The sport of fencing has three different weapons: saber, epee, and foil. People unfamiliar with the sport might call them fencing swords, but fencers call them weapons — or by their individual name. Each weapon works like its own mini-sport. Each has it’s own definition of target area, attack style, and how you score a point. Here’s how they’re different.

Epee

epee

Target area: Epee fencers can attack any part of their opponent’s body. The toes and the tops of their heads are both valid targets.

Attack style: Epee is a thrusting weapon. Epee fencers must land their attacks with the tip of their weapon. In modern, electric fencing, this means compressing a small button on your opponent.

How to score: Unlike foil and saber, epee does not use the concept or right of way. When two epee fencers strike each other at the same time, they both earn a point.

What it’s like: Epee is a tense, subtle exercise in deception and strategy. Because a hit can come anywhere on the body at any time, epee fencers are cautious. As a result, bouts often feel slow until both competitors explode into action.

Origin: Epee began as training for duels to first blood.

Foil

foil

Target area: Foil fencers can attack each other in and around the torso. The lame — the electric jacket that functions as foil’s target area —  resembles a women’s one-piece bathing suit.

Attack style: Foil is a thrusting weapon. Foil fencers must land their attacks with the tip of their weapon. In modern, electric fencing, this means compressing a small button on your opponent’s lame. If you compress the button on a part of your opponent outside of your lame, you trigger an off target light.

How to score: Foil uses the concept of “right of way.” In situations where both fencers strike each other, the referee awards the point to the fencer who was attacking. If neither fencer had the attack, neither fencer earns the point.

What it’s like: Foil balances athleticism with mental calculation. The action tends to be moderately-high energy from beginning to end. Depending on the bout, the action may stop frequently due to the weapon’s off-target rules.

Origin: Foil began as training for duels to the death. Therefore, the target area focusses on vital organs.

Saber

saber

Target area: Saber fencers can attack each other on any point above the waist, including the head.

Attack style: Saber is a slashing weapon. Saber fencers can strike each other with any portion of the blade. In modern, electric fencing, this means simply making contact between your weapon and your opponent’s lame.

How to score: Saber uses the concept of “right of way.” In situations where both fencers strike each other, the referee awards the point to the fencer who was attacking. If neither fencer had the attack, neither fencer earns the point.

What it’s like: Saber. Is. Fast. Touches usually end in seconds, but that doesn’t mean saber lacks a mental game. Most of the thinking happens between touches.

Origin: Saber comes from military swords.

Fencing Swords (remember, they’re called ‘weapons’) — Simplified

We know that the differences between the three fencing swords (saber, epee, foil) can be tricky. So, we simplified it for you in this chart.

fencing swords: saber, epee, foil — simplified

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