If you are unfamiliar with the sport of fencing, we encourage you to take a look at the competitive fencers in a bout, or view a video on fencing. You will be amazed at the lightning speed in which the competitors act and react. Fencing requires both upper and lower body strength, but you will see that strategy and speed are more important to a fencer than size and strength.
Fencing is the Olympic sport of sword fighting. It is one of only seven sports that have been in every modern Olympic game since 1896. In a fencing “bout”, two competitors compete to score points on each other with their weapons. To beat an opponent, a fencer must use bladework, footwork, tactics and strategy. Fencing involves speed, aerobic movement, and lightning-fast blade movements. The sport is often called “physical chess”, because it emphasizes strategy over size and sportsmanship over glory.
In the medieval days, swords were bulky and heavy because of early metalworking abilities and because of body armor. Swords needed to cause damage through armor, so they could not be light and thin. Because of the difficulty of maneuvering these swords, the techniques of the early days are no longer applicable to modern-day fencing.
With the advent of gunpowder, armor was useless against a bullet. To enhance mobility, armor became lighter, and soon armor became only ceremonial to wear. Swords no longer had to penetrate heavy shield and armor, so they were made to be light and easier to move.
Swordfighting evolved to become a game of speed, dexterity and tactics. The weapons developed into two styles and techniques, known as the Epee and the Sabre. The Epee was narrow, sharply-pointed blade, where attacks were made by thrusting the point. The Sabre was a military-style, curved weapon with a cutting edge, where made by slashing. The Foil was introduced later as a lighter, safer training version of the Epee. Most of the tactics and techniques developed through the use of foils are what used by all fencing weapons today. Foil continues to be the predominant introductory weapon in modern times.
In the early 1900’s, the first electronic scoring devices appeared. This developed fencing into a sport. Electronically wired button tips and electric scoring vest allowed fencers to determine when they were appropriately touched. Fencing became a sport of multiple touches, verses the single hit of earlier times.