This article is from the Fencing FAQ, by Morgan Burke with numerous contributions by others.
The Olympic sport of fencing is comprised of three weapons: foil,
epee, and sabre. All are fenced on a long rectangular strip, and
electronic scoring aids are normally used to assist in the
detection of touches. The rules governing these three weapons
are determined by the FIE (Federation Internationale d'Escrime).
Briefly, the FIE weapons are described as follows:
Foil: Descended from the 18th century small sword, the foil has a
thin, flexible blade with a square cross-section and a small
bell guard. Touches are scored with the point on the torso of
the opponent, including the groin and back. Foil technique
emphasizes strong defense and the killing attack to the body.
Epee: Similar to the duelling swords of the late 19th century,
epees have stiff blades with a triangular cross section,
and large bell guards. Touches are scored with the point,
anywhere on the opponent's body. Unlike foil and sabre, there
no rules of right-of-way to decide which attacks have precedence,
and double hits are possible. Epee technique emphasises timing,
point control, and a good counter-attack.
Sabre: Descended from duelling sabres of the late 19th century,
which were in turn descended from naval and cavalry swords, sabres
have a light, flat blade and a knuckle guard. Touches can be
scored with either the point or the edge of the blade, anywhere
above the opponent's waist. Sabre technique emphasises speed,
feints, and strong offense.
The most popular of eastern fencing techniques is kendo, the Japanese
"Way of the Sword". Kendo is fought with a bamboo shinai, intended
to resemble a two-handed Japanese battle sword. Combatants wear
armour, and strike to the top or sides of the head, the sides of the
body, the throat, or the wrists. Accepted technique must be
observed, and judges watch for accuracy, power, and spirit. See the
Japanese Sword Arts FAQ for more information.
Other martial arts that include elements of swordsmanship are:
Aikido -- self defence against armed and unarmed attackers. Includes
using and defending oneself against Japanese sword techniques.
Arnis, Escrima, Kali -- Phillipino stick and knife disciplines.
Iaido -- the Japanese art of the sword draw (also Iaijutsu and
batto-jutsu, more combat-oriented variants of the same).
Jogo do Pau -- a Portuguese stick-fighting discipline.
Jojutsu -- a Japanese stick-fighting discipline.
Kalaripayitt -- includes sword and weapons techniques from south
Kenjutsu -- the unadulterated Japanese martial art of the sword.
Krabi Krabong -- a Thai martial art that includes many sword forms.
Kumdo -- A Korean variant of Kendo.
Kung-fu -- a Chinese martial art that includes many sword techniques.
La Canne -- French Boxing, with a single-handed stick, using
rules similar to classical fencing.
Le Baton -- similar to La Canne, but with a longer, 2-handed stick.
Maculele -- Afro-Brazilian machete forms, related to Capoeira.
Mensur -- German fraternity "duelling", with schlagers.
Modern Pentathlon -- the "soldier's medley", a sport that recreates
demands placed on a pre-20th century military messenger: running,
swimming, shooting, equestrian jumping, and epee fencing.
Pentjak Silat -- Indonesian arts that include sword and stick forms.
Single Stick -- an ancestor of sabre fencing, fought with a
basket-hilted wooden rod.
SCA duello -- rapier-like fencing in the round, with off-hand
techniques. Additional info on the SCA can be found in the
SCA heavy lists -- medieval-style heavy combat, with rattan weapons,
armour, and shields. Additional info on the SCA can be found in the
Shinkendo -- real-sword-oriented variant of Kendo.
Tai Chi -- another Chinese martial art that includes many sword