Epee – (Almost) Anything Goes

(Credit for information goes to Fencing.net’s “A Parent’s Guide to Fencing”)

While a special version of the court sword, the foil, was developed for practice, another type of sword, the colichemarde, was created for dueling. The blade had a triangular cross-section, with slightly concave sides to reduce weight without reducing strength and the forte was grooved to allow the blood to drain away (and to make it easier to remove the sword from the body!). The colichemarde evolved into the modern epee.

As the epee (pronounced “EPP-pay”) evolved, the idea was to develop epee fencing in a manner that reproduced as closely as possible the conditions of an actual duel to first blood. As a result, in epee the entire body is considered a valid target and there is no “right-of-way” rule: anything goes (almost). Epee fencers score a point by hitting their opponent first. If the fencers hit each other within 1/25th of a second, both receive a point – this is commonly referred to as a double touch. Initially epee fencers worked to be first to the best of five but over time it became the best of nine wins the bout.

Epee Target Area

Valid surfaces in epee
fencing. 11/01/2006
Francois Cartegnie

The lack of right-of-way combined with a full-body target naturally makes epee a game of careful strategy and patience – wild, rash attacks are quickly punished with solid counter-attacks. So, rather than attacking outright, epeeists often spend several minutes probing their opponent’s defenses and maneuvering for distance before risking an attack. Others may choose to stay on the defensive throughout the entire bout. As an epee watcher you also need to have patience.