Fencing rapiers

Learn more about Rapier Swords and Fencing Techniques

Early rapiers, as noted in the article history of rapier, were heavy and used decisively for cutting and thrusting. This was soon replaced with new designs of rapiers, which were extended to longer lengths and made more slender. Their main purpose became more obvious: they were intended solely for thrusting purposes.

Modern day Rapiers

Sports organizations have acknowledged the art and discipline of sword fighting, particularly with the tradition of rapiers. It is for this reason that fencing has only three recognized swords to be used: epee, foil, and saber—all of which owe their development from the Renaissance rapier.

Epee: The heaviest fencing rapier

Epee has the stiffest of blades among the three. It descended from dueling swords of 19th century and is the heaviest among the three at 150 grams. As a dueling sword, epee has the freest of fencing techniques, since hits can be targeted at all points of the body. Because of this, the hilt has a larger bell guard to protect the hand. The gaming principle is simple: whoever hits first earns the score, and the two fencers earn each a score when they both hit at the same time.

Foil: The most popular fencing rapier

Foil is the most common type of fencing rapier used around the world. Its form is taken from the smallsword of 17th century masters teach their students in elementary fencing skills with foil as a starting sword. Unlike in epee, attacks are scored according to how logical and strategic they were made, not according to who has hit first. The principle on right-of-way (a situation where both fencers hit each other at the same time, and the point is awarded to whoever has attempted to attack first or has parried the last attack) applies. Only the torso is allowed to be hit.

Mastering a certain sword skill involves a lot of training and proper practice. Timing is also a big factor in winning.

Looking for a new game, look here, and make your move.

Sabre: The Fastest of Fencing Rapiers

It is believed that the sabre descended from the swords of mounted soldiers. Thus, fencing with sabre is different because the fencer can score with the edge AND point of the blade. Fencers cannot score in the same manner with epee or foil (where the only valid hits are made by thrusting the point). This is the reason why the attacks and parries are swift, and the game is fast-paced. The torso, arms, neck, face, and the head are the only target spots.

   Length of Blade  Weight  Pressure  Foil guards
 Epee  90 cm  770 grams  750 grams  12 cm
 Foil  89 cm  500 grams  500 grams  10 cm
 Sabre  88 cm  500 grams  none  10 cm

Fencing Rapier Sporting Event

In any competition or private practices, fencing is conducted on a small patch of space called piste. It is 1.5 x 2 x 14 meters in area. The fencers would stand about two meters from the center. Another line would be drawn out four meters from the center at both sides. Fencers who step out of this line would be penalized with a score going to the opponent.

Fencing Rapier Equipments

The Federation Internationale d’Escrime (FIE) sets out the official rules and regulations governing fencing as a sport. It is also tasked in providing guidelines on standard sword to be used, as well as other equipments. Some of the equipments mandated are the following:

• Fencing Mask – to be worn as a protective gear for the face. Bib at the neck is considered a standard. Following the fatal Smirnov incident (Vladimir Smirnov was a foil fencer who died during a World Championship round because of the opponent’s broken foil that went through his mask and into his skull in 1982), the FIE had made stringent requirements for the making of the fencing mask.

• Electric Fencing Rapier – to be used as a standard sword for fighting. Electronic circuits are installed in order to aid scoring.

• Fencing Jacket, breeches and undergarments - to be worn as protection for the body. They are made of special type of fabric and added with synthetic fiber (Kevlar), so they could withstand pressure-points, punctures, and tearing.

• Flat Fencing Shoes – to be worn as support for the feet. The pair has to have enough strength to prevent wearing from constant lunging and complex footwork.

Basic Fencing Rapier Techniques
When people think of fencing, they imagine the fast exchanges and flashing of blades. It is actually just half of the truth, as fencing is more complicated than simply crashing one rapier onto the enemy’s sword. There are three basic techniques that you need to remember at all times: footwork, bladework, and timing.

Basic fencing footwork stance: Start off on the right foot

Really, you don’t have to fly, jump, or do acrobatics when fencing. Remember that masters rarely do such things to display their skills. What you need to do at the beginning of a bout is to observe a stable, well-grounded footwork. Here’s how:

1. Place your leading foot forward with toes pointing toward the opponent.
2. Step your other foot behind the leading foot. The two heels must be in line.
3. Place your back foot perpendicular to your leading foot. Imagine that your feet are forming a letter L.
4. Bend your knees slightly.
5. Keep your torso, back, shoulder, and neck relaxed while keeping them erect.
6. Extend your sword arm by bending your elbow and raising your forearm about 30 degrees from horizontal. The sword in your hands will be pointing towards the torso of your opponent.
7. Put your opponent in plain, clear view by making sure that your head and chin are up.

Basic fencing bladework stance: KISS (Keep it simple & swift)

Keep your bladework simple, and you would be surprise there is so much power in simplicity. Here are some fencing rapier bladework exercises:

• Attack – It is the easiest basic fencing technique. Make sure the stability of your footwork and gravity. Extend your sword arm together with corresponding footsteps and thrust your sword toward the opponent’s valid target spot.

• Cut – Make sure the stability of your footwork and gravity. Do the necessary legwork, chop your sword in the air, and land the edge or point to your opponent’s valid target spots. (A landing on the edge is a score only in sabre.)

• Feint – A feint is a fake blade action intended to fool or deceive the opponent to perform a parry. Make sure the stability of your footwork and gravity. Observe essential legwork, attack or cut in one direction, and quickly switch it to another direction for a swift landing.

In fencing rapier, timing is everything

Fencing is about timing: being at the right time at the right position with the right footwork and bladework stances. This is of course easier said than done. The only way you can master such skill is to practice. You can nurture your budding fencing career by signing up summer short courses on fencing at your locality or your nearest martial art school.

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