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Team Sports: Fencing

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From the Mentors
You're wearing a mask that covers your whole face and dressed in padded clothing. You dance back and forth gracefully while holding a flexible metal rod in one hand.

Are you:

  • A contestant on a game show called "Extreme Shish-Kebab"?
  • Carefully fishing for man-eating piranha?
  • Serving as an experimental human lightning rod?

NO! You're fencing!

Fencing is the sport of swordplay. It began thousands of years ago as a way of training soldiers to fight with swords and eventually became a competitive team sport that anyone can participate in. Fencers face off on a 6-foot by 40-foot strip with one of three kinds of swords, and duel each other not for blood or honor, but points. Individual fencers add up their points to get an overall team score, so fencing is a great example of a sport where you compete on your own, but you're working together as a group to win the day's match.

Fencing requires strength, speed, balance, and a very sharp mind. A good strategy is perhaps the most important part of the sport, but fair play and sportsmanship are also necessary. Most colleges and many high schools have fencing teams, and adult competitions are held between clubs all over the country and world.

Fencing Basics:

  • There are three basic types of fencing, separated by the different weapons used.

    • The foil is a light, flexible blade that's rectangular rather than round. Foils are about 35 inches long. To score a point, a fencer must touch his or her opponent's torso with only the tip of the blade.

    • The epee is about the same length as the foil, but twice as heavy, and with a stiffer blade. As in foil, a fencer may touch her opponent with only the tip of the sword, but the entire body, not just the torso, is the target area.

    • The saber is about the same length and weight as the foil. In saber fencing, the athlete can use both the tip and the cutting edge to score points, and the target area is anywhere from the opponent's waist up to the top of the head.

  • Fencers wear protective gear on their bodies and faces at all times during play. The object of the sport is to earn points by scoring touches within the target area, never to cause harm or injury.

Cool Fencing Facts:

  • At least one ancient Egyptian temple features a painting of a fencing match. The painting dates back to 1190 B.C.!

  • At about the time that Columbus was rediscovering the New World in the 1400's, fencing had become the "gentleman's sport" in Europe.

  • Fencing has been a competitive sport in every modern Olympic games since 1896, and is one of only four sports with this distinction.

  • Fencing is a very fast-moving sport, so it can be difficult for judges to score points correctly. Because of this, many competitions are now scored electronically. The fencers wear sensors that register points when their opponent makes contact with the sword!

What Kids Are Saying About Fencing:

"Fencing is not just fighting each other, it's about balance, friendship, and listening to directions!"
--Eileen, 9

"Fencing is cool, because there aren't any balls, nets, or goals. It's just you, your foil, and the other guy."
--Trevor, 12

Get Involved!

Chances are good that there's a fencing club or academy in your area. To find one, visit the U.S. Fencing Association Web site at www.usfencing.org.

Next: Let's go play Handball!


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