Fencing’s origins can be found in swordplay, which has been practised for thousands of years – as evidenced by depictions of fencers dating from around 1190 BC. Later fencing, initially a form of military training, became a sport around the 15th century. Both Italy and Germany lay claim to its origins. Fencing is now practised all over the world, generating fierce competition not only in Europe but also Asia, Oceania, the Americas and Africa, with 157 national federations members of the International Fencing Federation.
Brief overview of the rules
In fencing, two competitors, each holding a weapon in one hand, face each other to strike their opponent on a valid target area of the body. The rules differ according to the type of weapon used. Hits made with the point (tip), edge, or back of the blade are counted as valid in sabre, with the target area including the entire torso above the waist, as well as the head and arms. In épée and foil, fencers only score when they strike their opponent with the point of their weapon. In épée the target area covers the entire body, from the mask down to the feet, while in foil the target area is the trunk only (torso, shoulders and neck). The first fencer to reach 15 points or whomever has the most points when time runs out wins the match. In team fencing, the first team to score a total of 45 points or whichever has the highest score when time runs out wins.
Fencing is a long-standing Olympic sport, appearing on the programme at the 1896 Games in Athens and present ever since. Women’s fencing entered the Games in 1924 in Paris. Today, men and women compete in individual and team events using the three types of weapon: foil, épée and sabre. Previously, foil was the only women’s fencing event until the Atlanta 1996 Games, when women’s épée was added, while women’s sabre was added for the first time at the Athens 2004 Games.
Among the figures who have marked this sport, Italy’s Nedo Nadi is the only fencer to have won a medal in every weapon in a single edition of the Games. In 1912, at 18 years old, he won in the foil. Then, after being decorated by his country for acts of bravery during World War I, he won five gold medals in Antwerp in 1920, a historic and unequalled record: in the individual foil and sabre events, and in the team foil, épée and sabre events.
International federation : International Fencing Federation