What Is Fencing?

International Sport in Your Neighborhood

The sport of fencing is fast and athletic, a far cry from the choreographed bouts you see on film or on the stage where there’s lots of clashing steel, flashing blades, swinging from chandeliers, leaping from balconies or bad guys dropping to the ground.  Instead you will see two fencers performing an intense dance on a 6-by-40-foot strip called a “piste”. The movement is so fast the touches are scored electronically rather than by eye – much more like Star Wars than Errol Flynn.

​​​​​​​​If sport mimics life, fencing attempts to satisfy one of man’s primordial instincts — the urge to risk it all with weapon in hand.  Fortunately, it is no longer necessary to impale your opponent in order to emerge victorious. What used to be a matter of life and death, is now a sport for men, women and children of all ages.  The sport of fencing uses three weapons:  the foilépée, and sabre all are used in national, international and Olympic competition.

The ability to demonstrate speed, skill and dexterity with a sword has always been considered an indication of manliness and throughout 17th and 18th century Europe dueling with rapiers settled ‘matters of honor’.

The modern Olympic sport requires fencers to be of the fittest of athletes and have levels of skills which require many hours of dedicated training.

In learning the skills of attacking and defending with either the Foil, Epee or Sabre fencers develop good co-ordination, balance and flexibility which makes fencing training an ideal means of keeping fit for all ages and abilities

https://test.newjerseyfencing.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/NJ-Division-High-School-Fencing-HD.mp4When fencing is offered in schools, large numbers of student typically enroll because they wish to emulate their storybook heroes.  Check out what fencing in high school is like.


Fencing Is For Everyone​

Fencers as young as 8 or as seasoned as 70 can and do compete as long as they have plenty of energy!  Even those in wheelchairs can get in on the action involved and and compete on the national stage or in the Paralympic Games.  Certain disabilities prove to be of little disadvantage at fencing and those who are unable to compete in other sports find that they can compete on equal terms with able bodied fencers.

​What’s It Like?

Fencing is an intense mental battle, as well as a physical challenge. Facing an opponent on the fencing strip can be intimidating. There are few opportunities in our society where you can face someone in a fight like this. There is no blood, and you walk away friends. But there is no question that, facing each other on the fencing strip, is a contest of wills. The weapon is an extension of the fencer’s arms and body. Physical strength does not ensure victory, nor does speed, height, or intelligence. The winner will have used the tools he or she knows, used psychology and mental games, used cunning and craftiness, used distance and timing better than their opponent.  This is a fight that requires your whole body, mind and spirit.

Of course, these are talents and skills that few people are born with. Fencers rarely show up to class and begin winning matches immediately. It takes time to develop the reflexes, timing and tactical skills. Being in good shape helps, naturally, but fencing does NOT require great strength or speed. It does require discipline and practice to develop the skills and to learn to use your body to its best advantage.
Fencers score touches by either attacking, or by hitting after a successful defense.  Fencers jockey for an advantage, trying to find the best time and distance to launch an attack, at the same time, the opponent is searching for strengths and weaknesses, ready to attack or defend in a split second. This is a case of doing unto your neighbor before he (or she) does unto you! It requires tremendous concentration, since a wrong movement may yield the advantage. Like chess, fencers have a set of moves that they can apply in different strategies.  The difference is that the time between fencing moves or turns is measured in milliseconds!

What Do We Use?​

The Weapons

Foil, épée and sabre are the three weapons used in the sport of fencing. While it is not unusual for fencers to compete in all three events, they generally choose to develop their skills in one weapon. Until recently, women were permitted to compete only in foil, but now the USFA & FIE offer national competitions for women in épée and sabre. Women’s épée was added to the World Championships in 1989 and was held for the first time at the Olympic Games in 19

Foil and épée are point-thrusting weapons. Sabre is a point-thrusting as well as a cutting weapon. The target areas differ for the three weapons, though all three are scored electrically.  To learn more about each specific weapon, go to the next page. 

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