Fencing Facts

Fencing History - Fencing began as a form of combat and is known to have been practiced well before the birth of Christ. Relief carvings in the temple of Madinet-Habu near Luxor, Egypt, dating from approximately 1190 BC depict fencers competing. As a sport, fencing began in either the 14th or 15th century and both Italy and Germany lay claim to the origins of the sport. In 1570 Henri Saint-Didier of France gave names to fencing's major movements and most of that nomenclature remains. From the 16th to the 18th century, sword fights and duels were common. Combatants in these duels used a variety of weapons, including singlesticks, quarterstaffs, and backswords, and the bouts were often bloody and occasionally fatal.

Fencing in the Olympics - Fencing was first contested during the 1896 Olympics and is one of the few sports to have been contested at every Olympic Games. Fencing was one of the few Olympic sports that admitted professionals prior to the 1980s. Today, men compete in both team and individual events at the Olympics using three types of swords - the foil, the épée and the sabre. Women's fencing first appeared in the Olympics in 1924.

What are the rules in fencing?  Basic fencing rules are simple: Hit your opponent without being hit.  It is truly a game of tag.  Each touch on your opponent results in one point being added to your score. Usually, you must score five points in order to win a basic bout. In modern fencing, competition is divided among three weapon forms: the foil, the epee, and the sabre.  Obviously there are additional rules for use in competitive fencing and bouts are officiated by a director.

What are the weapons used in fencing?

THE FOIL  The Foil is a light, swift weapon. Points may be scored only with the tip of the foil, not the edges. In foil, the trunk of the body is the target area. At our Academy, most new students will begin with the Foil as it teaches the basic technique, movement skills, and important concepts needed in all three styles.

THE EPEE  The Epee (pronounced ep-pay) descended from the original duel weapon. Slightly heavier than the foil, the epee is also a thrusting-only weapon form. In target area, epee is the entire body - from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. Many of our fencers have enjoyed many victories fencing Epee across Tennessee and across the nation. 

THE SABRE  The Sabre used in today's bouts comes from the days of the mounted cavalry. It was a weapon designed to attack the upper portion of an opponent who was riding a horse. Thus, the sabre is used as a slashing and thrusting weapon. Sabre's target is everything from the waist up, head included. At CAA, students may learn Sabre after studying Foil and Epee for a season. We believe Sabre is a bit more advanced style of fencing - requiring a depth of timing, coordination, and control that inexperienced fencers need to learn over time through training and competition.

Who are some of the famous people who have fenced that I might have heard of?

Otto Von Bismarck - Danny Kaye - Neil Diamond - Sir Richard Burton

Aldo Nadi - Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) - Grace Kelly - Harry Truman

Winston Churchill - Rene Descartes - T.H. White - Erza Pound

Robert Montgomery - Basil Rathbone - Cornel Wilde - Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Harry Hamlin - Jose Ferrer - Bo Derek - Will Smith - Teddy Roosevelt

 What are some really cool fencing facts that I would like to know?

1. Fencing is one of only four sports to be included in every modern Olympic Games, since the first in 1896. A cruder version of fencing was also a sport in the original Olympic Games in ancient Greece. Albertson Van Zo Post of the New York Fencers Club led our early Olympic efforts by winning 5 Olympic medals in the 1904 St. Louis Olympics including 2 gold medals (1 team, 1 individual). Even Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic Games, was a fencer.

2. The tip of the fencing weapon is the second fastest moving object in sports; the first is the marksman's bullet.

3. Fencing is conducted on a 14m x 2m "strip" or "piste" to replicate combat in confined quarters such as a castle hallway. The end of the fencing strip represents the line drawn in the earth by duelists' seconds: to retreat behind this line during the duel indicated cowardice and loss of honor. Foil is the only weapon that has always had "strip" rules. For many years, epee and saber fencers could move about with no restrictions.

4. The 750 gram weight test used to ensure a touch is scored with sufficient force is based on the amount of tension required to break the skin. In a duel, honor was done when blood was first drawn -- even if from a minor wound such as a blister.

5. The target area in sabre, originally a cavalry weapon, is from the waist up because it is contrary to the rules of chivalry to injure an opponent's horse. The rules in saber changed for one season in 1903 to forbid hits with the point. And from 1908 - 1915 saber fencers were awarded 2 points for a riposte.

6. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, was a fencing master working at a YMCA when he decided to create a game for a group of kids by shooting a ball into vegetable baskets. The fencing strip (our field of play) - at 46ft - fits neatly across the 50 ft width of a regulation basketball court. One could almost say that without fencing - THERE WOULD BE NO BASKETBALL!


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