As afencing schoolthat works with all levels of fencers, from absolute beginners to Olympic alternates, we answer some of the same questions in every beginners class, so we wrote this post for those who may be completely new to fencing.
Contains a brief overview of the sport, its gear and how you can get started in this underrated combat sport!
After all, what's so great about fencing?
Fencing is a sport that almost anyone can participate in, regardless of age, and is beneficial in many physical and mental ways, as are some martial arts such as judo and karate. It requires a lot of mental work as well as physical work due to the amount of technique and strategy involved. There's a reason 2016 Olympian Fabian Kauter called fencing "chess at a high physical level"!
Some of the advantages of the fence are:
Develop physical agility and balance
Improve accuracy and eye-to-hand coordination
· Gain confidence and sportsmanship (especially in younger students)
Gain more elegant movement
To score points (touches) in fencing, combatants must touch the opponent with the weapon, before the opponent does the same to him. Fencing contains 3 styles of weapons: foil, saber and epee and depending on the weapon, a different part of the sword must hit the opponent to score a point. This makes each sword style have a different technique, strategy, rules and target areas to attack.
This makes each weapon a unique challenge and show style. Eventually most fencers start to prefer or perform better with one weapon over the others, so it is common to see competitive level fencers compete primarily with a sword. Some practice with two and it's rare to find a competitive level fencer who can compete in all three!
modern fencing rules
In today's era, swordsmanship has a standard set of rules for all combat, but each of the three weapon disciplines has its own rules of play. These rules are maintained by the governing body of fencing, the FIE, which representsInternational Fencing Federation(translated into English as International Fencing Federation). The FIE has 145 national federations that are recognized by the Olympic Committee as representatives of Olympic fencing in that country. The United States is governed byUnited States Fencing Association.
Fencing is taken seriously as a sport of history, respect and good sportsmanship, so great importance is attached to compliance with the rules, traditions and good practices of the sport.
Fencing takes place on a platform called the "Fringe" or "Runway" (depending on where you are), which is a platform that measures 46 feet (14 meters) long by 4.9 to 6.6 feet (1.5 to 2 meters) wide. At the start of combat, marksmen must stand behind 2 lines of guard, 6.6 feet on either side of the center of the range. If the contestants go off the end of either side of the strip, their opponent will score a hit. There are two 2 meter warning lines on either side of the ends of the Range to let fencers know they are about to run out of space.
In preliminary competition, fights continue until a fencer scores five touches, however, in DE (direct elimination), this number changes depending on the age category of a tournament up to 15 points.
Fencers enter the arena in full uniform, except for the mask, connect the body wires in the "box" and test the functioning of their weapons by touching each other, with the sword touching the nose of the weapon against the blade guard. his opponents, saber and foil, with the uniform of his opponents' corps.
Each contestant returns to their starting position line and then bows and the Referee facing the person shaking hands without mask, raises the sword with the guard at face level, with the point pointing up and then down. Very similar to the “Present Weapons” command in the military. Shooters can be penalized if they fail to shake hands as this shows a lack of respect for the opponent and poor sportsmanship.
The referee will then call “En-garde”, which is a signal for shooters to put their masks back on and assume the en-garde position. This occurs with the front foot behind the starting line/en-garde (and with foil fights, the weapon in the line of six). Then a "Ready?" of the referee, finally “Cerca!”, which is the official beginning of the fight.
When an action is completed, the referee will stop play by saying "Stop". He will then explain why he stopped and award a point if applicable. If a point was awarded, players will return to their guard line and reset their positions. If a point is not awarded, they keep their positions as close as possible to when play was stopped and resume when the referee gives them the signal.
A foil touch is only scored when the tip of the weapon touches the opponent's torso, from the groin to the neck, between the shoulders. Foil fencing also adheres to the right of way, in which a fencer's maneuvers and techniques take precedence over those of the opponent, even if the opponent hits the combatant first. Foil fencing is very strategic and more difficult to attack (due to the smaller target area and strict ruleset), which is why it is the style we teach students first in our fencing classes.
saber fencing rules
With a saber, a hit can be scored if any part of the blade strikes the target area of the opponent's torso (above the waist), arms, or head. Because of this, saber fencers often slash the opponent rather than thrust. Saber also follows priority rules. It is common to see saber fencers attacking each other simultaneously, in which case neither fencer receives a touch.
sword fencing rules
Swordsmen can hit an opponent anywhere on the body to achieve a touch, but must attack with the tip of the sword. Epeé was the original dueling weapon and the one you would see in most Hollywood movies when the characters are "dueling"! Simultaneous strikes are also common in Epeé, however, unlike Saber, both competitors score a point when this occurs. This makes Epe a strong mental and psychological game, trying to make the opponent make a false move defensively so that you can take advantage of an opening in his guard.
Originally, fencing was scored by 4 judges and a director (main referee), who called "stop" at the end of each action and asked the judges if the competitors had touched each other. As you can probably imagine, this threw a lot of human error and bias into the mix!
In the modern era, fencing now uses electronic scoring. Fencers' weapons are connected to an electronic system called 'the box', via hard-wire or, more recently, switching to wireless connections. These boxes match your opponent and detect when touches are made. When one is made, they hook up a system around the shooters' masks to notify the public and referee that a mark has been made. Simple enough for the sword; however, the foil and saber must detect when hits are made on the target.
As foil and saber fencers must distinguish between hits on target and those that are not, they will wear a specialized fencing uniform called a lame, which is a special conductive garment, a body lanyard that connects the weapon to the system, and with a saber: conductive mask and headline.
Major fencing competitions
While there are many fencing competitions around the world, there are three top-level competitions that competitors can participate in:
- summer olympics- Fencing has been in the modern Olympics since the first one in 1896, with saber jumping every event, foil jumping the 1908 Olympics, and épée jumping the first one. As in most sports, the Olympic Games are the most prestigious event for fencers and we are delighted to have sent our student Maia Weintraub to the last Olympic Games as a reserve.
- Fencing World Cup– An annual event organized by the FIE, the World Cup is the most important international competition focused on fencing. Consisting of one season of play, this is the tournament that awards seed rankings based on consistent winning effort. You'll need to be a consistent, high-performance fencer throughout the season to make it to the top of the World Cup, so you'll need a lot of stamina!
- fencing world championships– Another annual event organized by the FIE, the It is a unique tournament style competition at the end of each season. Starting in 1921 in Paris, they are now held in a different country each year. Since 2020, they are not held in the same year as the Olympic Games to allow competitors to participate in the Olympic Games. Unlike the World Cup, as it is a short, one-off tournament, it is based much more on "on-the-day" performance rather than a constant high effort.
Do you want to start with fencing lessons?
While we've tried to go over the early fundamentals of fencing as a sport, there's so much more to learn that it simply doesn't fit here (but we'll try that in later blog posts!) So why not join us? for a semester and learn a little more about the sport?
Our fencing coaches train new beginners all the time at our fencing academies in Philadelphia and Wyncote, and we'd love to see you there! Go toour contact pagefor more information, orour frequently asked questionsdelve into the day to day fencing classes and learn the art of fencing with us!
If you are not close enough to us or unable to attend our classes, most cities have a local fencing club you can join to learn and practice fencing with your friends. It's a sport that more and more people are getting involved in (and practicing!) as they discover how much fun it is, and we'd love for you to join in too!