Fencing
Overview
 
Fencing, which is also known as modern fencing to distinguish it from historical fencing, is a family of combat sport
Combat sport
A Combat sport, also known as a Fighting sport, is a competitive contact sport where two combatants fight against each other using certain rules of engagement , typically with the aim of simulating parts of real hand to hand combat...

s using bladed weapons.

Fencing is one of four sports which have been featured at every one of the modern Olympic Games
Olympic Games
The Olympic Games is a major international event featuring summer and winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games have come to be regarded as the world’s foremost sports competition where more than 200 nations participate...

. The sport of fencing is divided into three weapons:
  • Foil
    Foil (fencing)
    A foil is a type of weapon used in fencing. It is the most common weapon in terms of usage in competition, and is usually the choice for elementary classes for fencing in general.- Components:...

    —a light thrusting weapon that targets the torso
    Torso
    Trunk or torso is an anatomical term for the central part of the many animal bodies from which extend the neck and limbs. The trunk includes the thorax and abdomen.-Major organs:...

    , including the back, but not the arms. Touches are scored only with the tip; hits with the side of the blade do not count, and do not halt the action.
Encyclopedia
Fencing, which is also known as modern fencing to distinguish it from historical fencing, is a family of combat sport
Combat sport
A Combat sport, also known as a Fighting sport, is a competitive contact sport where two combatants fight against each other using certain rules of engagement , typically with the aim of simulating parts of real hand to hand combat...

s using bladed weapons.

Fencing is one of four sports which have been featured at every one of the modern Olympic Games
Olympic Games
The Olympic Games is a major international event featuring summer and winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games have come to be regarded as the world’s foremost sports competition where more than 200 nations participate...

. The sport of fencing is divided into three weapons:
  • Foil
    Foil (fencing)
    A foil is a type of weapon used in fencing. It is the most common weapon in terms of usage in competition, and is usually the choice for elementary classes for fencing in general.- Components:...

    —a light thrusting weapon that targets the torso
    Torso
    Trunk or torso is an anatomical term for the central part of the many animal bodies from which extend the neck and limbs. The trunk includes the thorax and abdomen.-Major organs:...

    , including the back, but not the arms. Touches are scored only with the tip; hits with the side of the blade do not count, and do not halt the action. Touches that land outside of the target area (off-target) stop the action, and are not scored. Only a single hit can be scored by either fencer at one time. If both fencers hit at the same time, the referee
    Referee
    A referee is the person of authority, in a variety of sports, who is responsible for presiding over the game from a neutral point of view and making on the fly decisions that enforce the rules of the sport...

     uses the rules of right of way to determine which fencer gets the point.
  • Sabre
    Sabre (fencing)
    The sabre is one of the three weapons of modern sport fencing, and is alternatively spelled saber in American English. The sabre differs from the other modern fencing weapons, the épée and foil, in that it is possible to score with the edge of the blade; for this reason, sabreur movements and...

    —a light cutting and thrusting weapon that targets the entire body above the waist, excluding the hands. Hits with the edges of the blade as well as the tip are valid. As in foil, touches which land outside of the target area are not scored. However, unlike foil, these off-target touches do not stop the action, and the fencing continues. In the case of both fencers landing a scoring touch, the referee determines which fencer receives the point for the action.
  • Épée—a heavier thrusting weapon that targets the entire body. All hits must be with the tip and not the sides of the blade. Touches hit by the side of the blade do not halt the action. Unlike foil and sabre, Épée does not use right of way, and allows simultaneous hits by both fencers. However, if the score is tied at the last point and a double touch is scored, nobody is awarded the point.

History

Modern fencing originated in the 18th century, as a direct continuation of the 18th century French school of fencing which had in turn been influenced by the Italian school of the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

.

Terminology

The English term fencing, in the sense of "the action or art of using the sword scientifically" (OED) dates to the late 16th century, when it denoted systems designed for the Renaissance rapier
Rapier
A rapier is a slender, sharply pointed sword, ideally used for thrusting attacks, used mainly in Early Modern Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries.-Description:...

. The first known use of defens in reference to Renaissance swordsmanship is in William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

's Merry Wives of Windsor: "Alas sir, I cannot fence." This specialized usage replaced the generic fight (Old English feohtan).

The verb to fence derived from the noun fence, originally meaning "the act of defending", etymologically
Etymology
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...

 derived from Old French defens "defence", ultimately from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

. The first attestation of Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

 fens "defence" dates to the 14th century.

Antiquity

The origins of armed combat are prehistoric, beginning with club
Club (weapon)
A club is among the simplest of all weapons. A club is essentially a short staff, or stick, usually made of wood, and wielded as a weapon since prehistoric times....

, spear
Spear
A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head.The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with bamboo spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as flint, obsidian, iron, steel or...

 and axe
Axe
The axe, or ax, is an implement that has been used for millennia to shape, split and cut wood; to harvest timber; as a weapon; and as a ceremonial or heraldic symbol...

. Fighting with shield
Shield
A shield is a type of personal armor, meant to intercept attacks, either by stopping projectiles such as arrows or redirecting a hit from a sword, mace or battle axe to the side of the shield-bearer....

 and sword
Sword
A sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration...

 developed in the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

; Bladed weapons such as the khopesh
Khopesh
Khopesh is the Egyptian name of the Canaanite "sickle-sword", in Assyrian known as sappara. Its origins can be traced back to Sumer of the third millennium BCE....

 appeared in the Middle Bronze Age, and the proper sword
Bronze Age sword
Bronze Age swords appear from around the 17th century BC, in the Black Sea region and the Aegean, evolving out of the dagger. They are replaced by the Iron Age sword during the early part of the 1st millennium BC....

 in the Late Bronze Age.

Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

's Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

includes some of the earliest descriptions of combat with shield, sword and spear, usually between two heroes who pick one another for a duel
Duel
A duel is an arranged engagement in combat between two individuals, with matched weapons in accordance with agreed-upon rules.Duels in this form were chiefly practised in Early Modern Europe, with precedents in the medieval code of chivalry, and continued into the modern period especially among...

. Roman gladiator
Gladiator
A gladiator was an armed combatant who entertained audiences in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire in violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals. Some gladiators were volunteers who risked their legal and social standing and their lives by appearing in the...

s engaged in dual combat in a sport-like setting, evolving out of Etruscan
Etruscan civilization
Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to a civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany. The ancient Romans called its creators the Tusci or Etrusci...

 ritual. Tomb fresco
Fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

es from Paestum
Paestum
Paestum is the classical Roman name of a major Graeco-Roman city in the Campania region of Italy. It is located in the north of Cilento, near the coast about 85 km SE of Naples in the province of Salerno, and belongs to the commune of Capaccio, officially also named...

 (4th century BC) show paired fighters, with helmets, spears and shields, in a propitiatory funeral blood rite that anticipates gladiator games.

