Fencing Weapons

foilThere are two varieties of foil in use today: the "dry", or nonelectric, foil; and the electrically scored foil. The components common to both varieties are the pommel, grip, guard, thumb pad, and blade. The nonelectric foil has a real tip with a blunted end that is capped with a plastic or rubber knob.

The electric foil also contains a socket underneath the guard that connects to the scoring apparatus via the body cord and a wire that runs down a channel cut into the top of the blade. The tip of the electric foil terminates in a button assembly that generally consists of a barrel, plunger, spring, and retaining screws. The circuit is a "normally closed" one, meaning that at rest there is always a complete power circuit. Depressing the tip breaks this circuit, and the scoring apparatus illuminates an appropriate light: white for hits not on the valid target area, or either red or green representing hits on the valid target area.

The pommel, a type of threaded fastener used to fasten blade, guard, plug, and grip assemblies together, is specific to the type of grip that is used. There are two types of grips used for foils: straight grips with long, external pommels, comprising the French, Italian, and Spanish varieties, and orthopedic, or pistol grips, which are designed to fix the hand in a specific position and have pommels that fit into a countersink in the back of the grip. Electric foil plugs are fixed so that the body cord plugs into the weapon along the inside of the wrist. There are two varieties in use today: the two-prong variety which has unequal diameter prongs and is held in place by a retaining clip, and the single-prong Bayonette which twist-locks into place. Foil guards are limited to a diameter of 9.5 to 12 cm in international competition.

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The weapon itself features a 5-6 foot long hardwood shaft of ovular cross-section, tapering from a flat blade (rau) at one end, to a point at the other. The shape and decorations of the weapon are considered to represent those of a stylised human body. The spear-like point is known as the arero or tongue, and is likened to the protruding tongue of Tu Matauenga, the God of War. Both blade and point are traditionally fire-hardened and are nearly as sharp as steel.

The section of the shaft immediately above the arero features stylised eyes and a mouth, carved out of wood and inlaid with paua shell, a decorative sea-shell similar to abalone. A bunch of feathers forms a ruff around the neck of the weapon.


Is a traditional Japanese sword with a shoto blade between 30 and 60 cm, with an average of 50 cm. It is similar to but shorter than a katana.

The wakizashi was usually worn together with the katana by the samurai or swordsmen of feudal Japan. When worn together the pair of swords were called daisho, which translates literally as “large and small”. The katana was often called the sword or the long sword and the wakizashi the companion sword.

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The tachi is a Japanese sword, often said to be more curved and slightly longer than the katana. However, it has been stated that a sword is called a tachi when hung from the obi (belt or sash) with the edge down, and the same sword becomes a katana when worn edge up and thrust through the girdle.

The tachi was used primarily on horseback, where it was able to be drawn efficiently for cutting down enemy footsoldiers. On the ground it was still an effective weapon, but somewhat awkward to use.

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Aikuchi is a form of mounting for Japanese blades in which the handle and the scabbard meet without a guard in between. Originally used on the koshigatana (a precursor to the wakizashi) to facilitate close wearing with armor, it became a fashionable upper-class mounting style for tanto (daggers) in the Edo period.

Small aikuchi tanto known as kaiken became popular with the Yakuza, as they were easy to conceal; however, the most typical user of kaiken were women samurai from the Edo period onwards, who kept it as an emergency and/or suicide weapon.

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