Beginners

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When can I start fencing?

OCRA Summer SchoolWhether you are six or sixty-four (we’ve had beginners at those and all ages between), you can start fencing at any time.

Experienced fencers can join our club sessions at any time, please contact us in advance to confirm venues and times.

We regularly run beginners courses for people who are interested in learning to fence but have no experience. Please check this site for dates and times of the next beginners course (usually once per half-term).

At the end of the six-week course every beginner is assessed to Grade One standard as fit and safe to continue fencing within the club.

What do I wear for fencing?

Masterclass - footworkWear suitable clothing as for any kind of anaerobic sport. That means:

  • Trainers (not outdoor shoes) with some grip
  • Loose-fitting trousers (not tight denims or shorts); you need the legs covered, but you also need to stretch and bend
  • Any top will do as long as you can get a fencing jacket over it. Crop tops are not recommended as fencing jackets sometimes ride up and expose skin at the sides
  • Bear in mind that fencing is a sport which involves layers of safety clothing and you WILL sweat even in winter!

Think about bringing a towel, a change of clothes and even a drinks bottle.

The club reserves the right to turn away anyone dressed inappropriately for fencing.

Does fencing hurt?

Catling - epee competitionNot if done properly. Although executed with appreciable energy, a good, clean fencing attack hurts no more than a tap on the shoulder. The force of the blow is normally absorbed by the flex of the blade. Reckless and overly aggressive fencers can occasionally deliver painful blows, however. Fencing *is* a martial art, so you should expect minor bruises and welts every now and again. They are rarely intentional. The most painful blows tend to come from inexperienced fencers who have not yet acquired the feel of the weapon.

The primary source of injury in fencing is from pulled muscles and joints. A proper warm up and stretching before fencing will minimise these occurrences.

There is a minor risk of being injured by broken weapons. We’ve never had any injuries.

The shards of a snapped blade can be very sharp and cause injury, especially if the fencer doesn’t realize immediately that his blade is broken and continues fencing. Always wear proper protective gear to reduce this risk. FIE homologated jackets, breeches and masks are ideal, as they are made with puncture-resistant fabrics such as kevlar. If you cannot afford such extravagances, use a plastron (half-jacket worn beneath the regular fencing jacket), and avoid old and rusty masks. Always wear a glove that covers the cuff, to prevent blades from running up the sleeve.

Fencing is often said to be safer than golf. Whether or not this is true, it is an extraordinarily safe sport considering its heritage and nature.

Which is the best weapon for a fencing beginner?

Although foil is commonly the ‘training’ weapon for beginners owing to its lightweight and supposedly light touch, we take a different view.

Sabre can sometimes be an effective starter weapon. It has rules of right of way to emphasize proper defence, and its de-emphasis of point attacks can be a relief to a beginner who doesn’t yet have much point control. Also, in some areas it may still be possible to compete in dry (non-electric) sabre competitions, meaning that it can be the cheapest of all weapons to compete in (although electric sabre is definitely the most expensive weapon).

Épée is sometimes used as a starter weapon because the rules are simple and easy to grasp, and the equipment costs are lower, since no lamé is required.