WHAT IS FENCING?
Fencing is the modern Olympic Sport of sword fighting. Fencing has been taught in fencing schools, by masters since the 3rd century B.C. and it’s still going strong. Today there are over 30,000 individual USFA fencing members.
The history of fencing goes back much farther than most people think. The first evidence of
fencing as a sport dates back to Ancient Egypt in 1190 B.C. during the reign of Ramses III.
When the Romans picked up fencing by the 3rd century B.C. they turned it into a systematic art
practiced by soldiers and gladiators. Jumping forward to the 15th century the English style of
fencing used cutting swords and bucklers, and had wrestling moves mixed in with the sword
fighting. The use of firearms made wearing heavy armor pointless, so large swords designed to
pierce armor was no longer needed. Because of this by the 16th century Italy started using long
thin blades called rapiers, designed for speed and precision and were excellent for keeping your
opponent at a distance. French fashion by the 17th century made long rapiers impractical, so
they started using shorter court swords, these were very similar in design to a foil. In the 18th
century Hungary invented a short curved sword called a sabre, Italy soon adopted the sabre and
made it lighter and thinner. By the late 18th century the improved accuracy of firearms meant
sword fighting was no longer needed and it became purely for sport.
Foil, epee and sabre are the three weapons used in the sport of fencing. While some fencers compete in all three events, most fencers choose to focus their energies on mastering one weapon. MFA specializes in foil and epee.
The foil is lightweight and flexible and uses the tip of the blade, your valid target is the torso area. Foil uses a touch priority system called right-of-way to determine who gets a touch if both fencers hit.
Epee uses the tip of the blade and anywhere on the body is a valid target. The epee is a heavier weapon than the foil and has a larger bell guard to protect the hand.
Sabre uses both the point and the edge of the blade, valid target is from the waist up including head and arms. Sabre also uses the right-of-way priority system. The sabre is a short flexible blade and the bell guard extends down to the pommel.
Fencing today uses an electric scoring system to keep track of who got a touch. The blades have wires running through them that connect to a cord run through the fencers jacket. The other end of the cord connects to a reel going all the way to a scoring box. When the tip of the blade is pushed down or touches the opponent's lame - metal mesh jacket - it makes a complete circuit which registers a touch on the box. When a touch is on-target the box will light up red or green. If a touch is off-target the box will show a white light.