Difference Between Foil And Sabre Fencing

If you’re just beginning fencing and need to wrap your head around the basics, the best place to get started is learning the different styles of fencing. 

The different types of fencing also have different types of blades, so that will also be discussed here.

Difference Between Foil And Sabre Fencing

All styles of fencing have different rules which need to be followed so as to not lose points, so finding a fencing style with rules that suit you is important to enjoying (and winning) the sport.

So let’s see the difference between the Foil and Sabre fencing!

Foil Fencing

The Foil is the smallest and most lightweight form of fencing with a maximum weight of 500 grams (1.1 pounds), however, most Foil fencers take advantage of a more lightweight 350 gram (0.77 pound) blade.

Foil fencers use a rectangular-shaped blade and can only contact from the tip of the blade will count as a point. Foil fencers also must wear a lamé, not for the sake of protection, but for scoring points.

Foil has the most precise point-scoring area, with only the torso being a valid area to score points. This means that any area under the waist, the arms, neck, head, and hands will not score points. 

The blade in Foil fencing can be no longer than 90 cm (35.43 inches) and the whole sword has to be under 110 cm (43.31 inches)

The encouraged style of movement when competing in Foil fencing is thrusting to maximize the chance of just the tip of the blade making contact.

Because of this, Foil blades are the most flexible in fencing to minimize the chances of injury and to allow for multiple strategies and masterful control over the blade.

The final factor to consider when choosing Foil fencing is that this style is governed by the priority rule.

This rule means that the point scorer is not the fencer who makes first contact, but is the fencer who has ‘gained priority’. This is done by the fencer who carries out the most properly executed attack.

Sabre Fencing

Sabre Fencing

Sabre fencing is much more free form than Foil fencing.

Its blade has the same maximum weight as a Foil at 500 grams (1.1 pounds) but instead of a flexible rectangular blade, the Sabre has a flat edge due to this form of fencing being less focused on thrusting and instead allowing slashing.

Because of this, Sabre swords in fencing can only reach a maximum of 1.05 meters (41.3 inches).

With slashing motions being the focus of Sabre fencing, it has a wider valid hit area than Foil, with everything above the waist being legal with the exception of hands. This means that the arms, neck, and face are all valid targets.

As well as this, Sabre fencers also wear a lamé for collecting points.

Sabre is a much more aggressive style of fencing. It is incredibly fast and requires a quick reaction speed since instead of just the tip you have to dodge the whole blade.

On top of this, there is much more of you that is a target, with only below the waist being safe.

This style of fencing also utilizes the priority rule, with correctly executed strikes gaining points over those which aren’t. However, because this is a different style of fencing, what is a correct strike is very different from Foil fencing.

What About Épée?

Épée fencing is quite similar to foil fencing but with just a slightly different set of rules.

One of the biggest differences is the different styles of the blade, with Épée blades being up to 770 grams (1.7 pounds) and being a triangular shape. 

Arguably, what makes this form the most unique is the big target with no part of the body being out of bounds. This makes this form of fencing very intense and fast-paced, even having to worry about below the waist getting hit.

On top of this, Épée fencing is not governed by the priority rule, with simply the first to hit being rewarded with the point and even simultaneous hits both being awarded with points.

However, to be awarded points, the impact does have to reach a maximum impact of 7.4 newtons.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Best Type Of Fencing For Beginners?

Foil is generally considered the best style of fencing for beginners.

The lightweight blade makes it easy to pick up and wield, and the more specific rules mean that newcomers have less to worry about (e.g. having to protect more parts of their body).

If you want to be eased into fencing as a sport and as a hobby, Foil is the best style, to begin with.

What Is The Cheapest Type Of Fencing?

The most affordable way to get you or your child into fencing is to not privately own all of your equipment but to join a club, society, or group which owns a range of fencing equipment to try out.

This saves a hefty initial investment for something you might not even enjoy. It also allows trying out all the different types of fencing before maybe choosing your favorite and eventually spending money.

While in most countries fencing is not the most common sport, clubs are in most major cities, all you need to do is look out for them. Even if they don’t advertise it, most clubs will give an option to rent equipment.

Is Fencing A Safe Sport?

Even though fencing features a famously recognizable level of protective equipment, a sport that revolves around swordplay can still feel risky.

However, because of the way the swords are made, the majority of injuries will be bruises at most. Like most sports, the most common injuries in fencing are due to not warming up correctly, like strained muscles or spraining.

When Can Children Start Learning To Fence?

While there aren’t many legal requirements, the age most children will begin to efficiently learn to fence is around age 9. However, some clubs recommend 7 years old, while others may offer even lower ages for classes.

This can go the other way and some classes may not accept children until they are in the double digits

Final Thoughts

There you have it — the differences not just between Foil and Sabre fencing, but Épée too! Even though the general concept of each fencing style is the same, the devil is in the details.

They’re actually very different pursuits, and most of the time, fencers will stick to one and master it. So, which fencing style appealed the most to you?

Christopher Anderson
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