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  Sent by: Morgan Burke  Mostra tutti i messaggi di Morgan Burke
Subject: Fencing FAQ (part 1)
Newsgroup: rec.sport.fencing, rec.answers, news.answers
Date: 01/11/2018
Time: 00:03:20
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  Archive-name: sports/fencing-faq/part1
Last-modified: 2002-Nov-18
Version: 5.46


This is a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) with answers, compiled
for the UseNet newsgroup rec.sport.fencing. It is intended to reduce
repetitive discussions on the Net by addressing commonly raised topics.
This document is maintained by Morgan Burke (morgan@sitka.triumf.ca).
Contributions, corrections, and suggestions are welcome.

Most of the questions and answers pertain to FIE (Olympic) Fencing;
Japanese fencing (kendo, kenjustsu, iaido, etc.) is treated in a
separate FAQ list ("Japanese Sword Arts") that can occasionally be
found in the newsgroups rec.sport.fencing or rec.martial-arts, or on
the IAIDO-L mailing list (see section 3.8 for details). The Japanese
Sword Arts FAQ is maintained by Neil Gendzwill (gendzwill@SEDSystems.ca).

The Fencing FAQ is presented in three parts:

1. GENERAL: common questions about starting fencing, training, and
rules of competition
2. EQUIPMENT: fencing equipment, maintenance, and troubleshooting
3. REFERENCE: organizations, suppliers, reading materials, net
resources, glossary, etc.

All parts can be found on the UseNet newsgroups rec.sport.fencing,
rec.answers, or news.answers. Otherwise, consult section 3.8 for
information on finding archived copies of this document. An HTML
version is available on request.

Here's a quick guide to some of the more persistent topics on

- Finding equipment retailers - see section 3.2
- Finding a fencing club - see section 1.10
- Modern sport vs. classical martial art - see sections 1.2, 1.3
- Legality of Spanish and Italian grips - see section 2.7.1
- Analysis and priority - see sections 1.13, 1.14, 1.15, 1.16
- Flicks - see sections 1.14, 1.17
- Weapon maintenance and repair - see sections 2.8, 2.10, 2.12, 2.14, 2.15, 2.16, 2.17


PART 1 : General

1.1 What sports and martial arts comprise fencing?
1.2 How did fencing originate?
1.3 How is modern fencing different from the "real thing"?
1.4 Which is the best weapon?
1.5 Is fencing going to be eliminated from the Olympics?

Getting Started:
1.6 Does it hurt?
1.7 How long does it take to become good?
1.8 What qualities make a good fencer?
1.9 How much does it cost to get involved in fencing?
1.10 How do I find a good fencing club?

1.11 What kind of cross-training will help my fencing?
1.12 How can I improve my technique without the help of a coach?

1.13 What is right of way?
1.14 What constitutes an attack?
1.15 What constitutes a parry?
1.16 What constitutes a point-in-line?
1.17 What is the scoop on "flicks" and "whips"?
1.18 What are the latest rule changes?


1.1 What sports and martial arts comprise fencing?

The Olympic sport of fencing is comprised of three weapons: foil,
epee, and sabre. All are fenced on a long rectangular strip, and
electronic scoring aids are normally used to assist in the
detection of touches. The rules governing these three weapons
are determined by the FIE (Federation Internationale d'Escrime).
Briefly, the FIE weapons are described as follows:

Foil: Descended from the 18th century small sword, the foil has a
thin, flexible blade with a square cross-section and a small
bell guard. Touches are scored with the point on the torso of
the opponent, including the groin and back. Foil technique
emphasizes strong defense and the killing attack to the body.

Epee: Similar to the duelling swords of the late 19th century,
epees have stiff blades with a triangular cross section,
and large bell guards. Touches are scored with the point,
anywhere on the opponent's body. Unlike foil and sabre, there
no rules of right-of-way to decide which attacks have precedence,
and double hits are possible. Epee technique emphasises timing,
point control, and a good counter-attack.

