Fencing for Parents

Welcome to our Parent’s Info Page!

For the uninitiated, the sport of fencing can be a bit daunting at first. This page is designed to help parents find the information they need in order to help their child get the most out of his or her fencing experience.


President of JFF, James McBean, spars with young fencers.

So, your kid wants to be a fencer… For many parents this is the point where you say, “Oh my God! My kid wants to play with swords! What do I do now?” Here are some points to calm your nerves:

Fencing is among the safest sports that your child could choose to participate in. Studies have shown that injury rates are far lower per capita than in any of the standard high school variety sports such as soccer, volleyball, baseball, basketball or football and when an injury does occur, it is likely to be something fairly minor in the category of a contusion, strain or a sprain. Fencing teaches respect for others, independence, self reliance, self discipline, self confidence, quick thinking, problem solving, honesty and fair play.

These are all skills that will serve your child well wherever their future takes them.
Fencing is a life long sport. Once your child learns to fence, they will be able to continue throughout their life. It is a fantastic form of exercise for both body and mind as well as an entry into a community where they are likely to find kindred souls and lifelong friendships.


OK, feel any better now? If so, keep reading…


Your first step

is to find the right fit for your child in the areas of coaching, club and a fee structure you find affordable. Depending upon where you live, your choices in these regards may be limited but they are important aspects for your consideration.

Once you have found the correct fit in a club and coach, it’s time to start looking for the correct fit in fencing equipment. If your club provides equipment, it is a good idea to stick with it until you are fairly certain that fencing isn’t just a passing fancy for your child. This should be somewhere in the range of a month or two and once you’ve passed this “point of no return”, you’ll need to start with the basics. See our equipment overview for further information on the uniform. Having well fitted, comfortable, personal equipment can make the difference between your child loving or hating the sport so be sure to consult someone “in the know” about sizing and quality before ordering.

The next stage: Competition

After your child has a few months of practice under their belt, they will probably want to discover what it is like to participate in a fencing tournament. The important things to consider when thinking about entering a first tournament are attitude, expectations and whether or not a given tournament is suited for the skill level of your child.

Attitude – Politeness and respect for others, on and off the strip are an integral part of fencing. Any fencer who is rude or disrespectful will not advance very far in competition regardless of their other fencing skills. Personal responsibility is another area where attitude is important. For example: Although directors do sometimes make mistakes, blaming a loss on one or two bad calls by a referee isn’t going to get your child very far in the long run. A better attitude would be having a resolve to work harder in practice so that next time, the score won’t be close enough for one or two touches to make any difference in the outcome of the bout.

Expectations – While it does sometimes occur, as a rule a fencer doesn’t win a gold medal in their first competition. In fact, many fencers never finish first in a tournament. It is important for your child to realize that fencing is about the ongoing learning process and that a loss is a learning opportunity rather than a defeat. Realistic expectations for a first competition might be as simple as scoring a couple of touches on each opponent. Your child’s coach should be able to help you set reasonable expectations for the tournament experience for both you and your child.

Tournament Type – It is important to match the tournaments your child enters to their fencing skill level. Although they may gain some valuable experience from fencing opponents who are much more advanced, it probably wouldn’t be much fun for your child if they lose every bout five or fifteen to zero. Many local tournaments have “novice” events that would be appropriate for fencers who haven’t been fencing for very long. Your child’s coach should be able to help with advice about choosing the appropriate tournaments and events for your child to enter.


From the parent’s perspective

As a parent, the most important thing you can bring to a tournament is your support. The form this takes can be wide ranging but will certainly include things like: helping carry your child’s extra equipment to the strip for their next bout, cheering when they have scored a good touch, helping them stay focused on the task at hand and the list goes on… What your support does not include is scolding your child for not winning a touch or a bout, arguing with the referee or other tournament officials, arguing with the parents or coach of another fencer or, something more subtle like trying to handle everything for your child and not allowing them to do anything except get on the strip and fence.

It is important for parents to remember that it is improper etiquette to advise or coach your child while the actual fencing is in progress. Wait until the referee gives the command to “Halt” before offering encouragement.

Some good suggestions you can offer your child between scoring touches include:
“Have a Plan”
“Focus and Concentrate”
“Keep Moving”
“Do that again”
“Do something different”
“New Plan”
“Slow Down”
“Take your time”
You can ask your child ahead of time what phrases they want to hear when you are cheering them on.

Fencing Kid
Wrapping it up …

Fencing in general and competing in fencing tournaments can be a great experience and can offer some fantastic life lessons if approached with a positive and loving mind-set. If you and your child always treat each practice, bout and tournament as a learning experience, you can both have a lot of fun and you can enjoy watching your child grow both physically and emotionally as they progress up through the various levels of fencing skill.

There are many great resources for parents that explain fencing, competition protocols, rules and etc… Here are a few from our friends at US Fencing:

Fencing.Net’s “A Parent’s Guide to Fencing”
Fencing.Net’s “Parent’s Corner Forums”
The USA Fencing’s “Fencing For Parents”
The USA Fencing’s “Fencing: A Modern Sport”

Thank you to Big Sky Fencing Association for letting us use this excellent piece of literature to help parents understand this beautiful sport, this beautiful art, this way of life we call Fencing!