The word “fencing” comes from the verb “brandish” and this comes from the German verb “skermjam” which means to repair or protect. Fencing, organized sport involving the use of a sword, foil, or sabre for attack and defense according to set movements and rules. Although the use of swords dates to prehistoric times and swordplay to ancient civilizations, the organized sport of fencing began only at the end of the 19th century. It’s often called “physical chess” because of the similarity that each game affords only a few moves, especially few opening moves, but the first few moves can be arranged in a mind-boggling number of different combinations. Also, a good attack plan in either sport will be backed up by a second plan, in case the defender counters the first one, even a third or fourth. People who are good chess players, if physically fit, tend to make good fencers. Also, the sport brings together a wide range of people both genders, wide range of ages. It tends to be good company.Competitive fencing is one of the five activities which have been featured in every modern Olympic Games, the other four being athletics, cycling, swimming, and gymnastics.
There are three different blades in fencing
Epee– target area is full body and no priority; a double hit gives points to both fencers or teams. Points are scored by hitting the opponent with the point of the blade.
Foil– target area is chest only and there is priority*. Points are scored by hitting the opponent with the point of the blade while having priority.
Sabre– target area is upper body and there is priority. Points are scored by hitting opponent with blade while having priority.
Protective clothing for fencing is made to the highest standard and is designed to look good and be practical.The rules lay down that the fencer must be dressed in white from head to foot, and the jacket must overlap the breeches by at least 10 cm at the waist. An ‘under-plastron’ should be worn under the jacket. This provides extra protection under the sword arm and part of the chest and back.Breeches must fasten under the knee, and long socks must cover the legs. Jackets for women have pockets for chest protectors, and these should always be used.
One glove is worn on the sword hand and this has a long cuff to cover the jacket sleeve at least halfway between the wrist and the elbow.
The earliest depiction of swordplay is a relief in the temple of Medinat Habu, near Luxor in Egypt, built by Ramses III about 1190 BCE. This relief must depict a practice bout or match, as the sword points are covered and the swordsmen are parrying with shields strapped to their left arms and are wearing masks (tied to their wigs), large bibs, and padding over their ears. Swordsmanship, as a pastime and in single combat and war, was also practiced widely by the ancient Persians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans as well as by the Germanic tribes.
The Romans brought sword combat to a highly systematic art that was taught to both their legions and their gladiators. Gladiators were trained in schools (ludi) by professional instructors (doctores). Beginners practiced with a wooden sword called a rudis. More-advanced training took place with weapons that were somewhat heavier than those used in actual combat.From the time of the fall of Rome through the Middle Ages, the practice of sword fighting continued unabated, although sword training became less uniform and began to reflect the ideas of the individual masters-at-arms. At this time, schools of sword fighting also developed a somewhat unsavoury quality, attracting members from the criminal element of society who wanted to learn the skilled use of weapons. Many communities found that the only way to deal with this problem was to outlaw fencing schools within their boundaries. For example, in London in 1286 King Edward I passed an edict that decried “the most unheard-of villainies” perpetrated by swordsmen and threatened swift justice for teaching sword-related skills. Despite such laws, fencing schools flourished.
FIVE MAIN RULES OF FENCING
Fencing competitors must wear the necessary proper equipment, including a face mask, a fencing jacket, a pair of fencing pants to protect the legs and a fencing glove that covers the sleeve on the sword arm. Officials will check participants before each bout to make certain the equipment reaches all safety standards. Fencers must also wield approved weapons, whether a foil, saber or epee.
Fencing utilizes a simple scoring system, awarding one point for each time a fencer touches his opponent with his weapon. Depending on the manner of competition, bouts may last five touches with a time limit of three minutes or 15 touches and a time limit of nine minutes, according to the rules of the U.S. Fencing Association.
A fencer must touch his opponent in an approved target zone of the body to register a point, with the target changing depending on the weapon used. In epee fencing, contacting anywhere on the opponent’s body registers a touch. Sabre fencing limits the target zone to the torso, meaning anywhere above the waist. Foil fencing reduces it even further, restricting the target area to the trunk only and removing the arms and head from consideration.
Fencers compete on a long, narrow strip of material and must remain on the fencing strip at all times. The strip, or piste, must be 46 feet long and measure between 5 and roughly 7 feet wide. The strip contains a center line, two on-guard lines roughly 6 feet from the center line and two lines marking the rear limits of the strip roughly 23 feet from the center line.
