The sport of fencing boasts an impressively long history, dating back at least three thousand years to Ancient Egypt. A bas-relief in an Egyptian temple built in 1190 BC depicts two athletes in a judged bout, wielding swords with covered points and wearing protective gear. And Egyptians weren’t the only ancient peoples to have emphasized the importance of fencing form and rules. In ancient Rome, gladiators attended schools to train in the complexities of swordsmanship. In ancient Greece, fencing was one of the original Olympic sports.
In the Middle Ages, knights created a code of chivalry that they lived by, as they wielded their swords for their lord and king, and for religion. But it’s the Spanish who are often credited as the first ancestors of the modern sport, having written books on sword fighting systems in the 15th century. Germans created the first fencing guilds in that same period.
Modern fencing actually came into existence slightly later, between the 16th and 18th centuries, with the Italians placing an emphasis on accuracy with the tip of the lighter-weight rapier, and the French refining that skill even further. Also in the 17th and 18th centuries, the inventions of the safer, flatter-tip foil and the wire-mesh mask, as well as the establishment of rules regarding the target area, made fencing even more popular.
And now the sport of fencing is practiced around the world. Featured in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, and one of only five sports featured in each Olympic Game since, it continues to grow steadily in popularity.
The FIE (International Fencing Federation) was created in 1913 as the world governing body for fencing. It establishes the competition rules for all three modern fencing weapons (foil, epee and sabre), and promotes the development of the sport world-wide.