Posted: Jul 24, 2012 6:00 PM by Carina Corral, KSBY News
Updated: Jul 25, 2012 5:21 PM
Fencing may not be the most popular Olympic sport to watch, but it is one of the oldest. It has been around since the inaugural Olympics in 1896.
There are three types of competitive fencing: epee, foil and sabre.
In our most recent Olympic Challenge, KSBY's Carina Corral tried her hand at sabre. After all, it was the women's sabre team that made U.S. history when it swept the competition in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
Instructor Scott Chapman with fencing club "Salle de Fers," French for "Room of Swords," in San Luis Obispo was brave enough to take on the task.
The crash course started with a quick warm up, followed by an introductory to the equipment, uniform and weapon.
"That was my first question. Are the blades sharp? They are not. Darn," said Carina.
Saluting one another is mandatory before and after a bout. So, Carina learned the traditional salutation with the swords.
And with that it was time to get down to business.
"With this weapon we have third position, fourth position... now bring it up above your head. This is fifth position," said Chapman, describing the positional angles of the sword.
In sabre, the target is anything above the waist: torso, arms, head.
Score is kept electronically. The suit, helmet and sword are all plugged into a machine during the bout. The suits and helmets are made of a metal material that are set off the when the blade makes contact.
These swords can leave welts, bruises, even draw blood, so it took Carina a little time getting used to stabbing someone.
"You want me to hit you?" Carina asked Chapman. He replied, "yes, I do," as she clocked him on the head with the sword.
In another instance, Chapman told Carina, "lunge and repost to my head!" She accidentally stabbed him in the torso. "(Ugh) That one worked," groaned Chapman.
Slowly, Carina got the hang of it.
"You just did a perry, four, three combination. That is rarely seen with a first timer, very rarely," said Chapman after one of their practice duals.
And that meant the lesson was over. Time to plug in and dual.
A bout is three periods with 15 touches in three minutes.
Judges are just keeping score. They are not watching for tactical approaches or paying attention to form, but the opponent better be because there are deceitful ways of luring in an opponent called "invito," or "invitation."
Chapman used one of his tactics on Carina. "Are you taunting me?" she yelled. "A little," as he held his arms open as if he were off guard, she fell for it and lunged in for the attack, but he beat her to the punch and scored the point.
An opponent can not launch a counter attack, he can only defend himself. If the attacked is missed, the opponent can then launch his own attack.
"When you're watching fencing in the Olympics, watch the person who starts the attack with the forward movement. It makes it easier to follow," said Chapman.
Among some of the other rules: brutal fencing, body to body contact and cross-stepping forward are not allowed.
Also, every time a touch is made the opponents go back to the on guard position to finish the bout.
For their session score was not kept, but Carina is pretty sure who would have won.
"Am I ready for the olympics?" she asked Chapman.
"You sure are," answered Chapman,"you are going to be an alternate no doubt."
Chapman teaches private instruction and small group lessons in classical fencing techniques, recreational fencing and Olympic-style competitive fencing.
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