Fencing/Electrical Equipment Repair
NOTE TO READERS: This book assumes the reader has general knowledge of the sport of Fencing and the associated equipment.
Electrical fencing equipment has entirely replaced the old jury system in all levels of competitive fencing. All of the equipment - the box, reels, wires, strip, and weapons - is for the sole purpose of determining the arrival and validity of touches.
At Foil, hitting the opponent's lamé with your weapon's tip causes the colored light on your side to go on, indicating a valid hit. Hitting anywhere else will cause your side's white light to come on, indicating an off-target hit. However, hitting your opponent's weapon or the conductive strip (if used) will not cause either light to come on.
Additionally, scoring machines have two small, usually orange, grounding lights that come on when either fencer touches their weapon to their lamé. On modern machines, this extends the lamé circuit to the weapon, causing a hit on the weapon to register as a valid hit. It also usually prevents the affected fencer from scoring.
At Épée, only the colored lights are used, the white lights are not used at all. Hitting anything except your opponent's weapon or the conductive strip with your weapon's tip will cause your side's colored light to come on. The grounding lights are still used, they indicate a hit on the strip or your opponent's guard. However, hits made on your opponent's tip in a way that depresses both tips (an extremely rare occurrence) should result in double touches if the internal springs are the same.
At Sabre, like Épée, only the colored lights are used. The white off-target lights are used only to indicate a problem with the circuitry. Touching any part of your weapon (not just the tip) to your opponent's lamé or conductive mask will cause your colored light to go on. For obvious reasons, hits made with the guard of your weapon (rather than the blade) are not allowed.
Touching your weapon to your lamé at Sabre has the same effect as at Foil - hits made on your weapon will register as valid touches and you will not be able to score. This is a much more common occurrence at Sabre for two reasons:
- The valid target area includes the arms, bringing it very close to the weapon.
- The entire weapon (not just the tip) is "hot", i.e. able to score. If one fencer's weapon is touching their lamé, any blade contact will cause a hit to be registered.
How it works
The foil Bodycord has only two prongs, current flows in one and out the other to make a circuit. The tip closes or turns on the circuit in the default or undepressed position, when depressed, the tip breaks the circuit. If the circuit is broken the scoring "box" checks to see if another circuit is closed. The second circuit is made up of the lamé or metallic jacket worn by the fencer. The lamé is grounded into the box and current flows out of the tip of the foil in the depressed position. If the tip is depressed while in contact with the lamé a hit is counted. If the tip is depressed on anything else then a white "bad hit" light goes off and the bout is paused briefly.
In épée, the body cord has three prongs on either end. The two prongs closest two each other are the A and B lines, the far prong is the C line. The A and B lines are used to determine when a touch has been made. When the tip is depressed, the A and B lines are connected completing the circuit and causing the light on the box to go off. The C line is used to ground the bell, preventing hits scored on it from landing. The barrel at the end of the épée contains a tip and two springs. The small spring is the contact spring, preventing the circuit from closing until the tip has travelled a certain distance. The larger spring is the pressure spring, to make sure the circuit isn't closed until the force of a 750 g weigh is applied to it.
Sabre is the simplest of weapons and has only one (bayonet) or two (standard) prongs in the Bodycord. Fencers wear lamés that are grounded into the scoring box. The whole sabre blade is electrified and acts like a giant switch. The box does not do anything unless current is flowing through the grounding wire, then a hit is counted.