What is Fencing?
Fencing is the Olympic sport of sword fighting which is directly descended from the duel. Two competitors face off in a "bout", and compete to score points on each other with their weapons. To beat an opponent, a fencer must use blade work, footwork, tactics and strategy. Fencing bouts are characterized by flurries of speed, highly aerobic movement, and lightning-fast blade movements.
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The Foil is a synthetic weapon. It was originally designed by fencing teachers as a lighter, safer training substitute for real weapons. The foil has a small, round hand-guard and a blade that is rectangular in cross-section. Foil fencers score touches with the tip of the blade, and are allowed to hit anywhere on the opponent's torso, including groin, chest and back (but not including arms, hands, legs and head). Foilists train to hit the chest, but a school of technique is also built around hitting the opponent's back with a move that bends the blade in a curve (the "flick").
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The Sabre is descended from the curved cavalry sword. It has a basket-shaped hand-guard that completely covers the hand, and a blade which is Y-shaped in cross-section. Sabre fencers can score with the tip, but more commonly use the edge of the weapon to make "cuts" to the target. Sabre is the only edged weapon in fencing. Sabre fencers can hit any part of the opponent's body above the waist. Sabreurs often train to hit the opponent's hand, since it is a close target, and the opponent's head, since it is easy to hit with an edged weapon.
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The Epee is descended from the dueling rapier, and has a large hand-guard and a blade which has a V-shaped cross-section. Epee fencers score touches with the tip of the blade, and are allowed to hit any part of the opponent's body. Epeeists often train to hit the opponent's hand, toe and leg, since these are the closest targets.
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The Errol Flynn Syndrome
Perhaps the most potent advertising medium for fencing is the movies. They give most of us our first glimpse of swordplay. And it is always favorable. The hero, who is us, always wins. It's a fact that these movies can inspire us to seek out our first fencing schools. Movies inspire many to give fencing a try. People who might not otherwise ever think of picking up a foil. On the other hand, movies mislead the fledgling fencer, emphasizing all the wrong elements of the game: the dash, the flash, and the bash.
Fencing takes dedication. It's an ongoing process that truly never ends. Be aware of this before you start, and you won't find yourself as a casualty of the Errol Flynn Syndrome.
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What to expect in classes..
Expect to be tired...
Though fencing only uses a 14-meter strip, most of the movement consists of short sprints, requiring good conditioning. If you do not have it at the beginning of class, don't worry, you will have a good start by the end. A solid understanding and use of footwork is vital to successful fencing. Having good footwork allows you to become a far more versatile fencer than bad, sloppy, or poorly executed footwork will. Mobility is the key to victory in fencing and it will be the first thing to be covered in class.
When teaching fencing, instructors often start new fencers with the foil. Because of its origin as a training weapon, the foil comes with a set of rules, technique and conventions that translate easily to the epee and sabre. As students become comfortable with the concepts of fencing, they can switch to the other weapons. Many students opt to stay with foil, however, and it is frequently the most popular weapon at tournaments.
In recent times, high-level fencing has been increasingly taught by weapon specialists, and the "foil-first" approach has been challenged by the successes of fencers who only ever fenced Sabre or Epee.
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Use of Club Equipment
Fencing equipment is expensive, and the Cape Fear Fencing Club is fortunate to have a reasonable amount of gear for use by its members. The club policy is that members and class participants use club equipment while they remain members. Other members who are beginner fencers may use club equipment for the first six months, after which they are expected to purchase their own weapons, mask, plastron, etc. Electric scoring boxes, spools and ground leads are available for use by all club members during club times. Note that club equipment may only be used by club members.
Please handle the equipment carefully. If something breaks, it is placed in the 'broken equipment box' - working spools have colored tape on them, so if one of these breaks just remove the tape (don't try putting a spool up in the box). Just about everything can be fixed by the Armourer, although this is very time consuming and we rely on club members to assist in repairing equipment. If you find that there is a shortage of working equipment, why not volunteer to help fix some? Most gear is easy to fix, and anyone can learn how to do it - our Armourer is happy to teach interested parties, and members are expected to attend regular sessions to repair equipment.
Please put away/hang up all equipment where you found it. Although this may seem like common sense, the equipment room rapidly becomes a mess when people don't take care. Members are all expected to help set up and put away the electric equipment and fencing strips.
Finally - don't take any equipment home. Club gear belongs to the club, and although some gear is available for various competitions, you must sign for this (see a member of the Executive) - failure to do this will be considered theft.