What Are the Different Types of Fencing in the Sport?

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If you’re new to fencing you might be confused as to what different styles or weapons there are, or you had no idea there were different types of fencing and are now more confused than ever. 

This is nothing to worry about, most of us have been in that position before.

What Are The Different Types Of Fencing In The Sport?

Fencing is a collective of three similar sports; foil, épée, and sabre. These disciplines are referred to by the name of the sword used in each and come with their own similar set of rules and techniques.

There are a number of differences between each fencing event. Objectives, principles, and tactics may be similar throughout these disciplines, but they vary between each other.

 For example, the objective throughout fencing is to touch your opponent in the target area with your weapon, but the target areas change between foil, épée, and sabre. 

You also may touch your opponent with the side of the blade in sabre, but not in foil or épée. 

Of course, this is only basic knowledge, and knowing this isn’t gonna win you any gold metal, or win any tournaments. But every castle needs a foundation. So let’s get to know the rules and most valuable piece of fencing equipment, the swords duh!

Foil Fencing

Foil Fencing

Foil fencing is probably the most popular form of fencing and is preferred by most beginners. The objective in foil fencing is to touch the tip of your foil blade to the opponent’s torso (excluding the arms), back, or crotch. This is called the target area. 

Hits from the side of the blade won’t get you a point.

Since the target area is small in foil fencing, tactics include much smaller, individual movements of the sword to achieve points. 

The arm movements are smaller compared to sabre and épée, but the matches are still fast and intense since the foil fencer still has to be able to maneuver back and forth quickly. So it’ll require quite a bit of agility.

The right of way rule applies in foil. This rule determines which fencer gets the point when both fencers touch each other in the target area at the same time. 

The referee determines who the fencer with the right of way is, usually by which player properly initiated the attack.

Although all swords are light, the foil itself is the lightest weapon of the three and can be paired with either a french grip or a pistol grip. 

The foil is a very flexible weapon and most fencers prefer to slightly bend their blade. The dimensions of the foil allow for quick attacks such as the flick. The foil is truly a fine piece of steel… to say the least. 

Épée (epee) Fencing

Épée Fencing

Similar to foil fencing, in épée fencing the objective is to touch the tip of your épée blade to the opponent’s target area. 

The épée is meant to mimic a real duel, so the target area is the entire body, from helmet to shoe, even including the hands. 

In contrast to foil fencing, épée matches can be very slow.  On some occasions Since the target area is the entire body, one mistake can result in a touch. 

Hits from the side of the blade won’t get you a point, like foil only the tip is valid.

There are also no off-target attacks, so the referee rarely halts the match.

The movements vary from large to small motions, fencers can even be seen diving to the floor in an attempt to touch the opposing player’s foot! 

But if your sword happens to slip under the bib of your opponent’s mask, hits to the neck don’t count. That one’s kind of obvious.

Anyways, epee fencing is the only type out of the three where the right of way rule does not apply. If the fencers touch each other at the same time then they’re both given a point.

The epee looks similar to the foil, except it’s stiffer and heavier. Epees may also use either a pistol or french grip. And of course, when playing competitively, every sword has a wire attachment. 

Sabre (saber) Fencing

Sabre Fencing

Probably the most unique form of fencing is the sabre. The main difference in sabre is that fencers may touch their opponent with any part of their blades, tip or side. So sabre has a lot of swinging blades (yeah, kinda like pirates).

 The target area is the entire upper body, excluding the head, hands, and crotch (but you wouldn’t want to get hit there by a sabre fencer, trust me).

 As you can probably guess, sabre matches are fast and fun to watch since there are many new ways to score.

 If an off-target attack is made then the match still continues until a point is scored.

Like foil fencing, the right of way rule applies to sabre.

Since the sabre is a cutting weapon as well as thrusting, the range of motion is basically limitless. From large swings to quick thrusts, sabre matches are the most exciting to watch.

The sabre itself is similar to the foil and epee in shape. It’s basically a foil with a protective grip. Since there’s a lot of swinging involved in sabre, the handguard is a must.

Choosing A Fencing Discipline

When choosing which discipline you want to play, it is best to keep an open mind and try all three and keep in mind the key differences in the weapons and the rules.

For a more energetic experience, try saber. Its large movements and different motions require a great deal of energy and physicality. 

On the other hand, the epee will challenge your mind and probably be one of the most intense battles you’ll ever have.

For a great mix of the two, trying foil will be a great experience, and with its popularity, it won’t be hard to get started.

Although all three are great in their own way, most fencers stick to one discipline, and with enough dedication end up qualifying for competitions. It’s every fencer’s dream to be on their national Olympic team.

And it may be confusing or difficult to choose at first, whether you grab a foil, epee, or saber, grab a weapon and you’re guaranteed to have fun!

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