OBJECTIVE OF FENCING: Score more points than your opponent by hitting your opponent’s target area.


MATERIALS: 1 sword for each player (foil, sabre, or épée, depending on the type of fencing played), protective fencing clothing for each player, 1 mask for each player




Fencing is one of the original Olympic sports that derived from the ancient sport of dueling. Although fencing might seem straightforward enough, to play fencing well, you’ll need strength, agility, accuracy, and speed.


The fencing strip is called the piste, a long and thin conductive strip on which the sport is played. The piste is 46 feet (14 meters) long and between 4.9 and 6.6 feet (1.5 and 2 meters) wide.

The center line goes through the middle of the piste, and 2 meters from the center line on each side are the en garde lines. 2 meters from the end of the piste on each end are the warning lines to let the players know that they are about to reach the end of the piste.

To begin the game, the two opponents stand on the en garde lines on their side of the piste.


Fencing is divided into three disciplines: foil, sabre, and épée, which is in large part determined by the type of sword used to play the sport as well as the target area.

In each discipline, the game begins when the players salute each other and the referee.

The objective is to score points using the sword to “hit” the opponent’s target area. A fencing “bout” comprises 3 periods of 3 minutes each, or until a player reaches 15 points, whichever comes first. There is a 1-minute break in between each period.

The two players move back and forth on the piste until a player is hit. Every time a player lands a legal hit on their opponent’s target area, they earn one point. The players use a mixture of offensive and defensive techniques to either gain a point or prevent their opponent from gaining a point.

Once a hit is scored, the players head back to their en garde lines to start again until the time is up or a player reaches 15 points.


Foil is the most common fencing discipline. It features the smallest and lightest sword. In foil, the target area is the torso and the back. A valid hit can only be made with the tip of the sword and cannot be made with the side of the blade.


Sabre is played slightly differently from the other two disciplines in that it is made up of 2 periods instead of 3. In sabre, the first period ends when one player gains 8 points. Then, after a 1-minute break, the second period starts and ends when one player reaches 15 points.

In sabre, the target area is anything above the waist, including the head. Sabre is also the only fencing discipline that allows players to slash their opponents instead of simply poking.


Épée is the slowest fencing disciple and features the largest and heaviest sword. The entire body is the target area in this discipline, but players are limited to hitting their opponents solely by the tip of their sword.


A priority also called right of way, is the rule where if the two players hit each other simultaneously, the point is awarded to the player that initiated the point. In other words, the offensive player gets the priority. This rule is only applicable to the foil and sabre disciplines.


The players must stay within the bounds of the piste during a fight. A point is deducted if a player accidentally crosses to the out-of-bounds area.


The referee in a fencing bout can give out penalties for certain wrongdoings. A yellow card is an initial warning, a red card gives a point to the opponent, and a black card is a disqualification.

Examples of wrongdoings that may lead to a yellow card include:

  • Delaying the bout
  • Making bodily contact with the opponent
  • Disobeying the referee
  • Removing equipment
  • Leaving the piste without permission

The following offenses could lead to a red card:

  • Repeated yellow card offenses
  • Falsified or improper inspection marks on equipment
  • Anything violent
  • Anything that violates safety rules

And finally, these offenses may lead to a black card:

  • Two red cards
  • Doping
  • Cheating
  • Failure to salute at the beginning and end of a bout


Fencing can be played in two teams if you have six players. In teams, a fencing game comprises 9 bouts. Each bout will last 3 minutes or until a team’s score reaches a multiple of 5, whichever comes first.


In individual fencing, the winner is the player that is first to reach 15 points or the player with the highest points when the bout is over. In team fencing, the winning team is the first to earn 45 points or the team with the highest points when the game is over.

In individual and team fencing, if the scores are tied at the end, an additional minute is played until a winner is determined.

Nakoa Davis