Romans who frequented the gym
Gym
The word γυμνάσιον was used in Ancient Greece, that mean a locality for both physical and intellectual education of young men...

nasia and baths often fenced with a stick whose point was covered with a ball. Vegetius
Vegetius
Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, commonly referred to simply as Vegetius, was a writer of the Later Roman Empire. Nothing is known of his life or station beyond what he tells us in his two surviving works: Epitoma rei militaris , and the lesser-known Digesta Artis Mulomedicinae, a guide to...

, the Late Roman military writer described practicing against a post and fencing with other soldiers. Vegetius describes how the Romans preferred the thrust over the cut, because puncture wounds enter the vital organs directly whereas cuts are often stopped by armour
Armour
Armour or armor is protective covering used to prevent damage from being inflicted to an object, individual or a vehicle through use of direct contact weapons or projectiles, usually during combat, or from damage caused by a potentially dangerous environment or action...

 and bone
Bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

. Raising the arm to deliver a cut exposes the side to a thrust. This doctrine was exploited by Italian fencing masters in the 16th Century and became the primary rationale behind both the Italian and French schools of fencing.

Middle Ages and Renaissance

Fencing schools can be found in European historical records dating back to the 12th century. In later times fencing teachers were paid by rich patrons to produce books about their fighting systems, called treatises. Fencing schools were forbidden in some European cities (particularly in England and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

) during the medieval period, though court records show that such schools operated illegally.

The earliest surviving treatise on fencing, stored at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds
Leeds
Leeds is a city and metropolitan borough in West Yorkshire, England. In 2001 Leeds' main urban subdivision had a population of 443,247, while the entire city has a population of 798,800 , making it the 30th-most populous city in the European Union.Leeds is the cultural, financial and commercial...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, dates from around 1300 AD and is from Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. It is known as I.33
I.33
Royal Armouries Ms. I.33, also known as "the Tower manuscript" because of its long stay in the Tower of London, is the usual name for the earliest known surviving European fechtbuch, although it deals only with the sword and buckler. The illuminated manuscript, of German origin, is now in the...

 and written in medieval Latin
Medieval Latin
Medieval Latin was the form of Latin used in the Middle Ages, primarily as a medium of scholarly exchange and as the liturgical language of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, but also as a language of science, literature, law, and administration. Despite the clerical origin of many of its authors,...

 and Middle High German
Middle High German
Middle High German , abbreviated MHG , is the term used for the period in the history of the German language between 1050 and 1350. It is preceded by Old High German and followed by Early New High German...

 and deals with an advanced system of using the sword
Sword
A sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration...

 and buckler
Buckler
A buckler is a small shield, 15 to 45 cm in diameter, gripped in the fist; it was generally used as a companion weapon in hand-to-hand combat during the Medieval and Renaissance, as its size made it poor protection against missile weapons but useful in deflecting the blow of...

 (smallest shield) together.

From 1400 onwards an increasing number of fencing treatises survived from across Europe, with the majority from the 15th century coming from Germany
German school of swordsmanship
The German school of fencing is the historical system of combat taught in the Holy Roman Empire in the Late Medieval, Renaissance and Early Modern periods , as described in the Fechtbücher written at the time...

 and Italy
Italian school of swordsmanship
The term Italian school of swordsmanship is used to describe the Italian style of fencing and edged-weapon combat from the time of the first extant Italian swordsmanship treatise to the days of Classical Fencing ....

. In this period these arts were largely reserved for the knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

hood and the nobility – hence most treatises deal with knightly weapons, such as the rondel dagger, longsword
Longsword
The longsword is a type of European sword designed for two-handed use, current during the late medieval and Renaissance periods, approximately 1350 to 1550 .Longswords have long cruciform hilts with grips over 10 to 15 cm length The longsword (of which stems the variation called the bastard...

, spear
Spear
A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head.The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with bamboo spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as flint, obsidian, iron, steel or...

, pollaxe and armoured fighting mounted and on foot. Some treatises cover weapons available to the common classes, such as großes Messer and sword and buckler. Wrestling
Wrestling
Wrestling is a form of grappling type techniques such as clinch fighting, throws and takedowns, joint locks, pins and other grappling holds. A wrestling bout is a physical competition, between two competitors or sparring partners, who attempt to gain and maintain a superior position...

, both with and without weapons, armoured and unarmoured, was also featured heavily in the early fencing treatises.

By the 16th century, with the widespread adoption of the printing press
Printing press
A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...

, the increase in the urban population and other social changes, the number of treatises increased dramatically. After around 1500 carrying swords became more acceptable in most parts of Europe. The growing middle classes meant that more men could afford to carry swords, learn fencing and be seen as gentlemen. By the middle of the 16th century many European cities contained great numbers of fencing schools, often clustered together, such as in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 at "Hanging Sword Lane". Italian fencing masters were particularly popular and set up schools in many foreign cities. The Italians brought concepts of science to the art, appealing to the Renaissance mindset.

In 16th century Germany compendia of older Fechtbücher techniques were produced, some of them printed, notably by Paulus Hector Mair
Paulus Hector Mair
Paulus Hector Mair was an Augsburg civil servant, and active in the martial arts of his time. He collected Fechtbücher and undertook to compile all knowledge of the art of fencing in a compendium surpassing all earlier books...

 (in the 1540s) and by Joachim Meyer
Joachim Meyer
Joachim Meyer was a self described Freifechter living in the then Free Imperial City of Strassburg in the 16th century and the author of a fechtbuch Gründtliche Beschreibung der kunst des Fechten first published in 1570.Meyer's book was reprinted in 1600, and may have been an...

 (in the 1570s), based on 14th century teachings of the Liechtenauer tradition. In this period German fencing developed sportive tendencies.

The rapier
Rapier
A rapier is a slender, sharply pointed sword, ideally used for thrusting attacks, used mainly in Early Modern Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries.-Description:...

's popularity peaked in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Dardi school of the 1530s, as exemplified by Achille Marozzo
Achille Marozzo
Achille Marozzo was an Italian fencing master teaching in the Dardi or Bolognese tradition.Marozzo was probably born in Bologna. His text Opera Nova dell'Arte delle Armi was published in 1536 in Modena, dedicated to Count Rangoni, then reprinted several times all the way into the next century...

, still taught the two-handed spadone
Longsword
The longsword is a type of European sword designed for two-handed use, current during the late medieval and Renaissance periods, approximately 1350 to 1550 .Longswords have long cruciform hilts with grips over 10 to 15 cm length The longsword (of which stems the variation called the bastard...

, but preferred the single–handed sword. The success of Italian masters such as Marozzo and Fabris
Salvator Fabris
Salvator Fabris was an Italian fencing master from Padua. During his life he taught in various European countries, most notably in Denmark where he was the fencing instructor of King Christian IV. It was during his time in Copenhagen that he published his treatise on rapier fencing, Lo Schermo,...

 outside of Italy shaped a new European mainstream of fencing.