Sabre: Descended from duelling sabres of the late 19th century,
which were in turn descended from naval and cavalry swords, sabres
have a light, flat blade and a knuckle guard. Touches can be
scored with either the point or the edge of the blade, anywhere
above the opponent's waist. Sabre technique emphasises speed,
feints, and strong offense.

The most popular of eastern fencing techniques is kendo, the Japanese
"Way of the Sword". Kendo is fought with a bamboo shinai, intended
to resemble a two-handed Japanese battle sword. Combatants wear
armour, and strike to the top or sides of the head, the sides of the
body, the throat, or the wrists. Accepted technique must be
observed, and judges watch for accuracy, power, and spirit. See the
Japanese Sword Arts FAQ for more information.

Other martial arts that include elements of swordsmanship are:

Aikido -- self defence against armed and unarmed attackers. Includes
using and defending oneself against Japanese sword techniques.
Arnis, Escrima, Kali -- Phillipino stick and knife disciplines.
Iaido -- the Japanese art of the sword draw (also Iaijutsu and
batto-jutsu, more combat-oriented variants of the same).
Jogo do Pau -- a Portuguese stick-fighting discipline.
Jojutsu -- a Japanese stick-fighting discipline.
Kalaripayitt -- includes sword and weapons techniques from south
Kenjutsu -- the unadulterated Japanese martial art of the sword.
Krabi Krabong -- a Thai martial art that includes many sword forms.
Kumdo -- A Korean variant of Kendo.
Kung-fu -- a Chinese martial art that includes many sword techniques.
La Canne -- French Boxing, with a single-handed stick, using
rules similar to classical fencing.
Le Baton -- similar to La Canne, but with a longer, 2-handed stick.
Maculele -- Afro-Brazilian machete forms, related to Capoeira.
Mensur -- German fraternity "duelling", with schlagers.
Modern Pentathlon -- the "soldier's medley", a sport that recreates
demands placed on a pre-20th century military messenger: running,
swimming, shooting, equestrian jumping, and epee fencing.
Pentjak Silat -- Indonesian arts that include sword and stick forms.
Single Stick -- an ancestor of sabre fencing, fought with a
basket-hilted wooden rod.
SCA duello -- rapier-like fencing in the round, with off-hand
techniques. Additional info on the SCA can be found in the
newsgroup rec.org.sca.
SCA heavy lists -- medieval-style heavy combat, with rattan weapons,
armour, and shields. Additional info on the SCA can be found in the
newsgroup rec.org.sca.
Shinkendo -- real-sword-oriented variant of Kendo.
Tai Chi -- another Chinese martial art that includes many sword

1.2 How did fencing originate?

Swordfighting as sport has existed since ancient Egypt, and has
been practiced in many forms in various cultures since then.
Although jousting and tournament combat was a popular sport in
the European middle ages, modern FIE fencing owes more to
unarmoured duelling forms that evolved from 16th century rapier

Rapiers evolved from cut-and-thrust military swords, but were
most popular amongst civilians who used it for self-defence and
duelling. Rapiers were edged, but the primary means of attack was
the thrust. Rapier fencing spread from Spain and Italy to
northwest Europe, in spite of the objections of masters such as
George Silver who preferred traditional cutting weapons such the
English broad sword.

The Spanish school, under masters such as Narvaez and Thibault,
became a complicated and mystical affair whose geometrical
theories required much practice to master. Italian masters like
Agrippa and Capo Ferro developed a more pragmatic school in the
late 16th and early 17th centuries, introducing innovations such
as linear fencing and the lunge.

By the 18th century, the rapier had evolved to a simpler,
shorter, and lighter design that was popularized in France as the
small sword. Although the small sword often had an edge, it was
only to discourage the opponent from grabbing the blade, and the
weapon was used exclusively for thrusting. The light weight made
a more complex and defensive style possible, and the French
masters developed a school based on defence with the sword,
subtlety of movement, and complex attacks. When buttoned with a
leather safety tip that resembled a flower bud, the small sword was
known as le fleuret, and was identical in use to the modern foil
(still known as le fleuret in French). Indeed, the French small
sword school forms the basis of most of modern fencing theory.

