With winter sports approaching and COVID regulations no longer making it difficult for students to watch sporting events, it’s a good time to learn how some sports work. The first sport of this series is fencing.
To understand fencing, you first must understand what equipment is used in fencing. Of course, a sword is used, although which type is used is dependent on what type of fencing you are doing. Besides the sword, a fencer wears a mask that is either made of stainless steel or an FIE (International Fencing Federation) approved mask or a non-approved FIE mask which is usually a carbon steel mesh. They also have neck bibs which are usually made of kevlar or other strong synthetic fiber. Kevlar combined with strong cotton or nylon makes up most of the rest of the equipment. This includes a jacket, a plastron, (which is an under-layer that goes halfway down the sword arm), a glove (for the sword hand), trousers that stop just before the knee, and socks. Also worn is a plastic chest protector which is required for women, but some men wear them as well. Footwear is nothing special: sports shoes with thinner soles and a rounded look are worn. The last bits of equipment that are worn are used to make sure the points are counted correctly. One of these is called the lamé, an electrically conductive garment worn over the scoring area for each fencing sword type, and the body cord which connects to the weapon.
In fencing, there are three disciplines: foil, épée, and sabre (saber). Each discipline is named by the blade. They also have different target areas. At our school, we participate in foil and épée. We’ll start with foil, but before we get to the rules, we need to understand how a “bout” works. There are three 3-minute periods in a normal bout where the first to 15 touches wins the bout. However, if the score is tied, it goes into sudden death overtime. When overtime is complete, a fencer is given priority at random. If no one gets a touch within the time, then the fencer with priority wins- this is based on Olympic rules. In high school, it is pool based and played to five touches with no overtime and it just ends in a tie. Some other rules include: if you fall off the side of the piste, (the platform), it results in you having to retreat one meter back, if you go into the area on the piste that is considered out of bounds, one point is given to the opponent.
Now in foil, the foil has a total length of 110cm and its blade is 90cm long. The total weight of the weapon must be less than 500g. It is light enough to use the flick attack, which is when the blade can be almost thrown and bent over a parry to score. Fencers can only score if they hit the torso of their opponent with the striking point of their weapon. Something good to know is non-valid hits stop the bout, but are not counted. Foil follows the rules of right of way, in which the fencer who starts the attack has the right of way; the opposing fencer will usually try to parry the attack to avoid being hit. If it is successful, the opposing fencer will riposte, (attack after you parry). The attacking fencer will try different tactics to attempt to avoid the opposing fencer’s blade.
In épée fencing, the épée sword has a total length of 110cm and its blade is 90cm long. The total weight of the weapon must be less than 770g, making it too heavy for the flick attack. Similar to foil, you can only use the point of the épée to score points, but the main difference is where you can score. A point can be scored anywhere from head to toe. Also, unlike foil and sabre, there are no right-of-way rules, so all hits are counted. It is just based on who hits first. Double hits are also allowed but must be within 1/25 of a second. Because of all these rules, épée is considered the easiest of the disciplines to understand and carry out.
In sabre, the sabre has a total length of 105cm and its blade is 88cm long. The total weight of the weapon must be less than 500g, so it is light enough to use a flick attack. A similarity between the sabre and foil is that sabre follows the right-of-way rule. One big difference between foil and épée is you can use the point and the body of the blade to score points. The target for the sabre is the waist up excluding the hands, but if you hit off-target the bout still goes on until someone hits the target. When both fencers hit on-target, the referee will give the point to whoever has the right of way, not who hits first.
Last, but not least, how do ECCs and the state tournament work? During the regular season, if a team wins the meet it will be added to their record, and if they win the most in their division, they will win the regular season title. However, there is also the ECC tournament, which, if you are familiar with some other fall sports, works the same way; you win, you move on, and if you lose, you are done in the ECC. This works as a team, not as an individual. Now states are just around the corner. From what I have found, there are two different state tournaments; one for teams and one for individuals and both work how a normal tournament would work.
Hopefully, fencing is now less confusing, and everyone should consider going to one of the meets they have this season to cheer them on! As of right now, they have three home meets on , 1/7, and 2/18, all at 9 am. The schedule is subject to change, so check the CIAC website for updates.
Sophomore Jessica Dudley is a staff writer for the 2022-2023 Colonel Newsmagazine. She likes Marvel, playing sports, and playing with and learning about animals.