What is fencing all about?

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/08/11/what-is-fencing-all-about.html


awesome video, thanks for sharing! I fence longsword, which is a whole different beast, but it’s gotten me really interested in the world of Oly fencing.


The younger fencers around my area seem to be the same kids who play/ed Warhammer and Dungeons and Dragons. I think the common thread is they are all about strategy.

It can seen as an expensive sport, when actually most clubs have the kit you need. You might want to buy your own glove (they get sweaty), and subsequently your own sword, but the rest you can borrow from the storage cages.

Watching from the side, there does seem to be an awful lot of time spent chatting and setting up rather than actual fencing.

As for cultural references, it seems to be The Princess Bride that’s referred to more than anything else.


Scholagladiatoria has a good couple of videos talking about sport fencing. To which i find his point fairly valid and interesting, where fencing does not teach a person actual swordsmanship skills. It’s basically a dressed up version of tag, where you’re trying to touch your opponent a split second before they touch you. Granted this is a huge simplification but it’s still not inaccurate to say so.

Still i don’t bring this up to dismiss the sport. I actually have great admiration for the people who practice all types of fencing and swordsmanship. I would be interested to see more combative type of swordsmanship make its way into the Olympics :smiley:


Fighting/martial arts and sports are nearly always two different things. Jujitsu and Judo, for example. Sports try to even the odds so both parties can win. In martial arts, you want to be the more likely person to win.


yeah I have mixed feelings about, say, longsword or rapier and offhand making it to the olympics. On the plus side, I’d love to watch competition at that level. On the down side, standardizing rulesets like that tend to work against keeping things martial/combative and towards sportifying.


The shift towards the thrusting style of swords came mainly because firearms made armor obsolete - and in that context a light, stiff, deeply penetrating blade is indeed the most effective weapon. There were other factors involved as well, such as economics and advances in metallurgy, but the determining factor is always the type of defense that needs to be overcome.


Here’s a duel against Mork which Fonzie lost:


People think actual duels lasted several minutes and involved basket hilted rapiers and not small town-swords.

Modern sport fencing has mostly evolved from a quick-draw competition.

I blame James Bond and the Germans with their Mensur clubs.


Interesting. When I was in college, I went to a freshman activities fair, and the D&Der’s/LARPers had all the foam longswords and broadswords etc, and commandeered the central ring, challenging participants to fight.

I had a fair bit of highschool fencing experience, so was pleased to find how well it translated – none of them really had a chance, not having had any real instruction.


band name?


I foil fenced enough in high school and college to be, locally, reasonably good at it. Call it top 5% of any group I spent time with. Then one day a friend of my college instructor stopped by. This was a fellow who made it to some sort of Olympic team standby status. He showed me there was an entirely different level of human performance. His lunges were fearsomely quick. To me they were literally inhumanly fast. I could deal with the gymnast level of incredible extension and recovery he had but not the quickness. I was amazed and humbled.


I would consider tuning back in to the Olympics if they brought in jousting. Though probably not bikini jousting.

If they could do it on some kind of flying creature I`d quickly become the biggest fan.


I signed up for a fencing class. But all they wanted to do was sword fight.
I got my money back on that one.


Did you picket in protest?


On the other hand, Vox appears to be totally inadequate on shark-jumping.

1 Like


1 Like

Love fencing!
Used to train Epee regularly years ago at the Haverstock Fencing Club in North London.
Really nice place, everyone is really nice and the way it works you get to fence with everybody.
From begginers to the top athletes. One of the coaches there told me the best way to describe fencing: “Fencing is like playing chess, but with your whole body”

1 Like

Yes and no: it is true that, being nonlethal and all, fencing allows(and, in practice, often encourages) strategies that you’d be insane to use if having your opponent hit you were a problem regardless of whether you hit them first. Exactly how blatant you can be depends on the weapon and the circumstance(don’t ask me about how ‘right of way’ works, I find that stuff inscrutable; but ‘double-touch’ scenarios in foil and saber are treated as indecisive, so you do have to establish priority; epee awards a touch to both sides on double-touch, so it can be a valid if inferior option to close up a match you are currently winning); but there is undoubtedly a willingness to take what would be otherwise ridiculous risks.

That said, I’ve succumbed to the temptation to ‘just try to out-speed the other guy’ a few times; and it Does Not Work. Unless you are beating up on someone vastly weaker than you, or who is tiring or off balance, you aren’t faster than they are and attempting to act as though you are will go poorly for you. The set of techniques for dealing with this certainly have little to do with real swords; but unless you use them you’ll be lucky if you end up getting a double touch; and very likely end up touching second or not at all.


Pretty ace comment right there. I appreciate being educated on the sport :slight_smile:

1 Like