About Fencing As a Sport
What is fencing?
The modern sport of fencing is based on the European schools of swordsmanship and armed combat.
The goal is to score a specified number of touches on your opponent before he or she scores. Modern
fencing is done with one of three weapons: the foil, the sabre, or the epee.
What is the difference between the three weapons?
First, the similarities: All three weapons consist of a grip, guard, and blade. The blades are 36 inches
long, and the guard protects the hand.
What is Right of Way?
The foil is a lighter weapon, with a small guard and thin, flexible blade. Points must be scored with the
tip of the weapon, and are awarded for touches on the torso or groin. Legs, arms and head are not target
area. Foil is subject to Right of Way rules, and only one fencer can score a point at a time.
The sabre is the medium weight weapon, with a guard that covers the top and front of the hand, and a less
flexible blade. Points can be scored with any part of the weapon, allowing for a cutting style in addition to
thrusting. Target area is from the waist upwards, minus the hands. Sabre is also subject to Right of Way rules.
The epee is a heavy weapon, with a large bell guard, and a very stiff blade. Points must be scored with the
tip of the weapon. In epee competition, the entire body is target area, there are no right of way rules,
and fencers can score points simultaneously.
In foil and sabre fencing, points can only be scored by the competitor who has right of way. To establish right of
way, a competitor must perform an offensive manuever, while forcing him opponent into a defensive manuever. The most
basic form of right of way is that an advancing fencer has right of way over a retreating fencer. To capture right of
way, a retreating fencer would have to perform a successful defensive manuever, such as parrying the advancing fencer's
attack with his own blade.
How is fencing scored?
Right of way is probably the most complex aspect of fencing, but with a small bit of instruction and study, it can be
understood fairly quickly.
In fencing bouts, the winner is the fencer who reaches a specified point total first. Usually, this total is five or
fifteen. For most competitive fencing, an electronic system has been devised to assist in scoring. A bout between
fencers is overseen by a director. In all weapons, a light will be activated when a fencer scores a touch on his
opponent, at which point the director will halt the bout, award a point, and reset the fencers before continuing. In epee,
if both fencers record a touch simultaneously, both lights will come on, both fencers will receive a point (unless it
is the final touch of a bout, where it is anulled until a single touch is scored) and the bout continues.
In foil and sabre, if both fencers register a touch, it is more complicated. The director must call the action and
award a point to a single fencer, or declare the touches simultaneous and cancelling actions, rewarding a point to
neither fencer. The rules for determining who scored a point is governed by the Right of Way rules above. For example,
a director might call that an attack from the left valid, and that the right attacked without having Right of Way, or
that the attack from the left was successfully defended (parried), and the right fencer made a successful riposte,
or responsive attack after a defense.
About the MSU Fencing Club
Do I need any fencing experience?
No, the club is open to everyone regardless of fencing experience. Whether you are a seasoned fencer wishing to
fine tune your skills or have never held a weapon before, you're welcome to come join us!
Does the club offer lessons for beginners?
The club does not have a beginner's class per se, but the first couple weeks of every school year are devoted to teaching
the basics and recruiting new members. The basics are covered in these first couple weeks, and progressively more
information is covered thoughout the year.
It's the middle of the year, can I still join?
Sure. If you're interested in fencing, we'll be glad to have you. Club members will spend some time with you individually,
teaching the basics, and then you will be incorporated into drills with the rest of the club.
Does it hurt?
Not really. With proper techinque to protect your legs and knees, the worst injuries you will suffer are scrapes and
bruises, and even then, they heal quickly.
Where and when does the club meet?
The fencing club practices Monday through Thursday in the basement of IM West. Collegiate fencing tournamants are held mostly in
the spring, from February to April. Check the schedule page for practice times.
How much does it cost to fence?
Club dues are $50 per semester. This covers the cost to use all club equipment, weapon repair, and lessons and training
with the club. There is also a co-pay for those that choose to compete on the travel team to help cover hotels, gas, and other travel expenses. We are currently in the process of finding fundraisers, which may lower the cost.
Who does the club fence?
What do I need to wear while fencing?
As a member of the Midwest Fencing Conference, the other conference schools are our main opposition. We also fence in
collegiate invitationals in the area, against other schools with fencing clubs or varsity programs. At the end of the
year, we also qualify for Club Fencing Championships, allowing us to fence schools from across the country.
Midwest Conference Members:
|Ohio State||Northwestern||Notre Dame
|Michigan||Michigan State||U. of Chicago||Cleveland State
|Bowling Green||Case Western||Iowa||Illinois
The only absolute essential for practice is a good pair of tennis shoes. Long pants are encouraged to prevent scrapes
and bruises on the legs. The club has a supply of all fencing related equipment, including jackets, gloves, masks,
weapons, knickers and electric equipment that can be used for practice and tournaments.
How long until I am 'good' at fencing?
That heavily depends on your personal innate ability and work ethic. The best way to get good at fencing is to fence,
a lot. Most of our fencers fence collegiately after their first year, depending on how many people fence the weapon
you are interested in. Fencing individual USFA tournaments can greatly increase you skills faster.
What equipment do I need to buy?
Beginning fencers should use the club equipment, but if you see yourself pursuing fencing for a longer period of time,
we highly recommend that you buy your own equipment. Practice equipment includes a jacket, mask, glove, and weapon.
Tournament equipment would include the above, plus an electric weapon, body cord, knickers, knee-high socks, and a lame
(for foil and sabre).
Several fencing supply companies have package deals that can get you
your own practice gear. Also, every year, the club collects orders from members and sends out a lump order, to get a
volume discount on all equipment.