Fencing Weapons and Rules

Written by KarelAdmin
Sunday, 04 October 2009

There are three weapons being used in fencing sport, differing also in the rules and equipment. Also competitions are organized separately for the three disciplines, foil, epee, and sabre.

We concentrate on fencing foil and epee in our club, the sabre audience is limited (so far).

For all three weapons, electronic apparatus is used to register the hits (touche), which are signalised visually and acoustically. The apparatus is connected to the weapons and to the electrical equipment of the fencers (special clothing) with cables.

The fencers move in an area defined on the floor by a grounded rectagle 1.5-2m wide and 14m long (piste, planche). If one of them retreats behind the end (last meter), receives a penalty hit.

Similarly to other sports, breaking the rules is penalized, depending on severity and if repeated, using a yellow card (warning), red (penalty hit), or in the worst cases, black (exclusion from competition).

Foil (french: fleuret, german: Florett)

A conventional discipline. The "right of attack" convention is used when deciding about hit validity. The rules are relatively complicated, in short it means that when a hit is signalized on both sides, only one gets a point - the one who has the right. The right is gained by starting an attack as first. When the fencer breaks the attack or the adversary succesfully wards it off (e.g., by a parry), the right passes to him.

The weapon, called foil, is a light sports wapon with flexible blade of square cross section and a smaller hand guard. The hits are only achieved by the point (thrusts). There is an electrical switch (aret) on the blade tip, registering hits when pressed.


The fencers dress an "electrical vest" over the uniform - a vest without sleeves made of conductive material. The vest also determines the "valid target", or the body surface meaning a valid point when hit with the opponent's blade (with some exceptions due to the attack right rules). The valid target is only the torso. Hits to the remaining body surface are not valid and gain no points.

fleretová vesta

Epée (épée, Degen)

Epee should simulate a real fight not limited by conventions. "Right of attack" rules are not used - who hits first, gets the point. When both fencers are hit simultaneously (during 1/20s), both get a point (double hit). The valid target is the whole body including head, hands, and feet.

The epée is a heavier sports weapon with a little less flexible blade of a truiangular cross section and a larger, eccentrically mounted hand guard. The  epée is also used as a thrust-only weapon, and has a switch at the blade tip (aret), too.


As the valid surface is the whole fencer's body (from the mask down to the toes), no electrically conductive clothing is used for this discipline.

Sabre (sabre, Säbel)

Again a conventional discipline relying on right of attack rules, similarly to foil.

The sabre is a sports weapon with a flat blade and a massive hand guard extending as far as the handle end. Both thrusts and blows (cuts) are allowed in sabre. There is no electrical switch (aret) at the blade end. Hits can be achieved not only by touching with the blade point, but olso with the blade "sharp edge".


The valid target is the torso, arms, and head. Therefore, sabreists nowadays dress a special conductive sleeved vest over the uniform. Also the sabre mask is conductive and connected to the vest by a cable (foil masks have a conductive bib since 2009 and epee masks are not conductive at all).

šavlová vesta

The complete rules can be found at the International Fencing Federation (FIE) web.

Last Updated Friday, 01 March 2013
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