What are the three main types of fencing

16 October 2023by timberlandry.com0

“Diverse Types of Fencing Swords”

Fencing comprises three primary sword categories: foil, épée, and sabre, with electric and non-electric versions available for each type.

Every sword type is governed by regulations influencing fencing dynamics with that particular weapon.

Powered and Non-Powered

When deciding on a fencing sword, you have the option to purchase both electric and non-electric variations. Electric blades are designed for wired, electrical fencing, where you are connected to scoring equipment.

Non-electric swords are typically employed for “dry” fencing practice, commonly conducted at your local club.

Non-electric swords are typically employed for “dry” fencing practice, commonly conducted at your local club.

If you’re new to the sport and considering purchasing your initial fencing gear outside the club, opting for a non-electric sword could be a practical choice. This way, you can have your weapon for practice, reserving the club’s electric blades for wired-up fencing when necessary.

Foil Sword

A foil represents one of the three primary fencing sword types and enjoys widespread popularity. As a thrusting weapon, much like the épée, the foil earns points by making contact with the sword’s tip on the opponent’s designated target area.

There are two variations available: the electric foil, equipped with a spring-loaded button at the sword’s tip that, upon compression, registers on the scoring equipment, and the “dry” or “steam” version, which is non-electric and features a rubber tip primarily used for practice.

The foil has a square cross-section, featuring a flexible blade and a relatively minor guard than the other swords.

The designated target areas in foil fencing include the torso, groyne, and lower neck. To ascertain which fencer earns the point when conflicting hits occur within a single exchange, the concept of “priority” or “right of way” is employed.

Épée Fencing Sword

Épée, akin to foil, is a thrusting weapon with points scored using the blade’s tip. Both electric and non-electric variations are available.

The épée exhibits a triangular cross-section, offering less flexibility than a foil and a more oversized guard for enhanced protection. In contrast to foil, épée fencing does not employ “right of way” rules; touches are scored based on which fencer strikes the target first. Because of the absence of a right of way rules, épée often involves quicker and more counter-attacking movements.

In épée fencing, the entire body serves as the target area. This, coupled with the absence of right-of-way rules, creates a fencing tempo that can be cautious, punctuated by sudden bursts of rapid attacks and counters.



In sabre fencing, in contrast to foil and épée, points are earned by using the blade’s edge. Consequently, there is minimal distinction between an electric and non-electric sabre since there is no requirement for a spring button at the sword’s tip.

Sabres are shorter in length compared to both foil and épée, and they are lighter than épée swords. Additionally, blades feature a notably larger bell guard that envelops the fencer’s hand, forming a curved dome extending from the top of the handle to the bottom.

Similar to foil, sabre fencing adheres to priority rules. Nevertheless, the target area in the sabre differs, as it encompasses the upper torso above the waist, the arms, neck, and head, all of which are considered valid for touches.

Sabre fencing is renowned for its rapid pace, and Olympic sabre fencing can appear notably fast and straightforward compared to the other fencing disciplines. However, it’s important to note that the sabre is as intricate and advanced as foil or épée; the apparent simplicity results from the sport’s evolution and unique characteristics.

What Is the Price Range for Fencing Swords?

The price range for a fencing sword typically falls between £50 and £250. Several factors influence the cost of a fencing sword, including:

  • The specific weapon you select
  • The type of grip
  • The quality of the blade
  • The quality of the guard
  • The socket quality
  • The pad quality
  • The pommel quality
  • Whether it’s an electric or non-electric variant

For beginners, there’s the choice of using a club sword, or if you’re budget-conscious, you can explore secondhand fencing swords. Nevertheless, when obtaining previously-owned equipment, it’s vital to ensure it meets the necessary conditions and safety standards, just like any other secondhand goods.

Please refer to our fencing glossary for additional information on the sword mentioned above components and a deeper exploration of related terminology.

Fencing Sword Dimensions

  • The foil has a total length of 110cm, with a blade measuring 90cm, and its weight must not exceed 500g.
  • The épée has a total length of 110cm, featuring a 90cm blade, and its weight should not exceed 770g.
  • The sabre measures 105cm long, with an 88cm blade, and should weigh under 500g.

Fencing swords are categorised on a scale from 0 to 5 for simplicity, with 0 indicating the most minor and 5 representing the largest.

