5 Things You Didn’t Know about Competitive Fencing

You may be well versed in the modern sport, but how many of these historical facts did you already know?

  1. Fencers don’t really duel anymore … do they?

Well, not anymore. But as recently as the 1924 Olympics, the captain of the Italian foil team and the son of the coach for the Hungarian team entered into a real duel over a scoring controversy. The duel was fought near the Hungarian border with heavy sabres and ended after just two minutes. Supposedly, the Hungarian won by landing a blow to the side of the Italian’s forehead. Thankfully this was not a fight to the death—the duel was stopped but the Italian was temporarily blinded and he required 12 stitches!

  1. The longest official fencing bout ever was …

Over five hours long! The duel was set up by US Olympians in 2005 to raise money for the USFA. The American foilists, Johnathan Tiomkin and Jedidiah Dupree, took a five-minute break each hour and amazingly were still standing even after five hours of combat! Tiomkin made the final touch for the ending score of 208-209. And along with being Olympians they are now both Guinness World Record holders for the longest lasting duel.

There are also rumors of a Masters Championship bout in New York in the 1930s that lasted for seven hours, but that since Guinness didn’t start until 1951, it isn’t official in their book. However, the storied seven-hour bout is supposedly the reason that the 30-minute time limit was introduced. It has since been reduced even further to just three minutes for five-touch bouts and nine minutes for 15 touches.

  1. The reason sabre doesn’t count below the belt …

You may not be aware of the origins of sabre, but it is historically related to fighting in the cavalry. You know, on horses. Because it was considered un-chivalrous to strike a horse during battle, the same rules were applied to the sport. However, since modern day fencers don’t ride horses, the most logical solution was to only count hits above the waist.

There is one sport today that combines horse riding and fencing. It’s called the modern pentathlon, but the two activities are performed separately in the sequence of disciplines. Maybe it’s time to bring them back together!

  1. The reason our uniforms are white …

Have you ever wondered why fencing uniforms are required to be white? Well, back when fencing was done with the intention of drawing blood, it was easy to spot a hit as the blood leaked through clothing. However, as the sport moved away from doing actual physical harm, fencers used ink dabs at the end of their swords to mark a hit. Obviously, white was the easiest color for the ink dab to show up against. And the rest is fencing history.

  1. But how do they decide what’s a hit and what isn’t?

As you know, your epees are electronically wired to count a touch when it registers 750 grams of force. But where on Earth did that number originate? Well, as we already discussed (and everyone well knows) fencing originated from duels, which were intended to draw blood. As the sport modernized it was important to keep in touch with its roots. 750 grams of force is thought to be as much tension as it takes to break the skin. In a traditional duel, honor was done when first blood was drawn, and thus we still require 750 grams to count a touch.


Source :’Academy of fencing masters Blog’


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