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Sport Overview

A battle of wits and technique, fencers move with grace and power, lightning-fast reflexes and the subtle shifts of defense and attack. Fencing bouts take place on a strip, or piste, measuring 14 metres in length by 1.5-2 metres wide, using three types of swords: foil, épée and sabre.

The U.S. finished strong at the Guadalajara 2011 Pan Am Games winning 11 gold and three silver medals. Canada placed second in the medal tally with one gold, four silver and three bronze, while Venezuela ranked third with three silver and five bronze.


The earliest evidence of fencing as a sport dates back to an Egyptian carving depicting a fencing bout from 1200 BC. The 15th century brought the beginnings of the modern sport as swordplay guilds began sprouting up across Europe. Over the next two centuries, the introduction of lighter training weapons, the development of a set of rules and the use of a wire-mesh mask greatly aided in growing the sport’s popularity.

How it works

Fencing bouts take place on a strip, or piste, measuring 14 metres in length by 2 metres (45.9 feet x 6.6 feet) wide. Fencing uses three types of swords: foil, epée and sabre.

In foil bouts, hits are scored by hitting an opponent with the tip of the weapon, and all hits must target the torso, including the back and shoulders, but not the arms. Touches that happen outside the target area (off target) stop the action and are not scored.

In epée, which is slightly heavier than the foil, all hits must be with the tip and not the sides of the blade, and target the entire body. Epée also allows simultaneous hits by both fencers.

The sabre is a light cutting and thrusting weapon that targets the entire body above the waist, except for the hands. Hits with the blade’s edge and tip are valid. Off-target touches do not stop the action. Individual fencing matches last until 15 hits are scored or nine minutes of effective fencing time has elapsed.

In the team event, nine matches are played in five-hit (or three-minute) intervals. The first team to score 45 hits wins.


A false attack that forces a fencer to react in such a way that it opens the door for a genuine attack.

An extension of the fencer’s forward leg, used in a basic attack.

On-guard line
A line on each side of the centre line where a fencer stands to begin or resume a bout.

A defensive play used to block the opponent’s blade.

Extension of the arm and sword toward the opponent.

Additional Information

Additional Information