What's Fencing Like?


Fencing is a combat sport based on the ancient art of sword-fighting. The aim is to hit your opponent whilst blocking or evading their attempts to hit you. In competition, a typical fencing fight finishes when one opponent reaches 15 hits.

There are three variants of fencing each using a different type of sword - the foil, the epée, or the sabre (don't worry, although based on real sword-types they are not actually sharp!) The three weapons differ in how, where and when you may hit your opponent, resulting in different styles of combat. Most people start with the foil but some move on to the very attack-oriented sabre, or the more tactical epée. It doesn't really matter too much which weapon you try first - it's easy to switch later on.

Fencing takes place on a long strip called the 'piste' (14 metres long, just a little longer than a badminton court). Fencers move along the piste as they seek an opportunity to hit their opponent, and as they try to avoid their opponent's efforts to hit them. The ability to move on the piste, and especially to change direction or accelerate at the right moment, is an important skill in fencing.


Fencers learn various sword movements designed to block (or 'parry') an opponent's attack, and a complementary set of attacking movements designed to evade an opponent's parries. Learning fencing involves practicing these moves in controlled conditions to master the coordination, and then learning to use them, combined with well-timed movement along the piste, to outwit or outpace your opponent. Of course, your opponent is trying to do exactly the same thing!

The result of all this is a sport rich in tactical variation. Everyone can develop their own style of combat suited to their particular attributes (height, strength, speed, aggression, etc). Part of the fun of fencing is in seeing how your style matches up to an opponent, and adjusting it in response if you can!

What Next?

- Read about how to start fencing in Scotland

- Find out more about fencing (on the British Fencing website; includes a video of some fencing)