Fencing Is DEFINITELY A Sport!


Like most of you, my knowledge of fencing was taken from scenes in movies…. The one between Inigo Montoya and Wesley (The Dread Pirate Roberts) in “The Princess Bride” comes to mind!  Of course, although quite entertaining, just a slight exaggeration of the true “sport” of fencing.  Yes, that’s right, I said SPORT!

Fencing requires speed, strength, balance and a very sharp (and quick) mind!  Strategy is constantly in the forefront as is reaction time.  Sound familiar?  Virtually every sport in the true sense of the word requires all of these skill sets.  I might even go as far as saying fencing is “more” of a sport than some of our more “mainstream” sports.  I’ll leave that open for debate, so talk amongst yourselves.

Fencing actually began thousands of years ago as a training method for soldiers to use their swords in battle.  Now, in a much more civilized version, individuals can compete and duel on a 6′ x 40′ strip with one of several swords (foil, epee or saber).  Individual fencers gain points in their bouts which are then added to their teams totals, very much the way it works in wrestling and other team sports.  Fencing is another example of “sport”, where you compete on your own, but you are working with your teammates for overall team victory.  As competitive sports go, fencing is one of 4 sports that has been represented in every Olympic Games since 1896.

To assist the “common folk” who, like me, simply don’t get the terminology, here is a list of the basics involved in fencing.  For more in depth learning, I would greatly suggest any one of the outstanding team, association or olympic websites out there (i.e. – USFencing.org , etc.).


Advance – Taking a step towards one’s opponent.

Attack – Movement or series of movements by which a fencer tries to score a point. In foil and saber, the fencer who attacks first     acquires the “right-of-way.” In order to execute a attack properly (i.e. one that the referee will acknowledge), the fencer’s hand must be clearly extending towards their opponent’s valid target in a threatening manner.

Beat – Sharp tap on the opponent’s blade to initiate an attack or provoke a reaction.

Bout – The actual “game” between fencers.

Disengage – Evasive action in which the fencer avoids the opponent’s attempt to take their blade.

Engagement – Contact between the fencers’ blades – often as the prelude to an attack.

En Garde – Position taken before fencing commences.

Epee – “Freestyle Fencing” –  The epee (pronounced “EPP-pay” – literally meaning “sword” in French) is the descendant of the dueling sword, but is heavier, weighing approximately 27 ounces, with a stiffer, thicker blade and a larger guard.

Feint – A false attack intended to get a defensive reaction from the opposing fencer, thus creating the opportunity for a genuine attack (“feint-disengage attack”)

Fleche – Explosive, running attack (Foil and Epee only)

Flunge – Action unique to saber – a combination of a lunge and a fleche. Evolved recently after the FIE modified saber rules in 1992 to prohibit running attacks.

Foil – “The Sport of Kings” – The foil is a descendant of the light court sword formerly used by nobility to train for duels. It has a flexible, rectangular blade approximately 35 inches in length and weighing less than one pound.

Guard – Part of the weapon between the blade and handle; protects the hand (also: “bell-guard”)

Parry, Counter-Parry – Defensive action in which a fencer blocks his opponent’s blade.

Lunge – Most common attacking technique, in which the fencer launches themselves at their opponent by pushing off from their back leg (which generally remains stationary).

Opposition – “Thrust with Opposition” – To simultaneously deflect the opponent’s point with one’s guard while making an attack of one’s own. Commonly used in epee to avoid a double touch.

Piste – French term for the fencing strip.

Point-in-Line – Action in which the fencer, who is generally out of attacking range, points their weapon at their opponent with their arm fully extended. A fencer who establishes a point in line has right of way, and their opponent cannot attack until they remove the blade from line by executing a beat.

Recover – The return to the en guarde position after lunging.

Remise – Attacking again immediately after the opponent’s parry of an initial attack.

Riposte – Defender’s offensive action immediately after parrying their opponent’s attack.

Sabre – “Hack and Slash” – The saber is the modern version of the slashing cavalry sword. As such, the major difference between saber and the other two weapons is that saberists can score with the edge of their blade as well as their point.

Second Intention – A tactic in which a fencer executes a convincing, yet false, action in hopes of drawing a true, committed reaction from their opponent.

Stop Hit, Stop Cut (saber) – A counter-action made at the moment of an opponent’s hesitation, feint, or poorly executed attack. To be awarded the point, the fencer attempting a stop hit must clearly catch their opponent’s tempo. Hence, if their Stop Hit is not “in time,” the referee may award the touch to their attacker.

Strip – Fencing area, 14 meters long by 2 meters wide.


ViewMySport.com helps promote young fencers as athletes looking to take their sport to the next level.  Be it college, association, club, etc.  If you know a fencer looking to gain exposure, send them to www.ViewMySport.com and have them create a “free” fencing profile, complete with photos, stats, highlight videos, etc.  It’s easy to do and even easier to share the finished product with coaches.

* For more High School athletics and college recruiting / scholarship assistance, visit:  http://www.ViewMySport.com/