The foil is light and flexible, originally developed in the mid 17th century as a training weapon for the Pariser small sword, a light one-handed sword designed almost exclusively for thrusting.
Electric foils have a push button on the point of the blade, which allows hits to be registered by an electronic scoring apparatus. In order to register, the button must be depressed with a force of at least 4.90 newtons for at least 15 milliseconds. Foil and Sabre fencers wear conductive jackets covering their target area, which allow the scoring apparatus to differentiate between on- and off-target hits.
The target area is restricted to the torso, including the front and back. A modification in FIE rules from 1 January 2009 includes as valid target area the part of the mask's bib below a straight line drawn between the shoulders; prior to this, the bib of the fencer's mask was not a valid target. International events such as Junior or Senior World Cup Events require the bib target. However, this rule has not been implemented uniformly in all National fencing organizations. European fencing organizations generally decided on September 1, 2009 as the date for all competitions to use the new rule.
Foil fencing is conducted using rules of right of way. The basic principle is that, if both fencers score a touch on the other, the fencer who began their offensive action first prevails, unless that offensive action fails. A fencer's action fails if it misses his/her opponent, or it is parried. If priority cannot be determined when both fencers have hit each other, no point is awarded.
The original idea behind the rules of foil fencing was to encourage fencers to defend and attack vital areas, and to fight in a methodical way with initiative passing back and forth between the combatants, thus minimizing the risk of a double death.
The target must be hit with the tip of the foil; a touch with any other part of the foil has no effect whatsoever and fencing continues uninterrupted. A touch on an off-target area halts the action, but does not score a point.
When an exchange ends in a hit, the referee will call "halt," and fencing will cease. The referee will then analyze the exchange and phrase it in official terminology. An example of this terminology would be "Attack from the left, no. Parry Riposte from the right is good. Touch right."
The first offensive action is called the attack. All defensive actions successfully deflecting an opponent's blade are called parries. An offensive action of a parrying fencer directly following the parry is called a riposte. An offensive action of a fencer, who attacks a second time without first withdrawing the arm after an unsuccessful first attack, is called a remise. An offensive action of a fencer from the on-guard position, after being parried and then returning to the on-guard position, is called a reprise. An offensive action of a fencer after his/her opponent has lost the right to riposte via inaction is called a redouble. An offensive action begun by a fencer who is being attacked by his/her opponent is called a counter-attack.
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