Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Épée Is For Losers

Photo credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Photo credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Fencing is a great sport. It’s pseudo-techno-sword-fighting! What more could you want? I’ll tell you: to get rid of épée, the stupid version of the sport.

There are three weapons in fencing: foil, sabre, and épée. Foil and sabre are great weapons that require great skill. Épée is lawless nightmare. It’s the wild west of something that is usually graceful and difficult.

Foil and sabre are sports that have target areas. You can’t just hit willy-nilly all over the place and get a point in those sports. In foil, you have to stab someone in the torso. In sabre, you have to stab or slash someone in torso, arms, or head. These are real targets that show a killer instinct. Foil and sabre fencers want to kill you, épée fencers are content for a mild inconvenience. In épée, a shot to the chest is worth the same as a shot to the foot. The fucking foot.


Foil and sabre are also what are called “right-of-way” weapons. That means that there are a pile of complicated rules that indicate who gets a point when both lights go on. That’s so that the person attacking and doing all the complicated strategy work to kill you gets the point. And that a person who sees you coming can’t just stick out their arm, manage to hit you at the same time, and get a point. Épée gives a point to anyone, any time they hit. Fuck that. You don’t even need a referee in épée. Just someone who can see when a light goes off.

Plus, being tall is a huge advantage in épée. Why? Because of that no-right-of-way thing, you can just stretch out your arm when the other person is attacking and get a point. No skill, just long arms. Mr. Fantastic would dominate this sport, and Reed Richards should never dominate anything.

Foil and sabre are sports that reward thinking and reflexes and split-second timing. It’s chess with swords. Épée has fewer rules than Calvinball. Although both are great for kids with no impulse control.

Here’s some épée. It’s bullshit:

And finally, fuck both diacritics in épée. I fenced for years and took French and I didn’t register until today that there were two fucking accents aigus in that name. It’s an attempt to polish a turd. Épée is the least refined of the weapons, and it’s trying to hide that with fancy letters. No. It should really be called something like “lazy stabbing.” “There’s foil, sabre, and lazy stabbing. Which would sounds most exciting?” (It’s sabre, by the way. It’s always sabre. That’s the one with the name that actually conveys that you’re going to get to watch two people try to kill each other with swords. Possibly while dressed as pirates.)


Fuck you, épée. No one is a winner when they’re fighting épée. They’re all losers.

This is Gawker Media’s last week as an independent media operation, and while that shouldn’t affect you much one way or the other as a reader, we’re still going to take advantage of a pretext to run some especially stupid posts. If you have any ideas for such posts, hit us at

Katharine is the Associate Director of Policy and Activism at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the former managing editor of io9. She writes about technology policy and pop culture.

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