© Salle Dublin - October 2017

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Wednesdays

@ St Conleth's College Gym, Clyde Road, Dublin  4

18.45 - 22.00  (throughout the fencing year)

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Fencing is one of only five sports that have featured in every Olympic Games since 1896.

Electronic equipment and hi-tech protective clothing are now vital parts of the sport, which requires lightning reflexes and a great deal of tactical nous.

There are three types of fencing weapons: foil, épée and sabre, with men and women competing both as individuals and in teams.


Foil

This is the lightest of the three swords.  It originated as a training weapon for combat so the scoring area is the torso - the most potentially fatal on the body.

The tip of the foil must hit the opponent with a pressure exceeding 500 grams. Only the attacking fencer can score a point.  The defender can only score if the attack misses or is parried, and a counter-attack succeeds.

Épée

The direct descendant of swords used for duelling and this is reflected in the modern event.

Only a hit with the tip of the sword, with a pressure exceeding 750 grams, scores a point. A hit on the toe counts the same as one on the body. There is no right of way and fencers may be hit simultaneously.

Sabre

This weapon is derived from the cavalry sword, designed for cutting and thrusting.

The target is the entire area from the waist up, including the arms and mask - but not the hand holding the weapon - and hits are scored not only with the point as in foil or epee, but also by cuts with the edge of the blade.

Where the other events require quick, small movements, sabre involves a more obvious aggression and flamboyant swordplay.


Fencing bouts, consisting of three segments of three minutes, take place on a piste measuring 14 metres by 1.5m, and fencers are connected to an electronic scoring system.

A hit is worth one point, and a light shines on the board indicating who has scored. If the score is tied at the end of the bout, one minute of sudden-death overtime is played.

Teams consist of three fencers, with the first to score a total of 45 hits declared the winner.  The first bout ends when a team reaches five points, unless time runs out beforehand.  The second bout finishes at 10 points, the third when 15 is reached and so on until 45 points have been scored or nine bouts completed, whichever comes first.

For the individual events all contestants are seeded and some receive byes.  The competition continues on the basis of single elimination from the initial rounds which may have as many as 128 fencers to the final.

Beginner's Guide to Fencing from BBC Sport