Speed and precision. Strategy and tactics. Agility and athleticism. Fencing engages us physically and mentally in ways that few other sports can. This is why so many people develop a lifelong passion for fencing. It’s one of only four sports to have been included in every Summer Olympics since 1896. This rich history, combined with the enrichment of the total athlete, has enabled fencing to become an NCAA sport and a traditional sport of Ivy League colleges. While fencing can be enjoyed by all ages, the dedication and commitment that it requires make it an impressive accomplishment on the résumé of any high school student athlete when applying for college.
(info from usfencing.org)
The foil has a flexible rectangular blade, approximately 35 inches in length, weighing less than one pound. Points are scored with the tip of the blade and must land within the torso of the body.The valid target area in foil is the torso, from the shoulders to the groin, front and back. It does not include the arms, neck, head and legs. The foil fencer’s uniform includes a metallic vest (called a lamé) which covers the valid target area, so that a valid touch will register on the scoring machine. A small, spring-loaded tip is attached to the point of the foil and is connected to a wire inside the blade. The fencer wears a body cord inside his uniform which connects the foil to a reel wire, connected to the scoring machine. There are two scoring lights on the machine. One shows a green light when a fencer is hit, and one shows a red light when her opponent is hit. A touch landing outside the valid target area (that which is not covered by the lamé) is indicated by a white light. These “off target” hits do not count in the scoring, but they do stop the fencing action temporarily.
The épée (pronounced “EPP-pay”), the descendant of the dueling sword, is similar in length to the foil, but is heavier, weighing approximately 27 ounces, with a larger guard (to protect the hand from a valid hit) and a much stiffer blade. Touches are scored only with the point of the blade. The entire body is the valid target area. The blade is wired with a spring-loaded tip at the end that completes an electrical circuit when it is depressed beyond a pressure of 750 grams. This causes the colored bulb on the scoring machine to light. Because the entire body is a valid target area, the épée fencer’s uniform does not include a lamé. Off-target hits do not register on the machine.
The sabre is the modern version of the slashing cavalry sword, and is similar in length and weight to the foil. The major difference is that the sabre is a thrusting weapon as well as a cutting weapon (use of the blade). The target area is from the bend of the hips (both front and back), to the top of the head, simulating the cavalry rider on a horse. The sabre fencer’s uniform includes a metallic jacket (lamé), which covers the target area to register a valid touch on the scoring machine. The mask is different from foil and épée, with a metallic covering since the head is valid target area.
Modern fencing is one of the safest martial art sports. The protective gear used in fencing includes leather gloves, masks (which must meet international strength standards), and uniforms (which are made of Kevlar, the same material used to make bulletproof vests). All weapons are made of flexible blades with blunted covered tips.