INTRODUCTION…A FENCING HISTORY
Fencing, both as a sport and a form of warfare, has been in existence for
4,000 years. An early sporting match was captured in a relief carving in
the temple of Madinet-Habu at Luxor, Egypt. The weapons are shown to
have blunted tips, and the fencers are wearing masks. The carving also
shows the spectators, officials, and a scorekeeper.
During the Middle Ages, the swords grew into heavy and clumsy weapons
to bludgeon one's opponent into submission.
The rapier developed the effective use of the point of the weapon and
with it more refined footwork, including the lunge. Since the rapier was a
rather long weapon and unwieldy at closer quarters, the other hand used
a dagger, which provided much of the defense while the rapier was going
for the hit.
In the seventeenth century, the French developed the shorter court sword,
which every gentleman wore, ready to defend his or his lady's honor at
the slightest provocation. The court sword replaced the rapier and in so
doing also made the dagger obsolete because the shorter court sword
could be controlled more easily both offensively and defensively.
Masks were not in general use until the end of the eighteenth century.
The invention of the mask made even more complex movements possible
without great danger of injury. Rules and conventions have continued to
develop to keep the sport fast and interesting both for the fencer and the
In 1896 fencing was one of the original sports in the Olympics and has
remained there ever since.