Fencing is a great cardiovascular workout for all ages without the detrimental hard impact effects of other sports. It improves hand-eye coordination, concentration, mental alertness and physical stamina, as well as providing a fun and competitive atmosphere that builds self-confidence and respect.

Rather than dwell on the long and colourful historical aspects of the sport, here is condensed information from various book and internet sources to give a simple overview of the sport in its modern form.

Fencing as a sport has three primary events or "weapons":  Foil, Epee and Sabre.  The events are named and differentiated by the type of weapon used to score touches and the different rules associated with awarding points to the competitors.  The basic equipment used in fencing consists of a mask, protective jacket & pants, glove and one of the three weapons.  While some fencers may compete in each of the three weapons, generally skills are honed in one particular weapon.  Fencing's primary goal is to score the total number of hits needed to win, while at the same time dexterously avoiding being hit by your opponent.  The sport has been described as "physical chess," signifying the complicated strategy and focus lying behind the thrusts and parries of fencing duels or bouts.  Fencing is well known for its power to develop character and self-esteem, increase balance, flexibility, and coordination, develop physical endurance and expand the intellect.


The foil, which is the basic weapon of the sport, is a direct descendant of the 18th century small or dress sword and was invented as a practice weapon to learn to duel safely.  Weighing about one pound, it has a flexible, rectangular blade about 35 inches in length, a blunted tip with an electric switch and a bell guard to protect the hand.  In foil fencing, the target area for valid hits is confined to the trunk and excludes the arms, legs and mask.  Hits outside these regions are invalid and are not counted.  Foil technique emphasizes strong personal defense and skillful attacks.


The epee resembles the dueling rapiers used in the 19th century to settle disputes of honour.  It is similar in length to the foil but weighs about 27 ounces with a larger hand guard and a stiffer, triangular blade.  Touches are scored with the point of the blade, anywhere on the opponent's body, much like dueling.  Epee technique emphasizes timing, point control and well executed counter-attacks.


The sabre descended from the dueling swords used at the end of the 19th century by cavalry officers.  It has a flexible rectangular blade with cutting edges along the entire front and one-third of the back edge.  It has a large hand guard attached to the pommel at the back of the handle.  Touches are scored with either the point or the edge of the blade, anywhere above the opponent's waist.  Sabre technique emphasizes speed, feints and strong offensive actions.


Fencers compete on a linear strip 14m long and 1.5 - 2m wide.  An electronic scoring machine with coloured lights and an audio buzzer is connected to a set of spring-loaded wire reels at either end of the fencing strip.  Each fencer's weapon is connected to these wire reels, allowing them to freely move up/down the strip and maintain an electrical connection to the scoring machine.  A referee stands beside the strip watching the fencing actions and the scoring machine.  The referee is responsible for ensuring the competitors' safety, controlling the action and awarding points to the competitors.  In large tournaments these fencing strips are made of a conductive material to insure that hits to the floor are not registered by the scoring machine.