A group of Foils with various handles
This is a¬†light weight sword used for thrusting attacks. You score points by pushing the tip of the weapon against the target. The point must ‘fix’ on the target, not slip across it and the blade must flex under the impact. The minimum force to do this is 500g. The target is the torso, i.e. not the arms, legs or head. Foil is a ‘conventional weapon’, the convention being that only one fencer has the right to score at any one time. This simple rule together with the thrusting nature of the weapon gives Foil fencing it’s unique character. This right or priority to attack is gained by being the first to initiate their attack, i.e. starting to straighten the sword arm and threaten the opponents target. The other, defending fencer can’t start a valid attack and score until either the attack has been stopped by blocking it with a parry, evading it with a dodge or esquive, it may just plain miss the target,¬†alternatively the attacker may voluntarily ceases the attack. The defender then has the possibility to immediately become the attacker and have the right or priority for making a valid scoring hit. The other fencer must then take up the role of defender… The ebb and flow of the bout can be described in what is referred to as phrasing. Bouts are controlled by a referee and it’s their duty to decide:
  • who the attacker was
  • the sequence of moves in the phrase
  • allocate the hit/point depending on the success or otherwise of the attacks delivered in the phrase

The fate of an attacks is judged to be:

  • On target (the torso)
  • Off target (not the torso)
  • Missed altogether
  • Withdrawn (arm bent during attack)

Many club bouts and all competition bouts are judged by electronic scoring apparatus. The light on the ‘box’ show hits that land both ‘on target’ (coloured lights) and ‘off target’ (white or orange lights). Other practice bouts are sometimes judged by a jury of 4 people plus the referee. In either event the points are awarded by the referee after applying the priority rule.

Referees actions during a fencing 'phrase'.