Q: Is it safe?
A: Yes! Fencing is actually one of the safest sports in the Olympics. The goal of fencing for the last eight hundred years (or so) has been to live, and we keep getting better at it. Today we have access to lightweight steel masks to protect your head and neck and thick, durable jackets and pants to protect the rest of your body. The weapons are also blunt. You may walk away with a few bruises, but you will be perfectly healthy otherwise.
Q: How old should I be when I start fencing?
A: Fencing is a great sport for any age. At HSS we currently offer classes to ages six and above, but fencing is also a great sport for adults of all ages. Houston boasts a great veteran (ages 40+) fencing community, with frequent tournaments and events aimed at those with a little gray hair – or no hair – under their masks. Fencing is a lifelong sport, and you can be successful in it no matter how old you are when you start.
Q: How physically fit do I need to be to fence?
A: Come as you are! Fencing is highly adaptable to the fitness level of the competitors. Fencing can be hard on the knees and on the elbow and wrist of your dominant arm, but we are happy to work with you to find adaptations that will make you more comfortable.
Fencing is a martial art, but it relies on finesse rather than strength. This means that we do not separate competitions by weight class, and that at the local level boys and girls (or men and women) can compete on an equal footing. It also means that many people who have tried and disliked other sports find fencing to be a much better fit for their physical abilities and personality.
In the coming year we will be adding a wheelchair fencing class to our schedule. This variation on fencing involves two wheelchairs on a fixed mount. Fencers must lean back to dodge and forward to attack while relying on superior bladework to beat their opponents. For more information and to be added to our wheelchair fencing mailing list, please email email@example.com
Q: Are there fencing competitions?
A: Yes! Most tournaments start with a round of pools, where fencers face everyone in a small group, usually between 5 and 7. After the results of the pools are calculated, a round of direct elimination bouts puts competitors in a tableau. Lose a direct elimination bout, and you go home for the day; win all your DEs and you take home the gold medal.
Pool bouts are usually five touches, lasting no more than four minutes. Direct elimination bouts are fifteen touches for adults, or ten touches for veterans and youth. There are also team events, where a team of three or four fencers faces another in a forty-five touch relay.
Tournaments are a great way to use the skills you have acquired in practice. Since they usually include a variety of fencers from different clubs, they also give you a chance to meet new people and fence with those you’ve never fenced before. Tournaments can show you which areas of your fencing game need improvement, giving you new goals to work on in practice.
Q: What equipment do I need to buy?
A: We will provide everything you need to get started. After you’ve been fencing for a few months, we will help you order your own equipment. Having your own equipment guarantees that you will always have the right sizes and that only your own sweat is stinking up your jacket.
- Clean athletic shoes, preferably with a low and small heel
- Athletic pants with good stretch to allow for freedom of movement (no jeans)
For intermediate classes and beyond, you will need:
- A plastron or underarm protector
- A plastic chest protector (required for women, optional for men)
- A jacket
- A glove for your weapon (dominant) hand
- A mask
- One epee body cord and one foil/saber body cord
- At least one type of electric weapon
- A lamé vest for foil or a lamé jacket for saber
For tournaments, you will also need:
- Fencing pants
- Knee socks
- Two (total) weapons of the type of competition you’ve entered
- Two (total) body cords of the type of competition you’ve entered
- Two (total) mask cords if you are competing in foil or saber
Q: Do you do picket, chain link or barbed wire fences?