Although many people know fencing as an Olympic sport, many others are now beginning to embrace it as a leisure sport.
This is because not only is it fun and engaging, it also has numerous health benefits. Even as we enjoy this sport in the present day, a good question to ask ourselves is; where did it all begin?
The history of fencing is long and rich, from a form of military training to the sport we love and enjoy today, you can start learning how you can fence in Bristol on this post
The first step in the journey takes us way back to ancient Egypt!
Some ancient Egypt paintings depict fencing bouts that were done using sticks. This was more than 3000 years ago.
Although fencing as we know it has certainly changed, and now uses different equipment, those are its earliest depictions.
Fast forward to the 15th century in continental Europe, whereby the sport would grow from combat swordsmanship to a scientific sport. Several countries including Germany, Italy and Spain all lay claims to be the originators of fencing. In its earlier form as combat swordsmanship, the Germanic tribes used it to settle disputes and as a form of chivalry. This form of fencing was banned in Spain by the Catholic Church in 1480.
Even with this ban, the oldest manual on fencing was written by Diego de Valera, a Spanish national, in the 15th century. During the time that Spain was the superpower in Europe, the Spanish forces carried the sport to other countries during their conquests, especially to Italy. In Italy, fencing had a high cultural significance and was taught in universities in places such as Bologna and Venice. Famous Italian Masters established fencing schools and wrote books and manuals on the sport.
During those earlier days, fencing was a dangerous sport that could lead to injuries or even death from sword cuts. It was from the mid-18th century that fencing became more of a sport rather than a duel. This pioneering work was mostly carried out by Domenico Angelo, who had a fencing academy in London and taught aristocrats the art of swordsmanship. He is responsible for some of the rules on posture and footwork that we still use today. Still, in the 18th century, the French established their own fencing schools which became influential in developing the sport.
Since the 18th century, the sport has seen changes in the types of swords used, the type of protective gear worn and changes in defence strategy. The foil, epee and sabre weapons have been introduced, which are safer for participants. The Italian, French and Spanish schools have all been influential in the development of the sport. The 19th century saw the first regularized tournaments of fencing, starting with the Grand Military Tournament and Assault at Arms held in 1880.
With the drawing up of the official regulations of fencing in 1896, fencing was introduced to the Olympics in 1896. From that time, one or all types of fencing (sabre, epee and foil) have been part of the Olympics. Both men and women participate individually and as part of a team in the Olympic version. An electronic system of awarding points has been developed, making it easier to judge the sport.