If a fencer steps beyond the strip’s legal side boundaries, the official will award 1 meter, or approximately 3 feet, of ground to the opponent on the restart. Stepping beyond the strip’s rear limit results in an awarded touch to the opponent. Officials may also award touches to the opponent if a fencer attacks with both hands, if a fencer doesn’t obey instructions or if a fencer displays poor sportsmanship or overly violent behavior.
- Attack: A basic fencing technique, also called a thrust, consisting of the initial offensive action made by extending the arm and continuously threatening the opponent’s target. They are four different attacks (straight thrust, disengage attack, counter-disengage attack and cutover) In sabre, attacks are also made with a cutting action.
- Riposte: An attack by the defender after a successful parry. After the attacker has completed their attack, and it has been parried, the defender then has the opportunity to make an attack, and (at foil and sabre) take right of way.
- Feint: A false attack with the purpose of provoking a reaction from the opposing fencer.
- Lunge: A thrust while extending the front leg by using a slight kicking motion and propelling the body forward with the back leg.
- Beat attack: In foil and sabre, the attacker beats the opponent’s blade to gain priority (right of way) and continues the attack against the target area. In epee, a similar beat is made but with the intention to disturb the opponent’s aim and thus score with a single light.
- Disengage: A blade action whereby the blade is moved around the opponent’s blade to threaten a different part of the target or deceive a parry.
- Compound attack: An attack preceded by one or more feints which oblige the opponent to parry, allowing the attacker to deceive the parry.
- Continuation/renewal of Attack: A typical epee action of making a 2nd attack after the first attack is parried. This may be done with a change in line; for example, an attack in the high line (above the opponent’s bellguard, such as the shoulder) is then followed with an attack to the low line (below the opponent’s bellguard, such as the thigh, or foot); or from the outside line (outside the bellguard, such as outer arm) to the inside line (inside the bellguard, such as the inner arm or the chest). A second continuation is stepping slight past the parry and angulating the blade to bring the tip of the blade back on target. A renewal may also be direct (without a change of line or any further blade action), in which case it is called a remise. In foil or sabre, a renewal is considered to have lost right of way, and the defender’s immediate riposte, if it lands, will score instead of the renewal.
- Flick: a technique used primarily in foil and epee. It takes advantage of the extreme flexibility of the blade to use it like a whip, bending the blade so that it curves over and strikes the opponent with the point; this allows the fencer to hit an obscured part of the target (e.g., the back of the shoulder or, at epee, the wrist even when it is covered by the guard). This technique has become much more difficult due to timing changes which require the point to stay depressed for longer to set off the light.
- Parry: Basic defence technique, block the opponent’s weapon while it is preparing or executing an attack to deflect the blade away from the fencer’s valid area and (in foil and sabre) to give fencer the right of way. Usually followed by a riposte, a return attack by the defender.
- Circle parry: A parry where the weapon is moved in a circle to catch the opponent’s tip and deflect it away.
- Counter attack: A basic fencing technique of attacking your opponent while generally moving back out of the way of the opponent’s attack. Used quite often in epee to score against the attacker’s hand/arm. More difficult to accomplish in foil and sabre unless one is quick enough to make the counterattack and retreat ahead of the advancing opponent without being scored upon, or by evading the attacking blade via moves such as the In Quartata (turning to the side) or Passata-sotto (ducking). Counterattacks can also be executed in opposition, grazing along the opponent’s blade and deflecting it to cause the attack to miss.
- Point-in-line: A specific position where the arm is straight and the point is threatening the opponent’s target area. In foil and sabre, this gives one priority if the extension is completed before the opponent begins the final action of their attack. When performed as a defensive action, the attacker must then disturb the extended weapon to re-take priority; otherwise the defender has priority and the point-in-line will win the touch if the attacker does not manage a single light. In epee, there is no priority, the move may be used as a means by either fencer to achieve a double-touch and advance the score by 1 for each fencer. In all weapons, the point-in-line position is commonly used to slow the opponent’s advance and cause them to delay the execution of their attack.
Fencing is harder to pick up and start doing than many other sports. While you can pick up a ball and (more or less) start shooting baskets, learning the basic movements required to fence against another beginner can take a lot of practice.