Those that live to restrict the fundamental freedoms of others do not restrict their efforts only to firearms, but often engage in the suppression of all weapons–or anything that might resemble one.   Such is the case at North Dakota State University, a part of the country not generally known for a rarity of common sense. has the story: 

“Fencing, an Olympic sport sponsored by more than 30 NCAA schools, involves two athletes engaging in what is effectively a sword fight with a foil, saber, or épée. The equipment is blunted and does not have any actual blades or sharp tips. Unfortunately, for the newly-formed club fencing team at North Dakota State University, fencing equipment counts as a weapon, and the club has been barred from practicing on campus.”

Is this policy a rational response to real potential threats, or an ill-considered overreaction?  Full disclosure: I am the co-founder and first Vice President of the Wyoming Division of the United States Fencing Association. I also have many years of experience in Kendo and Iaido–Japanese fencing and sword drawing.

Fencing has its roots in Europe and because America never embraced fencing as part of its unique culture, it has never caught on as a popular sport, though Americans have done very well in international competition, including the Olympics. Part of the problem is that is so fast. The fencers face each other, there are several quick beats of their blades, a flashing lunge and a point is scored. Add four more points and a bout is over with the non-fencing audience having little idea what happened or how.

These are the three swords used in modern sport fencing. These are practice swords. Competition swords are “electric,” or wired to allow scoring that does not rely on the human eye. The top sword is a foil, which is the basic sword all fencers learn to use. It has a blade that is square in shape and very flexible. The entire sword is very light, and is wielded easily through wrist action. The blade is about 35” long.

The middle sword is the epee (eh-peh), which is modeled on the rapier (ray-peer) of the Renaissance. When Mercutio and Tybalt dueled in Romeo and Juliet, they would have wielded rapiers and perhaps parrying daggers. It is substantially heavier than the foil, has a larger handguard, and a much stiffer blade triangular in shape. While it is light enough to be manipulated by the wrist, much more of the arm is necessary to use it properly.