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Fencing: What it is, its history, and how to take part

So, you want to learn how to fence? Maybe you were inspired during the last Olympics or just want a new way to keep fit. Whatever your reason for wanting to pick up a sword, you’re sure to love this dynamic and tactical sport.

In this guide, we’re talking about everything fencing: its history, its current form and how you can get started.

What is fencing?

Modern fencing is an exciting sport that is enjoyed by people of all ages and walks of life. It’s a physical and mental workout that calls on practitioners to hone their strategies as well as their stamina.

Fencing is an umbrella term for three sports, each with its own sword: foil, sabre and épée. These different forms come with slightly different rules, but the general aim is to score points by using your sword to touch your opponent’s body before they can touch yours.

The history of fencing

Historians believe that swords were first crafted during the Bronze Age, when humans began metalworking in earnest from 3300-1200 BC. Though this is a long-established fact, it’s further corroborated by the many ancient swords that are still found today.

Yet it wasn’t until the 18th century in Europe that sword fighting became an organised recreational activity. It was during this time that today’s “foil” was smithed, masks were donned, and formal rules of engagement developed.

In London, the sport is thought to largely have been popularised by an Italian fencing master named Domenico Angelo. As well as teaching gentlemen and royalty the art of swordplay, Angelo published a masterwork called L’ecole des armes. His “School of Fencing” is on display at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds and you can still see many of the forms displayed in its pages in professional fencing competitions today.

Fencing was featured in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and has been a permanent fixture ever since.

How to get into fencing

You may be wondering if fencing is a good fit for you. Perhaps you think you’re too old, too short or tall, or not athletic enough. Yet none of these attributes will stop you from fencing. You could hardly find a more accessible sport.

There are hundreds of fencing clubs to join across the UK. Simply find one that’s close to you and begin your journey. When you do, it’s a prudent idea to become a member of British Fencing.

Doing so will give you access to many benefits, like sports insurance, meaning you can have peace of mind that you’re covered if you ever get injured.