"Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life."
- Mark Twain
When someone hears the word fencing, one of the first things that might come to mind is a fencing sequence in a movie such as "Die Another Day" or "The Court Jester." However, Hollywood's portrayal of fencing, like most things, is misconstrued. So what is fencing? Rather than two enemies fencing off in a battle to the death, fencing is artistic combat that requires much skill, technique, and patience.
Fencing is divided into three weapons: foil, sabre, and épéé. Foil and Epee have points but Sabre dies not. For all three weapons, the basic strategy is to hit the designated target area (such as a torso, or arm) on the opponent to receive a point. However, each weapon has its own strategy and rules.
For foil, the target area is the torso. Fencers wear conductive jackets that cover the target area so that the point is registered by an electric scoring system when a fencer touches the opponent's torso. In order to score a point, a foil fencer must have the right of way. The right of way belongs to the fencer who began their attack first. In order to get the point or touch to count, the fencer must hit the opponent's target area and depress the tip of the foil. Which can be compared to a jabbing motion.
In sabre, the target area is everything above the waist. Fencers also wear conductive jackets, masks, and gloves that cover target area so that touches can be registered by the electric scoring system. Sabre also has right of way rules. In sabre, however, points can be scored on the opponent with the edge and sides of the blade in a cutting or slashing motion.
Épéé is the simplest weapon in terms of rules. The whole body is the target area and there are no right of way restrictions. It is similar to foil in that the tip of the weapon must be depressed to score a valid touch and the motions are similar to foil. However, it should not be interpreted that Epee is easy. Epee is difficult as you must read your opponent and be much more prepared for the counter attack. Each weapon can be said to have its own level of difficulty and there is not really one that is the most difficult.
While fencing might sound like a violent sport, it is actually a very artistic sport. Because it takes less than 2 pounds and 1 milisecond to depress an épéé tip in order to receive a touch, very little force is required. And because touches can be scored in a thousandth of a second, quick and accurate technique is necessary. Fencing, like other sports, promotes hand-eye coordination, muscle memory, and physical endurance.