My first competition?

Competitions have a feel of controlled chaos. Often the number of entries is unknown beforehand and it is difficult to predict how long any competition will take. Plan on a long day. Snacks, drinks and some form of entertainment for siblings is a good idea. Folding chairs are useful at some venues. Think indoor picnic.

Arrive early, have all your equipment checked beforehand. You need to find the sign in area, you need your USFA card or at some competitions you can purchase a one day membership (check beforehand as this is not always possible). At larger events you will need to typically check weapons, body cords and masks.

Usually it takes 30 minute or so after the close of registration for the organizers to post what strip you will report to. You will fence everyone on that strip, called a pool. When you are called to fence you will have all your equipment on, two working weapons and one extra body cord besides the one you are wearing. They will check to see your wearing all required safety equipment and that it is in good condition. They will check you weapon to assure it is legal. Pools typically are 5 touch bouts. After the bout you will be asked to sign the Directors log agreeing with the outcome.

After all the pools are done you then wait for the organizers to set up the Direct Elimination bouts or DE’s.
These are best two out of three 5 touch bouts in youth events or 15 touch bouts for seniors. There are other formats however and I will refer you to the rulebook.

You will be tired after such a long day, remember to bring a change in clothes as well as a towel.

The typical reaction I hear is the student is scared and wants to back out of their first competition. After the competition they all start bragging how close they were to winning and how they are going to beat so and so the next time. Take pictures! Have fun. In my opinion competitions are a great motivator. Just going to that first one is a win in my book!

Do I need private lessons?

Starting private lessons is not needed for those wishing just to be a recreational fencer. If your intention is to compete it is usually advised. Some students prefer to go with cheaper group lessons first. My suggestions for those that want the “fast track” is to get a few private lessons to set form before bad habits set in. Then work on the group lessons. At some point you will find yourself in need of additional instruction. Private lessons work best in my opinion when combined with group lessons. You learn the skills in the privates and can practice them in class.

How often you train is a factor of how much time you have, what your goals are, how quickly you can learn and how much money you can budget on your sport. The fact is that the more training and practice you do the better you will get.

The cost of fencing is on par with many other sports. The greatest cost is traveling to National competitions and qualifiers and lodging. Fencing in state is far cheaper for these reasons. Going to competitions is worth every sent in terms of the skills you learn. If money is tight I suggest you skip a lesson now and then and apply it towards entry fees

Cost for private lessons very for many reasons. Were you live will affect the cost. How long are the lessons? Some coaches do 20 minutes and no more (3 lessons per hour) others may charge more but lessons can often go 30, 40 or even 60 minutes. Other offer package deals that include club membership.

That said it is also a question of quality. Not all great fencers are great coaches, some really great coaches were low level fencers. Coaching is not fencing. Finding the right coach for you is much like finding a good honest car mechanic. If your lucky enough to find a good match keep that coach on speed dial. Communication is vital, your coach should make the lesson about you. Cookie cutter drills in my opinion are seldom the preferred option.

In the end taking private lessons is one of the more rewarding aspects of the sport if you’re willing to work hard and get pushed farther then you ever considered possible. That is the place we see personal growth really come in. Enjoy

When to start competitions?

As long as the student has basic form and knowledge of the rules they can start competitions but It is vital that realistic goals are set and that competition is well chosen. The goal can be to just use good form or get one GOOD touch. That should be considered a win! The first competition should be to familiarize the student with the format and get comfortable. It is sometimes good just to let younger students just observe the first time.

Equipment, requirements and wants?

To compete in USFA competitions you’re required to have the following:

2 electric Epee
2 body cords
approved mask
approved jacket
approved knickers
underarm protector (plastron)
chest protector, women required
one fencing glove for the fencing hand
long socks that cover all exposed skin
shoes, fencing specific shoes are recommend but not required

Put your name on your equipment!
Many clubs rent beginners equipment, don’t go crazy and buy everything until you’re really committed to the sport. Check any rental or club equipment to see that it works properly before you go on the strip!

It’s a good idea to have

a 3rd working epee
a 3rd working body cord.
chest protector men
groin protector men
a repair kit with appropriate tools and parts
an extra glove, epee can be hard on gloves
two towels, one to wipe dust of your feet and one for you (don’t get them confused )
Change of clothes
first aid kit

Tip: check your weapon immediately after each bout, check screws and barrel to make sure they are tight. Check handle to see that it’s still tight

Several links for equipment venders can be found in the “Useful Links” page

what does "14 and under" mean?

I am often asked what 10 and under means age in age restricted competitions. Simply that any USFA member 10 years old or under can participate. Same for 14 and under, or whatever. In youth competitions your child is usually allowed to fence one age group up, a ten year old can fence in a 12 and under. At age of 13 youth can participate in senior competitions as long as they are not qualifiers. It is wise however to check with organizers as rules vary.

Do I need to join the USFA?

You must be a USFA member to fence in any sanctioned event. However often you can buy a one day membership at the event. Check before going to make sure the organizers are equipped to offer this.

the USFA also provides insurance as part of it’s services, discounts at hotels and air travel and a Fencing magazine

Things are evolving at USFA. We are seeing many changes in rules regarding how events and the insurance will work. Keep checking back, I’ll do my best to keep you up to date.