Rio 2016: Why Do Fencers Scream?

With its roots in European swordsmanship and medieval duels, fencing is known as a highbrow sport. So why are fencing bouts often filled with raucous screams? Members of the U.S. Olympic fencing team break down the reasons. Photo: AP

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Comment (279)

  1. NBC has been pretty good about controlling the volume levels of these matches. They crank it up so we hear the clashing of the weapons, then when the scoring light activates, the volume drops just enough where the screaming isn't as annoying as it used to be. Nice work!

  2. "You fight like a Dairy Farmer!"
    "How appropriate! You fight like a cow!"

    "Only once have I met such a coward!"
    "He must have taught you everything you know."

    "I have never seen such clumsy swordplay!"
    "You would have, but you were always running away."

    "I've got a long, sharp lesson for you to learn today."
    "And I've got a little TIP for you. Get the POINT?"

  3. Yelling occurs in many sports. Relief, intimidation, self confidence boost etc… some of us would be surpised how valuable yelling can be against a opponent (and for ones self). Especially when the opponent is dazed or not focused. It can practically shatter their concentration depending on the situation.

  4. I do notice that sabreurs tend to be the most vocal, which may be related to the whole "lobbying for the attack", given the frequency of simultaneous actions in sabre relative to foil. (Explanatory note for non-fencers: In sabre and foil, two of fencing's three disciplines, when both fencers hit each other at the same time, The referee must judge who was the first to attack, as only that fencer will score. If both attacks started at the same moment, then nobody scores.) As for screaming in general, when it accompanies the attack, it fits into the idea of releasing energy or forcing an exhalation. If you yell, you are making yourself breathe out completely, which can give you more power in your action. This is why martial artists kiai when they demonstrate board breaking, it's one of the reasons soccer goalkeepers will yell "KEEPER" as they attack a ball in the air or make a sliding save against a breakaway.

  5. this is really fucking annoying me. i didnt know that people do it as a strategy. i pretty much gave up fencing because i hit a brick wall with timing judgements against me in competition where i was clearly the faster opponent but points were lost for "out of time attacks".
    it seems all i needed to do to continue my career was shout.
    i genuinely feel quite angry about this and ironically want to shout.

  6. In my point of view, it's a lack of composure and respect for your adversary. Modern Sport fencing couldn't be more away from the actual fencing. The "exercise" of fencing was as much of a mental as a physical activity, not only scoring hits but also avoiding double hits and to behave in a proper way for a gentleman (acknowledging hits and, above all, respect and gratitude for your sparring mate).

  7. I´m a fencer in Argentina, and the only reason someone shout it´s because the point was really hard to touch, and to release presure, the rest is just overthinking the matter. It`s the same as making a video explaining why football players celebrate their goals. Because they want, because it´s not easy to score one.

  8. It's one thing to let out a genuine reaction to a particularly satisfying touch, but this has gotten completely out of hand. Coaches shouldn't be instructing their fencers to squeal and scream after every touch for any reason provided in this video, whether it be to influence the referee (they should be doing that with their fencing, not what happens after a halt), to intimidate/rub their success in their opponents' faces (that's just bad sportsmanship), or to relieve tension (give me a break). To me, this behavior represent some of the sport's worst aspects, and I wish FIE and USFA would rein it in.

    Fencing has an awesome and unique tradition of sportsmanship: the acknowledging of an opponent's touch. The best bouts I've ever seen or participated in were bouts in which the referee barely needed to make any calls, because the competitors were honest and fair about each exchange. This is a legacy left to the sport from the days before electric scoring equipment, and it's being drowned out in the showboating screams of national and international foil and sabre competition.

  9. I fenced throughout high school and college, and I have to say that the screaming aspect of the sport was always my least favorite. It always seemed undignified to me, but I guess I understand the reason for doing it. I never did it myself.

  10. its a tell, its a big tell, with my hema instructor he says breath and release breath during the attack. it keeps it hidden and undetected. most well versed swordsmen (not fencers) will read the breathing movement when relating to an attack. a "kiai" or other method of souns gives you away in your attack. a good swordamen stays quite, someone looking for fame falls quick.

  11. I've done it to piss off opponents that deserved pissing off (my rage-jostling would be too obvious).  I don't like doing it, and I want to stop it.  Intimidate with your swordplay, not your vocal cords.  Fencing epee helps;  there's no convincing the judge you got a point if you don't actually get the point, lol.

  12. I fence foil and Epee and I yell when I'm frustrated but I also scream when I score a good touch especially if it is a perfectly executed point. People do it to release tension from their body and its for relief.

  13. After I get a point and I just stand there clapping me hands with a daisy on my head. There are different fencers too. 😊 and I just so happen to be the jolly/completely emotionless type.

  14. Why do fencers scream? I am a fencer. For all of you who are curious, I fence epee. From the time that the referee says: En garde, ready, fence! The fencers who are on the strip/ using the machine are not allowed to talk. After you or your opponent score a point, you can talk. At that point is when the fencers scream.

