Fencing is the sport which grew out of the deadly art of sword fighting. Swords have been used for centuries as personal weapons. They have been in every age since the smelting of bronze and in every area of the world that has known metal.
Specifically, the Olympic style of fencing grew out of the swordplay present in Europe in the seventeenth century. Dueling, the settling of arguments by resort to personal combat, was an integral part of that culture. Nobles needed to be trained from an early age to be ready to defend themselves if challenged. Obviously practicing the movements and techniques with razor sharp blades would not be optimum. Therefore the blades were dulled and blunted for training purposes. This was called foiling the weapon and soon the practice swords themselves were called foils.
Over the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries the art and practice of foil play became an end in
itself and the sport of fencing was born. Fencing with the foil was included
in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and has been included in every
Olympics since. Though a competitive sport where the participants vie for
points and victory, fencing retains much of its martial background. It is
a western Martial Art.
To excel at fencing takes discipline, balance, concentration,
tactical intelligence, and above all else training. The combination of body
movement and blade manipulation at high speed and with accuracy takes years
to develop. Only with dedication can one achieve the perfection of action
and intent which it takes to defeat a well trained opponent. Having fun
and getting exercise is immediate.
Presently fencing is done throughout the world. Though the
sport is dominated internationally by the European countries of its origins,
recent champions have included fencers from the U. S., China, Cuba and Canada.
The most strikingly visual
aspect of fencing is the uniform and the foil. The foil is 35 inches long,
made of high quality steel, very flexible, and completely blunt. It is blunt
because one must make contact to score. The uniform is there to insure that
the encounter will be safe. Traditionally white, the jacket and pants are
of a tightly woven and durable material. The mask, essential to protect
the face from even a blunt and flexible foil, is a heavy steel mesh and
completely protects the eyes, nose, ears and mouth.