The Ecole Française d’Escrime founded in 1567 under Charles IX
Charles IX of France
Charles IX was King of France, ruling from 1560 until his death. His reign was dominated by the Wars of Religion. He is best known as king at the time of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.-Childhood:...

 produced masters such as Henry de Sainct-Didier
Henry de Sainct-Didier
The history of fencing in France begins in the 16th century, with the adoption of Italian styles of rapier fencing.There are medieval predecessors, such as the Burgundian Le jeu de la hache of ca...

 who introduced the French fencing terminology
Fencing terminology
Glossary of terms used in fencing.-Footwork:Advance : The ‘advance’ is the basic forward movement. The front foot moves first, beginning by lifting the toes. Straighten the leg at the knee, pushing the heel out in front. Land on the heel, and then bring the back foot up to en garde stance...

 that remains in use today.

Early modern period

Strictly, the European dueling sword is a basket
Basket-hilted sword
The basket-hilted sword is the name of a group of early modern sword types characterized by a basket-shaped guard that protects the hand. The basket hilt is a development of the quillons added to swords' crossguards since the Late Middle Ages...

 and cage hilt
Hilt
The hilt of a sword is its handle, consisting of a guard,grip and pommel. The guard may contain a crossguard or quillons. A ricasso may also be present, but this is rarely the case...

ed weapon specifically used in duel
Duel
A duel is an arranged engagement in combat between two individuals, with matched weapons in accordance with agreed-upon rules.Duels in this form were chiefly practised in Early Modern Europe, with precedents in the medieval code of chivalry, and continued into the modern period especially among...

s from the late 17th to the 19th century. It developed through several forms of the rapier
Rapier
A rapier is a slender, sharply pointed sword, ideally used for thrusting attacks, used mainly in Early Modern Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries.-Description:...

 to the smallsword—reflecting the changes from a cutting style of swordplay to a thrusting style ('foining'). This was a result of increasing specialization in their use on the dueling field, and the social stigma attached to carrying and using swords too obviously adapted to the actual "work" of warfare. The smallsword, and the last version of the rapier, were made possible only by metallurgical
Metallurgy
Metallurgy is a domain of materials science that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic elements, their intermetallic compounds, and their mixtures, which are called alloys. It is also the technology of metals: the way in which science is applied to their practical use...

 advances in the 17th century as high toughness
Toughness
In materials science and metallurgy, toughness is the ability of a material to absorb energy and plastically deform without fracturing; Material toughness is defined as the amount of energy per volume that a material can absorb before rupturing...

 steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

s became more readily available.

In England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, it was not uncommon for fencing masters to duel other masters, often to the death, stopping to dress wounds. Such spectacles were generally held in beargarden
Beargarden
The Beargarden was the facility for bear-baiting, bull-baiting, and other "animal sports" in the London area during the 16th and 17th centuries, from the Elizabethan era to the English Restoration period.-History:...

s, particularly in the Southwark
Southwark
Southwark is a district of south London, England, and the administrative headquarters of the London Borough of Southwark. Situated east of Charing Cross, it forms one of the oldest parts of London and fronts the River Thames to the north...

 neighborhood near London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

.

The foil
Foil (fencing)
A foil is a type of weapon used in fencing. It is the most common weapon in terms of usage in competition, and is usually the choice for elementary classes for fencing in general.- Components:...

 was invented in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 as a training technique in the middle of the 18th century; it enabled fast and elegant thrust fencing with a smaller and safer weapon than a dueling sword. Fencers blunted (or "foiled") its point by wrapping a foil around the blade or fastening a knob on the point ("blossom", French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 fleuret). Some fencers took away the protection and used the sharp foil for duels. German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 students took up that practice and developed the Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

er
("Parisian") thrusting small sword for the Stoßmensur ("thrusting mensur").
After the dress sword was abolished, the Pariser became the only weapon for thrust fencing in German colleges and universities. Many students died from pierced lung
Human lung
The human lungs are the organs of respiration in humans. Humans have two lungs, with the left being divided into two lobes and the right into three lobes. Together, the lungs contain approximately of airways and 300 to 500 million alveoli, having a total surface area of about in...

s (Lungenfuchser). A countering movement started in Göttingen in the 1750s, with the invention of the Göttinger Hieber, a predecessor of the modern Korbschläger, a weapon for cut fencing. In the following years, the Glockenschläger was invented in an Eastern Germany university, also for cut fencing.

1800 to 1918

Thrust fencing (using the Pariser), and cut fencing (using Korbschläger or Glockenschläger), existed in parallel in Germany during the first decades of the 19th century, according to local preferences. Thrust fencing was especially popular in Jena
Jena
Jena is a university city in central Germany on the river Saale. It has a population of approx. 103,000 and is the second largest city in the federal state of Thuringia, after Erfurt.-History:Jena was first mentioned in an 1182 document...

, Erlangen
Erlangen
Erlangen is a Middle Franconian city in Bavaria, Germany. It is located at the confluence of the river Regnitz and its large tributary, the Untere Schwabach.Erlangen has more than 100,000 inhabitants....

, Würzburg
Würzburg
Würzburg is a city in the region of Franconia which lies in the northern tip of Bavaria, Germany. Located at the Main River, it is the capital of the Regierungsbezirk Lower Franconia. The regional dialect is Franconian....

 and Ingolstadt
Ingolstadt
Ingolstadt is a city in the Free State of Bavaria, in the Federal Republic of Germany. It is located along the banks of the Danube River, in the center of Bavaria. As at 31 March 2011, Ingolstadt had 125.407 residents...

/Landshut
Landshut
Landshut is a city in Bavaria in the south-east of Germany, belonging to both Eastern and Southern Bavaria. Situated on the banks of the River Isar, Landshut is the capital of Lower Bavaria, one of the seven administrative regions of the Free State of Bavaria. It is also the seat of the...

, two towns where the predecessors of Munich University were located. The last thrust Mensur is recorded to have taken place in Würzburg in 1860.

Until the first half of the 19th century all types of academic fencing can be seen as duel
Duel
A duel is an arranged engagement in combat between two individuals, with matched weapons in accordance with agreed-upon rules.Duels in this form were chiefly practised in Early Modern Europe, with precedents in the medieval code of chivalry, and continued into the modern period especially among...

s, since fencing with sharp weapons was about honour. No combat with sharp blades took place without a formal insult. For duels involving non-students, e.g. military officers, the academic sabre became usual, apparently derived from the military sabre. It was then a heavy weapon with a curved blade and a hilt similar to the Korbschläger.

Classical fencing
Classical fencing
Classical fencing is the styles of modern fencing as they existed during the 19th and early 20th century. According to the 19th-century fencing master Louis Rondelle,...

derives most directly from the 19th and early–20th century national fencing schools, especially in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, although other pre–World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 styles such as Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n and Hungarian
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 are also considered classical. Masters and legendary fencing figures such as Giuseppe Radaelli
Giuseppe Radaelli
Giuseppe Radaelli, a 19th century Milanese fencer of the Italian school of swordsmanship, is noted for the development of modern sabre play with a light, narrow-bladed weapon. Radaelli was a teacher of mounted troops and was concerned exclusively with the military use of the sabre...

