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Thread: YOUTH PROGRAMS, blade sizes??

  1. #1
    Senior Member hpfencing's Avatar
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    YOUTH PROGRAMS, blade sizes??

    I have studnets from age 7 to 47 at High Plains Fencing in Amarillo Texas.

    My question and request is to know what different clubs use for there youth and small fencers.

    What size blade? Medal or plactic? type of handle? and what not.

    I want to know what is developementally correct for my youngest students before buying a lot of new stuff that may be wrong.

    Can anyone help me!

  2. #2
    Armorer DHCJr's Avatar
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    I can not help with what you asked. If they are going into competition and are 10 and under make sure they have the proper length blade, < 32.5".
    Donald Hollis Clinton, Jr.
    DHCJr@juno.com

    To Teach is to Learn (Japanese Proverb)

    Knowing the rule book by heart means nothing, if you don't understand the rules.

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    Senior Member Cipher's Avatar
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    I have dealt with a decent number of young fencers and I would say that if you have any COMPETITIVE Y-10's, then make sure you have the competition legal sized blades for them. If your youths are not competitve, then they should be able ot handle a #5 decently. They won't have much skill or dedication so the extra effort put forth to get special blades would probably be wasted. However, if you have a significant number of kids around 7, or they are rather rowdy and unsafe, then the plastic blades wouldn't be a bad option. Make them "graduate" to a real weapon after they have proved they are capable of handling it safely. So basically, if money is tight and/or you don't have problem or competitive kids, then just go for the standard stuff that anyone could use. You'd have to judge based on the individual situation though.
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    Senior Member qatet's Avatar
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    We use several levels of weapons for our kidlets. First, they start with the plastic gear that Zivkovic sells - plastic mask, plastic weapons (foils - not the ones with the loose ortho grips) and little cloth bibs. (They look like Power Rangers - it took me a month to stop snickering when we first got them.) It takes at least two months for even the most physically gifted kids to earn their steel, as there are a mess of distance games that we play with them first. In the meantime, we do a lot of strengthening work with the masks and weapons - running while holding the masks in front or overhead, etc. As kids start using steel, they also start having heavier masks to help build their muscles further.

    Working with all plastic makes a huge difference. Most 8-10 year-olds just don't have the arm or neck strength for steel. It's much easier for them to learn proper form - they don't fall over in their lunges or try to hold their masks onto their faces. By the way, our adult classes also use plastic weapons to begin (the masks don't fit them, and they have stronger necks anyway), even though the weapon is included in the cost of their first group of lessons. The incentive to earn steel keeps kids coming back when they might otherwise drop the class.

    When they earn their steel, the kids who are under 10 (or who are on the smaller side even if they're older than 10) all use a variety of #2 weapons. The older and bigger kids use #4 (or #5 for the largest). Again, using the correct size makes a huge difference. Just as our program makes sure to teach footwork ideas before bladework, we also isolate bladework and give the kids a chance to really figure out where their fingers are and how they work. 75% of the time when I see a good kid whose bladework has suddenly become terrible, it's because they took the wrong size weapon. (Even though they're all color-coded - how much easier can we make it? Bah.)

    None of our fencers use pistol grips until they begin competing in electric tournaments - generally at least a year after they begin fencing. On average, they have at least 3 months of footwork, two months of bladework without any hitting, then several months of playing the footwork games again while hitting with steel, which gradually leads into dry bouting and novice tournaments.

    At some few of our satellite programs, we have used only the plastic weapons. The Zivkovic foils are just stiff enough that you can get some basic parry ideas with them, even if they don't get as much perfect feel in the fingers.

    The one drawback to the Zivkovic plastic are the %(*&#$ buzzers. We immediately drop all the kids for pushups if we hear one when a coach is talking. And the screws on the masks do work loose - you need to check them each time to make sure that they're all still there, but this is a simple operation, as they're all an inch wide. As I understand it, Zivkovic is working to fix the problem with the screws.

    If at all possible, give the kids stuff in their size - it's just not fair to expect them to execute proper technique with equipment designed for somebody nearly twice their height and two or three times their weight.

  5. #5
    Senior Member qatet's Avatar
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    Bah - I'm a foilist. I forget that other weapons exist at all.

    We also use mostly #3 for epee kids (seems to be the only length between 0 and 5 we can find) and specifically suggest the Ultralight bladdes that we stock (Absolte? PBT? Can't remember).

    We have a large group of little sabre puppies in the 10-12 year-old range. We experimented quite a bit for them. Short blades, of course, but the guards can be heavy too. We therefore set up a few weapons without a bellguard for those just starting sabre. (Again, ultralight for the kids) They can see their hand better, as can the coach. There's less weight, more mobility, and the kids use their fingers instead of their arm to hit. We've had success using this with adults' individual lessons for various reasons as well - injury and attention to technique, in particular.

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    Senior Member hpfencing's Avatar
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    Cool, this helps a lot. Thanks for your ideas andd suggestions.

    Ours are just starting out and I'll look into the plastic blades today.

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