Category: Fencing

Rules and Techniques

Foil, épée, and sabre 
Techniques or movements in fencing can be divided into two categories: offensive and defensive. Some techniques can fall into both categories (e.g. the beat). Certain techniques are used offensively, with the purpose of landing a hit on your opponent while holding the right of way (foil and sabre). Others are used defensively, to protect against a hit or obtain the right of way.

The attacks and defences may be performed in countless combinations of feet and hand actions. For example, fencer A attacks the arm of fencer B, drawing a high outside parry; fencer B then follows the parry with a high line riposte. Fencer A, expecting that, then makes his own parry by pivoting his blade under fencer B’s weapon (from straight out to more or less straight down), putting fencer B’s tip off target and fencer A now scoring against the low line by angulating the hand upwards.

Whenever a point is scored, the fencers will go back to their starting mark. The fight will start again after the following commands have been given by the referee (in French in international settings): “En garde” (On guard), “Êtes-vous prêts ?” (Are you ready?), “Allez” (Fence!).

Offensive
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 épée, 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 épée 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 épée. 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 épée, 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.
Defensive
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 move 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 épée 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 épée, 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.

Rules

  • Fencers must salute one another and the referee at the beginning and end of the bout, with failure to do so can result in the loss of a point (the winner) or even suspension (the loser).
  • Points are scored by hitting your opponent in accordance with the specific requirements for the type of weapon being used (as detailed above).
  • In foil, strikes outside the target area stop the contest before resuming afresh, however strikes with the blade (whilst not counting) do not stop the action; the latter rule also applies to the epée.
  • Barging the opponent, using your hand to cover the target zone or foot faults can lead to a points penalty at the referee’s discretion.

History of Fencing

Fencing traces its roots to the development of swordsmanship for duels and self defense. Fencing is believed to have originated in Spain; some of the most significant books on fencing were written by Spanish fencers. Treatise on Arms[3] was written by Diego de Valera between 1458 and 1471 and is one of the oldest surviving manuals on western fencing (in spite of the title, the book of Diego Valera was on heraldry, not about fencing)[4] shortly before dueling came under official ban by the Catholic Monarchs. In conquest, the Spanish forces carried fencing around the world, particularly to southern Italy, one of the major areas of strife between both nations.[5][6] Fencing was mentioned in the play The Merry Wives of Windsor written sometime prior to 1602.

The mechanics of modern fencing originated in the 18th century in an Italian school of fencing of the Renaissance, and under their influence, were improved by the French school of fencing.[9][10] The Spanish school of fencing stagnated and was replaced by the Italian and French schools.

Development into a sport
The shift towards fencing as a sport rather than as military training happened from the mid-18th century, and was led by Domenico Angelo, who established a fencing academy, Angelo’s School of Arms, in Carlisle House, Soho, London in 1763.[11] There, he taught the aristocracy the fashionable art of swordsmanship. His school was run by three generations of his family and dominated the art of European fencing for almost a century. [12]

1763 fencing print from Domenico Angelo’s instruction book. Angelo was instrumental in turning fencing into an athletic sport.
He established the essential rules of posture and footwork that still govern modern sport fencing, although his attacking and parrying methods were still much different from current practice. Although he intended to prepare his students for real combat, he was the first fencing master to emphasize the health and sporting benefits of fencing more than its use as a killing art, particularly in his influential book L’École des armes (The School of Fencing), published in 1763.

The first regularized fencing competition was held at the inaugural Grand Military Tournament and Assault at Arms in 1880, held at the Royal Agricultural Hall, in Islington in June. The Tournament featured a series of competitions between army officers and soldiers. Each bout was fought for five hits and the foils were pointed with black to aid the judges. The Amateur Gymnastic & Fencing Association drew up an official set of fencing regulations in 1896.

Fencing was part of the Olympics Games in the summer of 1896. Sabre events have been held at every Summer Olympics; foil events have been held at every Summer Olympics except 1908; épée events have been held at every Summer Olympics except in the summer of 1896 because of unknown reasons.

Starting with épée in 1933, side judges were replaced by the Laurent-Pagan electrical scoring apparatus,[14] with an audible tone and a red or green light indicating when a touch landed. Foil was automated in 1956, sabre 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.

Fencing

SWORDPLAY HAS BEEN PRACTISED FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS, AND MODERN DAY FENCING BEGAN AS A FORM OF MILITARY TRAINING. IT DID NOT BECOME A SPORT UNTIL AROUND THE 15TH CENTURY.

SWORD FIGHTING AND DUELS

Swordplay has been practised for thousands of years, as evidenced by carvings depicting fencers found in a temple near Luxor dating from around 1190 BC. From the 16th to the 18th century, duels were common, with combatants using a variety of weapons including quarterstaffs and backswords. Such bouts were bloody and occasionally fatal.

BIRTH OF THE SPORT

Fencing began the move from a form of military training to a sport in either the 14th or 15th century. Both Italy and Germany lay claim to its origins, with German fencing masters organising the first guilds in the 15th century, the most notable being the Marxbruder of Frankfurt, formed in 1478.

RULES OF THE GAME

Three innovations in the 17th and 18th century led to the popularity of fencing as a sport: the “foil” – a weapon with a flattened tip; a set of rules governing the target area; and the wire-mesh mask. Together, these developments ensured the safety of fencing’s participants.

OLYMPIC HISTORY

Fencing was included for the first time at the 1896 Games in Athens, and has remained on the Olympic programme since then. The women’s fencing competition entered the Games in 1924 in Paris. Today, men and women compete in individual and team events, in which three types of weapon are used: foil, epee and sabre. The foil was, at first, the only weapon used by women, until the 1996 Games in Atlanta, when women’s epee was introduced. Women’s sabre appeared for the first time on the Olympic programme in Athens in 2004.

Among the figures who have marked this sport, Italy’s Nedo Nadi is the only fencer to have won a medal in every weapon in a single edition of the Games. In 1912, at the age of 18, he won in the foil. Then, after being decorated by his country for acts of bravery during the First World War, he won five gold medals in Antwerp in 1920, a historic and unequalled record: in the individual foil and sabre events, and in the team foil, epee and sabre events.

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