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What Is Fencing
Posted by Brillmart 2006-02-09


» What Is Fencing


Adapted from FFE website. Translated by M Brill

Fencing is a modern sport and ancient art. It comes to us from across hundreds of years of history, from an era of chivalry. Today we have a fast, dynamic and physically demanding activity. An activity which combines grace and rhythm of movement with strength, power and flexibility. It is an activity for leisure, for fun or sport. It can be for recreation, theatre/artistic performance or competition. In effect fencing offers a range of options, for anyone with a taste for exercise and effort. The aspect of a combat solicits the need for thought, reflection, observation and analysis, as in a game of chess.

Fencing as a sport is three disciplines in one sport. There are three weapons; foil, epee and sabre. Each weapon has its own history, rules, and characteristics, which lead to their own techniques and methods. All three have an electrical scoring system for registering the hits and points.

In foil, pushing the point on to the partner’s target scores the point. The torso, excluding the head and all limbs, is the valid target area to hit and score a point.

Foil bouts are subject to a rule of “priority”. For simplicity consider that for a hit to count as a point it must also “have the priority”.

A fencer has the priority if they are the first to launch the attack or if they deflect the attack using their weapon by forming a parry they then gain the priority and can launch the riposte, which takes over the priority.

It is through this rule that the referee awards the points. One fencer must have the priority over the other. If neither fencer acquires priority then neither fencer can score a hit. This will be seen for example when two fencers attack simultaneously and hit. No hit is awarded. In order to be able to identify the valid target (which counts for a point and causes a coloured light to illuminate) the fencers wear a conductive lame jacket covering their valid target that has woven in metal or silver thread.

Epee is a thrusting weapon similar to foil. However, the target area is the whole body; torso, head and all parts of the limbs. Instead of a priority rule, the first person to hit scores the hit. The effect of registering a hit prevents the other from registering a hit afterwards. This allows the situation to exist where both fencers hit at the same time and both fencers score a point.

Epee fencing is extremely close to the reality of sword fights centuries ago, carried out by swordsman when duelling.

In sabre the weapon is a cutting weapon, where hitting with the edge of the blade is the main method of scoring points. However, points can also be scored by a thrust so the point of the sabre hits the valid target. The valid target zone for scoring points is the body above the waist, which is completely covered with a metal thread conductive jacket.

There is a priority rule for sabre with the similar basic principles as foil.


The combat between partners is called a bout.

The main objective is to hit without being hit, on the valid target, while staying in a defined area (piste).

Hit the other fencer on the valid target to score a point.

Hit the other fencer more often than you have been hit yourself to win.

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