, Louis Rondelle, Masaniello Parise, the Greco brothers, Aldo Nadi
Aldo Nadi
Aldo Nadi is considered among the greatest fencers of all time.Aldo was born into a fencing family in Livorno, Italy, and both Aldo and his brother Nedo Nadi were fencers from a very young age...

 and his rival Lucien Gaudin
Lucien Gaudin
Lucien Gaudin was a French fencer and olympic champion both in foil and in épée competition....

 were typical practitioners of this period.

Fencing was part of the first Olympics Games in the summer of 1896
1896 Summer Olympics
The 1896 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the I Olympiad, was a multi-sport event celebrated in Athens, Greece, from April 6 to April 15, 1896. It was the first international Olympic Games held in the Modern era...

. Épée and Sabre events have been held at every Summer Olympics; foil events have been held at every Summer Olympics except 1908.

Four judges determined whether a touch had been made. Two side judges stood behind and beside each fencer, watching for hits made by that fencer. A director observed from several feet away. At the end of each action, after calling "Halt!", the director described the action, and then polled the judges. If the judges differed, or abstained, the director could overrule. However, while the director had 1 1/2 votes, and the judges only 1 each, 2 judges in agreement could overrule the director.

This method had serious limitations, though it was universally used. As described in the London newspaper, the Daily Telegraph & Courier, on June 25, 1896: "Every one who has watched a bout with the foils knows that the task of judging the hits is with a pair of amateurs difficult enough, and with a well-matched pair of maîtres d’escrime well–nigh impossible." There also were problems with bias: well–known fencers were often given the benefit of mistakes (so–called "reputation touches"), and in some cases there was outright cheating. Aldo Nadi
Aldo Nadi
Aldo Nadi is considered among the greatest fencers of all time.Aldo was born into a fencing family in Livorno, Italy, and both Aldo and his brother Nedo Nadi were fencers from a very young age...

 complained about this in his autobiography The Living Sword in regard to his famous match with Lucien Gaudin
Lucien Gaudin
Lucien Gaudin was a French fencer and olympic champion both in foil and in épée competition....

. The Daily Courier article described a new invention, the electrical scoring machine, that would revolutionize fencing.

1918 to present

Dueling went into sharp decline after World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, dueling went out of use in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 except for very rare exceptions. Training for duels, once fashionable for males of aristocratic
Aristocracy (class)
The aristocracy are people considered to be in the highest social class in a society which has or once had a political system of Aristocracy. Aristocrats possess hereditary titles granted by a monarch, which once granted them feudal or legal privileges, or deriving, as in Ancient Greece and India,...

 backgrounds (although fencing masters such as Hope suggest that many people considered themselves trained from taking only one or two lessons), all but disappeared, along with the classes themselves. Fencing continued as a sport, with tournaments and championships. However, the need to actually prepare for a duel with "sharps" vanished, changing both training and technique.

Starting with épée in 1936, side judges were replaced by an electrical scoring apparatus, with an audible tone and a red or green light indicating when a touch landed. Foil
Foil (fencing)
A foil is a type of weapon used in fencing. It is the most common weapon in terms of usage in competition, and is usually the choice for elementary classes for fencing in general.- Components:...

 was automated in 1956, sabre
Sabre (fencing)
The sabre is one of the three weapons of modern sport fencing, and is alternatively spelled saber in American English. The sabre differs from the other modern fencing weapons, the épée and foil, in that it is possible to score with the edge of the blade; for this reason, sabreur movements and...

 in 1988. The scoring box reduced the bias in judging, and permitted more accurate scoring of faster actions, lighter touches, and more touches to the back and flank than before.

Olympic Fencing

Olympic fencing refers to the fencing seen in most current competitions, including the Olympic Games and the World Cup
Fencing World Cup
The FIE Fencing World Cup is an international professional fencing competition by the Fédération Internationale d'Escrime. Fencers from the members of the Fédération Internationale d'Escrime are allowed to compete in several events around the world. Events include Men's and Women's Epee, Sabre and...

. Competitions are conducted according to rules laid down by the Fédération Internationale d'Escrime
Fédération Internationale d'Escrime
Fédération Internationale d'Escrime is the international governing body of Olympic fencing. It was founded on November 29, 1913 in Paris, France. Today, its head office is in Lausanne, Switzerland...

 (FIE), the international governing body
Sport governing body
A sport governing body is a sports organization that has a regulatory or sanctioning function. Sport governing bodies come in various forms, and have a variety of regulatory functions. Examples of this can include disciplinary action for rule infractions and deciding on rule changes in the sport...

. These rules evolved from a set of conventions developed in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 between mid-17th and early 20th century. The three Olympic weapons are foil, épée, and sabre
Sabre (fencing)
The sabre is one of the three weapons of modern sport fencing, and is alternatively spelled saber in American English. The sabre differs from the other modern fencing weapons, the épée and foil, in that it is possible to score with the edge of the blade; for this reason, sabreur movements and...

. In competition, the validity of touches is determined by the electronic scoring apparatus and a set of rules called right of way or priority to eliminate referee error and bias.

In the United States

In the United States, athletes compete at local and national levels, for the most part sanctioned by the United States Fencing Association (USFA). Locally, athletes register for tournaments in their division via a website called "Askfred.net." Nationally, athletes compete in tournaments called North American Cups, or NACs for short, as well as championship events including the Junior Olympics and Summer National Championships. At these tournaments, competitors are divided by sex, weapon, age group, and division (skill level). Age groups include Y10 (Youth 10, or 10 and younger) Y12 (12 and younger), Y14 (14 and younger), Cadet (under 17), Junior (under 20), as well as a variety of Veterans' categories for fencers over 40, 50, 60, or 70.

National ratings are awarded by the USFA and range from A through E (A being the highest and E the lowest), with U for all unrated fencers. Ratings are awarded based on number of competitors in a tournament and the strength of the tournament. Some competitions require competitors to meet the rating criteria. Division I fencing requires ratings of C or higher; Division II requires ratings of C or lower; Division III requires D or lower. A national points system for the age groups as well as Division 1 is based on results at national events and determines qualification for World Championships, World Cups, and the Olympics.

In the most common tournament format, fencers first fence 5 to 7 others (a round-robin "pool") in 5-touch bouts. The fencers are then seeded against all other competing fencers based on their pool results. A certain percentage of the lowest-seeded fencers (typically 20-25%) is sometimes cut from the competition prior to the direct elimination bracket. Fencers are then placed into a bracket based on the seeding and fence single-elimination bouts, usually to 15 touches. The winners advance in the bracket, and the losers are eliminated from the tournament.

