What is Fencing?

Fencing was one of the sports in the first modern Olympics. The technology for scoring has changed since then, but the sport’s fundamentals and spirit remain the same. The sport of fencing is fast, athletic and a far cry from the choreographed bouts you see in films. Instead of leaping from balconies, you will see two fencers on a strip that is 6ft. by 46 ft. long saluting each other then coming to the "En Garde" position. At the command of "Fence" each will attempt to score touches on their opponent by either attacking or hitting after a successful defense. It is an intense mental game as well as physically challenging. Like the game of chess, fencers have a set of moves that they can apply in different situations. It requires tremendous concentration, since a wrong movement may yield the advantage. The difference in the time between fencing moves is measured in milliseconds!

The weapons: 

Foil, epee (pronounced "EPP-pay") and sabre are the three weapons used in the sport of fencing. Oregon Fencing Alliance is a sabre-only club.

Competition Foil

Competition Epee

Competition Sabre




The foil descends from the 18th century court sword and has a thin, flexible blade approximately 35 inches in length, a small bell guard and weighs less than a pound. The valid target is the torso, from the shoulders to the groin. A small, spring-loaded tip is attached to the point and connected to a wire and then to a body cord the fencer wears.




Touches are scored with the point of the weapon anywhere on the opponent’s body. Epee technique emphasizes timing, point control and a good counter attack. The epee is similar to the dueling swords of the 19th century having a stiff blade and large bell guard to protect the fencer’s hand. The epee weighs close to 27 ounces. The entire body is the valid target area.


Sabre is a point-thrusting as well as cutting weapon. It is the modern version of the slashing cavalry sword. The size and weight are similar to the foil. Points can be scored with the point and edge anywhere above the opponent’s waist,  including the head and arms. Sabre techniques emphasize speed, feints and a strong offense.

What is a fencing match like?

Preliminary rounds are held in pools of 5 to 7 fencers where each fences every other opponent in the pool to five points. The pools are followed by Direct Elimination bouts where the object is to score 15 points within 3 three-minute periods. Physical strength does not ensure victory, nor does speed, height, or intelligence. The winner will have used the tools he/she knows better than their opponent; psychology and mental games, cunning and craftiness, distance and timing. This is a fight that requires your whole body, mind and spirit! Everyone faces the opponent on an equal level. Men fence against women, kids against senior citizens, tall against short. Because success in fencing is based so much on experience and skill, fencers rarely show up to class and begin winning matches immediately. It takes time to develop the reflexes, timing and tactical skills. Being in good shape helps, naturally, but it does require discipline and practice to develop the skills and to learn to use your body to its best advantage.