Fencing, art of attack and defense with a sword or similar weapon. Modern fencing is a recreational and competitive sport, but its rules and techniques are derived from those originally developed for efficient swordplay in dueling (see Duel).
During the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century) the sword was an offensive weapon used for cracking armor, and the shield was used as a defense. After gunpowder came into general use, heavy defensive armor became obsolete, and the sword became a defensive as well as an offensive weapon. In the 16th century the rapier was introduced in Italy, and the art of fencing was rapidly systematized in fencing schools. A dagger in the other hand, and later a folded cloak, replaced the shield. Eventually the non sword arm was left free and held away from the sword arm to minimize the target area.
Tactics vary among the three weapons, but certain fundamental techniques are common to all. Motions of attack and defense are initiated from the basic on-guard position, a crouch assumed with both knees flexed, the rear arm crooked upward, and the sword arm partially extended toward the opponent. The basic attacking action is the lunge, executed by stabbing with the sword arm at the target and thrusting forward on the front leg. The attack is successful if a touch is scored on the valid target area. In foil fencing, only touches on the torso are counted. In epee competition the entire body, head to foot, is a valid target. In Sabre fencing the valid target is the part of the body above an imaginary line, called the saddle line, drawn across the top of the hips (this includes the head, arms, and torso).