Where did the sport all begin and how did it get to where it is today?
Many people would be surprised to find that fencing dates back to the time of the Ancient Egyptians, which we know because the earliest evidence of the sport comes from a carving found in the country from around 1200 BC. The carving shows something similar to modern fencing, with two individuals engaged in a bout with protective masks, protected weapon tips and judges observing the scene.
Furthermore, evidence of the sport has been found in other ancient civilizations, particularly within the Roman and Greek societies. Most followers of history will know that both the ancient Greeks and Romans were sophisticated in terms of their standard of living, so it is unsurprising that they had a version of fencing that is recognisable to modern fencing practices. Historical sources show that instead of the light rapiers used today, the Greeks and Romans preferred to use a mixture of short swords and lightweight spears. Their ‘fencing’ was called ludi, which basically referred to the swordplay taught in schools and to warrior students.
Unfortunately, with the collapse of the Greek and Roman empires came the decline of a sport that we could see as being recognisable as fencing. Broadswords and heavy weapons became the norm during the Dark Ages and so were unsuited for the more barbarian style of living and fighting experienced during this time.
The sport came back into fashion in the 15th Century and it is during this time that the real beginnings of modern fencing began. The Spanish were mostly responsible for being at the heart of modern fencing and two manuals were published there during the 1400s. Nevertheless, it was really in Italy that more extensive use of the rapier weapon began and prolific fencing figures like Camillo Agrippa, Giacomo di Grassi and Vigiani invented some of the iconic moves. These included the lunge move as well as the four different stances commonly used within the sport. Fencing then progressed throughout the centuries, with dueling becoming something that noblemen engaged in. There were significant developments throughout the late 20th century, particularly in the realm of different fencing swords and rapiers. Another notable development was in 1780, when the iconic fencing mask was invented by La Boessiere, who was a French fencing master.
Today, fencing is practiced on an international scale, with the sport frequently featuring in the Olympic Games. It is also a hobby that is practiced across the country. Fencing clubs have become increasingly popular throughout Britain and there are also more exclusive places that offer the more traditional fencing experience, like the Lansdowne Club. This is a private members club in London that houses the London Fencing club.
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Author – Adam has been writing articles for a number of years now in many different industry sectors with great success accross the board.
“Unfortunately, with the collapse of the Greek and Roman empires came the decline of a sport that we could see as being recognisable as fencing. Broadswords and heavy weapons became the norm during the Dark Ages and so were unsuited for the more barbarian style of living and fighting experienced during this time.”
Small correction; broadswords are 17th century weapons and medieval swords aren’t that heavy.