Artistic fencing: issues of global promotion of the sport

Artistic fencing: issues of global promotion of the sport


Dr.Hab., Professor, Honored coach of Russia A.D. Movshovich1
PhD, Associate Professor V.V. Lobanov2
1Russian State University of Physical Culture, Sport, Youth and tourism (GTSOLIFK), Moscow
2Tomsk State Pedagogical University, Tomsk

Keywords: artistic fencing, stage fencing, theatrical fencing, fencing art, sport, antiquity, modernity.

Background. Fencing scenes in theatrical performances have long been viewed as a specific art and, to a degree, one of the key elements of individual artistry [1, 5-8]. It was in the early XX century that a first manual of stage fencing was published in Russia (by A. Lyugar) [3] and this publication in fact laid a foundation in our country for practical procedures and practices to master stage fights with epees and other cold weapons. Recently in Europe and later in Russia stage fencing evolved into modern artistic fencing with its own rules of competitions that cover a variety of historic-period-specific classes of duels, battle scenes, and solo/ ensemble performances [4]. Modern artistic fencing styles include European swordsmanship of every epoch from the ancient times to nowadays plus the “time-unspecific” freestyle fencing classes like sabre fighting [2]. Artistic Fencing World Championships are held under the auspices of the Armament Academy International (AAI).

Objective of the study was to identify the problems in national artistic fencing in the process of its promotion in the national sport system.

Study results and discussion. In the artistic fencing promotion process in its new role of a sport discipline, the sport has faced quite a few problems that hold back its progress and popularity. The first problem is the need for clear theoretical provisions and formulae for the missions of artistic fencing, refereeing service for solo/ ensemble performances, duels, and group fights.

Contradictory interpretations of the artistic fencing rules and key notions by the nations cultivating this sport discipline are still of serious restricting effect on the sport development and promotion. It is the main reason for the competitors being quite often confused and even stunned by the referees’ scores in the international competitions including world championships.

The first step towards overcoming the above problems could be made when we implement in the internationally accepted practice a precise definition of artistic fencing to give no way for deliberate interpretations in future that now make performances often come in conflict with the rules of competitions. In doing that, the available conceptual developments of the Russian specialists could be taken as a basis, with the sport definitions stating a frame concept, and the rules regulating the performance scoring system with the relevant elements of the concept.

Therefore, artistic fencing will be defined as the sporting activity to demonstrate a simulative bout or special exercises with the cold steel analogues/ simulators as regulated by the relevant rules of competitions. A simulative bout, in its turn, means the preliminary rehearsed historic-dress plot fight staged as required by the artistic fencing standards.

The above artistic fencing standards will be based on the following key provisions:

– Every participant to the performance will be viewed as a teammate rather than opponent;

– Every action of the participants to the simulative bout will be well known beforehand and duly rehearsed;

– Bouts will be performed using simulators/ analogues of long-blade and long-shaft weapons of European types with the blades or their substitutes being at least 50 cm long, non-sharpened and duly protected by safety tips;

– No special protective equipment will be used in the bouts;

– In the offensive hits, the weapon will be always stopped 15-20 cm to the body or passed at least 15 cm far from the body, save for the special situations as provided by the plot;

– Every athlete will be skilful in the basic modern competitive fencing techniques to increase the performance safety standards; and

– Competitive performance will be scored by the total points awarded by the referees including the technical mastery rating points and the artistic merits rating points.

Artistic fencing requires from the athletes to be well fit in the overall functional and special aspects and have good knowledge, qualities and skills including:

– Due motor fitness and excellent mental and physiological qualities;

– High technical fencing skills using all types of European cold weapons;

– Ability to equally well perform different roles based on good choreographic skills, expressiveness and artistic qualities and skills; and

– Knowledge of the historic dress, weapons and history of the subject epoch on the whole.

Therefore, in the nearest future the Armament Academy International will take efforts to unify the terminology, notions and definitions in the artistic fencing domain to have approved, at last, uniform rules of competitions irrespective of the country where the competitions take place. Subject to the special unification efforts will be the key performance rating criteria applicable to the fencing techniques and artistic merits of the fencing performance. In more specific terms, the points awarded by the referees for the weapon control techniques will factor in the following aspects:

– Background technique;

– Weapon control mastery;

– Quantities and complexity levels of the fencing elements and combinations; performance pace; and types of weapons used; and

– Overall performance standard, versatility degree of actions, and harmonization degree of elements in fencing performance.

As for the artistic aspects of the fencing performance, the referees’ scores will give the top priority to the following components:

– Artistic skills;

– Expressiveness;

– Composition design;

– Singularity of the idea and decorations of the performance; and

– General impression, aesthetics and ethics of the performance.

The above criteria refer to solo fencing performances. The valid Russian rules of competitions offer sets of rating criteria for the other performance classes (i.e. ensemble, duet and group performance classes).

One more serious problem is the need for an internationally reputable group of referees serving a variety of tournaments on a systemic basis. As of today, the national system lacks a minimal required panel of sport referees having perfect knowledge of the rules of competitions and sufficient experience in scoring the fencing techniques and artistic skills, to say nothing about the referees’ knowledge and experience in scoring the compliance of the fencing equipment and accessories to the subject epoch.

It should be noted that in every world championship at this juncture we have to see virtually unknown referees, plus one or two known ones, and this fact cannot but evokes natural perplexity and even mistrust in the participants to the competitions and team leaders.

Conclusion. It is a high time to put together an international competition schedule for artistic fencing. This needs to be done by the relevant AAI commission, with the schedules and places of the competitions duly agreed with the national Armament Academies. Every competition under the internationally accepted schedule shall be run in compliance with the duly approved rules of competitions, and these initiatives will provide a starting point for a uniform artistic fencing system for this new sport discipline being developed. The more frequent are the events, the faster will be the progress of this appealing and highly aesthetic sport discipline.

Therefore, special efforts need to be taken to hold the world championship more often than now. An official European championship need to be held at least once in two years in addition to the existing international tournaments, with the world championships being held with the same periodicity.

The study was performed with support from the Russian Research Foundation Project Grant #15-18-10002).


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Corresponding author:

As things now stand in the new sport discipline of artistic fencing dominated by the European swordsmanship school that have absorbed the cold steel mastery from the ancient times till nowadays – the sport faces two major problems that complicate its progress on the global arenas. Problem number one may be described as the need for commonly accepted perceptions of the refereeing rules and requirements that are now country-specific in fact, and this inevitably results in mistrust of the fencing teams to the quality of the refereeing services. One of the ways to solve the problem is to accept the Russian system as a basis that offers the key terms, definitions and specifications of artistic fencing. Problem number two is apparently due to the shortage of highly skilled referees to serve the top-ranking international events on a systemic basis. The authority of the refereeing community may be stepped up and its numbers may be increased through international competitions being held more often than now. When and if the above problems are successfully solved, it will give a boost to the artistic fencings sport for its movement from the current foundation stage to the progress stage.