Whether it was a stone tied to a stick by grass or a three-foot-long metal blade, humans have been using different forms of swords for centuries.
Today we see swords in the hands of fencers, but we may or may not have any knowledge about these menacing weapons.
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What is a fencing sword called?
In the sport of fencing, there are three different disciplines named according to the type of sword used. The swords in fencing are the Foil, Épée, and Sabre (also spelled Saber). Each style has its own separate set of rules and strategies, but are in most ways similar.
Each fencing sword has its own unique physical properties to better accommodate its rules and strategies.
These swords can either be electric (used in competition) or non-electric (used for practice), and consist of a grip, blade, and handguard.
Different Types Of Fencing Swords
The most common style of fencing uses the foil sword. The foil is a thrusting weapon, which means touches are only scored when the tip of the sword touches the opponent.
In the case of the foil, the tip must touch the torso (front or back) excluding the arms, or crotch. This is called the target area.
If the sword touches outside of the target area no point is to be given, the match is then halted, and restarts.
The first fencer to land a touch on the opponent’s target area is rewarded the point, however, if both fencers touch at the same time then the point is given to whoever has the “right of way”.
The referee uses the right of way to decide who initiated the attack, the initiator (or aggressor) is rewarded the point.
With a maximum weight of 500 grams, the foil is the most lightweight and flexible sword out of the three.
Its weight and flexibility allow for quicker movement and attacks such as “the flick”, and easily makes foil fencing the most entertaining to watch.
The foil uses two different grips (the part of the sword where your hand is), the French grip, and the pistol grip (with a few general variations and differences between manufacturers).
In between the grip and the blade is a small circular guard. This guard serves two purposes, to protect the hand and to attach the cable on electric blades.
The blade of the foil (as well as épée) is the longest among the three at 90cm or about 35.5 inches.
The épée, like the foil, is a thrusting weapon, in this case, the target area is anywhere on the body, so there are no off-target touches (unless a player touches the floor), even the masks are a target.
This alone makes épée fencing much harder and slower.
Unlike foil fencing, there is no “right of way”, if both players touch at the same time then each player is rewarded a point.
However, if the match is even and both players touch at the same time for the final point, the point is voided.
Being the heaviest fencing sword, the épée has a maximum weight of 775 grams and is the same length as the foil.
The handguard on the épée is a lot larger and dome-shaped, in order to protect the hand from being hit since it is now a target. Also like the foil, the épée can use both the french and pistol grips.
Probably the most unique style and newest is sabre fencing.
The sabre is both a cutting (swinging the blade) and a thrusting weapon, which means touches with the tip as well as the side of the blade are valid.
The target area includes the torso, arms, and head and excludes the crotch.
Any part of the blade can hit the target area to score a hit, but if a player lands off-target, the match is not halted as it is in foil fencing.
Like foil fencing, if both players land a touch at the same time then the referee decides who gets the point using the right of way.
Similar to the foil, the sabre’s maximum weight is 500 grams allowing for quicker movement in cuts and thrusts.
The handguard extends from the top of the hilt (handle) to the pommel (bottom of the hilt) in order to guard the entire hand against cuts.
Because of the fact that cuts are allowed, there is only one standard grip used on sabres.
The length of the blade is 88cm and is the shortest of the three since the sabre is the smallest sword and allows for larger, quicker movements, large swings and can be a bit confusing for new players to watch.
In electric foil and épée fencing, the tip of the blade is a button which when pressed activates the scoring apparatus via a cord that runs through the fencer’s lamé (conductive jacket).
However, the sabre does not have this tip.
Instead, an electric current runs from the lamé to the sword which registers a hit whenever contact is made with the blade.
These electric currents aren’t dangerous at all. So don’t worry, you’ll never be shocked by a fencing sword.
Overall, fencing is a fun and challenging sport no matter which of the three disciplines. And although it may seem difficult to learn, once you grab that sword, whether it be a foil, sabre, or épée, you’ll never want to put it down.