Foil, Epee or Sabre? Choose Your Weapon

There are 3 different weapons in the modern fencing sport – Epee, Foil and Sabre. If you never fenced before, it could be confusing at first, but there is a simple difference between those 3.

What’s different between three fencing weapons?

There are two basic differences

Epee and foil are “point” weapons – that means you are “stabbing” your opponent and you have to poke them with the pointy end (that’s called a tip) 🙂 Saber (or Sabre) is a slashing weapon, so your goal is to make a touch with any part of the blade, not just the tip.

Foil Fencing at Canada Cup in 2020

The second difference is the area on the opponent which you can hit.

  • For the epee it’s full body – arms, hands, legs, head is all fair game.
  • With the saber attack zone is limited to upper half of the body – everything above the belt.
  • Foil comes with the smallest area – just the torso.

In addition to those 2 main differences, there are also different scoring rules. Basically, it’s about what happens when both fencers hit simultaneously. In epee fencing both opponents get a point. In foil and saber referee decides who had a priority, or who was attacking. Those scoring rules change the style of fencing with different weapons and will affect the strategy.

Epee fencing at Canada Cup 2020

Which weapon to choose?

Sorting Hat for Fencers

There is no right or wrong choice. Some clubs will give a preference to specific weapon – which means most (if not all) club members will be fencing with either foil, epee or sabre. Some clubs will have groups for 2 or 3 weapons, but often they will give some preference to one or another, likely because of coaches preference or specialization. So, if that’s the only or most convenient fencing club for you – go with your club’s weapon of choice. You will get more experience and more fun by fencing with the weapon where you have more variety of opponents in your club.

If possible try them all – it will be a fun experience and you may realize that you love slashing attacks and speed of sabre fencing most. Or, maybe you prefer strategy and fine targeting of foil. Your fencing coach likely can help with the choice after he sees your style – are you defensive, fast, strategic, etc.

My personal preference is epee, probably because there are less questions about who got a point (we had some entry level competitions where two different referees had different opinions about who scored the point – kinda frustrating).

Keep in mind, you can always try another weapon or switch to another weapon later!

Have fun!

P.S. Here is a fun mug for fencers of all weapons – we also have this design on hoodies and t-shirts.