is the European martial art, offering a physical and mental
challenge with a touch of glamour. It combines speed and fitness
with the need to be completely focussed on out-thinking your
opponent. Because of this emphasis on speed and skill rather
than brute strength, fencing is a good sport for women as
well as men. It has been part of the Olympic Games since their
revival in 1896.
origins of modern fencing date from the 16th century when
the rapier became an item of fashion among the nobility. The
first sporting fencing weapon was the foil, which was introduced
in mid-17th century France. Its rules, which restrict valid
hits to the trunk of the body, were developed to allow the
skills of swordplay to be demonstrated in safety.
Until the invention of the wire mask in the mid-18th century,
fencing was a rather static exercise, with fencers taking
it in turns to make attacks. Masks changed this, allowing
the instant parry-riposte and a much more mobile style of
the second fencing weapon, was introduced in France in the
1860s as a reaction against the artificial conventions of
foil. It was intended to recreate the conditions of a duel
as closely as possible and the target is any part of the body.
The third fencing weapon, sabre, is derived from the cavalry
sword. In the late 19th century an Italian fencing master
developed a lightweight fencing sabre that could be manipulated
with the speed and accuracy of a foil and was fought under
all three weapons are fenced with electric equipment that
is used to indicate the arrival and validity of hits. At foil
and sabre, valid hits are restricted to a target area covered
by a conductive metallic over-jacket, plus the mask for sabre.
The rest of the kit is comfortable and looks good too: close-fitting
white jacket and breeches, white socks and special trainers.
There are around 10,000 fencers in the UK and over 400 fencing
clubs affiliated to the British Fencing Association.
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