In short, fencing is a warfare art which consists of a series of attack and defense movements.
Following the history guidelines, I came to conclusion that fencing has witnessed all history periods.
The earliest evidence of fencing comes from Egypt dating back to about 1200 B.C. From Egypt the traces lead to Greek and Roman civilizations, which also favored fencing as a specific type of sport. With the collapse of the Roman Empire (476 A.D.) fencing was cast to oblivion. The Dark Ages of fencing lasted during the Renaissance period (around 14th century).
The 15th century put the basis of modern fencing. This is when the rapier entered in wide use. Spain was the first state to give birth to the first true fencers. Then, Italy followed the same path accepting rapiers. There are well known Italian fencing masters like Agrippa, Vigiani, Grassi, etc. They were the inventors of the main fencing positions.
Beginning with the 16th century fencing was used in duels, which later became a matter of charges against the fencers and duelists.
Principals and terminology…
In the German schools of swordsmanship there were three principle actions (Drey Wunder): the thrust, the cut, and the slicing (Schnitt). The thrust was used primarily at longer range, the cut at medium range, and the slice more at closer range.
As I mentioned above medieval fencing distinguished two principles of action:
-Offensive principle of fighting (Vor)
-Defensive or countering principle of fighting (Nach)
A German Master of Defense or martial arts expert was called Fechtmeister (Fight Master), the equivalent of the German term exists in Italian – Meastro de’ Arme’ (Master of Arms).
It also should be mentioned that the Middle Ages are rich in fighting schools. The most famous fencing schools were:
Luxbrueder (Company of St. Luke) – A major Medieval German fighting guild. It was similar to later English defense schools.
Marxbrüder (Brotherhood of St. Mark) – A successful German group of masters who organized and monitored the teaching of the fighting arts.
The fencers today will probably chose from the three cold steel weapons when engaging in a competition:
Foil. During the 17th century France developed the art of fleuret wielding. At the same time there were elaborated a series of rules and movements that qualified the fencing as a game of alternating attacks and defense. It features flexible blade with a rectangular cross-section and a small guard. It is approximately 35 inches long and weighs less than 1 pound.
Épeé. The Épeé became popular in the 18th century. It was heavier than the foil having a larger guard.
Sabre. The sabre is a weapon descended from the Oriental scimitar. It was widely used in Italy for fencing activity. It was also considered a cavalryman’s weapon. Initially it featured a broad sword, but was modified by Europeans to a thin, straight, flexible strip of metal. It represents the heaviest weapon of the three. The fencing saber has a scoop shaped hand guard that curves under the hand. Its weight and length is almost identical to the foil.
One of most unusual weapon used for fencing combat was colichemarde. Its totally original shape made it extremely efficient.