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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Fencing Sport – A Combat which can’t be more artistic


Fencing sport is one of the top games played in the Olympics, from the starting of the Summer Olympics at Athens in the year 1896.

In fencing sport, two competitors fight with swords. But, it doesn’t happen in random fashion and rules and regulations govern it.

The fencers attack each other and defend themselves using the swords. There are three different groups of weapons and the rules governing the game also vary with the weapons used.

During the play, the players try to touch the opponent with the tip of the sword. The target zones and the points a player gets vary with the type of weapons. Finally, the player who scores higher wins the game.

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History of fencing sport

sword fight - ancient form of fencing sport
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Evidence for the practice of swordplay is available from an ancient depiction. It belonged to the period of around 1190 and was found near Luxor in Egypt. The relief from the temple of Madinat Habu depicts a practice match.

Swordsmanship was not confined to a particular area. And history revealed that ancient Persians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and Germans played it as a pastime and used in wars.

The Romans taught sword combat to the army and to the gladiators. They perfected sword combat as art and trained the gladiators in schools called ‘ludi’ by appointing professional trainers.

In training the gladiators, they used wooden swords to ensure the safety of the trainees. But in advanced training, they used heavier weapons than the ones used in actual combat.

After the fall of the Roman empire, the sword fighting continued up to the middle ages. But the systematic training in schools lost its importance and individual masters incorporated their styles and ideas.

During the middle ages, bad elements of the society began to use the schools and acquired skills in sword fighting.

Then, people wanted to ban schools. To cite an event as an example of this development, in London in 1286, King Edward I passed an edict that warned the teachers with judicial action.

The use of armor for protection hindered the effective handling of the sword. Then, artisans began to make heavy swords to breach the protecting armors.

Subsequently, the introduction of gunpowder in warfares turned the use of armors insignificant. With no other alternative, the sword remained the only way of self-defense, both during wars and in everyday life.

In the 15th century, many guilds of fencing masters were formed. The guild taught their own way of fighting and the techniques they used were not reformed.

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During the 1540s, King Henry VIII supported fencing in England and he permitted many fencing masters to teach the skill.

The Italians were the pioneers in using the point of the sword rather than the edge of it, skillfully.

By the end of the 16th century, their lighter weapon – the rapier, their elegant and controlled fencing style and their focus on skill and speed leaving behind the force, captivated the Europeans.

Consequently, many wrestling tactics adopted up to then were abandoned. And fencing sport got the right place to be established as an art.

The long rapier the fencers used was heavier to make easy movements. But, it was a well-balanced one, best at keeping the opponent at a distance, and was excellent in attack.

The swordplay underwent a major change in the latter half of the 17th century with the change in the dress the fencers wore.

The court of Louis XIV in France introduced silk stockings, breeches, and coats. As the long rapier was not suitable for the new dress code, there came the use of a light, short court sword. Then the french style set in and was followed all through Europe.

The light weapon allowed many offensive and defensive movements, which were not easier with the previous heavy weapons.

Moreover, the lightweight of the weapon permitted the use of a sword by avoiding the use of daggers or cloaks.

Then the fencers began to use only the tip of the sword to mark the hits and used the blade itself for defending the attack. It became the form of modern fencing and most of the fencers adopted French style.

The French style gave much importance to strategy and form. The school followed conventions and rules to teach this academic form of swordplay. And they also used foil or training swords to create a safe training environment.

The foil fencing with its complexities and rules and regulations presented an interesting game.

During the mid 18th century, fencing reached its peak. But, dueling with the sword started to disappear, with the growing accuracy of the firearms.

Then fencing grew in stature and took on the nature of a sport.

In the late 18th century, the Hungarians introduced curved sabers to be used in their cavalry. Other European countries quickly adopted it and fencing schools started to use it.

The use of saber continued until the introduction of a lightsaber by Italians at the end of the 19th century. Then, lightsaber became a famous sports weapon.

Organized Sport

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In the late 19th century, fencing sport was getting more organized.

The Amateur Fencers League of America was founded in 1891, the Amateur Fencing Association of Great Britain in 1902, and the Fédération Nationale des Sociétés d’Escrime et Salles d’Armes de France in 1906.

From the revival of the Olympics in the year 1896, fencing sport has been played in the sports’ major event. But many disputes arose regarding the rules in the subsequent years.

So, in the year 1913, the Fédération Internationale d’Escrime was formed to find an amicable settlement with the nations.

Then, the organization started to function as the governing body of international fencing for amateurs, both in the Olympic Games and in world championships.

Subsequently, women fencing sport also got its place in the Olympics and in the world’s sports arena.

At the end of the 1990s, electrical scoring came into use and it has become a useful part of the game now.

Fencing Sport Rules And Regulations

fencing sport - rules and regulations
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At the start of the event, the fencers should salute each other and the referee. Refusing to salute or forgetting it, warrants disqualification.

