Foil – the sport of kings

The foil is a descendant of the light court sword used by nobility to train for duels. It has a flexible, rectangular blade approximately 35 inches in length and it weighs less than one pound.

While top foil fencers still employ the classical techniques of parries and thrusts, the flexible nature of the foil blade permits the modern, elite foil fencer to attack an opponent from seemingly impossible angles. Competitors often “march” down the fencing strip at their opponent, looking to whip or flick the point of their blade at the flank or back of their opponent. Because parrying (blocking) these attacks can be very difficult, the modern game of foil has evolved into a complicated and exciting game of multiple feints, ducking, and sudden, explosive attacks.

Here at Lilov Fencing Academy in Cedar Grove, we teach foil fencing along with saber and epee. We want students to learn about all of the different styles of fencing so that they can choose one that best fits their natural aptitudes. Contact us today for information about fencing lessons for children.

Foil Fencing Rules

Points are scored with the tip of the blade and must land on a valid target: the torso from shoulders to groin in the front and from the shoulders to the waist in the back. The arms, neck, head and legs are considered off-target and hits to non-valid targets temporarily halts the fencing action, but no points are awarded. This concept of on-target and off-target evolved from the theory of 18th-century fencing masters, who instructed their pupils to only attack the vital areas of the body – e.g. the torso. Of course, the head is also a vital area of the body, but attacks to the face were considered unsporting and therefore discouraged.

Right of Way

For newcomers, one of the most challenging concepts to grasp is the rule of right of way. Right of way is a theory of armed combat that determines who receives a point when both fencers have landed hits during the same action. The most basic and important precept of right of way is that the fencer who started to attack first will receive the point if they hit a valid target. The fencer who is being attacked must defend themselves with a parry, or somehow cause their opponent to miss in order to take over right of way and score a point.

A fencer who hesitates for too long while advancing on their opponent gives up the right of way to their opponent. A touch scored against an opponent who hesitated is called an attack in preparation or a stop-hit, depending on the circumstances. Additionally, the referee may determine that the two fencers truly attacked each other simultaneously. This simultaneous attack is a kind of tie – no points are awarded, and the fencers are ordered back to en garde by the referee to continue fencing.

While it may be difficult to follow the referee’s calls (especially because the officiating is performed in French), the referee always clearly raises their hand on the side of the fencer for whom they have awarded a point. Watching for these hand signals can make it easier for newcomers to follow the momentum of a fencing bout without understanding all the intricacies of the rules.

If your child is interested in learning foil fencing, contact us at Lilov Fencing Academy in Cedar Grove today. We offer lessons for kids of all ages in a great facility with the best staff in the country.

Foil Weapons and Equipment

The foil is a 35” lightweight, rectangular blade that weighs less than one pound. Each foil has a blunt, spring-loaded button at the point of the blade that must be depressed with a pressure of 500 grams or more in order to register a hit.

The Lamé

Foil actions often occur at blinding speed, which necessitated the creation of an electrical scoring system to accurately detect hits on valid targets. The foil fencer’s uniform features an electrically wired metallic vest called a lamé. A hit to the lamé causes the scoring machine to display a colored light on the side of the fencer that scored the touch. An off-target hit on the arms, legs, or head (basically any area not covered by the lamés), causes the machine to display a white light. Hits that are off-target stop the action of the match, but no touches are awarded. If the scoring machine displays both a colored light and a white light, it means the fencer quickly hit off-target and then hit on target before the machine could lock out. In situations like that, the fencer’s hit is ruled off target and no touch is awarded.

The Body Cord

Another part of the foil fencer’s equipment is a special cable called a body cord. This plugs into the foil and runs through the sleeve of the jacket and out the back of the uniform, connecting to a retractable reel which is connected to the scoring machine. Of course, with all this equipment a lot can go wrong, so before each foil bout commences, both fencers ceremoniously test each other’s lamés to ensure they are working properly.

If your child is ready to learn the art and discipline of foil fencing, get in touch with us at Cedar Grove’s Lilov Fencing Academy. We offer fencing lessons, fencing classes, and fencing camps for kids of any age.


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