Commonwealth Veterans Fencing 2003 What is Fencing?









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There are three different fencing weapons: sabre, foil and epee.


The foil was the original fencing weapon. A hit is scored when the point of the blade contacts the opponent's torso.

To record the touch electronically, each fencer wears a sleeveless metallic vest, the "lamé" (pronounced la-may), which defines the target area. The electric scoring equipment uses a coloured light to show the referee who has been hit "on target". Hits anywhere outside the target zone are "off target", and set off a white light. They don't score but do stop the action.




A hit can only be scored by the fencer who has "priority". Priority is initially taken by the fencer who begins the attacking action.

A defender, before earning the right to score, must successfully defeat the attack (done by retreating or by deflecting the attack with a "parry") and responding with the reply (the riposte). This riposte takes priority over the other fencer's original attack.

These simple actions build to complicated exchanges. After each exchange resulting in a hit, the referee stops the action, adjudicates to determine who had priority, and awards any point scored.



The sabre was originally the fighting weapon of the cavalry, and was designed for use on horseback. However, the modern fencing sabre has a much thinner blade than a military sword. A sabre fencer scores hits by cutting the opponent with the edge or by thrusting with the point to score a touch. (Foil and epee use the point only).

"Target" for sabre is all the body above the waist. As with foil, sabre fencers wear a lamé jacket, though for sabre the jacket is long sleeved, and connected to the mask by a wire to complete the target area.

Again like Foil, the electric scoring equipment uses a coloured light to show the referee who has been hit "on target". However, unlike foil with its "off target" white lights, hits anywhere outside the sabre target zone are not recorded. They don't score and do not stop the action.

Sabre, like foil, has rules determining the priority of hits, adjudicated by the referee. The attacker has the right to score. A defender, before earning the right to score, must parry, then riposte.


The epee (pronounced e-pay, with a short "e" - as in "epic", rather than "email") derives from the duelling sword of the 19th century, the epee de combat ("sword of combat"). It is the heaviest of the three weapons.

The entire body is target for the epee - from the toe to the mask. Simulating the duel, opponents often try to reach the nearest target - the hand, arm or the foot.

There are no rules governing right of way in attack or defence. Scores are recorded when the point of the blade hits any part of the body: the first fencer to hit scores. If both fencers hit within 4/100th of a second, they both score. The electric scoring equipment indicates the hit with a coloured light showing who has scored.






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Last updated 10 July, 2003
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