  15. unless you play team sport and you communicate with each other, you should not be allowed to do sport. Especially not Fending, since its sport of gentlemen.

  16. Some of the reasons is the same with open hand martial arts like karate or taekwondo. It can also be used as a way to gain confidence. Some do it just to look powerful and appease the people.

  17. Why are people saying it's unnecessary like don't you guys know how hard it is to get a touch being a fencer myself when I score a touch I want to yell and be enthusiastic

  18. I've been fencing over 20 years.  I don't scream after a touch.  It doesn't intimidate me when my opponent screams…I am usually just amused by their stupidity.  It never affects the referee…he/she has already decided the touch by the time a fencer starts screaming.  It may be a release of "pressure"…but, if you  have to scream after every touch, maybe you should find a different sport.  I've refereed high school bouts where I've had to card fencers for excessive displays.

  19. Fencers scream because they don't realise how stupid it makes them look. Fencing is already a hard sell, but add screaming like a chicken after every little point really makes it look embarrassing to regular people.

  20. I dont know how to feel about yelling after a point… some say its ok but others say that its bad because fencing should be a sport of gentlemen… i sometimes yell but not often

  21. screaming to influence the ref is really disingenuous. I think fencing should have two refs minimum, one who just makes all the calls quickly as he sees them and is the ultimate authority on simple (one light or very obvious) actions, and one more for the really ambiguous actions who immediately watches a slowed down replay instead of deliberating. I also just think that screaming or being ostentatious on strip should just be a cardable offense. save your popoff for when you've won.

  22. I never tried sport fencing, but I train Longsword in a HEMA club, so I have some kind of sparring experience. I can totally understand, why they scream. I think many people underestimate how intense it can get, when you fight someone. Both opponents try to find an opening and circle each other or in sportfencings case go forth and back. And then the whole action mostly happens in a matter of seconds. So after someone is hit most of the pressure falls off, so you scream.
    And like many people hear allready said, in nearly every sport people celebrate by screaming after they score. Why should fencing be any different.

  23. I wasn’t a high level fencer, but I was a state champion in high school with nearly perfect individual records both my junior and senior years, and I never felt the need to yell at any point. I preferred to let my speed, footwork and bladework do the talking. In my opinion it’s unsportsmanlike and disrespectful.

  24. Because after thirty some years of it, the long lunge is starting to hurt quite a lot? On a related note, a friend used to take off for what was effectively a victory lap whenever he scored.

  25. I want to do fencing😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😗😍😍😍😍😗😗😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😗😜😜🧐🧐🤩🤩🤩🧐😜😋😋😋😋😋😗😋😋😗😗😋😋😋😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗😗🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑❤️❤️🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑❤️❤️❤️❤️🥳🦔🦔🦔🤒👈🏾🤯🤯😇🤪😛🦜🤠💩🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🦜🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠😜💜💜😗😗😋🧐😎😎😎

  26. Not all people scream to realise pressure. I want to hit things or put the pressure on the thing I want to like, tearing paper, trying to break something, or hurt something.

  27. It's ridiculous. Why scream when you lost a point? Table tennis players don't. Tennis players don't. In what sport does anyone need to scream after every point, won or lost. I think the judges would think you're an idiot … you think they can be influenced like that?… then they won't be selected as judges.

  28. I really don’t like it. I think it is extremely unsportsmanlike, in any sport. But I find it especially annoying in fencing and tennis because it seems to be far more commonplace.

  29. I don't find it intimidating. If anything, it's kind of a confidence boost because it feels like they're happy to be getting a point against you, which makes you feel like you're better

  30. The comments below reflect a lot of ignorance about the emotional state you're in when fencing. There is a long tradition of yelling after a point. The traditional thing to yell is "e la!" It means "there" in French. It means "Take That" in English. But in the heat of the moment anything might come out. It's not being disrespectful to your opponent. Your opponent knows your yelling has nothing to do with him. It's your own spontaneous reaction to winning a tough touch.

    When fencing, you're wound up way tighter than tennis players. Tennis players look at one another over a net and from a distance. Fencers look at each other over cold steel aimed at your chest or head at close range.

    Not real swords, you say? Fencers have been injured and even killed in fencing bouts. Blades break, and what's left is a stiff steel stub with a jagged point. A World Champion was killed when a broken foil went through his mask and through his head.

    I got a broken Foil through my thigh when I was fencing in a tournament. That's not fun. I've played many sports in my 66 years. Fencing stands alone in terms of adrenaline and possible consequences if a blade breaks.

  31. Those who don´t understand screaming are those who have never had a competitive career and only practice sport as an entertainment. Even I can say that if I scream vs you, I consider you a hard opponent that makes me feel pressure and be focused. if I don´t scream any point it is because it is so easy for me that I don´t even feel that pressure.

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