FAQ about Fencing
Fencing is a European martial art based on the styles of sword play that developed during the Rennaisance and later. Prior to this time, swords were used for attack and a shield and armour for defence. With the advent of guns and steel technology, armour and shields became ineffective. Now fighters began using the sword for both attack and defence. This is how we get the word "fencing" in English...from defence.
Is fencing safe?
Fencing is a very safe sport. Participants wear protective gear (jacket, mask, glove, and pants), and use "sport" versions of the classic weapons (foil, epee and saber). These sport versions are made of flexible metal with blunted tips and no sharp edges.
Fencers score points by touching their opponents with side or tip of their weapon. Fencers vigorously move forwards and backwards, but rarely collide with their opponent.
A recent survey of Olympic sports ranked fencing as the 5th safest sport in the Summer games (safer than Badmiton!!!)
Why is fencing beneficial?
Fencing develops strength, flexibility, stamina, and coordiantion. It is a low impact aerobic activity, so you get a good work-out without risking injury to your joints, tendons and bones. Fencing is also a mental game which requires concentration, focus and the ability to think quickly. More importantly, fencing is a challenging and engaging sport that offers endless variety. You may get bored working-out at the gym, but you will never get bored fencing!
What ages can participate in fencing?
Gryphon offers a fun introduction to fencing (Little Jedi) for children as young as 5 years old. Our traditional fencing classes begin for students 8 years old or older. Many of our fencers are youths and teenagers, however, we have a sizable group of adult fencers. Our oldest fencer is a gentleman is his early 70's who competes regularly and was on the USA team at the World Championships last year.
How do I get started?
Starting fencing is easy at Gryphon Fencing Club! We offer numerous ways to fit most peoples' needs and schedules.
For kids, summer camps are a great way to immurse them into the sport (one week is 15 hours of instruction). Also, they can join a beginning class or arrange for a few private lessons with one of our expert coaches.
For adults and teenagers, the "Taste of Fencing" class is an ideal way to test the sport. These 3-hour classes give participants a "taste" of the sport explaining the history, and showing the footwork, bladework, and basic attacks/defences. The class concludes with a "duel" using our Olympic style electronic scoring system. Also, they can join a beginning class or arrange for a few private lessons with one of our expert coaches.
Call or email the club for more information or to arrange for a class or lesson.
Do I need to buy my own equipment?
Gryphon allows beginners to use club gear for the first few months that you are attending fencing classes or taking private fencing lessons. Starting in your third month, you can pay a little extra to rent the club gear, or purchase a basic kit at the studio.
We encourage new fencers to purchase a fencing glove soon after they begin (in stock at the studio). This is for hygenic reasons. Some youth classes also require students to purchase and use a fencing workbook (available at the studio).
What are the differences between the weapons?
Modern sports fencing consists of three weapons that mirror a style of sword fighting from the past.
Fencing is one of only four sports to appear in every Olympics since 1896. It is a fast, athletic game, made up of three events:
Foil – The Sport of Kings
The foil is a descendant of the light court sword formally used by nobility to train for duels. The foil has a flexible rectangular blade, approximately 35 inches in length and weighs less than one pound. 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 in the front and to the waist in the back. It does not include the arms, neck, head and legs. This concept of on-target and off-target evolved from the theory of 18th-century fencing masters who instructed their pupils to only attack the vital areas of the body – i.e. the torso. Of course, the head is also a vital area of the body, but attacks to the face were considered unsporting and therefore discouraged.
The foil fencer’s uniform includes a metallic vest (called a lamé), which covers the valid target area so that a valid touch will register on the scoring machine. The flexible nature of the foil blade permits the modern elite foil fencer to attack an opponent from seemingly impossible angles.
Epee – Freestyle Fencing
The epee (pronounced “EPP-pay,” meaning sword in French), the descendant of the dueling sword, is similar in length to the foil, but is heavier, weighing approximately 27 ounces, with a larger guard (to protect the hand from a valid hit) and a much stiffer blade. Touches are scored only with the point of the blade, and the entire body, head-to-toe, is the valid target area, imitating an actual duel.
Saber – Hack and Slash
The saber is the modern version of the slashing cavalry sword, and is similar in length and weight to the foil. The major difference is the use of the blade. The saber is a cutting weapon as well as a thrusting weapon; therefore, saberists can score with the edge of their blade as well as their point. The target area is from the bend of the hips (both front and back), to the top of the head. This simulates the cavalry rider on a horse. The saber fencers’ uniform includes a metallic jacket (lamé), which fully covers the target area to register a valid touch on the scoring machine. Because the head is valid target area, the fencer’s mask is also electrically wired.
If epee is the weapon of patient, defensive strategy, then saber is its polar opposite. In saber, the rules of right-of-way strongly favor the fencer who attacks first, and a mere graze by the blade against the lamé registers a touch with the scoring machine. These circumstances naturally make saber a fast, aggressive game, with fencers rushing their opponent from the moment the referee gives the instruction to fence. Athens was the first Olympics to feature a Women’s Saber event.