What Is Fencing?

Fencing Explained

The Olympic sport of fencing is comprised of three weapons: Foil, Épée, and Sabre. All are fenced on a long rectangular strip, and electronic scoring aids are normally used to assist in the detection of hits. The rules governing these three weapons are determined by the FIE. Briefly, the FIE weapons are described as follows:


The Foil has a flexible rectangular blade, approximately 90cm in length, weighing less than 500g. Points are scored with the tip of the blade and must land within the torso of the body.

The valid target area in Foil is the torso, from the shoulders to the groin, front and back. It does not include the arms, neck, head and legs. The Foil fencer’s uniform includes a metallic jacket (called a Lamé) which covers the valid target area, so that a valid hit will register on the scoring machine. A small, spring-loaded tip is attached to the point of the Foil and is connected to a wire inside the blade. The fencer wears a body wire inside his uniform which connects the Foil to a reel wire, connected to the scoring machine.

There are two scoring lights on the machine. One shows a green light when a fencer has made a hit, and one shows a red light when her opponent has hit. A hit landing outside the valid target area (that which is not covered by the Lamé is indicated by a white light. These ‘off target’ hits do not count in the scoring, but they do stop the fencing action temporarily.

Fencing Weapons


The Épée, the descendant of the dueling sword, is similar in length to the Foil, but is heavier, weighing approximately 750g, with a larger guard (to protect the hand from a valid hit) and a much stiffer blade. Hits are scored only with the point of the blade. The entire body is the valid target area.

The blade is wired with a spring-loaded tip at the end that completes an electrical circuit when it is depressed beyond a pressure of 750 grams. This causes the coloured bulb on the scoring machine to light. Because the entire body is a valid target area, the fencer’s uniform does not include a Lamé. Off-target hits do not register on the machine. Unlike Foil and Sabre, if two coloured lights show on the machine, then two hits have been scored.


The Sabre is the modern version of the slashing cavalry sword, and is similar in length and weight to the foil. The major difference is that the Sabre is a thrusting weapon as well as a cutting weapon (use of the blade). The target area is from the bend of the hips (both front and back), to the top of the head, simulating the cavalry rider on a horse.

The Sabre fencer’s clothing includes a metallic jacket (Lamé) which covers the target area to register a valid hit on the scoring machine. The mask is different from Foil and Épée, with a metallic covering since the head is valid target area.

Just as in Foil, there are two scoring lights on the machine. One shows a green light when a fencer has made a hit, and the other shows a red light when the opponent has hit. Off-target hits do not register on the machine.