The Épée

the foil

The second of the three swords: "The Épée" pronounced:"eh-pay". It's overal length is upto 110cm, the blade being of a maximum of 90cm.

Its blade is of a hollow-ground triangular section, for lightness and strength. This blade type is similar to the civilian duelling swords of the 18th and 19th centuries, on which this weapon is supposedly based.

The rest of the weapon is composed of the following:

  • At the business end of the blade is the Button, this stops you wounding your opponent. On the electric épée this is the tip which is a switch that requires a force of 750 grammes, or more, to close it: this being considered the penetration force of the original, pointed weapon;
  • the Guard, a descriptively accurate name for the eccenrically placed circular, bell shaped piece of metal that covers your sword hand when in action. The rules allow it a maximum diameter of 13.5cm, a maximum depth of 5.5cm (minimum 3cm) and a maximum eccentricity of 3.5 cm from guard centre to blade;
  • the Hilt, the handle of the weapon. It is ergonomically shaped to fit your hand, so like the jacket comes in left and right hand versions. (There are different forms of hilt or Grip see variations, the illustrated example is the classic French Grip used to develope blade control and in tution). The Gardaire type grip is illegal as far as épée rules are concerned;
  • the Pommel, this is actually a weight to help balance the weapon in your hand; and
  • the funny looking loop is made of leather and called a Martingale, you place your fingers through it, so that if you loosen your grip you do not drop your foil. This is a safety precaution, not just for you, but for others in the area!

Épée Grip Variations

All right hand forms.

french épée gripFrench grip is the classic hilt, and the best for learning finger control.

pistol épée gripOrthopeadic grip is a more developed ergonomic form of handle.

orthopeadic épée gripPistol grip is presently the ultimate form of this trend in ergonomic forms. The competitor's favourite. This is also an electric version.

zivcovic épée gripZivcovic gripis a grip for the 21st century. Still new to the game, also known as "elephant's ear". This is also an electric version.

The gardaire grip is illegal for épée.

Some Épée Rules

The target area for the épée is shown here in white: it consists of the entire body, except hits on to the weapon.

an épéistThe épée is a point weapon, hits are valid when the tip/button is pushed onto the designated target area with what is determined sufficient force (750 grammes and greater) to cause penetration:- if it was a real sharp weapon. Sideways hits are invalid.

There is no rule of Priority.

Épée Equipment

The only special equipment needed for épée is a metalised surface for the piste, this allows hits to the floor not to be registered as valid, as the floor can then be earthed away.

Épée History

3 rapiersHilts, top to bottom: a 1960's Italian foil,a 1790 English small sword, and a modern French foil.

By the early 19th century duelling was illegal, and when rarely done, done so with pistols. However, the notion of a "for real" style of sword fighting was to encourage some enthusiasts to develope the épée. It is based on the heavier duelling weapons, and the entire body as target reflects the duelling swordsman's need to be able to hit his opponent where-ever it is necessary to prolong his own life!

A fuller chronology of fencing history is to be seen on our fencing history page.