Epee, foil and saber are the three weapons used in the sport of fencing. While it is not unusual for fencers to compete in all three events, an athlete typically chooses to hone their skills in one weapon as they progress through their fencing lessons.
The epee (pronounced "EPP‐pay"), the descendant of the dueling sword, is similar in length to the foil, but is heavier, weighing approximately 27 ounces, with a larger guard (to protect the hand from a valid hit) and a much stiffer blade. Touches are scored only with the point of the blade, and the entire body, head‐to‐toe, is the valid target area, imitating an actual duel.
A full‐body target makes epee a competition of careful strategy and patience — wild, rash attacks are quickly punished with solid counter‐attacks.
The foil is a descendant of the light court sword used by nobility to train for duels. The foil has a flexible rectangular blade, approximately 35 inches in length and weighs less than one pound. Points are scored with the tip of the blade and must land within the torso of the body. The valid target area in foil is the torso and does not include the arms, neck, head and legs.
The flexible nature of the foil blade permits the modern elite foil fencer to attack an opponent from seemingly impossible angles.
The saber is the modern version of the slashing cavalry sword, and it's similar in length and weight to the foil. The major difference is the use of the blade. Saberists can score with the edge of their blade as well as their point. The target area is from the bend of the hips (both front and back), to the top of the head. This simulates the cavalry rider on a horse.
Saber is a fast, aggressive game, with fencers rushing their opponent from the moment the referee gives the instruction to fence.