Background on Fencing

About the sport of fencing and the different disciplines

The traditional sword used by knights in combat has been replaced with the invention of firearms during the 15th century. The sword became less used in war, but rather used to settle disputes among aristocrats. As a result, the sword became thinner, lighter and more flexible. This gave rise to the fencing master, and having a good fencing instructor became very important. This also, has given fencing an opportunity to develop into an Olympic sport. Fencing has been part of the Olympics since the year 1896, and it consists of three weapons: foil, epee, and sabre. Nowadays fencing is a sport practiced by men, women, girls and boys throughout the world, and each year at the world championships and every four years at the Olympics fencers from different countries get a chance to compete against each other.

As previously mentioned fencing is subcategorized into three weapons that differentiate from each other through unique characteristics such as the formation of the weapon that is used, how a touch may be scored (by a direct thrust and hitting of the point or by slicing), the target area, and special rules such as the right of way.


Foil is the lightest of the three weapons, it has a thinner blade and a smaller bell guard and requires a force of 500 grams to score a touch by directly thrusting the blade to make the tip touch the opponent. The most significant difference between foil and the other weapons however is the target area, only a touch scored on a metal vest that the fencers are wearing counts as a point. Another unique characteristic of foil fencing is the rules on how a point may be earned, in foil there exists the rule of right of way which gives the priority to the fencer that is attacking if both fencers score a touch at the same time.


Épée is slightly heavier than a foil and has a bigger bell guard, 750 grams of force are required to score a touch and just like in foil touches can only be scored by a direct thrust. The target area is the whole body, and there is no right of way: whoever hits first receives the touch. These characteristics therefore make épée-fencing the closest weapon to the real duels.


A significant characteristic differencing sabre fencing from epee and foil is that saber is a slicing weapon. One fencer can score a touch by diagonally slicing the opponent and hitting with any part of the blade (not just the tip). Furthermore, sabre has a target area made up of only the upper body, excluding the legs. Lastly in sabre fencing a right of way rule exists similar to that in foil, giving priority to the attacker.

At IFA we offer two out of the three weapons; foil and épée.

The Olympic sport of fencing is carried out in fencing bouts performed on a strip which is 14 meters long and 1.5 meters wide on which the fencers can move forwards and backwards but may not step out to the sides. In a fencing competition there are preliminary rounds of pools where bouts of five touches are being fenced in three-minute time periods. In the direct elimination rounds following the pool, the fencing bout goes until 15 points have been scored and are divided into three periods of three minutes with one-minute break in between each.