Fencing vs. Sword Fighting? (The 5 Main Differences)

There is a certain mystique to sword fighting that draws attention. It is fast-paced and has a certain danger to it because of the blades involved. In modern times, sword fighting is no longer necessary with more advanced weapons available. There are still traces of it alive today in the world of fencing.

The 5 Main Differences Between Sword Fighting and Fencing:

  1. The Reach of the Definition
  2. The Importance of Technique
  3. The Weapons
  4. The Clothing
  5. The Rules

As terms, sword fighting and fencing aren’t used interchangeably. Continue reading below to find out what makes them so different even though they share similar origins.

Read also: Best Fencing Shoes 

1. The Reach of the Definition

Sword fighting as a term gets straight to the point. A sword fight is an act of combat where the opponents use swords to attack and defend. 

There is a lot of emphasis on sword fighting on defeating your opponent and getting away without getting harmed. It can be a lot more gruesome.

Fencing, on the other hand, comes from the word defense. It is the art of defending yourself using a weapon. 

Emphasis is put first and foremost on keeping yourself from getting hit at all. Unlike sword fighting, fencing doesn’t have to be done with swords. Any weapon can be used in the art of defense.

2. The Importance of Technique

Sword fighting is much less worried about skill or technique. The most important thing about sword fighting is to take out an opponent as quickly as possible. 

You aren’t as concerned about where your feet are, as long as you’re swinging your weapon in the right direction.

Fencing is all about skill and technique. There is a lot of work that goes into the sport of fencing, and it takes a lot of training to become efficient at it. 

Fencing is much more delicate than sword fighting and showcases the use of footwork and subtle movements overtaking someone down.

3. The Weapons

While the three weapons used in fencing today were derived from historical swords, they no longer resemble their predecessors very closely. The swords used in fencing competition are unique to the sport, and each is made for a certain purpose.

Sword fighting makes use of training and actual swords that replicate the swords used in the past. They are more representative of what would have been used by men on the field of battle. There’s not a need for specialized weaponry.

Read Also: 5 Great Fencing Epees – A Beginners Buyers Guide To Fencing

4. The Clothing

Sword fighting has no guidelines on what you should wear when sword fighting. There may be costumes worn if sword fighting is taking place in a reenactment setting. 

It’s possible to engage in a sword fight whatever the occasion. Hopefully, proper safety precautions are always taken.

In fencing, there is a very strict uniform that must be adhered to, especially in competition. The fencing uniform is widely recognized and features a jacket, mask, glove, and other components that help keep the fencer safe.

Read also: How to Choose Your Fencing Gloves?

5. The Rules

A fencing bout is regulated and restricted by a set of rules everyone must abide by. These rules include things like who has the right-of-way and a certain area the fencers must stay inside. Because it is a sport, these rules must be followed to ensure fairness.

Sword fighting is much less restricted. As a general pastime, sword fighting can be done in different ways. 

There may be one set of rules for some people and another set entirely for others. You don’t have a set of lines to fight inside or areas of the body that are off-limits.

Similarities Between Sword Fighting and Fencing

While sword fighting and fencing aren’t the same things, they do share some similarities. You can find a lot of aspects of sword fighting in fencing. Sword fighting can even be considered a sort of classical fencing as it used to be when it was first conceived.

Fencing and sword fighting use similar weapons to either attack or defend against an opponent. A sword fight and a fencing bout are also contested one on one between two opponents trying to outdo the other.

It’s easy to think of fencing as a kind of sword fighting, but looks can be deceiving. 

There isn’t any real fight to fencing, as it focuses much more on the technical side of a bout. While they draw from similar origins, the two actually have very little in common.

The Real Fencing Swords

Each of the three weapons used in fencing competitions is based on real historical swords. They don’t much resemble their historical counterparts anymore. They’ve been changed to be lighter, stronger, and more efficient for the sport.

  1. A foil is derived from the court sword or small sword, which was a smaller sword used to train those of the noble class for duels. It was made lighter than other weapons of its kind and could be used for thrusting. It was easily wielded with a single hand. Court swords were popular from the mid-17th to late 18th centuries.
  2. An Epee is formed after the French dueling sword, which is also referred to as an epee. It is a bit bigger than a small sword and features a triangular blade that was often engraved with floral designs.
  3. The sabre is the descendant of the similarly named saber. A saber is a cavalry sword with a sharp cutting edge, used for fighting from horseback. Sabre style fencing focuses the target area on the upper body, which is where a saber would be aimed in battle.

Fencing Isn’t Sword Fighting

Over the years, the use of swords has fallen out of grace. With weapons turning the corner to guns and even more technologically advanced systems, the sword just isn’t as effective as it once was. Swords are still highly regarded but much more so for show or simply for fun.

Fencing owes its origins to the swords of the past. Duels and training played a big part in forming the modern picture of fencing as we know it today. A fencing bout is a far cry from a sword fight. There’s no doubting that. It’s probably for the best!

Six Fun Fencing Facts

#1 Foil and Epee fencing are both thrust styles of fencing, where a point is only gained by touching an opponent with the tip of the blade. However, like its slashing saber ancestor, sabre fencers can use the edge of the blade to score points as well as the tip.

#2 Chivalry has played a part in duels as far back as they’ve existed. That same principle remains in fencing today. Fencers are required to salute one another, the official, and the crowd before a bout can begin.

#3 Although fencing competitions are separated into groups by age and gender, it is the only combat sport that doesn’t have weight classes.

#4 Fencing is practiced all over the world, but half of all fencing training is done in Europe alone.

#5 Out of all the games included in the modern Olympics, which began in 1896, only four have been in every single one. Fencing is one of those four.

#6 Aside from a moving bullet, the tip of a fencing blade is the fastest moving object in sports.


Hi, I'm Simon, and I am passionate about "other sports".

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