The History of Fencing


By Eli Shiller.

Fencing originated from duelling. Both involved a “civilized” form of sword fighting. The main difference between the two is that fencing was a sport and duelling was a way to settle an argument, which was also sometimes to the death.

Duelling was a strong tradition until it got banned by the Catholic Majesties of Spain in 1480. They said that only the knights and the nobles could duel. Shortly after, the first book on duelling as a science was published and the sport of fencing was born. The book was called “Treatise on Arms” by Diego de Valera. The book was a big hit in Spain and inspired lots of young people to start fencing. Soon after, schools and universities started offering fencing, especially in Spain, Italy and France, where the sport remains popular to this day.

Fencing was becoming a more modern and civilized sport until the early 1800s when the Napoleonic Wars brought back the ruthlessness of fighting a real enemy. Once again, people were settling arguments with bloodshed.

Almost a century later, around 1900, fencing arrived in the Americas, and then it spread across the globe.

Fencing was in the first modern Olympics held in Athens in 1896 and has been there ever since. The two countries that generally dominate are Italy and France. Canada’s best performance in the Olympics was 7th place in 1992 in Barcelona. The Canadian team does much better in the Commonwealth and Pan-Am Games, often winning gold and silver medals.

I took up fencing in Aix-en-Provence, France, and I am hoping to continue in Montreal. I have participated in three tournaments, one of which had fencers from many different villages from across France. As a beginner fencer, I find fencing to be a great sport.


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