Fencing is an engaging and enjoyable sport with a long history and unique etiquette. Providing more than just a vigorous workout, it helps to develop endurance, discipline, coordination, and balance in motion. Other benefits include heightened self-awareness and increased self-confidence, as well as fostering an ability to make clear strategic decisions under pressure. Fencing has been described as “physical chess” because once the basic moves are learned, outwitting your opponent is the real fun; fencing rewards mental agility over sheer strength and power, and can be done by anyone!
Fencing is a sport which consists of three separate weapons or events. Generally, a competitive fencer will specialize in one of the three. Foil can be one of the more physically demanding weapons, sabre is acknowledged as the quickest weapon, while epée is considered a game of tactics and precision.
Descended from the 18th century small sword, the foil has a thin, flexible blade with a square cross-section and a small bell guard. Touches are scored with the point on the torso of the opponent, including the back. Actions in foil are determined by a set of rules called “right-of-way” or “priority”, which distinguishes between attacker and defender status, or simply who initiated an attack first.
Similar to the dueling swords of the mid-19th century, epées have stiff blades with a triangular cross section, and large bell guards. Touches are scored with the point, anywhere on the opponent’s body. Unlike foil and sabre, there are no rules of right-of-way to decide which attacks have precedence, and double hits are possible. Epée technique emphasizes timing, point control, and a good counter-attack.
Descended from dueling sabres of the late 19th century, which were in turn descended from naval and cavalry swords, sabres have a light, flat blade and a knuckle guard. Touches can be scored with either the point or the edge of the blade, anywhere above the opponent’s waist. Sabre technique emphasizes speed, feints, and strong offense.
For a more detailed introduction to the sport, please consult the Fencing FAQ on the UseNet newsgroup rec.sport.fencing.