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fencing

fencing, sport of dueling with foil, épée, and saber.

Modern Fencing

The weapons and rules of modern fencing evolved from combat weapons and their usage. The foil—a light, flexible thrusting weapon with a blunted point—was originally a practice weapon. The épée is a straight, narrow, stiff thrusting weapon based upon the dueling weapons of European noblemen. The saber is derived from the 18th-century cavalry saber and the Middle Eastern scimitar and has a flexible triangular blade with scoring edges along the entire front and one third of the back edge.

International rules stipulate that fencers must attack and parry on a strip that is 14 m (c.46 ft) long and 2 m (c.61/2 ft) wide. The strip, or "piste," is marked off by two parallel lines, beyond which the fencer may not step without receiving a warning or a penalty. Protective clothing includes vests, breast protectors, heavy jackets, wire-mesh masks (introduced in the 18th cent.), and leather gloves. A button blunts the weapon's tip, and points are scored by touching the opponent. In foil the torso is the target area; in épée it is the whole body; in saber it is the body above the hip. Winning touches are five in foil and saber, three in épée. Touches are scored electronically except in saber, where judges decide scoring. Although fencing matches are conducted between individuals, team scoring may result from a compilation of individual scores.

The Fédération Internationale d'Escrime (founded 1913) serves as fencing's world governing body and oversees world championships. Prior to the 1960s, France and Italy dominated international competition in foil and épée, while Hungary dominated in saber. Since then Russia, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and others have joined the traditional powers.

History

Swords have been in use since the Bronze Age, and nearly all people of antiquity practiced swordsmanship. Fencing as a contest has existed at least since 1190 BC, as shown in a relief carving in Upper Egypt from that time depicting adversaries with covered swordpoints and padded masks under the observation of spectators and judges. In the Middle Ages, swords were essential to civilians and soldiers. England's Henry VIII ordered fencing displays. Not until the 16th cent., however, when the light Italian rapier replaced the heavy German sword, did the sport become widespread and the subject of scientific theory. Fencing schools, or salles, frequented by young aristocrats, soon sprang up all over Europe, and fencing duels often settled matters of personal honor. In the late 19th cent., after many countries had outlawed the duel, fencing became an organized sport. Fencing has been a part of the Olympics since the first modern games in 1896, though women did not compete until 1924 and still compete in foil and épée only.

Bibliography

See E. Castle, Schools and Masters of Fencing from the Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century (3d ed. 1969); M. Bower, Foil Fencing (7th ed. 1993); R. Cohen, By the Sword: A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers, and Olympic Champions (2002).

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fencing

fenc·ing / ˈfensing/ • n. 1. the sport of fighting with swords, esp. foils, épées, or sabers, according to a set of rules, in order to score points against an opponent: [as adj.] a fencing foil. ∎ fig. the action of conducting a discussion or argument so as to avoid the direct mention of something. 2. a series of fences: security fencing. ∎  material used for the construction of fences. ∎  the erection of fences.

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fencing

fencing Sport of swordsmanship, using blunt weapons: the foil, épée and sabre. Fencers wear protective jackets, breeches, gloves and wire-mesh masks. In competitions, electronic sensors register hits. It has been an Olympic sport since 1896.

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Fencing

Fencing

Fencing is a modern sport with ancient roots. The origins of fencing may be traced to the sword-fights of ancient Egypt that are known to have been held as early as 3000 BC. Fencing developed as a distinct form of competition in Europe through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as dueling became increasingly subject to criminal prosecution. The thin, specially manufactured dueling swords became the preferred fencing instrument during this time. By 1900, three forms of fencing had evolved as distinct competitions: épée, foil, and sabre.

Fencing was introduced into the Olympic Games of 1900 as a men's sport. Women's fencing became an Olympic competition through the inaugural women's foil event in the 1924 Games. International fencing is governed by the Fédération Internationale d'Escrime, or FIE, with member national governing bodies in most countries of the world. In addition to Olympic competition, the FIE sanctions an annual world championship in all three fencing disciplines, both for individual competitors and as a team competition. Fencing clubs are relatively common in Europe; in North America, fencing is a sport supported by larger universities and by various military units.

The foil is the fundamental fencing instrument. Constructed of polished steel, the foil is a maximum of 42 in (110 cm) in length, including the protective guard, with the tip topped with a button-shaped device to reduce the risk of injury. The tip of the foil is electrified, as is the protective equipment worn by the fencer, to determine when the fencer has registered a scoring strike against the opponent. The fencer wears other extensive protective equipment, including a full mask covering the face and head of the athlete, full protection for the torso and groin, as well as breeches and gloves.

All fencing competitions involve two athletes in combat, which takes place on an a defined competitive area known as the piste. The fencers must face one another across the piste, which is marked by two parallel lines behind which the fencers must begin the competition. Each fencer is connected to the rear of the piste by a wire spool, which transmits the hits registered and sustained by a fencer into the control system positioned at the center of the piste, which displays hits and misses with red and white colored lights. A referee is also stationed adjacent to the piste to ensure that all movements are in accord with fencing rules.

All three types of fencing begin with the two competitors coming to an "on guard" position, where they are sufficiently far apart that they cannot make contact against their opponent with their weapon. Upon the command of "play" being given by the referee, the bout begins. The bout ends when one fencer accumulates the prescribed number of hits (a figure that varies depending on the level of competition), or at the end of a fixed time for the bout (typically nine minutes). Each successful contact with the defined target area of the body of the opponent is scored as a hit.

In épée, the only legal means to score is with the point of the weapon only making contact with any part of the opponent's body and clothing. In all disciplines, the fencer uses the weapon to both thrust towards the opponent, and to parry, which is the turning aside of an attack through the use of the weapon to block the blow. There are intricate rules in all three competitions as to what maneuvers constitute a proper defensive parry.

Successful fencing requires a combination of speed, balance, manual dexterity, and strategy. At the club level, fencing is often a mixed, male and female competition, due to the premium placed on quickness and hand-eye coordination, as opposed to muscular power. Most fencing conditioning programs emphasize a combination of aerobic and anaerobic components; excess weight is a significant detriment to effective fencing, as such a condition will detract from the speed of the athlete. Specific attention is paid to the development and enhancement of the athlete's footwork, as fencing requires very fast and explosive movements to occur in a relatively small space upon the piste. Fencing also places a premium on the ability of the athlete to move fluidly, and stretching and flexibility in the musculoskeletal system is an essential aspect to fencing fitness.

The fencing movements implemented in attacks, counter attacks, and the assumption of defensive positions are a combination of decisive physical movement and tactical experience. The mental aspect of fencing is sufficiently important that it is common for fencers to be successful in the sport into their 40s and beyond. The injury rate in fencing, given the protective equipment worn by all competitors, tends to be relatively low in comparison to other sports.

see also Exercise, high intensity; Motor control; Plyometrics; Stretching and flexibility.

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