Wheelchair Fencing

Wheelchair
Wheelchair
A wheelchair is a chair with wheels, designed to be a replacement for walking. The device comes in variations where it is propelled by motors or by the seated occupant turning the rear wheels by hand. Often there are handles behind the seat for someone else to do the pushing...

 fencing, an original Paralympic
Paralympic Games
The Paralympic Games are a major international multi-sport event where athletes with a physical disability compete; this includes athletes with mobility disabilities, amputations, blindness, and Cerebral Palsy. There are Winter and Summer Paralympic Games, which are held immediately following their...

 sport, was developed in post-World War II England. Minor modifications to the FIE rules allow disabled fencers to fence all three weapons. The most apparent change is that each fencer sits in a wheelchair fastened to a frame. Footwork is replaced by torso
Torso
Trunk or torso is an anatomical term for the central part of the many animal bodies from which extend the neck and limbs. The trunk includes the thorax and abdomen.-Major organs:...

 or arm movement, depending on the fencer's disability. The proximity of the two fencers tends to increase the pace of bouts. The fencers use standard Olympic weapons.

Other variants

Other variants include chair fencing, one-hit épée (one of the five events which constitute modern pentathlon
Modern pentathlon
The modern pentathlon is a sports contest that includes five events: pistol shooting, épée fencing, 200 m freestyle swimming, show jumping, and a 3 km cross-country run...

) and the various types of non-Olympic competitive fencing. Chair fencing is similar to wheelchair fencing but for the able bodied. The opponents set up opposing chairs and fence while seated, all the usual rules of fencing are applied. An example of the latter is the American Fencing League
American Fencing League
The American Fencing League, or AFL, was founded on March 25, 2005 in Salem, Oregon, United States, by a group of fencers seeking independence from the United States Fencing Association. It is a non-profit organization for fencers who wish to enjoy fencing using non-electric foil, sabre, and épée...

 (distinct from the United States Fencing Association
United States Fencing Association
The United States Fencing Association is the national governing body for the sport of fencing in the United States.The USFA was founded in 1891 as the Amateur Fencers League of America by a group of New York fencers seeking independence from the Amateur Athletic Union...

): the format of competitions is different and the right of way rules are interpreted in a different way. In a number of countries, school and university matches deviate slightly from the FIE format.

Weapons

Three weapons survive in modern competitive fencing: foil, épée, and sabre. The spadroon
Spadroon
The Spadroon is a light sword with a straight blade of the cut and thrust type. The style became popular among military and naval officers in the 1790s, spreading from England to the United States and to France, where it was known as the épée Anglaise. Hilts were often of the beaded or "five-ball"...

 and the heavy cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

-style sabre, both popular in the 19th century, fell into disfavour in the early 20th century, replaced by lighter and faster weapons. The singlestick
Singlestick
Singlestick, also known as cudgels, refers to both a martial art that uses a wooden stick as well as the weapon used in the art. It began as a way of training soldiers in the use of swords such as the sabre...

 was featured in the 1904 Olympic Games, but it was already declining in popularity. Bayonet
Bayonet
A bayonet is a knife, dagger, sword, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit in, on, over or underneath the muzzle of a rifle, musket or similar weapon, effectively turning the gun into a spear...

 fencing experienced a somewhat slower decline, with competitions organized by some armed forces as late as the 1940s and 1950s.

While the weapons differ in shape and use, their basic construction is similar across the disciplines. Every weapon has a blade and a hilt. The tip of the blade is generally referred to as the point, the top third of the blade as the flexible foible (weak in French), while the base of the blade is referred to as "the forté" (or strong part). The hilt consists of a guard and a grip
Grip (sport fencing)
In fencing, the grip is the part of the weapon which is gripped by the fencer's hand.There are four types of grips commonly used today in foil and épée: French, Italian , a hybrid of these two known as the Spanish grip, and the orthopedic or pistol grip...

. The guard (also known as the coquille, the bell, or the bellguard) is a metal shell designed to protect the fingers. The grip is the weapon's handle. In foil and épée the more traditional French grip is approximately straight and usually terminates with a pommel
Hilt
The hilt of a sword is its handle, consisting of a guard,grip and pommel. The guard may contain a crossguard or quillons. A ricasso may also be present, but this is rarely the case...

(a heavy nut intended to act as a counterweight for the blade and to hold the handle on the weapon). Some modern French grip designs do not use a heavy pommel nut, in an effort to reduce weight.

The Italian grip, dating from a similar period, has fallen out of general favor. It features a straight handle and a crossbar beneath the guard that the fencer can use to manipulate the blade. The crossbar is known for causing injury, as the fencer's fingers can become stuck if the blade is turned unexpectedly. It is the only ambidextrous fencing grip, and many fencers with arm trouble use it so they can freely switch without having to carry twice as many blades. The Italian is banned in some regions, and is mistakenly believed to be banned in others, necessitating that users often carry explicit rulings to show judges to prove it is allowed.

French grips have been entirely replaced in higher level foil fencing, and partially replaced in épée fencing, by ergonomic designs, called pistol grips or orthopaedic grips. Among the many designs, the most popular are the Visconti, Belgian, and Russian grips
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

. Grips produced by Zivkovic fencing are also popular, and are the most commonly seen 'non-standard' grips.

Modern competitive weapons have electrical wiring which allows them to register a touch on the opponent via an electrical scoring system.

Foil

The foil
Foil (fencing)
A foil is a type of weapon used in fencing. It is the most common weapon in terms of usage in competition, and is usually the choice for elementary classes for fencing in general.- Components:...

 is light and flexible, originally developed in the mid-17th century as a training weapon for the Pariser small sword
Small sword
The small sword or smallsword is a light one-handed sword designed for thrusting which evolved out of the longer and heavier rapier of the late Renaissance. The height of the small sword's popularity was between mid 17th and late 18th century...

, a light one-handed sword designed almost exclusively for thrusting.

Electric foils have a push-button on the point of the blade, which allows hits to be registered by an electronic scoring apparatus. In order to register, the button must be depressed with a force of at least 4.90 newtons (500 grams-force
Kilogram-force
A kilogram-force , or kilopond , is a gravitational metric unit of force. It is equal to the magnitude of the force exerted by one kilogram of mass in a gravitational field...

) for at least 15 milliseconds. Foil and Sabre
Sabre (fencing)
The sabre is one of the three weapons of modern sport fencing, and is alternatively spelled saber in American English. The sabre differs from the other modern fencing weapons, the épée and foil, in that it is possible to score with the edge of the blade; for this reason, sabreur movements and...

 fencers wear conductive jackets (lamé) covering their target area, which allow the scoring apparatus to differentiate between on- and off-target hits.

The target area is restricted to the torso, including the front and back. A modification in FIE rules from 1 January 2009 includes as valid target area the part of the mask's bib below a straight line drawn between the shoulders; prior to this, the bib of the fencer's mask was not a valid target. International events such as Junior or Senior World Cup Events require the bib target. However, this rule has not been implemented uniformly in all National fencing organizations. European fencing organizations generally decided on September 1, 2009 as the date for all competitions to use the new rule.

