Swordsmanship: The Tradition of Fencing

The art of swordsmanship has changed over the years since the world continues to become more modern. However, there are still some people who practice traditional sword play. Since swords have been such a part of human history globally, it is not surprising that fencing would have been included in Olympic events.

Friendly competition has been a part of the human experience since the beginning of time. Unfortunately much of the competition has stemmed from the need to survive on planet Earth. Therefore, it is easy to see how some competitions end with not so friendly outcomes. In order to help maintain a civil atmosphere when testing the limits of human prowess rules were created. One on one sporting events show how important following the rules can be.

Anywhere from boxing, tennis, wrestling and chess, there are guidelines which must be followed in order to adhere to official gameplay. Since fencing is a sport that is considered to be for gentlemen of valor and dignity, the rules must be followed with the strictest of scrutiny. It is interesting how over time as the rules for fencing evolved, the further away the sport has moved from traditional swordsmanship of martial arts.

Many people view fencing much like a game of chess where tactics and tricks can be employed. Masters of fencing change strategies to throw off their opponent. Fencers use timed attacks and distractions while gauging distance. Footwork and blade work need to be studied in order to get a firm grasp of how to fence. Basic moves include the simple attack (lunge, fleche and thrust), compound attack, parry, riposte and feint.

Today fencing is divided in to several areas; academic fencing, stage fencing, historical fencing and Olympic fencing. Olympic fencing is what most people today are familiar with. The competition can either be with teams or individuals. Modern bouts can be connected using one of three different fencing weapons, each one having its own set of rules. These rules have been developed over the years to add fairness or sportsmanship to the bouts. Electronic devices have also been implemented since the blows can be very quick and hard to register with the naked eye. Points are only tallied when one opponent makes contact with his weapon properly in the strike zone while following the "right of way" rules if they apply. Right of way means the first person to initiate an attack properly wins the point. Right of way rules do not apply for bouts using the epee. The other two weapon bouts which follow the right of way rules are the saber and foil.

Although swords are viewed today as weapons of a bygone era and should only be sold to collectors or museums, many people cherish the tradition of fencing. The sport is recognized worldwide as the sport of kings and nobleman. All bouts are connected with such formality and grace that it is easy to see how fencing made such an Olympic event. Poetry and folklore follow the sword through space and time and will continue to do so.