic scoring box. Unlike foil, there is no ‘right of way’ rule in epee so simultaneous hits are counted with one point being awarded to each fencer.
The foil was developed from the small-sword of the eighteenth century. It is a light weapon weighing less than one pound with a flexible rectangular blade, approximately 35 inches in length. The valid target area in foil is the torso. This area measures from the shoulders to the groin, including the front and back but not the arms, neck, head and legs. Points are scored when an opponent hits the torso with the point, and simultaneous hits are governed by ‘right of way’. This means that the fencer who initiates an attacking movement will score the point, unless the defender first deflects the opponent’s blade. For a hit to be valid, it must be delivered with at least 500 grams of pressure, which is detected by a spring-loaded tip wired to an electronic scoring box.
The sabre is descended from the eighteenth & nineteenth century cavalry sword. The valid target area in sabre is from the bend of the hips (both front and back), to the top of the head, simulating the cavalry rider on a horse. The sabre is unique since it is a cutting weapon as well as a thrusting weapon. Points are scored when an opponent’s hit lands in the target area with either the point or edge of the weapon. Similar to epee, there is no ‘right of way’ rule in sabre.
An original Paralympic sport, wheelchair fencing was developed in post- World War II England. It allows men and women with locomotive disabilities to fence. Each fencer sits in a wheelchair fastened to a frame. Torso or arm movement, depending on the fencer’s disability, replaces footwork. The weapons are identical to those used in non-wheelchair fencing and participants fence epee, foil or sabre.
Click here for the history of fencing.