Learn about the background of fencing as an Olympic sport, and the differences in between its three disciplines

Fencing is one of five sports which have actually been irreversible fixtures at the Olympic Games because the an initial modern gamings were held in 1896.

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Based on knife fighting, fencing needs speed, anticipation, reflexes and good mental strength.

While the activity has its roots in Europe, China and also the United States have appreciated success in ~ recent games while Ruben Limardo won the 2nd Olympic yellow medal in Venezuela"s history at London 2012.


What is fencing?

Evidence of knife fights goes ago as much as ancient Egypt in 1190 BC v bouts and also duels continuing until the 18th century.

Fencing was initially a form of army training and also started to evolve into a sport in the 14th or 15th century in both Germany and Italy.

German fencing masters organised the first guilds, the many notable being the Marxbrueder that Frankfurt in 1478.

The sport"s popularity raised in the 17th and also 18th centuries because of the development of a weapon v a planarization tip recognized as the foil, a collection of rules governing the target area, and also a wire-mesh mask.

One of the trailblazers that fencing as a sports was Italian Domenico Angelo who taught aristocratic Britons the art of swordsmanship at his academy in Soho, London in the second fifty percent of the 18th century.

Angelo"s book "L"Ecole des armes" ("The school of Fencing") laid down the fundamentals that posture and footwork which live on come this day.

The sport also grew in popularity in France, with Camille Prevost assembling the an initial basic conventions, return London hosted the first formal fencing competition in ~ the inaugural Grand military Tournament and Assault at Arms in 1880.

The Amateur Gymnastic and Fencing Association (now brothers Gymnastics) attracted up official regulations in 1896, the very same year together the sport appeared at the very first modern Olympic games in Athens.


A chronophotograph that a fencer executing a sword thrust bring away by Etienne Jules Marey (1830-1903) in 1890

The equipment

As well as the swords, there is a same amount of devices a fencer requires.

Most the this is with safety in mind, one area which compelled urgent fist after the death of Moscow 1980 foil gold medallist Vladimir Smirnov at the 1982 human being Championships when Matthias Behr"s damaged blade pierced the Russian"s brain through his mask.

Since the tragic accident, masks and also the neck bibs surrounding them room subject come stringent checks.

All masks have to pass a 12kg "punch test" v FIE-approved versions, obligatory for people Championships and also Olympic Games, do of stainless steel and non-FIE masks generally made that carbon steel mesh.

Masks typically have a removable inside lining for straightforward washing.

The neck bibs room usually made of Kevlar or other strong synthetic fibre and also made to resist a force of 1600 Newtons.


Kevlar linked with tough noodle or nylon is supplied for many of the rest of the devices although this is only required to stand up to 800 Newtons.

This consists a jacket, an under-layer stretching halfway down the sword arm well-known as a plastron, a glove for the knife hand, breeches or quick trousers which protect against just before the knee, and also socks.

Also worn under the jacket are plastic chest protectors which room mandatory for women through some men selecting to usage them.

Footwear can take the form of generic sporting activities shoes through thinner soles and also rounded file as used in racket sporting activities or handball.

The final pieces of equipment allow hits to it is in registered automatically: the lamé, one electrically conductive garment worn end the scoring area because that each fencing sword type, and the body cord which connects to the weapon.


The evolution of fencing


The weapons

There are three fencing chisels used in Olympic fencing - the foil, épée and also sabre - every of i beg your pardon have various compositions, techniques and scoring target areas.

The foil has a maximum weight of 500 grams and is a thrusting weapon. Only the guideline of the blade counts v the target area the torso which is covered by the lamé.

The épée is also a advertise weapon however has a maximum weight of 775 grams. Again, just the reminder of the tongue counts however the target area is the entire body so over there is no lamé.

The sabre is a cutting and also thrusting weapon with a maximum load of 500 grams. The entire blade deserve to score v the target area the upper half of the body, covered by the lamé, consisting of the confront mask and also neck bib i m sorry must also be do of conducting material.

The scoring

With hits incredibly daunting to referee via the naked eye, electric scoring device was introduced in 1933 very first to the épée with the foil adhering to suit in 1956 and also the sabre eventually in 1988.

