Fencing as a Martial Art

» Posted by on Sep 1, 2019 in General | Comments Off on Fencing as a Martial Art

Fencing as a Martial Art

The story of swords goes back to before recorded history when the first civilizations had swords of several types. In the Medinat Habu temple built to honour the god Amon, which was erected by the pharaoh Ramses 111, carved in relief, one finds scenes of swordsmen practising their swordplay using swords with padded tips so that there were no injuries. They carried shields and had masks on their faces and had padding covering their vulnerable parts. Many ancient civilizations used swords such as Babylonia, Greece, the Persians and the Romans.

Bronze and Iron

The metal sword developed in the Bronze Age, taking over from primitive stone weapons and the armies that had the secret were soon defeating their enemies. When iron was discovered, and blacksmith’s learned to work it into hard blades, bronze swords became obsolete as the harder iron made short work of the softer bronze. Both were milestones in the advancement of Mankind, hence the name of those eras as the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

The Romans developed their swords. The soldiers and gladiators were taught in schools dedicated to the art of sword fighting, but in training, wooden weapons were used. When Rome’s dominance of the world started crumbling, swords were still the weapons of choice. In the middle ages, training in the art became fragmented, and instructors developed them owns styles. The swords became heavier to enable the penetration of full body armour and were still preferred over firearms which were challenging to reload under pressure when unsavoury types started joining the schools to better their skills; these were put to good use by robbers, thieves, etc.

The armour worn by the nobility and the Knights became more substantial with the sole idea of penetrating the opponent’s armour. The soldier’s mobility became compromised by his heavy armour as his movements were restricted. In 1286 King Edward 1 started persecuting instructors, but the schools carried on regardless. Henry V111, however, licensed instructors to teach the skills of the cutting sword. The sword, however, had evolved into the rapier – a thin, lightweight weapon with no cutting edge but it did have a very sharp point. The blade slowly replaced the swords of those days. The Italians took fencing to another level where speed and skill outfought the heavy and cumbersome cutting sword.


Rapiers became less popular as fashions changed, and the long fencing sword did not match the clothing of the day. In fencing, the fighters became far more skilful due to the lightness of the weapon. Attacks were made with the point of the sword, and dextrous moves were taught to block the opponent. By the mid-1800s, the art of fencing was at its zenith, but in a fight or battle, firearms became the weapon of choice. Although the sword was replaced on the battlefield, it remains a popular sport and features in the Olympic Games.