By the mid-19th century, duelling was in decline as a means of
settling disputes, partially because victory could lead to a jail
term for assault or manslaughter. Emphasis shifted to defeating
the opponent without necessarily killing him, and less fatal
duelling forms evolved using the duelling sword, or epee de terrain,
an unedged variant of the small sword. Later duels often ended
with crippling thrusts to the arm or leg, and fewer legal
difficulties for the participants. This is the basis of modern
epee fencing.

Cutting swords had been used in bloodsports such as backsword
prizefights at least as far back as the 17th century.
Broadswords, sabres, and cutlasses were used extensively in
military circles, especially by cavalry and naval personell, and
saw some duelling application in these circles as well. Training
was performed with wooden weapons, and stick fighting remained
popular until Italian masters formalized sabre fencing into a
non-fatal sporting/training form with metal weapons in the late
19th century. Early sport sabres were significantly heavier than
the modern sport sabre and necessitated a strong style with the
use of moulinets and other bold movements. As with thrusting
swords, the sabre evolved to lighter, less fatal duelling forms
such as the Italian sciabola di terro and the German schlager.
Hungarian masters developed a new school of sabre fencing that
emphasized finger control over arm strength, and they dominated
sabre fencing for most of the 20th century.

Duelling faded away after the First World War. A couple of
noteworthy duels were fought over disputes that arose during
Olympic games in the 1920s, and there have been rare reports of
sword duels since then. German fraternity duelling (mensur)
still occurs with some frequency.

The first modern Olympic games featured foil and sabre fencing
for men only. Epee was introduced in 1900. Single stick was
featured in the 1904 games. Epee was electrified in the 1936
games, foil in 1956, and sabre in 1988. Early Olympic games
featured events for Masters, and until recently fencing was the
only Olympic sport that has included professionals. Disruptions
in prevailing styles have accompanied the introduction of
electric judging, most recently transforming sabre fencing. Foil
fencing experienced similar upheavals for a decade or two
following the introduction of electric judging, which was
further complicated by the new, aggressive, athletic style coming
out of eastern Europe at the time.

Women's foil was first contested in the 1924 Olympic games, and
Women's epee was only contested for the first time in 1996,
although it has been part of the World Championships since 1989.
Women's sabre made its first appearance in the 1998 World
Championships as a demonstration sport, and will likely appear in
the 2004 Olympics as part of a combined team event.

1.3 How is modern fencing different from the "real thing"?

If the "real thing" is a duel with sharps, then aside from the
mortal danger and related psychological factors, the primary
technical difference is that the duellist can win with only a
single good touch, whereas the athlete has to hit his opponent as
many as 15 times and so requires more technical and tactical
depth. Many inferior duellists have won their combats through
sheer dumb luck. This is far less likely in the sport. On the
other hand, the sport fencer takes many defensive risks that
would be unthinkable in a duel, since he has up to 15 "lives" to
work with.

Some purists equate "real" fencing with classical fencing,
ie. the prevalent styles of the traditional French and Italian
schools of fencing that predominated before electric fencing was
popularized. By comparison, modern fencing is more mobile and
athletic, while classical fencers were known for their more
sophisticated phrasing and bladework.

Modern sabre fencing is performed with lightweight weapons and
techniques that do not translate well to military sabres and
broadswords. There is a certain amount of cross-over with
lighter turn-of-the-century duelling sabres, however.