The fencer should wear all the prescribed protective equipment. It includes a face mask, a fencing jacket, a pair of fencing pants and a fencing glove.

Before each bout, officials check the participants to ensure the standards of the equipment the fencer use. And the fencers should use the weapons which conform to approved standards.

The fencer should touch his opponent in the strategic area and earn a point for each hit.

The target area differs for the weapons used.

In foil, the target areas are between the trunk and the upper limit of the collar.

In the case of epee, the whole body including the clothing is the target area.

For saber, it is any part of the body above the horizontal line drawn between the top of the thigh and hip area.

The participant who scores 15 points first, wins the match.

The strip area, on which the combat takes place, should be flat and the surface measures 1.5m to 2m in width and 14m in length.

The strip area has five lines marked on it. The first line at 0 m indicates out of bounds while the second line at 5 m is the first on-guard line. The centerline is at a distance of 7 m. Similarly, the second on-guard line is located at 9 m and the rear limit line is at 14 m.

The risk of participating in the competition lies with the competitor.

The fencer could use only one hand in the bout. In the case of exemptions like having an injury, a fencer could acquire permission from the referee to use both the hands.

A fencer can not get a point by touching the opponent after passing him. He/she get valid points by touching, only when he/she passes the opponent.

The fencers should not hold any part of the electrical object during the competition.

In the case of a fencer not able to complete the bout, the opponent will be declared as a winner.

Fencing Sport – Equipment

fencing sport - equipment
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The fencers prefer any of the three weapons: Foil, Epee or Saber. The protective equipment the fencers use and the rules of the game also vary with the selection of the weapon.


Clothes the fencers use should protect them from the weapons. So, the outfits are made of tough cotton or nylon.

The tough clothes generally cover the top portion of the body. So, jackets, breeches, underarm protectors, lame and bib of the mask are made of hard clothes.


fencing sport - jacket
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The jackets used in fencing sport are specially made for fencing, which fit close to the body and has a strap that goes between the legs. The jackets give the required protection to the fencers.

But the fencers who play saber fencing use a jacket which is cut along the waist. In the collar area, there is a proactive material sewn around, which prevents the opponents’ blade from slipping in between the mask and the jacket.


Plastron protects the sword arm, belly and parts of the backside. The fencers wear it below the jacket and it is very strong and usually made of Kevlar.


spencing sport - mask

The masks that protect the face should be strong and comply with the prescribed standards. It can support 12 kg on the metal mesh.

A bib, which protects the neck area is included in the mask. It is generally made of Kevlar and supports 350 Newtons of penetration resistance.

As per the official regulations, the mask should withstand 25kg on the mesh area and should resist 1600 Newtons of penetration on the bib.

The fencers can prefer separate masks for each type of fencing as foil masks, saber masks, and three weapon masks are available.

Breeches and Knicker

The fencers use these short trousers that end just below the knee and they use it to overlap 10cm of the fencing jackets. And the trousers are equipped with braces also.


spencing sport - mask
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The fencers use gloves to protect the weapon hand and also for grip. The glove used for the weapon arm is generally stretched around half of the forearm.

Further, a gauntlet in the glove prevents the blade from going into sleeves and cause injury to the arm.

Chest Guards

It is usually of plastic or aluminum material and is mandatory for female fencers. Chest guards for the male players are also available. But, mostly the trainers or instructors use it for protection as they are prone to get hit during training.

Shoes and socks

spencing sport -shoes

The shoes the fencers use in fencing have flat soles and the design in the front and back foot aids the easy movements and keeps the fencer’s foot in place when he lunges.

The socks cover the parts of the leg that is not covered by the knickers and the knickers should overlap the socks.

Weapons in fencing sport

Foil, Epee and Saber are the three types of weapons, the fencers use in fencing. And there are different sets of rules applicable to the different types of fencing.

The fencers also have to adopt different playing strategies with the different kinds of weapons.

In general, the fencers choose any one type of weapon only and try to achieve mastery in it.


Foil is a light weapon, which weighs up to a maximum of 500 gms. The design of the weapon helps in thrusting and the tip is foiled or blunted.

The foil is flexible and bends when touching the opponent, thus avoids injuries. The small circular hand guard protects the hand from the direct slab.

The target areas in foil fencing are the torso, neck, and groin but not arms and legs. It also includes the backside of the torso.

The fencers get points when the tip touches the opponent but hits with the side of the blade don’t count. At a time, the fencers can score one touch only.

The referee differentiates the offense and defense and the fencer who started the offense first against the opponent who defends gets the point.

Epee Fencing

Epee is a French word for the sword. It is also a thrusting weapon like foil and has a v-shaped blade.

It weighs up to the maximum weight of 770 gms and is a little heavier and stiffer than foil.

The handguard is a large circle that extends towards the end of the sword to protect the hand effectively. As the hand is a valid target in Epee, it has more protection than the foil.