It works when the tongue (only the reminder for foil and sabre) makes call with the target area, perfect an electric circuit and triggering a red or a environment-friendly light depending upon which athlete lands.

Quick footwork and also balance is necessary for a fencer in both attack and defence.

All three self-controls take place on a piste i m sorry is 14m long and also 1.5m-2m wide. Retreating turn off the finish of the piste results in a point to the opponent.

The an initial to 15 point out wins through the activity taking ar in 3 three-minute periods damaged up by one-minute intervals. The clock stops in between each "phrase" v the two fencers resetting to the "en garde" position.


sports guide: Fencing described


Foil fencing

The silver paper is possibly the most acquainted of the three disciplines although it to be not component of the 1908 gamings held in London.

It has the smallest target area with simply the torso counting, and points room awarded via the "right the way" system.

For a fencer to score a point, the or she must land with the point of the blade on the scoring area having - in the watch of the referee - initiated an attack.

The front lunge is the usual form of assault although that have the right to be parried through the fencer ~ above the ago foot then launching a riposte.

There is likewise the "beat attack" as soon as one fencer win the blade of his/her foe to acquire the right of way and climate attack.

A hit with the suggest of the blade landing far from the target area v the ideal of method results in the end of the phrase with no score, even if the enemy lands on target afterwards.

The lightness of the foil also allows for the possibility of the flick attack when the blade can be virtually thrown and bent end a parry to score although boring the suggest for long enough to it is registered the hit makes this an ext difficult.


Épée fencing

Like the foil, the épée is another suggest weapon however it is significantly heavier do the flick strike impossible.

The two main differences are the the entirety body, consisting of the hand, is a scoring area, with no "right of way" in operation.

This also method both players deserve to score for simultaneous access time although a "double touch" with the scores tied in ~ 14-14 is null and also void.

There is no such point as one off-target hit therefore a phrase will proceed until over there is a score unless a pointer of a blade hits the floor.

Here, the beat attack is a quick one-two of hitting the opponent"s blade followed by aiming for his/her arm with counter strikes to the hand or arm much more common because of lack of appropriate of way.


Rio Loves Fencing - how to Fence (Sabre)


Sabre fencing

The sabre is the only among the three fencing sword varieties where the body of the tongue scores and the tip.

It is lightweight allowing the usage of the flick strike and, likewise like the foil, the "right the way" system is in force.

One significant difference between the sabre and also the foil is the off-target hits do not avoid the action with the phrase proceeding until a allude is scored. For this reason if the fencer with the ideal of way lands off-target, his/her enemy can then win the point by landing on-target.

If both fencers floor on-target, similar to the foil, the referee awards the point to whomever has the right of method rather than that lands first.


Olympic fencing v the years

The sabre is the just everpresent weapon in Olympic background with the épée making its debut in ~ Paris 1900.

Six events, team and individual for each that the 3 disciplines, were challenged for the very first time in ~ Antwerp 1920 through the an initial women"s competition, the separation, personal, instance foil, included at Paris 1924.

The women"s team foil was added at Rome 1960 v both épée events introduced at Atlanta 1996.

The first women"s individual sabre Olympic competition held at Athens 2004. While one team occasion has been absent per sex in the past three Olympic Games, there will certainly be a full complement of individual and team competitions at Tokyo 2020.


From temples in Egypt come video modern technology - fencing is an Olympic initial


The many decorated fencer in Olympic background is Italy"s Edoardo Mangiarotti who won six golds, 5 silver and two copper medals at 5 Games regardless of his career being interrupted by civilization War II.

He made his Olympic debut at Berlin 1936 aged just 17, winning team épée gold, before waiting 12 years because that his following appearance in ~ London 1948 wherein he gathered three medals.

In Helsinki 4 years later, Mangiarotti asserted two golds, in team and also individual épée, and also silvers in both foil events.

Two team golds adhered to at Melbourne 1956 as well as individual épée bronze, prior to he winner a fourth team épée gold and team foil silver on home soil at Rome 1960 aged 41.

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Mangiarotti remains Italy"s many decorated Olympian back compatriot Nedo Nadi boasts the most impressive haul, winning 6 golds consisting of individual foil, épée and sabre golds in ~ the 1920 Antwerp Games.