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En Garde!



En Garde!
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 7
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.9

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    dagger, ignite, saber, lightweight, popularity, contend, fighter, dated, see-through, participate, sword, sport, lunge, strategy, spain, armor
     content words:    Roman Empire, King Charles IX, French Fencing Academy, United States, World War, Olympic Games


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En Garde!
By Jane Runyon
  

1     The sport of fencing grew out of war. Early soldiers used swords to defend themselves in battle. These soldiers needed to train themselves in the use of such weapons. They would often spar against each other to get practice. Competition came from these training sessions. Soldiers would vie with each other to see who could best handle the sword.
 
2     The earliest proof we have that fencing was conducted as a sport comes from carvings found in Egypt. These carvings can be dated back as far as 1200 B.C. We know that these carvings are of sport fencing because the competitors are wearing face masks, the weapons have protective tips on the ends, and there are judges shown in the scene.
 
3     Early Greeks and Romans fenced with short swords. When barbarians brought down the Roman Empire, the short swords were left behind and heavier harder to handle swords took their place. It wasn't until the 14th century and the beginning of the Renaissance period that swords changed to the lighter, faster weapons that we associate with fencing today.
 
4     The rapier was the sword of choice in the 14th century. Before this time, soldiers wore heavy armor which protected them from the heavy swords. Soldiers then had a new weapon to contend with. Gunpowder was brought from China and used to ignite small metal balls which could penetrate the armor. Soldiers needed to be quicker on their feet. If they got into hand to hand battle, they wanted a weapon that was lightweight and easy to handle. That weapon was the rapier.
 
5     The next century brought with it fencing weapons that are still used today. Spain was the first country to take the training of fencers seriously. They even published books which contained rules for fencing. The Spanish were instrumental in spreading the art of fencing throughout Europe. The Italians preferred to use the rapier in their right hands and hold a dagger or small shield in the left. They invented a move they called the lunge which became very popular. Fencing became so popular among the noblemen of Europe that it is estimated that more of them were killed while dueling with swords than were killed in war.

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