Learning To Fence: Getting Started In The Sport of Fencing

So you’re interested in learning to fence! Maybe you saw fencing on television at the last Olympics. Or you loved The Princess Bride as a kid. Either way, fencing is a sport people of all ages and abilities can enjoy. And this is a quick guide from Fencing.net to help you get started on your journey in the sport.

First and foremost, we have a great primer on the sport of fencing that touches on of the same stuff we’ll discuss here, but also gives you a larger overview of the sport. In this guide, we’re only going to talk about how to get started learning to fence.

Is Fencing Right For Me?

This is a question we hear a lot in various different forms:

  • Am I too old to start fencing?
  • Am I too short/tall to learn fencing?
  • Am I too fat/uncoordinated/un-athletic to learn fencing?
  • Etc..

The answer to any of these questions is an emphatic “no“. Fencing is a very accessible sport. Anyone can get started and we have many options for people of various physical attributes, fitness level, and body abilities. For example, wheelchair fencing is an option and has a vibrant competitive scene.

Will your physical attributes matter? At the start, yes. For example, someone who is very tall will find it easier to excel early in epee. Or someone who is already physically fit from another sport will have an easier time because you fence better when you aren’t tired. But over time, training, tactics and technique will outweigh latent physical advantages. As you fence more, you’ll learn how to deal with fencers who are tall, fast, strong, short, etc.. And you’ll get fit enough to fence every point to the best of your abilities.

Now, if you’re looking to qualify for the Olympics, then yes you’re going to need to be quite physically fit. The top tier of the sport is highly athletic, on the same level as all other top tier athletes in other sports. It is a sport, after all.

Find a Fencing Club

Now to the getting started part. First and foremost, your best bet is going to be finding a fencing club in your area. To get started there, there are three invaluable tools:

What are the differences? The US Fencing locator will show you where clubs have registered membership. Its the primary, official source for this type of information. However, sometimes its incorrect. For example, some clubs will register themselves to the owner’s home address because that is their mailing address. And that will throw your search off because the club’s actual location might not be anywhere close to their physical address. The Fencing.net locator is a curated list, so our club list tends to be a bit more accurate on this front. But also consequently, sometimes the data found here can be a bit stale. Lastly, searching “fencing club” plus your city’s name in Google (or “fencing sport”) will usually turn up some good results, but is also not necessarily accurate.

Once you find some clubs nearby, do your own secondary research. Visit their websites or Facebook pages to see where they meet for classes and practice. Sometimes clubs have satellite locations that are not necessarily communicated on these club lists (for example, many clubs will hold classes at the local recreation centers).

If you’re still not sure, or you can’t find a local club by these means, feel free to drop by the Fencing.net forums and ask someone for help! Because the sport is small and tight-knit, everyone is always very eager to help new people find their way into the sport. But similarly, because the sport is small, there might not be a convenient local club for you. This might mean you need to drive a bit if you truly want to learn the sport, so make sure to search nearby larger cities.

Taking a Beginner Fencing Class

You’ve found a club that looks good and is nearby. The next step is to contact that club and find out what their beginner class structure looks like. Pretty much every fencing club will have some sort of beginner class, but every club will structure these differently. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • How do your beginner classes work? Can I join whenever or is there a structured start/end date?
  • Do you provide equipment for use in the beginner classes? Is it included in the cost of the class? Do I need to buy starter gear before I start?
  • What are my options once I finish the beginner’s class?
  • What weapons does your club specialize in, if any?

If your class requires that you buy your own gear, either you’ll be able to buy it in person or you can read our Guide to Buying Beginner’s Fencing Equipment, which can be easily purchased online.

The reason why it is important to ask about what your options are after you finish the beginner’s class is because various clubs have their own specific focuses. Some clubs only teach one of the three weapons in fencing. That’s totally fine when you’re a beginner, but over time you might find out that you enjoy one of the other weapons. Its important to know what your options are. Additionally, some clubs have more or less focus on competition. If your enjoyment of the sport is rooted in competition, but your club doesn’t offer that as an option, you’re also best served by knowing that up front. And vice versa – perhaps you don’t like the competitive aspect of the sport. There are clubs that cater primarily to the recreational angle. All good information to discover up front.

And that’s it! Enjoy your first fencing class! If you have any other questions about how to get started, you can drop by the Fencing.net Forums to ask them (make sure to introduce yourself as a beginner), or just ask your new coach if you’ve signed up for a class. Your best bet will be to run questions by the coach at your club, as their answers will have a lot more context than what people online will be able to give.

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