The noble art of fencing is a competitive, individual sport involving skill, agility, fitness, and tactics (not necessarily in that order). The name is derived from the word defence. Fencing involves combat with three weapons: foil, epee, and sabre.
The sabre was originally a heavy curved sword used by cavalry soldiers. Over the centuries, the blade has become much lighter and thinner and perfectly straight. The guard completely covers the hand. The target area for sabre bouts is anywhere above the waist (which is reminiscent of horseback days). Points are scored with the front of the blade (in a cutting motion) or the tip (in a thrusting motion).
The epee is the duelling sword from days gone by. It is the same length as the foil and sabre but the blade is much thicker and is fluted (to allow the blood to drain away!). The target in epee is the entire body but points may only be scored with the tip of the weapon in a thrusting motion.
Since the epee was the duelling weapon, the rules were designed to correspond closely with the actions of a duel. For example, there is no "right to attack" in epee - the first person to hit their opponent scores a point. The foil was the weapon used by duellers to practice their art and is much lighter than the epee. Foil bouts are similar to epee - with one major difference: to encourage fencers to improve their technique, rules were introduced to enhance the skill of the fencers. These include gaining the right to attack, gaining the right to reply to an attack, and a restriction of the target area from the entire body to just the torso.
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Julian Dermoudy, Department of Computer Science, University of Tasmania
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