Modern Fencing Fencing is a popular modern sport for participants of all ages and types including the disabled. Anyone from 8 to 80 years can compete or can enjoy the sport recreationally. Agility, fast reaction, and tactical thinking are the prime requirements for fencers. The sport evolved from the days of duels, fought to the death or first blood, and from the traditions of the sabre-wielding cavalry. The art of fencing has evolved from the traditions of these lethal weapons into the three disciplines of foil, epee, and sabre.
EPEE evolved from the dueling sword, favored by duelists of the time. It follows from the concept of “victory by first blood” that in modern fencing the whole body is valid target area for epee, and that the basic rule of engagement is that the first to hit his or her opponent has scored. Training for sword fighting (for dueling or combat purposes) concentrated on thrusts to the torso, where hits would have the most lethal effect. This training led to the development of blunt safe weapons, protective clothing, and limited valid target areas, which are now applicable to the sport of fencing. Both men and women compete in epee, in separate events. The weapon used weighs a maximum of 770 grams, with a maximum length of 110 cm. A micro switch in the tip needs at least 750 grams of pressure and 1 mm travel to activate the registering apparatus. The valid target area is the whole body, head to toe, including arms and hands. Any hit upon the insulated piste (strip) or on the opponent’s insulated weapon will not cause the apparatus to register. Fencing phrasing is not critical here, since the first fencer to hit his or her opponent scores a point.
FOIL is a lighter weapon than the epee and was developed as a training weapon for epee. The discipline of foil fencing was established with specific rules of engagement. Both men and women compete in foil in separate events. The weapon used is a maximum of 500 grams, with a maximum length of 110cm. A micro switch in the tip needs at least 500 grams of pressure to activate the registering apparatus. The valid target area is the torso only, excluding arms, legs and head. The target area on the fencer is covered by a metallic jacket, which causes a colored lamp to light up when the target area is hit by the opponent’s weapon. A hit on the non-valid area (not covered by the metallic jacket) causes a white lamp to light up. The combat phrasing in foil fencing is derived from the historical development of the weapon. The combat training emphasized the need to hit the opponent, without being touched one’s self.
SABRE fencing evolved from swordsmanship on horseback, where running cuts as well as point thrusts could be effective. The opponent’s body above the saddle was most vulnerable and evolved into valid target area. Similar rules of engagement to those of foil were developed, where a fencing phrase typically consists of an attack, defense, and counter-attack with many variations around that theme. The sabre is a cutting and thrusting weapon. The weapon weighs no more than 500 grams, with a maximum length of 105 cm. The valid target area is the whole body above the waistline, including arms and mask. A metallic jacket covers this area, while the mask is also electrically conductive and connected to the jacket. A hit on the valid target area causes a colored lamp to light up on the registering apparatus. The combat phrasing in sabre fencing is very similar to that of foil fencing. The same basic rule applies, i.e. an attacker has the advantage as long as the opponent’s target is continuously threatened. The phrasing and change of advantage then develops as the fencers develop their actions.