Fencing: The Pristine Art of Sword Fighting

Fencing: The Pristine Art of Sword Fighting

Fencing is a sport that mesmerizes with a supremely elegant flow of movement and keeps viewers on the edges of the seats with sudden bursts of action. Some people are still confused, though, and struggle to understand what the deal is with two people trying to poke each other with those floppy swords.

The truth is that there are different versions of fencing swords and they come with a unique set of rules. So, here is a guide for those who are intrigued by the lightning-fast world of fencing.

A history lesson

In a nutshell, fencing is sports in which two opponents clash in a sword flurry. Rooted in a long and rich tradition of sword combat, it was actually developed from a non-lethal military training. This art was first taught to the aristocracy, but over time, it spread to other echelons of society.

Since then, fencing has been a sport that emphasizes exalted etiquette and sublime technique. It has also become an Olympic sport watched by many people across the globe.

Still, taking into account that it is not as popular as sports like soccer or some other extreme sports, it does not come as a surprise that fencing rules are not exactly common knowledge. Yet, they can be explained in simple terms and easily grasped.

Before you can say knife

Points are scored by landing “touches”, strikes that hit the areas designated by the match’s fencing style. Speaking of which, there are three basic types of fencing today and they are all named after the weapon which is used.

So, remember that there is not just one type of fencing sword.

First off, the foil is perhaps the most common one and people often associate the whole fencing sport with it. This sword is a lightweight and flexible weapon designed for thrusting. The blade is thin and rounded and in general, the foil is the best sword to start learning with. This is not because it is so simple to use, but due to the fact that skills can be transferred to other types of swords.

The targets are groin, neck, and torso. They must be hit with a tip of the sword, which would in the olden days of dueling result in a lethal wound. Nowadays, the tip is covered with a round button that renders it unable to deal teal damage.

Other touches that do not meet the above criteria halt a match, but they do not bring points. A hit with the side of a blade basically does not trigger any consequence or benefit, while “Right of ways” rules help resolve situations when both fencers touch at the same time.

Crossing swords

The other two weapons that are used in fencing are epee and sabre.

The first one is another thrusting weapon that is heavier than foil, has a larger handle and features fluted edges. Epee is actually descended from the dueling weapon you may have seen in movies, a rapier. A touch to any part of the body is enough to score a point.  In must be applied with a tip of the sword, though, just like with foil.

  • The first one is another thrusting weapon that is heavier than foil, has a larger handle and features fluted edges. Epee is actually descended from the dueling weapon you may have seen in movies, a rapier. A touch to any part of the body is enough to score a point.  In must be applied with a tip of the sword, though, just like with foil.

Interestingly enough, “Right of Way” rules do not apply and both fencers score points in case of a simultaneous touch. As you might imagine, epee-fighting rules allow fencers to attach each other fast and furious, which makes the duels really fun to watch.

  • As for the sabre, offspring of a famous cavalry sabre used on horseback, it is unique because it is wield<strong> both as thrusting and cutting sword. Right at the first glance, you are able to notice that it is wider and flat than other swords.

The entire upper torso is designated as a target in sabre fencing (except hands). The reason for this is that when it was used by cavalrymen, any cut below the saddle would cut the horse. It is interesting that unlike foil, strikes outside this area do not halt the action. Also, either side of the blade does the trick in terms of scoring points.

Your way with a blade

Although you can use only the three aforementioned fencing swords in official matches, there is a way to customize your sword. This can be done by applying personal touches to the grip. While sabres mostly have French-style grips with a rounded bell guard, foils and epees have more variety to them.

The length of the sword can vary as well. An adult sword blade typically falls in the range of 85 cm – 96 cm. Children swords come in various smaller sizes.

In any regard, those who want to learn this discipline should not preoccupy themselves with scoring points. Instead, they need to master skills of fencing and learn how to move their body. Both defense and offense are paramount to becoming an accomplished fencer.

It should be also mentioned that the fitness levels among professional fencers are outstanding. Beyond everything, extreme flexibility is needed to perfect the technique and moves.

But, do not fret if you are feeling overwhelmed or cannot discern what is happening at a pro match. Fencing is such a swift sport that electronic systems had to be introduced to help the referees. Namely, all competition swords have electronic connections and even practiced swords can be mounted on them.

En Garde!

Fencing is like a high-speed chess combined with dancing in the best way possible. It allows even beginners to have fun from the get-go. Then again, to really master it, you have a long way ahead of you.

So, develop a deeper understanding of different sword types and associated rules. Watch some pro matches and take advantage of many video tutorials that float around.

Bear in mind that shimmering around like a musketeer does not only look graceful and amazing, it sets you on the fast tracks to fitness gains.

Did you ever try fencing and what is your favorite sword?

Sean Lockwood

Sean is a programmer with a passion for extreme sports. Favourite extreme sports discipline is biathlon. Started this blog because of the great love for nature and adrenaline which results in something extreme like Extreme Sports Lab (ESL).

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    Posted at 10:32 am, January 19, 2018

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