What to expect
Fencing’s a combat sport that involves duelling with swords. There are three different types: foil, sabre, and epee. Each of the weapons has a different target area – you’ll probably start off with foils, the lightest weapons, and aim for your opponent’s trunk (including their back, but not their arms or head).
Apart from the swords, fencing’s recognisable because of the outfits everyone wears. Lots of the unique equipment, like the face mask, is designed to keep people safe. If you’re fencing competitively, you might also wear a lamé – a jacket that conducts electricity so everyone knows if your opponent’s sword touches you.
Foam swords are a great way to introduce people to the sport – you don’t need the real thing to learn the techniques and tactics. Some clubs may be able to run lightsaber fencing or paint fencing too.
What you’ll learn
Fencing isn’t just about how strong and agile you are – you’ll need to master the technique if you want to succeed. As well as paying attention to the rules (and having a good sporting attitude), you’ll need to think on your feet and move strategically to score points and avoid your opponent’s sword.
Fencing may be a solo sport, but you’ll learn to be a good team player too. You’ll need to remember to salute your opponent before the bout begins, then cheer on your friends and congratulate the winner. The great thing about fencing is that you can have plenty of fun even if you don’t win – it’s still a chance to try something different and pick up a sword.
- Plenty of famous figures have given fencing a go, including British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. He became the Public Schools Foil Champion in 1892.
- Modern day fencing has been around since the 15th century. It’s one of the five sports that have been present in the modern Olympic Games every year – the others are swimming, cycling, athletics, and gymnastics.
- Grab some extra hair bobbles. People with long hair will probably need to tie it back. Take a few extra hair ties, just in case anyone forgets.
- Bring your camera with you. Don’t miss the chance to get some photos of everyone trying on helmets and jackets. Action shots of everyone getting stuck in make great mementos, and can offer people a chance to practice their photography skills too.
- Do some research. Not everyone will know what fencing is, so help everyone understand what to expect. You could ask people to do their own research, or look together as a group. British Fencing have some great introductory videos and even a glossary to get you started.
- Try it first. British Fencing have created an online programme that allows people to have a go at fencing before they go to a local club. Give everyone the chance to have a go before you try fencing as a group.
Fencing involves a lot of strategy, but it’s still an active sport. Did people enjoy being active by fencing? Did people expect it to be physically challenging, or did it surprise them? People might think about how they had to move backwards and forwards all the time and keep a specific posture. What other physical skills were helpful? People might think about balance, coordination, or being quick and agile. When else do people practice these skills? Did people find it more challenging to attack or defend? Being a good sportsperson is a really important part of fencing. How did people support and encourage each other? People might have helped their friends figure out their equipment or encouraged each other during duels.
Fencing also gave people the chance to be independent. They had to make their own decisions on the piste – there wasn’t time to phone a friend or ask for an adult’s opinion. How did people decide how to move? They may have used their instincts as well as what they learned in the session. Did people find it easy to be strategic and move their bodies as they wanted to?