Under 10 10-14 Over 15
Foil 0 3 (UK) 2 (Global) 5
Epee 0 2 5
Sabre 0 2 5

Fencing Sword Structure & Components

A fencing sword consists of numerous components, including:

Grip/handle – Held by the fencer

Blade – The weapon’s main ingredient for attacking and protecting.

Guard – Shields the fencer’s hand against the opponent.

Socket – A body wire connects the firearm to the scoring system.


Pad – safeguards the fencer’s hand from the guard’s underside.


Point – The blade’s tip


Socket – A body wire connects the firearm to the scoring system.


Fencing Sword Handles

There are primarily two types of fencing sword handles: the French grip and the pistol grip.

Fencing Sword French Grip

Many fencers start their fencing journey with a French grip, primarily due to its straightforward design. A French grip is typically straight with slight curves in its design. It’s important to note that the French grip has several variations, and each manufacturer’s grips will be different.

The advantages of using a French grip include holding it slightly lower down, which provides additional reach during fencing. However, this extended reach does come with a trade-off of reduced agility and manoeuvrability.

Sabre fencers typically default to using a French grip or one of its variations because a pistol grip is incompatible with the sabre guard.

Fencing Sword Pistol Grip

A pistol grip generally features multiple ridges and protrusions designed to fit ergonomically and securely into the fencer’s hand.

At the elite and competition levels of fencing, most fencers opt for pistol grips (except for sabre) because they provide superior control over the blade. This enhanced control enables more robust parries and attacks.

Nonetheless, it’s crucial to understand that, owing to its design, using a pistol grip does not confer any reach advantage over your opponent.

The choice of grip is a personal decision for fencers and hinges on what suits them best. Try both options to determine which one feels more comfortable and practical.


Now that you’ve acquired the fundamental knowledge about fencing swords explore our top ten beginner fencing tips for additional general advice tailored to newcomers in the sport.

“Fencing Sword FAQs”

Are Fencing Swords Heavy?

Épée is the heaviest fencing sword, with a weight limit of 770g or less, and smaller sizes are available for children. If you’re new to fencing, any sword may initially feel heavy, but you’ll quickly adapt to it.

Do You Require a Licence to Possess a Fencing Sword

In the UK, owning a fencing sword does not require a license.

It’s essential to use a fencing sword solely for its designated purpose. Store it in a fencing bag and your other equipment when in public.

Although ownership of a fencing sword doesn’t require a license, it’s essential to recognise that incorrect usage can still pose a danger.

Is It Permissible to Make Modifications to a Fencing Sword?

Many fencing sword suppliers will allow you to modify or customise your fencing sword to your requirements with their parts, providing it is within the rules, manufacturing and safety standards for the particular blade.

Are Fencing Swords Dangerous?

Fencing swords have the potential to be hazardous when misused. As essential weapons, they should be handled with care.

The tip of the sword can risk eye injuries to an unmasked fencer. For comprehensive information about the vital protection offered by fencing masks, please refer to our fencing mask guide.

Despite wearing the appropriate fencing attire, injuries from fencing swords are still possible, though fortunately, such occurrences are rare, mainly when both fencers receive proper coaching.

Why are there three types of fencing?

Three types of fencing, namely foil, épée, and sabre, exist to cater to different combat styles and techniques. Each type has its rules, target areas, and unique characteristics, making fencing a diverse and dynamic sport.

Why is it called fencing?

“Fencing is named after the Latin word ‘defensio,’ which means defence or protection. It involves using sword techniques, whether for self-defence or sport and has its roots in the concept of safeguarding oneself.”


Which fencing is better? 

Choosing the superior fencing style is a matter of personal inclination, as what’s considered ‘better’ varies based on individual preferences, strengths, and objectives. Foil, épée, and sabre have unique attributes, making the determination highly subjective. 

Which fence style is best? 

Identifying the ultimate fencing style hinges on individual factors such as personal preferences, strengths, and objectives. Foil, épée, and sabre each provide distinct fencing experiences, rendering the concept of a ‘best’ choice highly individualised.


Why is fencing special?

Fencing holds its special allure in its unique blend of precision, strategy, and athleticism. It’s a sport deeply rooted in tradition and history, where fencers engage in strategic duels that require physical prowess and mental understanding, making it exceptional.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Contact us now to get quote

Contact us now to get quote

Contact Us

United Kingdom

Emergency Service