Based on traditional skills of swordsmanship for duels and self-defense in military training, fencing as a sporting activity started to evolve in the mid-18th century, and it has been featured in every one of the modern Olympic Games.  There are three forms of fencing competition, each using a different style of weapon and rules:  foil,  épée,  sabre 


A foil is a light-weight weapon with a flexible and blunted steel blade that derives from a 16th century sword used during practice sessions.  The tip (not the side) of the blade must touch the target area (torso, including the back, neck and groin) to score a touch in foil competition.  A switch at the tip registers a touch with an electric circuit while the metallic foil vest (lamé) worn by each competitor verifies the touch was within the target area.

Épée (‘sword’ in French) looks similar to a foil, but the blade is stiffer, and it’s heavier than the other two weapons used in fencing.  Much like scoring in foil, only the tip scores a valid touch, but unlike foil, the entire body is a valid target.

The sabre is a light cutting and thrusting weapon that targets the entire body above the waist, except the weapon hand.  Different from both foil and épée, saber hits with entire blade are valid, resulting in quick movements and attacks.

After a point is scored, fencers must return to their starting marks, and the fight will start again after the referee gives the commands:  En garde (On guard),  Êtes-vous prêts? (Are you ready?),  Allez (Fence!).


Nzingha Prescod is two-time Olympian foil fencer and the first African-American woman to win an individual medal at the senior world championship.  She’s also a member of the US Women’s Foil Team (including, Lee Kiefer, Nicole Ross, and Margaret Lu) that made history at the 2017 FIE Fencing World Championships in Leipzig, Germany with a silver-medal performance –the best result in the team foil event for US women in world championships history.



Fencing 101 (the basics of competition)  USA Fencing
Fencing Rules for Competition –  The International Fencing Federation is the governing body of fencing and maintains the rules for sanctioned international events and the Olympics
Learn to FenceFind a fencing club,  USA Fencing
The Peter Westbrook Foundation – a not-for-profit organization (founded in 1991 by legendary sabre fencer and Olympic bronze medalist Peter Westbrook) that uses the sport of fencing to enrich the lives of young people from underserved communities in the New York metropolitan area.


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Posted by Zola Zeester

Zola is a vagabond playmaker, the On2In2™ recreation guru and primary source of inspiration for this article. Currently resides at Zeester Media HQ.

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