CHATTANOOGA, Tenn – For most people, fencing is one of those sports that you know of, but might not know much about. Yet this modern form of combat has fostered a strong, engaged community across the globe – Chattanooga included. Here, we look further into the world of the sport, and local fencers chime in on their experiences with it.

If you were asked to name a sport, your first thought would probably be something like football, baseball, or basketball – something you regularly see played at a professional level on television. Your mind likely wouldn’t immediately go to sabres, soft white armor, and the art of combat.

Though fencing is now an Olympic sport and a unique way to stay agile and in shape, it certainly didn’t start out that way. Believed to have originated in Western Europe, fencing began as the art of swordsmanship for the sake of dueling and self-defense; however, in the 18th century, it shifted toward a fashionable sport taught primarily to young men of aristocratic birth. Today, fencing is far more accessible, and student and community clubs dedicated to it can be found all over the world.

Foil is named for the foil weapon, a light thrusting weapon with a circular hand guard primarily intended for safety purposes. With this weapon, only the torso is considered a valid target, with arms and legs excluded. Only the tip of the blade may be used for hits. A touch to any area not in the target zone stops the action but is not scored. If opponents touch a target simultaneously, only one fencer may be given a point. This is awarded by the referee based on his or her determination of who has gained the ‘priority’ or ‘right of way.’Fencing is not just one, but three forms of a combat sport. The three forms of fencing each have their own unique weapons and sets of rules. There is the foil, the épée, and the sabre, all named after the weapons they utilize. Technique can be classified into two forms – either offensive or defensive – which can be performed in countless combinations during sparring.