Evolution of Fencing

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by DanielAydalla
Last updated 8 years ago

Health & Fitness

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Evolution of Fencing

Today, fencing is usually used to refer to the sport as seen in the Olympics. It consists of three events—foil, épée, and sabre. It uses an electronic scoring apparatus and modern rules. This is a fast and athletic game, but has changed tremendously throughout the past several centuries. However, the historial and classical style fencing still exist.

In the early 1800s the outlawing of dueling was still being ignored and the Sabre had become the sword of choice. The Sabre would not get caught up on an enemies' body, but would go through it.  Because the sabre was primarily a cutting weapon men could be trained more easily to use one. By the mid-1800's, dueling was in decline because victory could mean a jail sentence for assault or manslaughter. Emphasis shifted to defeating the opponent without necessarily killing him, and less fatal dueling forms evolved using the epee, an unedged variant of the small sword. Later duels often ended with crippling thrusts to the arm or leg, and fewer legal difficulties for the participants.

Many rules and regulations regarding the safety for fencing were set in place for the first modern Olympic games in 1896. It featured foil and sabre fencing for men only. Women were not allowed to fence until the Olympics in 1924. Epee was introduced in 1900. Instead of relying on a judge's call on who hit first, fencing became electrified to avoid any mistakes. The first electronic scoring equipment had appeared in the 1890's, but did not get final approval for competition until 1954.

During the 1700s, outlawed duels of honor became more popular. If a man was insulted by someone, he could challenge that person to a duel. This challenge was sent by a Second, a friend you trusted to speak on your behalf. The Seconds of each duelist arranged the details of the duel, such as time and location.  On the day of the fight, the Seconds would accompany the duelists. On each hit, no matter how small, the Seconds would stop the duel and provide aid.  If the duelist was injured to the point where he could not continue, the duel would end. However, the Second was allowed to take the place of the injured duelist.  Under the worst circumstances, the duel would continue to the death.


Modern Fencing





Basic fencing practices were ways to improve skills with minimal risk of injury:  - First came a safer weapon, which started with something like a single stick with a woven basket hand guard. Over the years it developed into the foil. The foil had a very flexible blade, that would lower the risk of injury to almost zero. - Second, came the mask, which started out as a piece of very thick leather, which was molded to the face, with the eyes cut out.  This protected the face, but left the eyes exposed.  Once metal qualities improved, craftsmen were then able to construct a safer metal mesh mask, which did not become common usage until the early 1900s.- Third, came the fencing uniform which started out being a leather vest.  Over the years, due to the increased safety of the practice weapons, the uniform changed to white, heavy fabric.  The color white was chosen for the uniform so that if a fencer was injured, blood would show immediately.

Many athletes would wear their sword like a piece of jewellry, reflecting their social status and wealth.  Duels were numerous among men throughout the eras of the 1500s-1700s. In this time period, a man was not considered honorable unless he fought numerous duels to prove his masculinity. This trend stopped in the 1800s by the increasing number of guns.

In the 1600s, the foil had become the training weapon of choice.  The rules of right-of-way were developed and used as teaching techniques for the safety of pupils. The foil was developed to entertain as well as hone the skills of a swordsman. The tip of a foil now had to be dipped in iodine to clearly show where a hit had been landed on the opponent.

Although swordplay has existed as far back as ancient egypt, it was considered more as training for soldiers, rather than as an activity. It wasn't until the 1500's that fencing was recognized as a sport. As the swords improved, new skills and rules needed to be developed. These skills and rules were what built fencing over time.

Evolution of Fencing

Sherraine Schalm

Fencing London 2012 - Highlights

- 32-time World Cup Medallist - 4-time Olympian - 26 years in the sport - First canadian woman to win a world championship medal in 2005 - Was once ranked number 1 in world

- Sherraine popularized fencing because of her many incredible accomplishments and achievements. Her successes brought much attention to Canadian fencing because Canada isn't as well known to have such high ranking fencers.- As an elementary school teacher, she is able to share her success stories and be a good role model for her students to inspire them to try fencing.- Retired as of September 2013.- Sherraine has stated that she will continue to be involved in fencing and that she will share her stories in the hopes that she will inspire and challenge others to go beyond her.

"Sherraine Schalm is a tremendous athlete who has had an enormous impact on the sport of fencing in Canada. She has been an inspiration for many and her legacy will continue to impact the sport in years to come." - Brad Goldie


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