A Beginner’s Guide to Competitive Fencing

Every sport has rules and for some of them, the rules are easy enough to understand, mostly because the sports get lots of coverage. Everybody is familiar with soccer and basketball rules. Most people understand how sprinting works, as well as marathons.

What people have trouble understanding are sports with less coverage. Among the many sports out there, fencing gets some of the least coverage. It is a popular sport, in some parts of the world, or rather, some parts of some countries, mostly where fencing was developed as a sport. Germany, Italy, England, Netherlands and a couple other European countries come to mind.

Competitive fencing has its own rules so here are some basics to help you understand the sport.

Fencing is Age-Based

Fencing has classifications which are age-based. When you were born has a lot to do with the categories in which you will get placed. This does not mean being less or more prestigious, but rather competing against people of a similar age, which should negate experience advantages, as well as genetics. We know that reflexes slow with time.

There are three Youth categories, 10, 12 and 14. There is a Cadet and Junior category, the first one being 17 and the latter 20. This has a bit to do with age, and a bit with how long one practiced fencing for. After these categories comes the Senior category. The last one is the Veteran category, which is further divided into Veteran 40, 50, 60 and 70, meaning the actual age of the competitors. Yes, you can compete at the age of 70 and above.

Fencing Has Divisions

In the US, fencing has multiple divisions or tiers, if you will. One goes through the tiers based on their age and skill, of course. The US has the following tiers, Unrated, Open, Divisions 3 to 1, with a special 1a division. 

Qualifications for the international tournaments require one to be at the top of their respective divisions, namely Division 1 for the World Championships and the same for the Olympics. The top 8 get a chance to qualify for the Olympics while the top 4 get to go to the World Championships.

Fencing is a fiercely competitive sport, even though it might not be as popular as some team sports. 

Local, Then Larger

It is pretty difficult to skip local tournaments and move to larger ones, mostly due to the quality of the competition. A fencer beginning their journey should be competing at least once a month. More would be advisable. Competing in one’s own age categories is also recommended.

After local tournaments are done and hopefully won, moving on to larger national tournaments is the logical choice. There might not be the incentive to go further but why not take it to the next level? It would be something to compete at the highest level of fencing at the Olympics, one of the oldest present sports at the modern Olympics.

Rules and Guidelines

Every type of fencing has its own rules for scoring. Fencing is a sport of chivalry, and requires one to salute their opponents and their own coach. Only valid hits count as points in fencing, which varies from only the body, to the upper body, including the head, to the entirety of the body, which is the case with epee. 

Fencing is a lovely competitive sport and now, you should know more about it.