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Fencing is a sport based on sword fighting, but there's more to it than meets the eye. Learning to fence means learning to attack and defend and honing your flexibility and concentration. This Olympic sport can be both a physical exercise and a mental one: You'll improve your strength and endurance as you learn to fence, and you'll also improve your ability to focus and think quickly. Fencing is great for kids, but you can start learning to fence at any age.


History of Fencing

Fencing dates back to ancient times as a practical need: Swords were used for combat and for self-defense at least 3,000 years ago. Ancient Egyptians took swords into battle, and the concept of dueling developed there as well. The need for soldiers to learn how to fight with swords and be able to practice with each other led to the natural development of fencing as a sport, which began in the 1700s. Many of the initial rules of fencing were set by Domenico Angelo, who owned a fencing school in London and published a book of fencing instructions. When the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896, fencing was on the list of events, and it's been included in some form ever since.

What You Need to Get Started

Like all sports, fencing requires special equipment. Fencers are covered from head to toe in safety gear, including a mask and gloves. The mask is the most important piece of safety equipment in fencing. It's made of stainless steel mesh that allows you to breathe and see while protecting your face. Fencers also wear special clothing made to protect their bodies. And of course, a sword is required. There are three types of fencing swords: épée, foil, and saber.

Forms and Techniques

When you're fencing, you don't just swing a sword around: There are techniques you need to master to do it right. This starts with the proper stance. When fencing, you should begin standing with your front foot facing forward and your back foot about 3 feet behind it and at a right angle. Keep your legs bent so that you'll be able to move forward and backward quickly. Your sword-holding arm should be held up and bent at a 45-degree angle; the other arm should be behind you.

You'll also need to learn a few basic moves: the lunge, the parry, and the riposte. Lunging at your opponent is what you do when you attack. A parry is a move where you use your sword to block your opponent's attack. And a riposte is a counterattack after you parry.

Scoring and Regulations

The rules of fencing are fairly simple. When you start a match, you walk onto the playing area (called a piste), salute each other with your swords, and take up your stance. Once the referee starts the match, your goal is to score points by touching your opponent with your sword and avoid letting them touch you with theirs.

Scoring is done differently depending on the type of fencing you're doing. In saber fencing, you have to touch your opponent with either the tip or the side of your blade, and you can touch anywhere between their hips and their head. When you're doing foil fencing, you have to touch them with the tip of the blade on their torso. In either of these, if you both touch each other at the same time, the person who attacked first gets the point; if the referee can't figure out who that was, nobody gets a point. In épée fencing, you can only score with the tip of your weapon, but you can hit your opponent anywhere on their body. If you touch each other at the same time in épée fencing, you both get a point.

The scoring system for fencing is quite simple. Each bout consists of three rounds that last for three minutes each. The first person to get 15 points wins. If nobody has 15 points by the end of the bout, whoever has the most points usually wins, but in some events, overtime is used to decide the winner instead.

Safety First

You might think that attacking each other with swords would be dangerous, but it's actually quite safe, as long as you follow the proper safety rules. This starts with making sure that you wear all of the required safety gear. You should always wear your mask whenever weapons are raised. Also, you should not turn your back on an opponent at any time during a match. It's forbidden to use your unarmed hand in any way; keep it safely tucked behind you. And you must never act recklessly or stab violently at your opponent. You must also stop immediately if your opponent signals you to stop or if you think that your weapon is broken.

Benefits of Fencing for Kids and Adults

Fencing is often referred to as a physical game of chess because it increases mental awareness, requiring you to read subtle cues from your opponent and react quickly. It's great for teaching children self-control and how to make critical decisions. Fencing also teaches sportsmanship as well as how to own up to your failures and turn them into a learning experience.

Fencing can also be a great full-body workout that helps you to develop strength, stamina, and endurance. It uses several sets of muscles at high intensity, and it requires both flexibility and speed, which helps you to sharpen your reflexes. And because fencing is good exercise, it can improve your heart health and lung endurance and capacity, boosting your overall physical health.

Best of all, nearly anyone can fence, regardless of their age or athletic experience. It's not difficult to learn, and even children as young as 5 can participate.


Edited by: Ben Thompson