If you catch any of the fencing in the Olympics... It's likely going to be a blur of blades and competitors... But be assured, there is a method to the madness. And if you know what to look for, it's pretty amazing.
First, some history. Swordplay dates back thousands of years, but historians tell us fencing - as a sport - began appearing 500 or 600 years ago.
Fast forward to the first modern Olympics, Athens 1896… when the sport of men's fencing is featured, and 28 years later, in 1924, women's fencing is added to the games.
To better understand this ancient sport we visited the Fresno Fencing Academy. Vladmir Ostatnigrosh has trained some truly great fencers, and is a soviet national champion himself.
This sport is full of nuance and tiny details, but here's what you need to know...
Fencing consists of three different weapons, and not only are the weapons themselves different, but where - and how - you can score points also differ.
There's the foil; "Foil is the smallest target area, just torso."
The sabre; "Sabre is just torso, arms and head. This weapon came from cavalry sword."
And the épée; "This weapon, épée, has similar technique with foil, different rules, because in foil we have to win right of way."
And a word about "right of way"… in épée, pretty much the entire body is fair game, but unlike the other two disciplines - where you can score "only" on an attack - there's no rule on when you can score a point in epee… both competitors can even score at the same time.
With all three weapons, fencers compete on a 14 meter by 2 meter strip. A bout is scored to 15 touches over a three minute period. To keep track of the score, each competitor wears a special vest called a lamé, which detects sword touches through an electronic scoring system.
"Engarde, ready, fence..."
But putting the equipment and field of play aside, this is all about blade work, footwork, and tactics. And because it's often lightning fast, it requires a tremendous amount of focus. They're not just slashing away. And Olga Otstatnigrosh should know, she's an NCAA champion herself.
"It's mental… you have to outsmart your opponent. They call fencing 'physical chess', so you have to think ahead of what you opponent is going to be doing."
The fencing tournament gets underway on Saturday 28th. It wraps up with the medal matches on August 5th. You can follow all of the exciting action on KSEE24 and NBC, as well as NBC's Olympic website.