Lastly, it just seems apparent to some that sport fencing has
evolved away from its bloody origins. Tactically and
psychologically, it is true that the sport is a vastly different
world from the duel. The sport fencer's life is never in
jeapordy, and with as many as 15 hits needed to secure victory,
there often isn't even much figurative danger. Since the quality
of a hit is immaterial, fencers will naturally prefer an easy
"wounding" hit over a difficult "fatal" one, and so glancing hits
will often win out over strong thrusts. Technically, however,
there have been few modern innovations, and the sport fencer
still possesses all the technical skills necessary to fight a

1.4 Which is the best weapon?

If the question means "what kind of fencing is the most fun?" then
the answer is: it depends what aspects of fencing you enjoy the most.
If you are fascinated by technique, bladework, and tactics, you will
probably get a lot of satisfaction from foil fencing. More visceral
fencers who want to experience the adrenaline rush of a fast,
agressive sword fight will want to try some sabre. Most epee fencers
consider themselves practical, no-nonsense sword fighters who rely on
as few artificial rules as possible. Enthusiasts of more medieval
combat styles, involving armour and heavy weapons, should consider
kendo or the SCA heavy lists.

Perhaps the question means "what is the best weapon for a
beginner to start with?" Foil is the most common starter weapon,
and its skills translate most easily to the other weapons. Sabre
is less ideal for students planning to try other weapons, due to
the higher cost of electric sabre gear, and the reduced use of
the point. Fencers who begin with epee may struggle with the
concept of right-of-way if they attempt to learn a second weapon
later. However, if the student is certain that they will stick
with sabre or epee, then there is no harm to starting with those
weapons immediately.

On the other hand, if the question means "which weapon is the most
deadly?" the answer will depend on a lot of factors, not the least
of which are the skill of the combatants, the presence of armour, the
military and cultural context, and the rules of the fight (ie. is
this a street fight, a gentlemen's duel, or open field warfare?).
Most swords are highly optimized for performance in a specific
environment, and will not perform well outside it. Comparing two
swords from completely different historical contexts is therefore
extremely difficult, if not downright silly.

Then again, perhaps the question means "which style of fencing is
the most realistic?" It must be said that questions of realism have
little relevance to an activity that has almost no practical
application in the modern world other than sport and fitness.
Historically, however, epees have the closest resemblance (among FIE
weapons) to real duelling swords, and the rules closely parallel
those of actual duels (sometimes being fought to only a single

1.5 Is fencing going to be eliminated from the Olympics?

Olympic fencing appears to be safe for the present, and was
recently expanded to include Women's Epee. Since the IOC
perpetually changes its roster of Olympic sports, nothing is
certain in future games. Although fencing is one of only four
sports to have been involved in every modern Olympic Games since
their inception in 1896, it has been mentioned in the past as one
of the disciplines that may be eliminated from future Games.

According to Gilbert Felli, Sports Director of the International
Olympic Committee, the IOC plans to refine future games in
various ways, including:
-- limiting the number of athletes to 15000
-- increasing participation by women
-- eliminating "so-called artificial team events"
-- limiting sports of a similar type
-- modernizing the Olympic program
-- encouraging sports that provide a good television spectacle

In the last decade fencing has undergone numerous revisions to
its rules and structure to improve its value as a spectator
sport, perhaps in the hopes of improving its Olympic

1.6 Does it hurt?

Not if done properly. Although executed with appreciable energy,
a good, clean fencing attack hurts no more than a tap on the
shoulder. The force of the blow is normally absorbed by the flex
of the blade. Reckless and overly aggressive fencers can
occasionally deliver painful blows, however. Fencing *is* a
martial art, so you should expect minor bruises and welts every
now and again. They are rarely intentional. The most painful
blows tend to come from inexperienced fencers who have not yet
acquired the feel of the weapon.

The primary source of injury in fencing is from strained muscles
and joints. Proper warm-up and stretching before fencing will
minimize these occurences.

There is a risk of being injured by broken weapons. The shards
of a snapped blade can be very sharp and cause serious injury,
especially if the fencer doesn't immediately realize his blade is
broken, and continues fencing. Always wear proper protective
gear to reduce this risk. FIE homologated jackets, pants, and
masks are ideal, as they are made with puncture-resistant fabrics
such as ballistic nylon. If you cannot afford good fencing wear,
at least use a plastron (half-jacket worn beneath the regular
fencing jacket), and avoid old and rusty masks. Always wear a
glove that covers the cuff, to prevent blades from running up the

Fencing is often said to be safer than golf. Whether or not this
is true, it is an extraordinarily safe sport considering its
heritage and nature.

