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Carrollton, Texas 75006
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Intro to Fencing
From "Introduction to Fencing" by Craig Harkin of www.fencing.net
Fencing is a combat sport that draws an intelligent, individualistic person to its corps. It draws from martial arts, dance, and chess to create a very special entity called a "fencer." Fencers as a whole are a highly educated group - most fencers either learned the sport in college, or are using the sport to get into college. FIT fencers have attended Harvard, Duke, New York University, St. John's University, Ohio State, and the Air Force Academy, just to name a few.
Like fellow Olympic sports archery and javelin, fencing has its roots in ancient combat. Around 1200 BC, the Egyptians began the custom of fencing for sport, as seen by images in decorative reliefs from that period depicting knobs on the end of weapons, earflaps and other protective garb. Sword craftsmanship evolved through the ages, from the short, wide swords favored by the Greeks and Romans to the heavy two-handed broadswords in vogue during the age of chivalry. After the advent of gunpowder and firearms, armor became obsolete and lighter swords gained popularity as the sidearm of choice for European officers and gentlemen.
The foil is approximately 35 inches in length and weighs less than one pound (16 ounces). Points are scored with the tip of the blade and must land within the torso of the body. The valid target area in foil is from the shoulders to the groin, front and back. The target area does not include the head, neck, arms and legs. Fencers wear a metallic vest called a lamé which covers the valid target area so that a valid touch will register on a scoring machine when fencing in competitions.
The epee is the descendent of the dueling sword. It weighs approximately 27 ounces, has a larger bell guard to protect the hand and a stiffer blade than the foil. Touches are scored only with the point of the blade; however, the entire body is the target area.
The saber is the modern version of the slashing cavalry sword and is similar in length and weight to the foil. The saber is a thrusting weapon as well as a cutting weapon; therefore, the tip and the entire blade are used. The target area is from the bend of the hips to the top of the head, front and back, simulating the cavalry rider on a horse. The saber fencer's uniform includes a metallic jacket called a lamé which covers the valid target area so that a valid touch will register on a scoring machine when fencing in competitions.
Choosing a Weapon
Youth beginner students at the Fencing Institute of Texas are initially introduced to the foil because foil skills are the basis of all other techniques. At times, an epee or saber student will be asked to return to the basics of foil to retrain certain skills, especially point control. We recommend beginner youth fencers learn foil for at least the first 6 months of fencing. All beginner youth fencers will fence with "dry," or non-electric, weapons. As students progress, the coach will recommend advancing to competition level at which point the student will begin purchasing their own electric equipment.
All competitive fencers are required to meet the current requirements of the USFA rules and ensure their equipment is in good working order. Instructors in the Intermediate and Advanced Foil classes may introduce students to the epee or saber. Students usually develop an interest in, or preference for, a specific weapon and request classes or lessons for that weapon.
Adult beginner students, or those entering our Fitness Fencing program, are initially taught epee. This is to allow the student to concentrate on technique and strategy without worrying about right-of-way rules (foil and sabre requirements for which fencer is on the attack). However, Fitness Fencers may choose to fence any of the three weapons at any time. Our goal in the Fitness class is to get the adult student up and fencing at a level they can have fun when competing in local competitions.
Quotes about Fencing
"Fencing, like other martial arts, has evolved away from the violent nature into the competitive sports world. Still, much of the history of fencing remains, and can be seen in the many conventions still in practice today, like saluting your opponent or retrieving their lost weapon."
- Anita B. Bersie, Fencing II Final Exam, University of Wisconsin
"Fencing need not involve the egos of participants. Winners and losers of a bout shake hands and often talk about the match and try to learn from each other. Fencers on both sides are always willing to compare tactics. Along these lines, even a losing bout can be fun and helpful in the training process. Losing is not so much a defeat as it is an opportunity to learn. The gentlemanly heritage of modern fencing contributes greatly to the courtesy and manners of fencing. Its history as a cordial activity fosters friendliness among fencers."
- Tyr Johanson, Fencing II Exam, University of Wisconsin
"In my opinion, when a fencer chooses to pick up a blade, he/she also takes up the ennobled tradition of his/her ancestors regardless of ethnicity, gender, or religion. Warriorship transcends our superficial distinctions. Thus, the modern day fencer has a choice to respect and to learn fencing's rich and diverse past. For by learning the history and the tradition, a fencer forms a deeper connection - almost a common bond to all of those who have come before him/her."
- Patrick Michael Mahoney, Foil Fencing Final Exam, University of Wisconsin
Did You Know?
Fencing is one of only four sports to feature in every Olympics
The founder of the Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, was a keen supporter of fencing and as a result the sport was one of only nine included in the first modern Olympic program in 1896.
Foil and sabre fencing for men were the only disciplines on show, with Frenchman Eugene-Henri Gravelotte and Ioannis Georgiadis, Greece's first Olympic champion, claiming the respective gold medals.
And the sport was well established at the Olympics prior to the International Federation (Fie) being set up in 1913, by which time the competition had been enlarged to include Epee.
A number of technical advances have caused considerable turmoil in the sport, such as electrifying the epee in 1936 and later the introduction of electric judging. Electronic scoring for foil and sabre followed in 1956 and 1992 respectively.
Women's foil was first contested at the 1924 Games, but it was not until 1996 that women's epee followed.
France, Italy and Hungary dominated the event in the Olympics until the 1960s, when the USSR joined the elite nations, followed by West Germany in the 1970 and 1980s.
How to Follow the Action & Definitions
Focus on one fencer. The fencer being attacked defends himself by use of a "parry," a motion used to deflect the opponent's blade. Whenever a hit is made, the director will stop the bout, describe the actions, and decide whether to award a touch. Fencers seek to maintain a safe distance from each other, the one will try to break this distance to gain the advantage for an attack.
Fencing "Electric" (excerpted from the 1998-99 U.S. Fencing Fact Book)
Red/Green lights mean a point or blade has landed in a valid target area. A point is scored for the fencer who makes the hit, depending on the referee's decision of right-of-way. White light in foil means the point has landed outside of the valid target area. No point is awarded for an off-target hit. One or more lights requires the referee to determine which fencer had right-of-way in foil and saber. In epee, a point is awarded to both fencers.
What do the terms mean? (excerpted from the 1998-99 U.S. Fencing Fact Book)
Advance: Step forward with a fencer's front leg
Attack: Movement or series of movements by which a fencer tries to score a point against his opponent.
Beat: Sharp tap on the opponent's blade to initiate attack or threat of attack.
Counter-parry: a defensive movement by which the fencer makes a small circle with the tip of the blade, around the opponent's blade and moves the opponent's blade away.
Disengage: Break of contact between fencers' blades; movement made by passing the blade under the opponent's blade.
Engagement: Contact of blades.
En garde: Position taken before a bout begins.
Feint: A false attack intended to get a reaction from the opposing fencer which will open them up to a genuine attack.
Fleche: A running attack.
Lunge: Most common attack in which the fencer closes the distance by moving the front leg forward while the back leg remains stationary and straightens out.
Parry: Defensive action in which a fencer blocks his opponent's blade.
Recover: Return to the en garde position after lunging.
Remise: Attacking again immediately after the opponent's parry of an initial attack.
Riposte: Defender's counterattack after parrying an attack.
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