In the case of Epee, the entire body is a valid target. And the fencers get the points when they hit the target with the tip of the blade. Hitting with the side doesn’t get points. While playing, touching the floor and setting off the electric tone is an off-target touch.

In Epee, both the fencers can hit simultaneously and score points. In the case of a tie at the end of the match, all the double touches will become null and void.


Fencing sport - saber

A saber is thrusting and cutting weapons simultaneously and weighs up to the maximum weight of 500 gms.

The handguard protects the hand during the combat and the fencers keep it outwards to protect the hand from the touches.

In the case of saber, hits by both the tip of the blade and the side of it are valid. But hits outside the target area are not valid.

The head is a valid target in saber and so the players use a different mask and it includes a metallic covering.

Terms used in Fencing Sport

Here is the list of terms we use in Fencing. In fencing sport, most of the terms are in French and it is confusing for the people who don’t know the language.


It is a French word for ‘go’ and so the referees use the word to start the bout.


The terms Assault refers to a friendly game between two fencers. In the play, they may note the scores or concentrate only on the fight by not taking scores.


The players get this warning in the case of violation of rules, which is not severe. And it warrants the giving of a yellow card.

Black Card

The fencer receives a black card for gross violation of rules or practices in fencing. It results in the expulsion of the player from the game or from the tournament. If warranted, a referee can issue the black card to the spectators.

Red Card in fencing sport

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The fencer who commits any violent action during a point receives a red card. As a result of this, the opponent will get one point.

Bout in fencing sport

Bout differs from assault. It is a real game and fencers fight to take a leading score.


It means ‘on guard’ in French and the referee uses this word before the start of the bout. By sounding ‘En-garde’, he/she summons the fencers to get into their positions.


It’s the lower part of the blade by which the fencers hold the weapon. It includes the guard, the grip and the pommel.


The jury in fencing sport is a group of four people, who watch the hits and touches in the bout that doesn’t use electronic scoring.

From their positions, they watch the bout at the opposite end for hits. They call it a hit, by raising their hands and thus also inform the referee.


It’s the electronic conductive jacket the fencers wear during the competitions. It senses the hits and indicates the score electronically.


It’s the only part of the blade that enables the fencers to score points in foil and epee fencing.


It is a French word for ‘ready’ and the referee utters it before the start of the bout.

The referees utter the words in the sequence of en-garde, pret, allez.

Fencing Sport- How to Play?

In fencing sport, the way of playing involves some techniques. The techniques are of two categories: offensive techniques and defensive techniques.

Offensive Techniques in fencing sport

The offensive techniques used in this game are as follows

Attack in fencing sport

In fencing sport, people call the attack by the common name ‘thrust‘. In executing the thrust, a fencer would extend his arm to gain upper hand over the opponent and try to touch the valid, score earning zones.

Riposte in fencing sport

It is the attack by the defender. The defender strikes back after the attacker has attacked and after parrying the attack.

Feint in fencing sport

The fencers perform this action with the intention of provoking the opponent.

Lunge in fencing sport

It is a type of attack in fencing and the attacker performs a thrust along with a slight kicking by extending the front leg. Then the fencer would propel the body forward, by the back leg.

Beat attack in fencing sport

In a beat attack, the attacker tries to hit the target area, in the case of foil and saber. But in the case of epee, the attacker tries to divert the attention of the opponent and hits the target.

Beat Attack Disengage in fencing sport

In this attacking technique, the attacker begins to attack from a point and turns suddenly in a semi-circle and starts to attack from the other end. This technique helps the attacker to break the defense of the opponent and hit the target.

Continuation of attack in fencing sport

In this attack, the fencer makes the second attack after the first attack is parried. In the second attack, the fencer also changes the line of attack.

Remise in fencing sport

In this foil/saber fencing technique, the attacker attacks the fencer after the defender parries the first attack.

Flick in fencing sport

In foil fencing, the fencer flicks their blades. And the attacker uses the flexibility of the weapon for making a flick. He/she whips it in such a way that the blade bends and strikes the opponent with the tip.

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Defensive Techniques in fencing sport

Parry in fencing sport

It is a basic defense technique. The fencer either blocks the opponent’s blade from touching the valid points or deflect it to touch the valid target points.

Circular parry in fencing sport

In this defensive technique, the fencers twist the sword in a circular way and get the hold of the attacker’s weapon tip. Moreover, the defender executes it with the aim of deflecting the disengage made by the attacker.

Counterattack in fencing sport

It is the attacking technique of the defensive player, who scores by hitting while moving back in the direction of the attacker. But, the fencers mostly use it in Epee fencing and score the points against the opponent’s arm.

Point in Line in fencing sport

The fencer achieves the defense by extending the arm and weapon towards the attacker’s target area. In the case of foil and saber, the defensive player gets an advantageous position if he/she extends the blade before the attacker lunges at a distance.

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