Foil fencing is conducted using rules of right of way. The basic principle is that, if both fencers score a touch on the other, the fencer who began their offensive action first prevails, unless that offensive action fails. A fencer's action fails if it misses his/her opponent, or it is parried
Parry (fencing)
A parry is a fencing bladework manoeuvre intended to deflect or block an incoming attack.-Execution:To execute a parry, fencers strike the opponent's foible, or the area near the tip of the blade, with their forte, or the part of the blade near the handle of the sword...

. If priority cannot be determined when both fencers have hit each other, no point is awarded.

The original idea behind the rules of foil fencing was to encourage fencers to defend and attack vital areas, and to fight in a methodical way with initiative passing back and forth between the combatants, thus minimizing the risk of a double death.

The target must be hit with the tip of the foil; a touch with any other part of the foil has no effect whatsoever and fencing continues uninterrupted. A touch on an off-target area halts the action, but does not score a point.

When an exchange ends in a hit, the referee will call "halt," and fencing will cease. The referee will then analyze the exchange and phrase it in official terminology. An example of this terminology would be "Attack from the left, no. Parry-Riposte from the right is good. Touch right."

The first offensive action is called the attack. All defensive actions successfully deflecting an opponent's blade are called parries
Parry (fencing)
A parry is a fencing bladework manoeuvre intended to deflect or block an incoming attack.-Execution:To execute a parry, fencers strike the opponent's foible, or the area near the tip of the blade, with their forte, or the part of the blade near the handle of the sword...

. An offensive action of a parrying fencer directly following the parry is called a riposte
Riposte
In fencing, the riposte is an offensive action with the intent of hitting one's opponent, made by the fencer who has just parried an attack....

. An offensive action of a fencer, who attacks a second time without first withdrawing the arm after an unsuccessful first attack, is called a remise
Remise (fencing)
The remise is a renewal of an attack in fencing. It is performed when one fencer's attack has failed, either because their opponent has parried or they missed. If the attacker immediately continues their attack in the same line, they have executed a remise...

. An offensive action of a fencer from the on-guard position, after being parried and then returning to the on-guard position, is called a reprise. An offensive action of a fencer after his/her opponent has lost the right to riposte via inaction is called a redouble. An offensive action begun by a fencer who is being attacked by his/her opponent is called a counter-attack.

Épée

The modern sporting Épée was invented in the second half of the 19th century by a group of French students, who felt that the conventions of foil were too restrictive, and the weapon itself too light; they wanted an experience closer to that of an actual duel. The concept was to create an exact copy of a small sword
Small sword
The small sword or smallsword is a light one-handed sword designed for thrusting which evolved out of the longer and heavier rapier of the late Renaissance. The height of the small sword's popularity was between mid 17th and late 18th century...

 but without the needle-sharp point. Instead, the blade terminated in a point d'arrêt, a three-pronged tip which would snag on the clothing without penetrating the flesh.

The épée is a thrusting weapon: to score a valid hit, the fencer must fix the point of his weapon on his opponent's target. The épée target area is the entire body. No rules control the timing of hits. When fencing electronically, fencers do not wear conductive lamé jackets as they do when fencing foil and sabre. In the event of both fencers making a touch within 40 milliseconds of each other, both are awarded a point (a double hit). When the score is equal and the point would mean the win for both, such as in modern pentathlon
Modern pentathlon
The modern pentathlon is a sports contest that includes five events: pistol shooting, épée fencing, 200 m freestyle swimming, show jumping, and a 3 km cross-country run...

's one-hit épée, neither receives a point. Otherwise, the first to hit always receives the point, regardless of what happened earlier in the phase. The épée is the typically heaviest of the sporting weapons, although some épée blades weigh only 150 grams (5.3 oz). An épée is composed of a blade, a point, a bell guard, and a handle or grip (French or pistol grip).

The electric épée, used in modern competitive fencing, terminates in a push-button. A hit must arrive with a force
Force
In physics, a force is any influence that causes an object to undergo a change in speed, a change in direction, or a change in shape. In other words, a force is that which can cause an object with mass to change its velocity , i.e., to accelerate, or which can cause a flexible object to deform...

 of at least 7.35 N and the push-button must remain fully depressed for 1 millisecond
Millisecond
A millisecond is a thousandth of a second.10 milliseconds are called a centisecond....

. All hits register as valid, unless they land on a grounded
Ground (electricity)
In electrical engineering, ground or earth may be the reference point in an electrical circuit from which other voltages are measured, or a common return path for electric current, or a direct physical connection to the Earth....

 metal surface, such as a part of the opponent's weapon, in which case they do not register. At large events, grounded conductive pistes
Piste (fencing)
In modern fencing, the piste or strip is the playing area. Regulations require the piste to be 14 metres long and between 1.5 and 2 metres wide. The last two metres on each end are hash-marked to warn a fencer before he/she backs off the end of the strip, after which is a 1.5 to 2 metre runoff...

 cover the floor to prevent the registration of hits against it. At smaller events and in club fencing, the referee is responsible for noticing floor hits. These often happen by accident, when an épéeist aims at the opponent's foot and misses. Deliberate floor hits are treated as "dishonest fencing," and penalized accordingly.

Épée has less restrictive rules for footwork and physical contact than the other two weapons. In épée, a corps-à-corps (collision between fencers) is not penalized unless initialiated with intent to harm or avoid a touch or is excessively violent. There are no restrictions on crossing of the feet or use of the flèche attack in épée; if the fencers pass each other, the attacking fencer may score until he passes his opponent. The defending fencer has the right to one continuous riposte
Riposte
In fencing, the riposte is an offensive action with the intent of hitting one's opponent, made by the fencer who has just parried an attack....

, and may still score after the attacker has passed.

The counterattack is very important in épée; direct, unprepared attacks are vulnerable to counterattacks to the hand or arm, or to the body of a taller opponent. High level épée is often a game of provocation, with each player trying to lure the other into an attack. Maintaining the appropriate distance is more important than in the other two genres.

Sabre

Sabre is the 'cutting' weapon: points may be scored with edges and sides of the blade. Although the modern design with a light and flexible blade (marginally stiffer than a foil blade which bends easily up and down while a sabre blade bends easier side to side) appeared around the turn of the 19th and 20th century, similar sporting weapons with more substantial blades had been used throughout the Victorian era
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

.

There is some debate as to whether the modern fencing sabre is descended from the cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 sabre
Sabre
The sabre or saber is a kind of backsword that usually has a curved, single-edged blade and a rather large hand guard, covering the knuckles of the hand as well as the thumb and forefinger...

s of Turkic
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

 origin, which became popular in Central and Western Europe around the time of Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

, or one of Europe's indigenous edged dueling weapons, such as the cutting rapier. In practice, it is likely to be a hybrid of the two. Most of the conventions and vocabulary of modern sabre fencing were developed by late 19th century and early 20th century masters from Italy and Hungary, perhaps most notable among them being Italo Santelli
Italo Santelli
Italo Santelli was an Italian fencer who is considered to be the "father of modern sabre fencing".-Early life:...

 (1866–1945).

