The sport of fencing is a direct descendent of duelling, and as such is probably the oldest of the western martial arts. It may in fact be the world's oldest martial art, since there is an Egytian tomb carving that depicts two people facing off with masks similar to what we wear today, swords with balls on the end, and a referree in the background. Unlike many other competetive martial arts, fencing is full contact -- if you don't hit your opponent with your sword, it doesn't count.
What you see in the movies is also fencing, but much slower than the real thing and with overly large moves so that you can see what is going on. In modern fencing competition, the swords and uniforms are wired with electricity and sometimes it feels like the action moves just as fast. The rules for fencing are set by the FIE, the Federation Internationale d'Escrime, a French organization formed in the late 1800's. Fencing was one of the events in the first modern Olympic games in 1896 and has continued to be in every games since then. Fencing was one of the first to allow women to compete at the Olympics, though initially only in foil. The official site for the United States Fencing Association is www.usfencing.org.
We work with three different kinds of weapon in fencing. Foil and Epee are point thrust weapons, which means you can only score a point by hitting your opponent with the point. In Foil the target is the torso, front and back, while in Epee the valid target is the whole body, including feet, hands, head, everything. Sabre, modelled after the cavalry sabre, is a cut and thrust weapon, so you can score points by a slash that hits the valid target, which is everything above the waist, as well as by hitting with the point.
If you become involved in fencing you will hear references to "classical" fencing. This is, as near as I can tell, essentially the kind of fencing that was done at the Olympics prior to the use of electric scoring. However, it sometimes refers to learning about how to use real swords. There is also the Society for Creative Anachronism, where meetings often feature sword fighting with gear that is almost exactly like that used by knights in shinning armor. If you don't mind wearing forty pounds of armor and like swing big heavy (though usually wooden) swords, then this is for you. Most SCA members not only enjoy re-enacting medieval life, but also take great pains to be accurate in both their costumes and their sword and other weaopn techniques.
A clear description of modern sport fencing can be found at the USFA site, select New To Fencing and then What is fencing from the menu of the left.
We meet on Fridays at 7 p.m. at the YMCA on Ellis, the Firley center. This is the Y that is just past the first light going east on Ellis after exiting from 54.
The Y sponsors an on-going class on Tuesday evenings at the same location, 7-9pm.
We've also got a yahoo group for mailing announcements and such, it's at Jeff City Swords.
We are too small at this point to host any competitions, but we do get up to Columbia a few times a year to participate in theirs, and
to St. Louis when we can. If you want to compete in USFA sponsored competitions, you'd have to join them. We're in the St. Louis Division.
Directions the main site for the St. Louis competitions:
From Jeff City, take 70 east toward St. Louis. Get off on 64 and follow it all the way to the last exit before you reach 270. If you see the Morman temple on your left, you've gone too far, go past 270, exit and come back.
You will want to be driving down the frontage road on the north of 40/64, just under the Morman temple. Go on past it a few hundred yards and you should see a sign for the Missouri Baptist College. Go in there, down to the parking lot, then up around the buildings, following the main road. Park on top to the left and to the right, set back a little bit from the road, is the gym. The tournement will be in there. Try to get there by 11:30 at the latest.
This is not a good thing for a beginner to try, and might not work anyway:
How to make noodle swords, a fun way to introduce people to the sport of fencing. Also handy for timing drills.
This is the home site of the United States Fencing Association USFA home site
Last update: July 2008.
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