Physics of Fencing


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Before I begin my discussion about how physics effects fencing and how fencers use physics for more effective fencing, I will briefly discuss the origins of the sport of fencing. The first two fencing manuals were created and published in 1471and 1474. These emerged from an attempt at developing a system to teach people how to weild a light sword more effectively inbattle and duels in Frankfurt, Germany. Over the years, two distinct styles emerge. They were French and Italian. The french style relied mostly on strategy while Itialian used mostly physical strenght(Roswell).

The first foils emerged during the seventeenth century for a more effective way of teaching students the "art" of dueling. In the eighteenth century, the rules were created for fencing as a sport. It is from these rules that today's rules for fencing were created(Roswell)

In fencing there are three types of weapons that are taught. They are the epee, foil, and sabre. For the sake of this paper, the weapon being demonstrated is foil and the style is modern Italian.

So without further ado.... Let us begin our discussion of physics with basic moves, and then move on to more advanced moves in fencing.

Basic Fencing

To begin with, we will discuss the effects of gravity on the body in the regular or "on garde" stance., and what forces are used during the "thrust" and the "lunge".
On Garde

Look at a picture of what a fencer looks like in the "on garde" position. As you can see, the larger arrow shows the pull of gravity. The smaller arrows show where gravity is pulling the limbs. Red being for the legs and yellow for the arms.

Lunge

Next, we will discuss the lunge. Below you will see two more images. First it is from the thrust position. Then the next image shows the lunge position. The lunge picture shows the forward momentum in the blue arrow. As in the previous pictures, the same colors are used for the same gravity applications, but the major difference is the effects of gravity on the legs. In this position, the effects of gravity are more severe because the legs are again further from the center mass of the body and therefore, more of the force of gravity is "pushing down" on the legs.

So that will conclude the discussion of basic stances and physics of them. Next, we will discuss the more advanced moves and how fencers use physics to their advantage with them.

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Advanced Moves of Fencing

Welcome to the continuation of the previous discussion. In this section, a selected number of moves in fencing will be discussed. They are the cupee, incortata, pasata soto, glazad, and the beat & go. While the previous section only discussed the effects of gravity, this section, will describe in more detail how physics is used in fencing. Since the ongarde, lunge, and thrust position have already been discussed, they wont be here.
Cupee and Beat & Go

First, we will discuss the cupee (pronounced like tupee). The cupee is actually a move that is an option after a different move. The first move is called the Beat & Go. First, the fencer beats the blade. This is accomplished by striking the opponents blade near the midde. The following images will help illistrate the actions.

The blue arrows show the path of the fencer's blade and the red arrows show the path of the opponent's blade. The purple arrows represent momentum and the force of the blade. In the action of the beat, the fencer transfers the energy from his blade to that of his opponent. The action of this will send the opponent's blade out of the line (represented by the red arrow). when this happens, the fencer lunges at the opponent. If the opponent know what he is doing, he will perform a counterparry. This is accomplished by using the energy from the beat to bring the blade around and parry the lunge. This is represented by the red arrow in picture two. The cupee is the action performed by the fencer in picture two (blue arrow). It is the pulling back of the blade to avoid the counterparry. This is completed during the lunge. After the completion of the lunge, the fencer "punches" at the target sending his point under the parry and hitting target.
Glazad

The second move we are going to discuss is called a glazad. This is both an offensive action and a defensive action. The point of a glazad is to send the opponents point out of line and ending the move already in thrust for the lunge. If the move is performed effectively, a counter parry will not be an option. Lets take a look at our pictures.

In the first image, the orange line represent the foil due to horrible photography. The postion of the fencer's blade, is under the opponents blade in order to "pick up" the blade and make a circular motion towards the opponents outside low target. The result of this can be seen in the second image. The final action is to lunge at the target where the foil is pointing. As the third picture shows, the opponent's blade is almost completely out of his hand. This glazad was performed correctly. In this move, the fencer uses the friction between the two blades for "picking up" the opponents blade. With the combination of friction from the forward motion of the blade and the momentum build up, and because momentum is always conserved, When the fencer ends contact with the other blade, it sends the other blade out of line with a lot more force than the beat & go had in it.
The Incortata and Pasata Soto

The next two moves are based upon the idea that it is better to avoid the blade altogether and attack where the fencer least expects it. The pasata soto is a move when the fencer drops to the ground when an opponent lunges at them. the words"pasata soto" translate to literally mean to pass underneith. The following pictures demonstrate what the pasata soto and incortata look like.

The first image is what a pasata soto is supposed to look like. It is just dropping straight to the ground and letting the opponent skewer himself on the fencer's blade. The fencer accomplishes this by removing his back leg from support, and letting gravity force him to fall on his other leg. If this is performed fast enough,the opponent wont have time to react. The second image is of an incortata. it is actually using the nonweapon hand to bring the body out of the line of the opponent's lunge. This is also done while pointing the blade at the opponent thus impaling him on the blade. This is accomplished because of the fact that force=massxaccelleration. By "flinging" the arm backwards towards the fencer's back. The accelleration of the hand pulls the body along with it so that the acceleration is enought to move in time to get out of the way of the opponent's blade.



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