The sabre target covers everything above the waist, except the hands (wrists are included) and the back of the head. Any contact between any part of the blade and any part of the target counts as a valid touch. Earlier conventions stipulated that a valid touch must be made with the point or either the front or back cutting edge, and that a point attack must not merely graze the target and slip along (pass) the opponent's body. These requirements had to be abandoned, because of technical difficulties, shortly after electronic scoring was introduced into sabre fencing in late 1980s.

Sabre is subject to similar right of way rules as foil, with slightly different definitions of a correctly executed attack
Attack (fencing)
In fencing, an attack is the first offensive movement of a phrase.-Tactical significance:The purpose of an attack is either to make a hit or to provoke a defensive reaction. In order to do either, the attacker must create a realistic threat...

 and parry
Parry (fencing)
A parry is a fencing bladework manoeuvre intended to deflect or block an incoming attack.-Execution:To execute a parry, fencers strike the opponent's foible, or the area near the tip of the blade, with their forte, or the part of the blade near the handle of the sword...

. These differences, together with a much greater scoring surface (the whole of the blade, rather than the point alone), make sabre parries difficult to execute effectively. As a result, sabre tactics rely much more heavily on footwork with blade contact kept to a minimum. Play is not halted by an off-target (hands/below the waist) hit in sabre. To prevent both fencers from immediately charging each other at the beginning of fencing action, crossing of the feet while moving forwards is not allowed, which also prohibits use of the flèche
Flèche (fencing)
The flèche is an aggressive offensive fencing technique used with foil and épée.-Background:In a flèche, a fencer transfers his weight onto his front foot and starts to extend the arm. The rear leg initiates the attack, but the ball of the leading foot provides the explosive impulse that is needed...

. Violations result in a penalty against the offending fencer (a warning, followed by a penalty touch if the offense is repeated). A 'flunge' is sometimes used as a replacement for the outlawed flèche: the fencer leaps at the opponent, being sure to keep his rear foot behind his front as long as possible. Safely landing following this move requires crossing the feet, thus the hit must be scored while airborne. Sabre matches are often decided more quickly than the other weapons.

Protective clothing

Fencing outfits are made of tough cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 or nylon
Nylon
Nylon is a generic designation for a family of synthetic polymers known generically as polyamides, first produced on February 28, 1935, by Wallace Carothers at DuPont's research facility at the DuPont Experimental Station...

. Kevlar
Kevlar
Kevlar is the registered trademark for a para-aramid synthetic fiber, related to other aramids such as Nomex and Technora. Developed at DuPont in 1965, this high strength material was first commercially used in the early 1970s as a replacement for steel in racing tires...

 was added to top level uniform pieces (jacket, breeches, underarm protector, lamé, and the bib of the mask) following the Smirnov
Vladimir Viktorovich Smirnov
Vladimir Viktorovich Smirnov was a Soviet foil fencer.Smirnov won the gold medal in individual men's foil at the 1980 Summer Olympics. He won the World Championships the following year....

 incident at the 1982 World Championships in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. However, kevlar breaks down in chlorine
Chlorine
Chlorine is the chemical element with atomic number 17 and symbol Cl. It is the second lightest halogen, found in the periodic table in group 17. The element forms diatomic molecules under standard conditions, called dichlorine...

 and UV
Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays, in the range 10 nm to 400 nm, and energies from 3 eV to 124 eV...

 light, complicating the cleaning process.

In recent years other ballistic fabrics such as Dyneema have been developed that resist puncture
Puncture resistance
Puncture resistance denotes the relative ability of a material to inhibit the progression of a tear once it has been pierced by a cut or a nick. Tests devised to measure puncture resistance are generally application-specific, covering items such as roofing and packaging materials, protective...

 and which do not have kevlar's issues. FIE rules state that the tournament outfits must be made of fabric that resists a force of 800 N and that the mask bib must resist double that amount.

The complete fencing kit includes:
  • Form-fitting jacket covering groin
    Groin
    In human anatomy, the groin areas are the two creases at the junction of the torso with the legs, on either side of the pubic area. This is also known as the medial compartment of the thigh. A pulled groin muscle usually refers to a painful injury sustained by straining the hip adductor muscles...

     with strap (croissard) which goes between the legs. In sabre fencing, jackets that are cut along the waist and exclude the groin padding are sometimes used. A small gorget
    Gorget
    A gorget originally was a steel or leather collar designed to protect the throat. It was a feature of older types of armour and intended to protect against swords and other non-projectile weapons...

     of folded fabric is sewn in around the collar to prevent an opponent's blade from slipping under the mask and along the jacket upwards towards the neck.
  • Plastron, an underarm protector, which goes underneath the jacket and provides double protection on the sword arm side and upper arm. The armpit cannot have a seam, which would line up with the jacket seam and provide a weak spot.
  • One glove
    Glove
    A glove is a garment covering the hand. Gloves have separate sheaths or openings for each finger and the thumb; if there is an opening but no covering sheath for each finger they are called "fingerless gloves". Fingerless gloves with one large opening rather than individual openings for each...

     for the weapon arm with a gauntlet that prevents blades from going up the sleeve and causing injury, as well as protecting the hand and providing a good grip
  • Breeches
    Breeches
    Breeches are an item of clothing covering the body from the waist down, with separate coverings for each leg, usually stopping just below the knee, though in some cases reaching to the ankles...

     or knickers
    Knickerbockers (clothing)
    Knickerbockers are men's or boys' breeches or baggy-kneed trousers particularly popular in the early twentieth century USA. Golfers' plus twos and plus fours were breeches of this type...

     which are a pair of short trousers that end just below the knee. The breeches are required to have 10 cm of overlap with the jacket. Most are equipped with suspenders.
  • Knee-length or thigh high sock
    Sock
    A sock is an item of clothing worn on the feet. The foot is among the heaviest producers of sweat in the body, as it is able to produce over of perspiration per day. Socks help to absorb this sweat and draw it to areas where air can evaporate the perspiration. In cold environments, socks decrease...

    s which cover knee and thighs
  • Shoes with flat soles and reinforcement on the inside of the back foot and heel of front foot, to prevent wear from lunging
  • Mask
    Mask
    A mask is an article normally worn on the face, typically for protection, disguise, performance or entertainment. Masks have been used since antiquity for both ceremonial and practical purposes...

