ritsart raised this question in a thread in the general discussion area, and I'd be interested in some perspectives besides my own. I've definitely got my opinions on the answer, coming from the perspective of a modern competitive fencer, but I'd love to hear the perspectives that some of the more experienced, and more traditional-WMA-oriented, people here could bring to the question. MY THOUGHTS: To me, this seems a lot like the question of "I thought modern boxing was just for sport and not for fighting." No, a boxer is not going to learn knife defenses, he's not going to fight off multiple partners, and he's not going to have to learn how to groundfight. On the other hand, that's not to say that boxing has no applicability to real-world fighting. The striking and defense to striking that he's learned, as well as the movement, distancing, timing, and athleticism that he's built up, are going to serve him well outside of the ring as well as inside. I'd argue that, at least with lighter blades (smallswords, rapiers, and dueling sabers), modern fencing is to swordfighting what boxing is to empty-handed fighting. I don't have a lot of empirical evidence to back this up, just one afternoon spent sparring with a SCA friend with SCA rapier (epee) rules. But anecdotally, my hypothesis holds up. I thought I held my own just fine, despite having a narrower range of techniques at my disposal, because I had trained harder in those limited techniques in a competition-oriented format. The other wrinkle I think this question brings up is that--and somebody please correct me if I'm wrong here--I think the three modern fencing weapons evolved out of training weapons for smallsword dueling (foil), rapier dueling (epee), and korbschlager dueling (saber). So modern competitive fencing was not created out of thin air as sport for the sake of sport, like football or basketball were. Instead, they've evolved from training methods for life-or-death or first-blood duels, in the way that winter biathlon evolved from WWII ski infantry tactics. In that context, "training for sport" and "being able to use a traditional weapon" are not entirely mutually exclusive. Yes, some of the practical application has waned over the decades, as people quit worrying about real-world duels and focused more in refining the sport, but the roots are still there.