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Fencing, the art of attack and defence with a sword or similar weapon.  Modern fencing is a recreational and competitive sport, but its rules and techniques are derived from those originally developed for efficient swordplay in duelling.



During the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century) the sword was an offensive weapon used for cracking armour, and the shield was used for defence. After gunpowder came into general use, heavy defensive armour became obsolete, and the sword became a defensive as well as an offensive weapon.  In the 16th century the rapier was introduced in Italy, and the art of fencing was rapidly systematized in fencing schools.  A dagger in the other hand, and later a folded cloak, replaced the shield.  Eventually the non-sword arm was left free and held away from the sword arm to minimize the target area. The use of the rapier and the Italian fencing technique spread throughout Europe.  In France and England, the size and shape  of the  rapier were constantly modified because its length and weight made it clumsy to carry.  During the 18th  century the small sword, or epée, was invented and popularized in France; the new weapon resulted in distinct Italian and French styles of fencing.  The Italians used the rapier in a bravura manner, with pronounced, vigorous gestures.  The French used the epée in a more formal manner, with great restraint of movement.  The French style of fencing became by far the more prominent.  Its rules govern most modern competition, and the vocabulary of traditional fencing is composed largely of French words.

During this time, diGrasse published his famous treatise on "His True Art of Defence", a rambling but very insightful dissertation on serious Duelling. In the 19th century duelling was generally outlawed, and the fencing schools turned to teaching fencing for purposes of sport.