Some Frequently Asked Questions About Fencing

Q. What Makes Fencing a Good Sport?
A. Many people who are reluctant to take part in team games enjoy the individuality of fencing. Success in competition will be due solely to their own efforts: matching their own skill, speed and intellect against those of an opponent; female competing equally with male.

Some enjoy the aesthetic pleasure of perfecting and performing disciplined movements correctly and studying the theory and language of fencing for Achievement Awards and Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

Regular fencing training provides an interesting aid to improved co-ordination and general fitness suitable for people of all ages. Fencing is an all-year-round activity: ideal for the wet, cold days of winter when outdoor sports are not so popular.

Q. What Qualities Make a Good Fencer?
A. On the athletic side, speed and cardiovascular fitness rank foremost. Other traits that can be exploited are strength (for explosive power, not heavy handedness), manual dexterity, and flexibility. Quick reaction time is extremely important. On the mental side, a fencer must be adaptable and observant, and have a good mind for strategy and tactics. Psychologically, he or she must be able to maintain focus, concentration, and emotional level-headedness under intense conditions of combat.

As far as body type goes, it is always possible to adapt your style to take advantage of your natural traits. Even so, height seems to be the most useful attribute. Small or thin people are harder to hit in Foil. A long reach helps in Épée, and long legs are an asset in Sabre.

It should be noted that left-handers seem to enjoy a slight advantage, especially against less experienced fencers. This may account for the fact that lefties make up 15% of novice fencers, but close to half of FIE world champions.

Q. How Long Does it Take to Become Good?
A. There is a saying that it takes two lifetimes to master fencing. By the time anyone has come close to ‘mastering’ the sport, they are long past their athletic prime. Some may feel that this is a drawback to the sport, but most fencers see it as a great strength: fencing never becomes dull or routine; there are always new skills to master, and new grounds to conquer.

You should be able to start competing after about 6 months, however you shouldn’t expect to be beating all comers! Serious attempts at competing will be possible after 2-3 years, when the basic skills have been sufficiently mastered that the mind is free to consider strategy. A good level of skill can take a few years of regular practice and competition. Penetration of the elite ranks (e.g. world cup, international ‘A’ level) demands three to five days per week of practice and competition, and usually at least 10 years of experience.

Progress can be faster or slower, depending on the fencer’s aptitude, dedication, quality of instruction, and the age at which they begin. Rapid progress normally requires at least three practises per week, and regular competition against superior fencers. With the increasing emphasis on athleticism in the modern sport, fencers are getting younger, and the champions are getting to the podiums faster.

Q. Does it Hurt?
A. Not if done properly. Although executed with appreciable energy, a good, clean fencing attack hurts no more than a tap on the shoulder. The primary source of injury in fencing is from strained muscles and joints. Proper warm-up and stretching before fencing will minimise these occurrences. Fencing is often said to be safer than golf. Whether or not this is true, it is an extraordinarily safe sport considering its heritage and nature.

Q. How Much Does it Cost?
A. It is not expensive to start fencing. Most clubs charge beginners a fee which includes the cost of tuition and hire of equipment. After a few weeks new fencers may wish to purchase their own personal equipment and this may be done one item at a time. A beginner’s fencing kit (under-jacket, jacket, glove, weapon, mask) will cost about £180. The club may have second-hand kit for sale, especially from youngsters who grow quickly. If you want to purchase your own a list of suppliers is available look on the equipment page.

Q. What Do I Need to Wear?
A. If you are turning up for the first time then all you really need to wear is a T-shirt, jogging or track suit bottoms and indoor trainers. We will provide the fencing clothing you need on top of this.

Fencing clothing includes the jacket, breeches, sous-plastron (underarm protector), glove, socks and mask. All equipment has to meet one of two European safety standards. Beginners equipment must be CEN 1 compliant, while international competition standard equipment must be CEN 2 compliant.