The Weapon

A modern épée has a blade which measures 90 centimeters from the bell guard to the tip, and weighs between 300 and 450g. The épée is the modern derivative of the duelling sword, the smallsword (itself descended from the rapier, used in sport fencing). As a thrusting weapon the épée is similar to a foil (compared to a sabre), but has a larger bell guard, and is heavier.


The épée has a three sided blade, in contrast to the foil and sabre which are rectangular in cross section. In competitions a valid épée touch is scored if a fencer touches the opponent with enough force to depress the tip; by rule, this is a minimum of 750g of pressure. Since the hand is a valid target, the bellguard is much larger than that of the foil. The bell guard is typically made of aluminum or stainless steel. The tip is wired to a connector in the bellguard, then to an electronic scoring device or "box". The bellguard, blade, and handle of the épée are all grounded to the scoring box to prevent hits to the weapon from registering as touches.


In the groove formed by the V-shaped blade, there are two thin wires leading from
the far end of the blade to a connector in the bellguard. These wires are held in place with a strong glue. A "body cord" with a three-pronged plug at each end is placed underneath the fencer's clothing and attached to the connector in the bellguard, then to a wire leading to the scoring box. The scoring box signals with lights (one for each fencer) and a tone each time the tip is depressed.











Photos courtesy of Leon Paul











History

The épée evolved from civilian weapons such as the smallsword in the late 17th century and became the true dueling sword of the 18th and early 19th centuries. The épée developed when authorities in the 19th century decided that they did not like the killing aspect of the duel, and changed it to a "first blood" sport, thus requiring much more skill as a nick on the wrist or other exposed area could end the duel. But this does not mean that no duelist using the épée died. Of course it would be the goal of each duelist to kill his opponent, and not to simply give a minor flesh wound. Since the Épée was so common in duel, craftsmen decided to tweak the weapon itself. Because a wound to the hand or wrist could end a bout, smiths created épées with larger guards to protect the wrist and hand. Today, épée fencing very much resembles 19th century dueling. There is no right of way. An épée fencer must hit the target with the tip of the weapon. A difference between épée and foil versus sabre is that a corps-à-corps or "body to body" contact between fencers is not necessarily an offense, unless it is done with "brutality or violence"; however, it still results in an immediate "halt" to play.



In the pre-electric era, épéeists used a point d'arrêt ("stopping point"), a three-pronged point with
small protruding spikes, which would snag on the opponent's clothing or mask, helping the referee to see the hits. The spikes caused épée fencing to be a notoriously painful affair, and épéeists could be easily recognized by the tears in their jacket sleeves. Today non-electric weapons are generally fitted with plastic buttons.


 

The tip of an épée comprises several parts including: the mushroom-shaped movable tip; its housing or "barrel" which is threaded to the blade; a contact spring; and a return spring. The tips are generally held in place by two small grub screws, which thread into the sides of the tip through elongated openings on either side of the barrel. The screws hold the tip within the barrel but are allowed to travel freely in the openings. While this is the most common system, screwless variations do exist. The return spring must allow the tip to support a weight of 750 grams without

Epee Fencing


While modern sport fencing has three weapons (foil, épée, and sabre), épée is the only one in which the entire body is the valid target area. Épée is the heaviest of the three modern fencing weapons.

In most higher-level competitions a grounded metal piste is used to prevent floor hits from registering as touches. Unlike sabre and foil, in épée there are no right-of-way rules regarding attacks. Touches are awarded solely on the basis of which fencer makes a touch first, according to the electronic scoring machines. Also, double-touches are allowed in épée, although the touches must be within 40 milliseconds (1/25th of a second) of each other.


Olympic Epee Fencing, Beijing 2008 - Fabrice Jeannet of France vs. Sergey Katchurin of Kazakstan

registering a touch. Finally, an épée tip must allow a shim of 1.5 mm to be inserted between the tip and the barrel, and when a 0.5 mm shim is inserted and the tip depressed, it should not register a touch. The contact spring is threaded in or out of the tip to adjust for this distance. These specifications are tested at the start of each bout during competitions. During competitions, fencers are required to have a minimum of two weapons and two body wires in case of failure or breakage.

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Fencing History

A brief history
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The Weapons

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            Epee

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