Just as the longsword and shield were the weapon of choice for knights, the Epee is the weapon of choice among those in sport fencing. It doesn’t bear much resemblance to most other swords, aside from its fundamental form. It’s incredibly thin, long, and lightweight, which is nothing at all like a longsword or a two-handed claymore. What can the Epee, and sport fencing in general, teach a duelist about using other swords? The answer is quite a lot.
The “One-hit-kill” Rule
Many martial arts and nearly every one involving a weapon operate on a system that gives one point for one hit before resetting the match. This is meant to simulate the idea that neither fighter would survive one well placed hit in a real fight. Regardless of how accurate this notion may be, it does change how duelists fight each other. It forces them to use calculated techniques and positioning to maximize their chance of landing a hit while minimizing their chance of taking a hit.
Speed is perhaps the most important attribute of a duelist. Quick reflexes can make up for a difference in skill and experience, though it isn’t the only factor by any means. Sport fencing places a lot of emphasis on speed and reaction time.
The Epee is very lightweight, flexible, and long. It’s ideal for quick lunges and stabs. Other swords and weapons of similar length are considerably heavier, thus slower, but the same principles of attacking and landing blows are the same. Practicing with a quick weapon hones one’s reaction times and perception. This makes it easier for a fencer to battle with, and against, slower weapons.
This rule is used to determine who gets the point if both fighters land a blow at the same time. The fighter who initiated the attack first is typically the victor. Some duelists who practice sport fencing complain that it’s an arbitrary rule until they duel in other formats. The Right-of-Way rule forces fencers to be more defensive since they cannot trade blows to even the score.
Defensive fighting styles carry over to other swords better than offensive ones. HEMA or Historical European Martial Arts, style fencing with different types of swords and rulesets encourage more defensive play than sport fencing.
While modern sport fencing is not as historically accurate or realistic compared to other formats, it’s still highly useful for teaching the fundamentals of sword fighting. The techniques learned from fencing carry over to almost every other type of weapon. Individuals with even a brief experience in sport fencing who move onto other weapon martial arts gain a significant advantage over those who have never fenced.