Studio Of American Fencing
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The foil evolved during the late 17th century as a practice weapon for the small sword. The word is derived from the French word refouler, meaning "to turn back." The original French foil was known as the fleuret, from a fancied resemblance between its leather button (protective tip) and a flower bud.
The foil is a thrusting weapon and touches may only be scored with the tip. The target area in foil consists of the torso (both front and back) and the groin. Touches made to other parts of the body are considered to be "off-target." Both foil and sabre fencing are governed by a rule known as "right-of-way." Right-of-way is a convention employed in order to determine the priority of touches and is intended to encourage the spirit of the sport as a realistsic encounter with swords. Essentially, in the case of two fencers striking each other simultaneously, priority is given to the fencer whose arm first began extending with the point of the blade directed at a valid target area in a threatenting manner. This fencer has established priority, or right-of-way, over his or her opponent. This rule reinforces the idea that the sport of fencing is based upon a life and death encounter, and that all attacks must be dealt with as if they were capable of causing bodily harm (i.e., blocked or parried in order to escape injury).
The epée evolved in 19th century Europe as the premiere duelling weapon replacing its predecessor, the small sword. Epée is the French word for sword. It is the same length as the foil and sabre; however, the blade is heavier than that of the foil and is triangular in section. The target includes the entire body, from head to toes, and there is no right-of-way rule. This being the case, a larger cup-shaped guard was developed in order to more effectively protect the hand and forearm. The first person to hit is awarded the touch, regardless of priority. The sport of epée fencing was developed to mirror the conditions of an actual duel in that the object of the encounter was to score "first blood."
The sabre is based on the 18th century cavalry weapon first used in Europe by the Hungarians who themselves adopted the heavy, curved sword from the Turks. During the 19th century, the Italian masters developed the basis for modern sabre fencing. The present-day sabre is extremely light and has a straight blade. A curved, triangular guard, reminiscient of the old basket-hilt, offers protection to the hand (known as a bow or knuckle guard). Touches are scored with either the tip or the edge of the blade. Modern sabre fencing has developed into a lightning fast game of cuts, stop-cuts and parries that would be impossible to achieve with historical sabres.
All three weapons are fenced on a rectangular playing field, known as a piste, approximately 2 meters wide and 14 meters long. A fencing bout is moderated by the President of the Jury (also known as the referee or director) who is responsible for enforcing the rules of the sport and determining right-of-way. Standard or non-electric matches also include a Jury of four individuals who are responsible for visually determining touches. Most competitive fencing is now conducted by means of an electronic scoring apparatus, indicating touches by lights and buzzers. Only the President remains to establish right-of-way. The winner of a typical fencing bout is the first to score five touches on his or her opponent within a four-minute time limit, although bouts to fifteen are commonly fought in the direct elimination round of a tournament, in which case the fencing time is extended to three three-minute periods, with a one-minute break between each.
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