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The use of a sword, wielded by hand, for attack and defence. Its origins lie in the military history of various societies—including England and Japan—with roots in chivalric codes of honour as well as military conflict. The foil, the épée, and the sabre have been the three predominant forms of weapon in fencing, and have their separate events in the Olympics for both men (from 1896) and women (from 1924). European nations, and the USA, have dominated the Olympic disciplines, and the Fédération Internationale d'Escrime was founded in Paris in 1913. Strong fencing competitors began to emerge from Central and South American countries as well as Asian ones, in the later 20th century. The International Fencing Federation, now based in Lausanne, Switzerland, oversees events at the world youth games, the Mediterranean Games, and world championships, as well as at the Olympic Games. Its aristocratic and soldierly legacy defies the federation's attempts to associate the sport with the youth of the world, though by the early 21st century there were 126 national associations affiliated to the federation. Fencing, as a form of swordsmanship, has an expansive history through numerous civilizations. In 17th-century imperial Japan, fencers, like archers but not so swiftly, moved ‘from mortal combat to sports competition to spiritual exercise’ (Allen Guttmann, Sports: The First Five Millennia, 2004).

Subjects: Sport and Leisure — Medicine and Health.

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