1.7 How long does it take to become good?

There is a saying that it takes two lifetimes to master fencing. By
the time anyone has come close to "mastering" the sport, they are
long past their athletic prime. Some may feel that this is a
drawback to the sport, but most fencers see it as a great strength:
fencing never becomes dull or routine; there are always new skills to
master, and new grounds to conquer.

In times past, students often were not permitted to hold a weapon
until they had completed a year or two of footwork training.
Modern training programs rarely wait this long, and in many cases
students will be fencing (albeit badly) almost immediately.
Novice-level competition is feasible within 3-6 months.
Competition at this point should be viewed as a learning aid, not
as a dedicated effort to win.

Serious attempts at competing will be possible after 2-3 years,
when the basic skills have been sufficiently mastered that the
mind is free to consider strategy. A moderate level of skill
(eg. C classification) can take a few years of regular practice
and competition. Penetration of the elite ranks (eg. world cup,
international 'A' level) demands three to five days per week of
practice and competition, and usually at least 10 years of

Progress can be faster or slower, depending on the fencer's
aptitude, dedication, quality of instruction, and the age at
which they begin. Rapid progress normally requires at least
three practices per week, and regular competition against
superior fencers. With the increasing emphasis on athleticism in
the modern sport, fencers are getting younger, and the champions
are getting to the podiums faster.

1.8 What qualities make a good fencer?

All of them.

On the athletic side, speed and cardiovascular fitness rank
foremost. Other traits that can be exploited are strength (for
explosive power, not heavy handedness), manual dexterity, and
flexibility. Quick reaction time is extremely important. On the
mental side, a fencer must be adaptable and observant, and have a
good mind for strategy and tactics. Psychologically, he or she
must be able to maintain focus, concentration, and emotional
level-headedness under intense conditions of combat.

As far as body type goes, it is always possible to adapt your
style to take advantage of your natural traits. Even so, height
seems to be most useful in epee. Small or thin people are harder
to hit in foil. A long reach helps in epee, and long legs are an
asset in foil.

It should be noted that left handers seem to enjoy a slight
advantage, especially against less experienced fencers. This may
account for the fact that lefties make up 15% of novice fencers,
but close to half of FIE world champions.

1.9 How much does it cost to get involved in fencing?

A beginner's dry fencing kit (cotton jacket, glove, dry weapon,
mask) will cost about US$100-200. A full set of FIE-spec
competition gear (FIE jacket, pants, mask, 2 weapons, wires,
glove, shoes, plastron, electric jacket) will run at least
US$500-1000. FIE equipment is recommended both in terms of
safety and quality, but clothing costs can be as much as halved
by purchasing regular cotton or synthetic knits. Used equipment
can also be bought from retiring or upgrading fencers. Many
clubs will provide basic equipment to their beginning

Club costs vary widely, depending on the quality of the space,
the equipment provided to its members, and the amount of coaching
included in the club fees. Advanced lessons are usually
purchased separately.

1.10 How do I find a good fencing club?

Start with your local Provincial or Divisional fencing association.
If you don't know how to find them, contact your national fencing body
(see section 3.1). Your national body may maintain a list of known
fencing clubs in the country. Otherwise, your local association will
be able to tell you about recognized clubs in your area. Many
universities and colleges also sponsor fencing clubs and teams that
will often accept non-students as members. You might also check out
courses or camps offered by local community centers.

Fencers with Web access can find a list of U.S. fencing clubs at

da leggere Morgan Burke 01/11 00:03
Fencing FAQ (part 1)
   da leggere Morgan Burke 01/11 00:03
Fencing FAQ (part 3)






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