Art of Fencing, Art of Life

15 Common Misconceptions About Fencing

15 Common Misconceptions About Fencing

Fencing is most definitely a niche sport, but at the same time it’s a famous one. Everyone thinks they know a lot about fencing, even people who’ve never picked up a sword or stepped foot into a fencing club. It’s a pretty interesting phenomenon, and the whole thing leads to a great many misconceptions about fencing, our beloved sport.

Let’s highlight some of the most common misconceptions about fencing. Some of these are funny, some are a little weird, and some might surprise you. Either way, if you’re in fencing you’ve probably heard at least a few!

Common fencing misconceptions

1. Fencing is dangerous!

Compared to other sports, the risk of injury in fencing is actually very low. It’s one of the safest sports you can participate in!

2. There’s not much fencing in the US

All 50 states have fencing clubs, and don’t forget to point out to people who falsely think this that our fencing team has done very well in the Olympics! Fencing is gaining popularity in the US for a very long time.

3. Fencing is only for boys

Girls and women are all over fencing! In fact, some of the most famous fencers, like Ibtihaj Muhammad, Lee Keifer and Mariel Zagunis are among the top most recognized fencers. Women in fencing actually goes back for hundreds of years. This is by no means a sport for boys!

4. Only rich kids can afford to fence

While there is definitely a financial piece of the puzzle in fencing, it’s no more of a commitment money wise than gymnastics, dance, martial arts, or any other specialized individual sport. People who come from all income levels have been very successful fencers!

5. Fencing is not in the NCAA

This one is truly shocking, because college fencing is a big deal! Just like basketball or football, there’s a network of NCAA schools that have fencing teams and are committed to developing fencing programs. Fencers can get scholarships from Division I universities, just as in other sports.

6. This isn’t a real sport

People often think that fencing is all about defense. Sport fencing is only moderately grounded in traditional fighting at all. Now, different fencing schools definitely have different philosophies about what all of this means, but it’s still important to note that fencing is just as much about scoring points as soccer. Anything else is a bonus!

7. There’s no physical intensity to fencing

Only people who’ve never gone for a three minute match could ever think this! Fencing is an incredibly physical and tiring sport. It takes a LOT of muscle to fence, and a lot of stamina to keep going all the way through a match. We often talk about fencing as “moving chess”, but you can’t leave the “moving” part out! This is way more strenuous than playing video games or putting a golf ball.

8. Attacking is the main focus of fencing

There’s so much more to fencing than just swinging a sword at someone! Fencing requires a great deal of defense in order to get it right. You’ve got to keep the other fighter off of your target zones and prevent them from scoring. Defense is at least half of the battle, if not more!

9. Fencing swords aren’t real swords

While fencing is incredibly safe, the swords are still swords, no matter what people on the internet might say. Much of the complaints we see have to do with the flexibility of the blades, but of course sharp foils would have flexible blades too!

10. No one has actually ever fought like this.

Touche my friend, people actually have fought like this! Much of our current fencing is still informed by manuscripts from military fencing that date back hundreds of years, when people did actually fight just as they do today! So we have actually written proof that people fought like this.

11. Adults can’t start fencing

Just because you didn’t get an interest in fencing until you were an adult, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it out! Senior fencers have a challenging and fantastic competitive circuit. It’s something that you can start at any age! There’s even wheelchair fencing for those who need that accommodation. Everyone should fence!

12. All that footwork is just for show

Trust me, we only do what works to win on the strip. The stances and footwork that’s used in sport fencing is all very much calculated and done on purpose, with the singular goal of scoring points and keeping your opponent from scoring points. That footwork is there to make those things happen, not to waste energy looking cool. (Though if a side effect is looking cool, we’ll take it!)

13. Fencing looks like the movies

While it’s true that there’s a lot of fencing in the movies, let’s be real that sport fencing doesn’t involve the same kind of conversation that movie fencing does. In the movies, the witty repartee seems to go along with the actual fencing repartee. In real fencing, we’re far too focused to have a conversation!

14. Epee is the only “real” weapon

There are SO many misconceptions within the people who know enough about fencing to get into real trouble. It’s common for people to have one weapon that’s they’re favorite, and then to think that’s the only “real” weapon. The truth is that epee, sabre, and foil are all pretty great weapons, and totally “real”.

15. Fencing is easy

People who don’t do sports often think that sports are “easy”. How many times have you heard someone say “I’d just go up and stab the other guy”? Like that’s how it works? The “other guy” would probably parry, because that’s how fencing works. Of course the challenge is the fun of it!

No matter what, it’s important that we know these common fencing misconceptions so that we can get a better understanding of how to spread the word about this sport. What did we miss? Share your favorite fencing misconceptions with us in the comments!


NCAA Fencing Guide – BEST Resource for High Schoolers in Fencing


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  1. DX

    You didn’t cover what I was looking for. In the movies (the only comparison data point I have, sorry) the fencing seems to go on for a long time, but in the Olympics each bout lasts only a few seconds. Why is this?

    • Igor Chirashnya

      The Olympic bout in foil and epee is three periods of 3 minutes of net time each. A typical fencing bout takes 20-30 minutes of gross time in the competition. Can be shorter if the level difference is significant, but typically it is in that time frame. Sabre doesn’t keep time, as it is quick but still, it’s not a few seconds. And all is high intensity. In movies, fencing is usually very unrealistic, as the point is to wow the spectators with an action and story.

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