What Is Fencing and When Did It Become a Sport?
Swords have been around for thousands of years. Long before the invention of modern weapons, swords were some of the most common and effective means of self-defense. In fact, the term “fencing” actually derives from a Latin word that means “to defend.” Even though swords date to prehistoric times, fencing did not become an organized sport until the late 19th century. The French were the first to develop a basic set of equipment, rules, and conventions for the sport in the 1880s.
In 1896, fencing was one of the original nine sports featured at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens. It’s also one of only four sports that have been a part of every Olympic Games since 1896. Fencing requires mental fortitude to develop a sound strategy of attack and defense. It also requires a variety of physical traits, including strength, agility, timing, balance, and coordination.
Fencers face off on a fencing strip, called a piste, which measures approximately six feet wide and 46 feet long. Depending upon which event they’re competing in, they use one of three fencing swords: the epee, the foil, or the saber. The exact rules and conventions vary by weapon, but the basic goal is to use your weapon to score a touch on your opponent while successfully preventing your opponent from touching you. Matches can be constrained by time, number of touches, or a combination of both.
If you’ve ever seen a fencing match, you know that the action is intense. Opponents lunge toward one another repeatedly while their swords fly through the air, trying to strike or parry depending upon who has the advantage.
In the past, fencing judges had to score matches based upon their observations. Today, however, modern technology scores matches electronically. Fencers wear gear that contains conductive material. When touched by the metal of a weapon, a circuit is completed that will electronically register a successful touch. Fencers used to be connected by long cords to make this possible, but wireless versions are available today.