    , including a bib which protects the neck. The mask can usually support 12 kilograms (26.5 lb) on the metal mesh 350 N of penetration resistance on the bib. FIE regulations dictate that masks must withstand 25 kilograms (55.1 lb) on the mesh and 1600 N on the bib. Some modern masks have a see-through visor in the front of the mask. These have been used at high level competitions (World Championships etc.), however, they are currently banned by the FIE, following a 2009 incident in which a visor was pierced during the European Junior Championship competition.
  • Plastic chest protector, mandatory for females. While male versions of the chest protector are also available, they were, until recently, primarily worn by instructors, who are hit far more often during training than their students. These are increasingly popular in foil, as the hard surface increases the likelihood that a hit fails to register, as well as with youth competitors.
  • Lamé is a layer of electrically conductive material worn over the fencing jacket that entirely covers the valid target area. It is worn only in foil and sabre, and serves to distinguish hits on target from those that are off-target. In epee, the entire body is target, so it is not necessary to have a lamé. In foil the lamé is sleeveless, while in sabre the lamé has sleeves and ends in a straight line across the waist. A body cord
    Body cord
    In fencing, a body cord serves as the connection between a fencer and a reel of wire that is part of a system for electrically detecting that the weapon has touched the opponent. There are two types: one for epee, and one for foil and sabre.-Description:...

     is necessary to register scoring: it attaches to the weapon and runs inside the jacket sleeve, then down the back and out to the scoring box. In sabre and foil the body cord connects to the lamé in order to create a circuit to the scoring box.
  • Fencing Masters often choose a heavier protective jacket, usually reinforced by plastic foam to cushion the numerous hits an instructor has to endure. Sometimes in practice, masters wear a protective sleeve or a leg leather to protect their fencing arm or leg.


Traditionally, the fencers' uniform is white (black for instructors). This may be due to the occasional pre-electric practice of covering the point of the weapon in dye, soot, or colored chalk in order to make it easier for the referee to determine the placing of the touches. As this is no longer a factor in electric Recently the FIE rules have been relaxed to allow colored uniforms (save black). The guidelines also limit the permitted size and positioning of sponsorship logos.

Competition formats

Fencing tournaments vary in format, and include individual and team competitions. A tournament may include all three weapons, both individual and team, or as in an Épée Challenge, individual épée only. Men and women compete separately in high-level tournaments. Mixed-gender tournaments are commonplace at lower levels, especially those held by individual fencing clubs. An individual event consists of two parts: pools and direct eliminations.

Each fencer is assigned to a pool, typically with 6 others. Every fencer fences everyone else in the pool. If the number of fencers competing is not a multiple of seven, one or more pools adjust to six or eight members. After the pools are finished, the fencers are given a ranking, or "seed," versus other fencers in the tournament, based primarily on their winning percentage, and secondarily on the difference between touches made and received. Once seeding completes, direct elimination starts. Fencers are sorted in a table. High seeds typically receive a bye, while lower seeded players fight for the right to compete against them.

For example, if a tournament has 31 entrants, the fighters compete in 4 pools of 6 and one pool of 7. The top fencer after pools are complete would receive a bye in the direct elimination table of 32 and immediately advance to the top-16 to face the winner of the 16 vs. 17 match. After the first round, the 15 winners advance and the top seed joins the fray. Most tournaments do not fence off for 3rd place, so the losers of the semi-final matches would be tied for 3rd in final placement. (For example, at the World Championships, fencers do not fence off for 3rd place but in the Olympics the fencers would fence off for the bronze medal.)

Team competition involves teams of three fencers. A fourth fencer acts as an alternate, but only one substitution is allowed. The modern team competition is similar to the pool round of the individual competition. Each fencer plays each member of the opposing team, totaling nine matches. Matches are three minutes long, or to 5 points. Points carry into the next bout, thus making it a forty-five touch bout fought by six fencers. Unlike individual tournaments, team tournaments almost always fence for third.

Universities and schools

Fencing has a long history with universities and schools. At least one style of fencing, Mensur
Academic fencing
Academic fencing or Mensur is the traditional kind of fencing practiced by some student corporations in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and to a minor extent in Kosovo, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Flanders.- Technique :Modern academic fencing, the "mensur," is neither a duel nor a sport...

 in Germany is practiced only within universities. University students compete internationally at the World University Games
Universiade
The Universiade is an International multi-sport event, organized for university athletes by the International University Sports Federation . The name is a combination of the words "University" and "olympiad"...

. The United States holds two national level university tournaments including the NCAA
National Collegiate Athletic Association
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a semi-voluntary association of 1,281 institutions, conferences, organizations and individuals that organizes the athletic programs of many colleges and universities in the United States...

 championship and the USACFC
USACFC
The United States Association of Collegiate Fencing Clubs is a non-profit corporation that, among other things, puts on the largest annual collegiate fencing event in the world.- Sites of USACFC National Championships :...

 National Championships tournaments in the USA and the BUCS fencing championships in the United Kingdom.

Equipment costs and the relatively small scale of the sport limits university fencing to a small number of schools. National fencing organizations have set up programs to encourage more students to fence. Examples include the Regional Youth Circuit program in the USA and the Leon Paul Youth Development series in the UK.

In recent years, attempts have been made to introduce fencing to a wider and younger audience, by using foam and plastic swords, which require much less protective equipment. This makes it much less expensive to provide classes, and makes it easier to take fencing to a wider range of schools than traditionally has been the case. There is even a competition series in Scotland - the Plastic-and-Foam Fencing FunLeague - specifically for Primary and early-Secondary school-age children using this equipment.

The UK hosts two national competitions in which schools compete against each other directly; the Public Schools
Public School (UK)
A public school, in common British usage, is a school that is neither administered nor financed by the state or from taxpayer contributions, and is instead funded by a combination of endowments, tuition fees and charitable contributions, usually existing as a non profit-making charitable trust...

 Fencing Championship, a competition only open to Independent Schools, and the Scottish Secondary Schools Championships, open to all secondary schools in Scotland. It contains both teams and individual events and is highly anticipated. Schools organise matches directly against one another and school age pupils can compete individually in the British Youth Championships.

Many universities in Ontario, Canada have fencing teams that participate in an annual inter-university competition called the OUA Finals.

See also

  • Fencing terms
  • Fencing at the Summer Olympics
    Fencing at the Summer Olympics
    Fencing has been contested at every Summer Olympic Games since the birth of the modern Olympic movement at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens. Women's foil made its Olympic debut in Paris, during the 1924 Olympic Games...

  • World Fencing Championships
  • Historical European martial arts
    Historical European martial arts
    Historical European martial arts is a neologism describing martial arts of European origin, used particularly to refer to arts formerly practised, but having since died out or evolved into very different forms...

  • Intercollegiate Fencing Association
    Intercollegiate Fencing Association
    The Intercollegiate Fencing Association is the oldest collegiate fencing conference in the United States. It is affiliated with the Eastern College Athletic Conference .-Membership:The IFA has 12 members...

  • List of American epee fencers
  • List of American foil fencers
  • List of American sabreurs
  • List of NCAA fencing schools
  • List of notable fencers
  • List of Olympic medalists in fencing (men)
  • List of Olympic medalists in fencing (women)
  • USFA Hall of Fame
    USFA Hall of Fame
    This is a list of the members of the United States Fencing Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame itself is on display at the Museum of American Fencing, in Shreveport, Louisiana.-1963-1978:...

  • Commonwealth Fencing Championships
    Commonwealth Fencing Championships
    The Commonwealth Fencing Championships is one of the older sport-specific sporting events held in the Commonwealth of Nations, following the demise of fencing as an event in the Commonwealth Games...


  • External links

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