¡¡¡¡Object of the Bout
¡¡¡¡The object of a fencing bout (¡°game¡±) is to effectively score 15 points (in direct elimination play) or five points (in preliminary pool play) before your opponent, or have a higher score than your opponent when the time limit expires. Points are received by making a touch in the opponent¡¯s target area. Direct elimination matches consist of three, three-minute periods with a one-minute break between each.
¡¡¡¡The right-of-way rule was established to eliminate apparently simultaneous attacks between two fencers. This rule is only applied to foil and saber and the difference is important only when both the red and green lights go on at the same time. When this happens, the winner of the point is the one who the referee determines held the right-of-way at the time the lights went on. The most basic, and important, precept of the right-of-way is that the fencer who started the attack first will receive the point if they hit the valid target area. Naturally, the fencer who is being attacked must defend himself or herself with a parry, or somehow cause their opponent to miss in order to take over right-of-way and score a point. A fencer who hesitates for too long while advancing on their opponent gives up right-of-way to their opponent. The referee may determine that the two fencers truly attacked each other simultaneously. The simultaneous attack results in no points being awarded, and the fencers are ordered back en garde by the referee to continue fencing.
¡¡¡¡In saber, the fencer who starts to attack first is given priority should his opponent counter-attack. However, saber referees are much less forgiving of hesitation by an attacker. It is common to see a saber fencer execute a stop cut against their opponent¡¯s forearm during such a moment of hesitation, winning right-of-way and the point.
¡¡¡¡Epee does not use the right-of-way in keeping with its dueling origin. He who first gains touch earns the point, or if both fencers hit within 1/25th of a second both earn a point.
¡¡¡¡Following the Action
¡¡¡¡The fencer being attacked defends himself by use of a ¡°parry,¡± a motion used to deflect the opponent¡¯s blade, after which the defender can make a ¡°riposte,¡± an answering attack. Whenever a hit is made, the referee will stop the bout, describe the action, and decide whether to award a touch. Fencers seek to maintain a safe distance from each other ¨C that is out of the range of the opponent¡¯s attack. Then, one will try to break this distance to gain the advantage for an attack. At times, a fencer will make a false attack to gauge the types of reactions of their opponent.
¡¡¡¡When a fencer lands a hit, the referee stops the bout and ¨C on foil and saber ¨C determines who was the attacker, if their opponent successfully defended themselves, and which fencer should be awarded a touch, if any.
¡¡¡¡While it may be difficult to follow the referee¡¯s calls (not helped by the fact that the officiating is performed in French!) the referee always clearing raises their hand and on the side of the fencer for whom they have awarded a point. Watching these hand signals can make it easier for newcomers to follow the momentum of a fencing bout without understanding all of the intricacies of the rules.
¡¡¡¡Fencing ¨C the Game
¡¡¡¡Fencing is played on a metal strip, or piste, which measures approximately 2 meters wide and 14 meters long. Points (or touches) scored in a bout are registered on an electronic scoring machine. The machine receives an electrical impulse when the spring tip of the foil or epee is depressed or, in Saber when there adequate contact with the opponent by the blade. The strip is grounded to prevent touches being accidentally scored on the playing surface.
¡¡¡¡In the preliminary rounds, each fencing bout is fenced for five touches, with a time limit of 3 minutes. In the later rounds, for all events except the Youth events, each bout is fencing to a maximum of 15 touches. The bout is separated into three rounds of three minutes, with a one-minute rest period between rounds. In the event that the score is tied when time has elapsed, the referee will randomly determine priority (with a coin toss or equivalent) for one fencer. Fencing will continue for one additional minute. The first touch to score ends the bout. If the score remains tied at the end of the additional minute, the fencer with priority will win.
¡¡¡¡What to Expect Your First Time Fencing
¡¡¡¡Expect a workout! Fencing involves a lot of movement, comparable to tennis or basketball. If you're trying fencing for the first time, please wear athletic shoes and sweat pants. Be prepared to do some light warm-up and stretching exercises (supervised by WANGHAIBIN's coaching staff), as well as exercises in the basic motions of fencing.
¡¡¡¡Does it hurt?
¡¡¡¡Not if done properly. Even if executed with appreciable energy, a good, clean fencing attack hurts no more than a tap on the shoulder. The force of the blow is normally absorbed by the flex of the blade. Reckless and overly aggressive fencers can occasionally deliver somewhat painful blows. However, fencing is a martial art, so you should expect minor bruises every now and again. They are seldom intentional. The most painful blows tend to come from inexperienced fencers who have not yet acquired the feel of the weapon.
¡¡¡¡The primary source of injury in fencing is from pulled muscles and joints. Proper warm up and stretching before fencing will minimize these occurrences. As with any sport or physical activity there is always a risk of injury. Common sense precautions and realistic training goals are the best prevention.
¡¡¡¡Is Fencing Safe?
¡¡¡¡Fencing is a very safe and lifelong sport. It is an extraordinarily safe sport considering its heritage and nature. If you are new to fencing, the first question you'll likely ask is, "Are the weapons real? Are they sharp?" Yes, they are "real". No, they are not sharp. The ends are blunted and covered by either a rubber tip or flat metal "button". The risk of being injured by broken weapons is rare. Proper protective gear significantly reduces any potential risk. Centuries of fencing practice have led us to state of the art protection. Today, the best fencing jackets, pants and masks are often made with puncture-resistant fabrics such as "bullet-proof" Kevlar.
¡¡¡¡Anyone can learn to fence safely with the right instruction. The common-sense safety rules and guidelines are what make this sport safe and enjoyable.