"But I thought we were fighting with swords"


Fencing Information

This is the place to come for some basic information about the sport of fencing!

Fencing is one of a limited number of sports that have appeared at every one of the modern Olympics. It has been described as "a game of physical chess played at lightning speed".

There are three weapons in modern fencing. These are foil, epee and sabre. Each of the weapons has its own rules and intricacies. Each has its roots in history as to its development.

Nowadays, at competition level, electronic scoring is used as the action is fast and furious!

The foil was developed as a practice blade for one handed sword combat and duels as far back as the 17th Century. The target area for scoring a point in foil is the torso, excluding the arms, neck and head.

The sabre developed, it is thought, from a cavalry weapon and is more of a cutting weapon than the thrusting style of the foil and epee. The target area for points is the whole of the upper body, including the arms (except the hands), neck and head (except the back of the head).

The epee was developed as an extension of the foil and as such is a thrusting weapon but perhaps more accurately reflects an old fashioned duel in that the whole body is the target, from the toes to the top of the head.

In foil and sabre "priority" is key to scoring a point. Simply, a fencer starting his attack first has "priority" and in the event that both parties hit the target area the fencer with priority will win the point.

Priority can be taken from the attacking fencer by "parrying" the attack, deflecting the blade, or if the attack falls short or misses. 

Epee has no priority rule.  

A fencing bout takes place in a "Salle" (hall), on a "piste". A piste is a strip approximately 2 metres wide and 14 metres long with an additional 1.5 metres at each end as a run-off area for a quick attack.

Safety is always paramount in the Salle and on the piste. Fencers are required to wear protective clothing which is designed withstand certain forces. The kit consists of (from the bottom up):-

Shoes, usually with a re-inforced heel to prevent wear from lunging

Socks, knee length the top of which sits under the breeches.

Breeches, these are short trousers which come down to just below the knee.

Chest Protector mandatory for women, optional for men, a plastic guard that covers the chest area.

Plastron, a protective under jacket "vest". This usually covers the side that will face the opponent rather than being a full body jacket.

Jacket, a form fitting jacket.

Glove which covers the wrist and is worn on the sword holding hand.

Mask which protects the face and has a bib protecting the neck.

Plus of course the weapon!

The above kit would be enough to get you going in a "Steam", or non-electric bout.

If you are on an electric piste, you will also need a bodywire or wireless hitmate to connect your weapon to the scoring kit and a lame.

The kit is predominantly white, but some fencers wear coloured socks, breeches or decorated masks.