WELCOME TO FENCING
Sierra Blades was formed in 2015 to provide both youth fencing classes, youth fencing camps, and continuing education classes in collaboration with Truckee Meadows Community College and Western Nevada College.
The club has a 1500 square foot facility at the Academy of Art, Careers and Technology near the Reno Airport.
Foil, epee and saber are the three weapons used in the sport of fencing. While it is not unusual for fencers to compete in all three events, an athlete typically chooses to hone their skills in one weapon.
The foil us a descendant of the light court sword formally used by nobility to train for duels. The foil has a flexible rectangular blade, approximately 35 inches in length and weighs less than one pound. Points are scored with the tip of the blade and must land within the torso of the body. The valid target area in foil is the torso from the shoulders to the groin in the front and to the waist in the back. It does not include the arms, neck, head and legs. This concept of on-target and off-target evolved from the theory of 18th-century fencing masters who instructed their pupils to only attack the vital areas of the body – i.e. the torso. Of course, the head is also a vital area of the body, but attacks to the face were considered unsporting and therefore discouraged.
The foil fencer’s uniform includes a metallic vest (called a lamé), which covers the valid target area so that a valid touch will register on the scoring machine. The flexible nature of the foil blade permits the modern elite foil fencer to attack an opponent from seemingly impossible angles.
The epee (pronounced “EPP-pay,” meaning sword in French), the descendant of the dueling sword, is similar in length to the foil, but is heavier, weighing approximately 27 ounces, with a larger guard (to protect the hand from a valid hit) and a much stiffer blade. Touches are scored only with the point of the blade, and the entire body, head-to-toe, is the valid target area, imitating an actual duel.
A full-body target naturally makes epee a competition of careful strategy and patience – wild, rash attacks are quickly punished with solid counter-attacks. Therefore, rather than attacking outright, epeeists often spend several minutes probing their opponent’s defences and maneuvering for distance before risking an attack. Others choose to stay on the defensive throughout the entire bout.
1996 was the first Olympics to feature team and individual Women’s Epee events.
OBJECT OF 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.
RIGHT OF WAY
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 – 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 – on foil and saber – 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.
The first thing that many parents want to know before their children participate in any activity is "why?" There are many reasons that children should participate in athletic activities: team and individual sports help build confidence, are a great way to meet and interact with a diverse group of people, and, if continued into adulthood, are part of a healthy and active lifestyle. But why, specifically, should your child become a fencer?
ATHLETECISM AND HEALTH
According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 20% of US children and adolescents are overweight or obese. According to the same set of statistics, more than half of all US adults are overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese can lead to severe problems later in life, such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and some forms of cancer.
One of the best ways to prevent obesity, and the problems that come with it, is to exercise. Exercise can mean going to the gym, and sitting on a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill, but these kinds of activities just don't appeal to most children. Young children and adolescents need activities that are fun and engaging, as well as healthy. Fencing is one such activity. Anyway, who hasn't seen a pirate movie and wanted to become a swashbuckler?
Fencing is a great activity for building strength, stamina, and endurance. A good fencer is one who has the strength to move quickly down the strip, the stamina to go 15 touches with an opponent without slowing down, and the endurance to fence multiple opponents with only a few minutes of rest in between. Also, unlike many other sports, fencing is an activity that people can continue to participate in as they age. The oldest active fencer at RSB over 70!
Fencing is a great activity to help keep young children and adolescents healthy, and can last a lifetime!
HONOR AND TRADITION
Fencing is a sport with old roots. Fencers have appeared in Egyptian murals and medieval tapestries. Modern fencing has evolved from the honor-bound dueling rituals of the Renaissance. While the aesthetics and style of fencing has changed a great deal in the last couple of thousand years, many of the old traditions of honor and respect are still very important.
In a modern bout, before the two fencers engage each other, they will remove their masks, look into each other's eyes from across the strip, and salute each other as a sign of respect. They will then salute their referee, should one be presiding, to show the same respect. In a large venue with many spectators, they will also salute the audience.
During the bout, actions can occur quickly, and it may be difficult for a referee to see exactly what happened. Even with electric scoring devices, it is commonplace, and even expected, for fencers to acknowledge when they have been hit by their opponents, or when the referee has awarded them a point that they do not deserve. This kind of humility and ability to admit to errors is almost unique to fencing. Imagine a baseball game in which the first baseman tells an umpire that a runner was actually safe after he had been called out. Imagine a hockey game without a brawl. It is hard to imagine that kind of honor and respect to the other team in hockey, baseball, or almost any other sport. However, in fencing, this kind of behavior is not only commonplace, but expected.
Finally, at the end of a bout, fencers will again remove their masks, salute, then join each other at the center of the strip to shake hands and congratulate each other on a bout well fenced. Both winning and losing are handled with grace and civility.
Many would claim that our culture is in a state of decline -- that people no longer show proper respect to each other. In this environment, we believe that the modern sport of fencing is an oasis of chivalry, civility, and honor.