Intro to Fencing

Introduction to Competition
A Brief Introduction to Modern Fencing
Modern fencing comprises three distinct disciplines, characterized by the weapons and rules that are used.

How To Watch A Fencing Bout

The foil is a thrusting weapon - offensive actions with this weapon are made only with the point. At foil, only hits which arrive on the target are counted as valid. The valid target is the torso (i.e. excluding the arms, legs, and head) and the part of the mask that covers the front of the neck.

A hit which is made on a part of the body other than the target is not counted as a valid hit but results in a stop in the action.

Foil fencing follows the convention of right-of-way; if fencer A initiates an offensive action then fencer B must either deflect the action or cause it to miss the target before fencer B can score a valid hit.

Valid Foil Target (in white)

Foil Fencing at the July 2010 Nationals - raw video provided by John Takala
(there is a 4 s delay after clicking play before the video starts)



The epee is also a thrusting weapon - offensive actions with this weapon are made only with the point. At epee the target includes the whole of the fencer's body including his/her clothing and equipment (but not the weapon).

There is no right-of-way for epee fencing. If the fencers hit each other simultaneously both hits are counted as valid.


Valid Epee Target (whole body)


Epee Fencing at the July 2010 Nationals - raw video provided by John Takala
(there is a 4 s delay after clicking play before the video starts)


The sabre is a weapon for thrusting and cutting with both the cutting edge and the back of the blade. All hits made with the cutting edge, the flat, or the back of the blade are counted as good (cuts and back cuts). Hits may also be scored with the point. Only hits which arrive on the target are counted as valid. The valid target is above the waist, including the head and arms but not the hands.

Sabre fencing also follows the convention of right-of-way; if fencer A initiates an offensive action then fencer B must either deflect the action or cause it to miss the target before fencer B can score a valid hit.


Valid Sabre Target (in white)


Sabre Fencing at the July 2010 Nationals - raw video provided by John Takala
(there is a 4 s delay after clicking play before the video starts)