We sponsor more British fencing competitions than any other fencing equipment supplier. We do this to ensure that fencers can compete at all levels to improve their skills and increase their enjoyment of the sport. The Leon Paul Junior Series (LPJS) is the best way to start fencing competitively. Aimed specifically for young fencers who want to compete in a fun, safe environment. There are over 30 competitions nationwide and athletes’ ages range from 7 to 17. Fencing is a great way to keep fit but to develop your skills you need to fence under competition conditions against different opposition. Some fencers attend just one or two competitions each year, while others will compete in several, trying to collect the ranking points needed to climb up the LPJS ranking tables and win a prize. Virtually all of the successful young fencers in the country started their careers in LPJS competitions. With the Olympics in 2012 being on home soil there as never been a better time to start competing. Below you will find a quick guide for fencers and parents who are interested to know more about fencing competitively.
It helps to know which end of a sword to hold, and which to poke with! At least six months regular attendance at a club is probably about right, with some experience of “electric” fencing. After that the best time is when you feel ready – if you wait until you think you can win, you will probably wait forever – while you are practicing and perfecting your skills, there are other fencers out there doing the same thing, and getting competition experience at the same time. They might not be winning, but they will be improving faster than by club training alone!
What do you need to compete?
A complete set of kit for a competition would comprise (starting from the feet and working up):
• Fencing shoes or trainers
• Tee shirt
• Under Plastron
• Chest protector (required for girls, and many boys also wear them)
• Fencing jacket
• Lame – the electric vest worn over the jacket (Foil and Sabre only)
• Body wire
• Electric weapons. (At least 2)
• Membership card of USFA
Tips for Fencers
• Warm up thoroughly before your first bout and again if there is a gap of more than about 20 minutes between bouts.
• Remember “Fencing Etiquette”. Salute your opponent and the referee at the beginning of the fight and shake hands at the end.
• When you are not fighting, stay near your pool. Fights can finish very quickly, and referees get annoyed when fencers vanish!
• If you don’t understand a decision, ask politely for the referee to explain it, but don’t argue.
• At the end of the pools, check the pool sheet to ensure that your results are recorded correctly. It’s much easier to sort out mistakes if they are picked up immediately.
Tips for Parents
• Check the age categories carefully. Fencing age groups are based on ages from Jan 1st in the current year.
• Take plenty of drinks. In all that kit, fencers get hot, and children dehydrate quickly. Bananas, dried fruit and cereal bars provide energy.
• The time shown on the application form is for “check in”. Fencing usually starts 20 to 30 minutes later, but if you are not there for the check in – your entry will probably be scratched.
• Don’t photograph other children without asking their parents’ permission, and never use flash when a fight is in progress nearby. In line with the recommendation, the organisers of events require that any person wishing to engage in any photography or video should register their details with staff either at the entry desk or DT before carrying out any such photography. If you are concerned about photography taking place, please contact the organisers who will be pleased to discuss the matter with you.
• Whilst both Leon Paul and the organisers of each individual event make every effort to ensure that the competitions are safe and secure, the responsibility for the welfare of children remains with the parent or nominated responsible adult (acting in loco parentis). If, as a parent or coach, you decide to leave children in your care at an event for the day please ensure that the organisers are aware of the responsible adult that is looking after your child.
• If your child fences foil or sabre, and you are new to fencing, ask someone to explain the Right of Way rule. Inexperienced parents can get upset when their child’s light comes up before their opponent’s, but the hit is given against them!
• Wear trainers or similar. Many venues don’t allow outdoor shoes in the sports hall.
Being a Spectator: How to Follow the Action
To the uninitiated, watching fencing can be difficult and downright frustrating. Winners and losers are not always that obvious. But if you are a beginning fencer (or a parent to one), watching fencing bouts is one of the best things you can do to help familiarize yourself with the sport. And while it may take a while to truly understand and appreciate all the complexities of modern fencing, there are some basic concepts that will help you along the way. Standing at the side of the piste shouting at people will not help anyone and may result in you being asked to leave!
The penalties handed out are the same for all weapons but remember its not like football, Yellow and Red cards are not the end of the world.
• Yellow card = Warning. No points are awarded but a fencer can’t score a hit if he or she gets a yellow card while they are scoring. Any subsequent penalty results in a red card. An example of a yellow card offence would be coming to the piste with a weapon that fails inspection.
• Red card = A point is awarded to the offended party. Also, a second yellow card action in the same bout results in a red card. An example of a red card offence would be dangerous, violent or vindictive action; blow with guard or pommel. Another more common example is the fencer who comes to the piste and whose first two foils fail inspection – they have to get a third foil and they start the bout down 0-1.
• Black card = The worst offence. If a fencer receives a black card he/she is kicked out of the tournament. An example of a black card offence would be insulting a referee, or throwing a fencing weapon or mask down on the piste.
The foil used by fencers today is the modern version of the original practice weapon used by nobility to train for duels. To score hits with the foil, the fencer must land the tip of the blade on a valid target: along the torso from shoulders to groin in the front and to the waist in the back. The arms, neck, head and legs are considered off-target. Off-target hits will temporarily halt the fencing action, but does not change the score. The right-of-way rule states that the fencer who started to attack first will receive the hit provided it is on target, and that their opponent is obligated to defend themselves. In other words, you don’t get points by committing suicide and running onto your opponent’s blade once they have established the start of their attack. However, if a fencer hesitates for too long while advancing on their opponent, they give up right-of-way to their opponent. A hit scored against an opponent who hesitated too long is called an attack in preparation or a stop-hit, depending on the circumstances.
As the epee (pronounced “EPP-pay”) evolved, the idea was to develop epee fencing in a manner that reproduced as closely as possible the conditions of an actual duel to first blood. As a result, in epee the entire body is considered a valid target. Epee fencers score a hit by hitting their opponent first. If the fencers hit each other within 1/25th of a second, both receive a hit - this is commonly referred to as a double hit. The lack of right-of-way combined with a full-body target naturally makes epee a game of careful strategy and patience - wild, rash attacks are quickly punished with solid counter-attacks. So, rather than attacking outright, epeeists often spend time probing their opponent’s defences and manoeuvring for distance before risking an attack.
The sabre is the modern version of the slashing cavalry sword. To simulate a cavalry rider on a horse, the target area is the entire body above the waist, excluding the hands. In addition, sabre employs rules of right-of-way, which are very similar to foil, but with some subtle differences. Like foil, the fencer who starts to attack first is given priority should his opponent counter-attack. However, sabre referees are much less forgiving of hesitation by an attacker. It is common to see a sabre fencer execute a stop cut against their opponent’s forearm during such a moment of hesitation, winning right-of-way and the hit. Another major distinction of the sabre is that sabre fencers can score with the edge of their blade as well as their point. The sabre fencer’s uniform features an electrically wired metallic lamé, which fully covers their valid target area. Because the head is valid target area, the fencer’s mask is also electrically wired. One significant departure from foil is that off-target hits do not register on the scoring machine, and therefore do not halt the fencing action.