fencing in the history

Is Fencing A Martial Art?

I was sitting on my bed at home, watching the 2022 World Fencing Championships in Cairo, when the spontaneous question “Is fencing a martial art?” arose.

So… as a non-fencing expert, I began doing some research and discovered that…


Yes, despite its evolution as a sport, fencing is a martial art because it is based on the concept of using one’s weapon as a defense / shield between oneself and the opponent.


Let’s take a closer look at what I discovered.

Table of Contents


What exactly is Fencing?

Fencing is a sport that focuses on sword techniques and skills. 

When we hear the word fencing, we immediately think of Olympic fencing, however,  the term can also refer to any type of martial art that involves the use of a sword or white weapon.

fencer weapon

Martial Art Meaning

Analyzing the definition of Martial Art:

“Martial arts are codified combat systems and traditions that are practiced for a variety of reasons, including self-defense, military and law enforcement applications, competition, physical, mental, and spiritual development, entertainment, and the preservation of a country’s intangible cultural heritage.”


We might notice that Fencing clearly ticks a lot of boxes:

Is it a competition? Yes

Is it physical? Yes

Is it mental? Yes

Is it entertaining? Of course it is.

Has it a history? Well… it has a very rich history! 

Let’s discover it.

fencing in the history

History of Fencing

The origins of fencing, even if not in the form of art, can be traced back to the Hellenistic period, when the sword was used to kill the opponent in battle.


With the introduction of firearms and ballistics in the Middle Ages, the sword became more of a personal defense weapon for civilians.

Fencing consequently becomes an art form, one that is primarily used to resolve issues of honor between men.


If the duels were originally to the death, the introduction of white clothes leads the duels to become first blood (precisely for this reason the white clothes, so as to immediately bring out the hit scored).


Duel to the first blood is no longer accepted in popular thought, so we progress to duels with blunt blades covered in plaster, and then to electronic systems.

Thus was born modern, sports fencing, in which the fundamental principle of “hit and avoid being hit” has given way to point scoring.

fencer making a point

An evolving martial art

As for martial arts, combat sports, technology, evolution is a process that exists and will exist forever.

In the fencing case, we examined its history and discovered how the evolutionary process of society has conditioned the evolution of this martial art, causing it to lose some of its values in order to approach more of the sporting aspect of the Olympic panorama.

fencing competition

if it's a sport, it's not a martial art.

Fencing, like other martial arts that became part of the Olympic Games in order to gain more visibility and economic benefits, had to change its rules slightly to adapt to the Olympic landscape.


However, as with karate, judo, taekwondo, those who choose to practice fencing have the freedom to devote themselves to traditional fencing, studying its art and history, or to sports fencing.

bruce lee, hong kong, statue

Curiosities on Fencing

While I was looking for information on fencing on the internet, I came across an interesting curiosity that I wanted to include in the article:


In the development of his martial art “Jeet Kune Do”, Bruce Lee incorporated fencing movements and positions.


Now, do you understand the reason for those small but impossible to see steps of him? 😀

martial art
martial arts in the olympics

What does Google say?

After hours and hours of researching the best articles, videos, and books on the subject, I realized I hadn’t done the most basic search of all: ask Google.

So I googled “Martial Art” and “Martial Arts in the Olympics,” and you can see what came up.

is fencing a martial art pool on reddit

What do fencers say?

Do you believe that the information I’ve already found was enough for me?

Of course not.

So I questioned what I was missing in my research.


the viewpoint of the actual fencers!

I thus made a “Yes” or “No” poll with a one-day deadline and sent it to @Fencing, the largest online community of fencers on Reddit.

I received roughly 1500 replies in a day, 870 of which were yes and 617 were no.

I asked people to justify their answer since I had my doubts about this result.

90% of users used the same justification I told you before: “Fencing is a martial art, but by entering the Olympic panorama, it is giving up its ideals.”

So… Yes, Fencing is a Martial Art.

fencer removing his helmet


We have reached the end of this article, we have analyzed the history of fencing, its evolution and the meaning of martial art which now, after reading this article, I think you can confirm that it reflects the concepts of fencing.


So from now on, when someone asks you, “Is Fencing A Martial Art?” you will know for sure what to say 😀


Have a nice day!

Karate Martial Art Team

Karate Martial Art Team

The Karate Martial Art Team is made up of 3 contributors who have full-time job and in their free time are dedicated to martial arts and writing. Do you want to become one of the Team? Get in touch on the contact page.

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