“Line” refers to a position or area on a fencer’s body. Imagine that the torso is bisected both laterally and vertically. There are then four quadrants or sections of the body. “High line” refers to the sections above the lateral line, “low line” are those below.
The quadrants on the chest side of the vertical division are ‘inside line’ and the other two are ‘outside line.’ The upper chest side quadrant is then referred to as ‘inside high line.’
When fencing, the three different weapons that you use have three different strike zones. It’s important to know this as you cannot simply begin flailing at your opponent your first time out; additionally, your object of the bout is to score points, and you’ll only do that by striking in the correct zone.
Only the epee allows you to strike anywhere on your opponent’s body for a point.
Many users of the epee aim for their opponent’s hands or feet, as these are easier targets to hit. Like the foil, the épée is a thrusting weapon; to score a valid hit, the fencer must fix the point of his weapon on his opponent’s target.
The epee is not subject to right of way rules, so whomever hits first scores a point.
For the foil, the strike zone is only your opponent’s torso.
Hits can be scored only by hitting the valid target surface with the point of the weapon in such a manner as would have caused a puncture wound, had the weapon been sharp; in other words, sliding your weapon across the front of the torso would not award you a point. A touch on an off-target area stops the bout but does not score a point.
The original idea behind the foil rules was to encourage the fencers to defend and attack vital areas. This was also to have the combatants fight back and forth between them, concentrating on tactical methods, footwork and blade work.
Because most bouts use electronic scoring machines, and because the foil’s strike zone is the most restrictive, fencers wear a conductive jacket that covers their target area. This way, hits made out of the strike zone are not registered for points.
The sabre target includes everything above the waist, except the opponent’s hands and back of their head or neck.
Because the sabre is considered the “cutting weapon” and would be sharp along the entire blade, not just the tip, any contact between any part of the blade and any part of the target counts as a valid touch and earns a point.
The sabre is also subject to the right of way rules, and typically relies more on footwork to score points or evade an opponent’s strikes.