Guide to Fencing - For Parents

Fencing is a great all round sport where there is a great emphasis on sportsmanship.  

Fencing is a great form of physical activity that develops all round fitness, both aerobic and anaerobic 

It teaches athletes to be quick with both their feet and mind, develop critical thinking and problem solving skills while dealing with fluctuating emotions as they deal with success and failure. 

Most of all fencing is fun. Everyone participates. No one sits on the bench.

Some of the skills fencing teaches are patience; hand / eye coordination; confidence, self-discipline, the ability to think on your feet and sportsmanship. 

As the number of fencers in Auckland and nationwide is not overwhelming, those that attend local tournaments build great friendships that span years. On the piste they may be opponents. Once the bout has finished friendships are formed and flourish 

Practising lunges, footwork and hand movements outside of fencing classes will enable your child to improve their ability and technique. 

Set up a target board or hanging tennis balls to practise hitting a specific stationary or moving target. 

Attending training sessions at other clubs helps too, as it exposes fencers to different styles and different fencers. At your regular club, your child will fence the same fencers’ week in and out and become used to their particular style. 


While your child may come away with the odd bruise or two to their arms or legs, fencing is a very safe sport so long as the correct protective gear is worn and fencers treat their weapons and those fencing around them with respect. 

All fencers wear a glove and mask while training. Typically they would also wear a plastron, jacket, breeches (or long leggings) and long socks. Females wear a chest protector irrespective of their age.  

Shorts should never be worn for safety reasons. 

There are three different weapons, each requiring their own set of gear: Epee, Foil and Sabre.  

The entire body is the target for epee, whereas the target areas for sabre and foil is determined by the lame.  The target area for sabre is the upper body (including sleeves) and mask. The target area for foil is the upper body (excluding sleeves) and groin area. 

While a lot of coaches can train fencers in all three weapons, NZ has some coaches who specialise in a specific weapon. 

Chest ProtectorsChest protectors are plastic devices used to cover the chest and are part of the kit for all female fencers. A male version is also available. 

Plastron: The plastron is worn under the jacket on the foil arm and provides extra protection to the most commonly hit part of the body (target area). 

Jacket: The jacket is designed to protect the fencer and is constructed to prevent penetration of sharp objects (e.g. a broken blade) while absorbing the impact of hits of the foils. It has long sleeves and should be large enough to touch the hips and overlap the breeches. 

LaméLamés are jackets with metal fibres woven through them to make them conductive and are the targets used for electric bouts to record hits in sabre and foil. Lamés are worn over the plastron and jacket. A foilists’ lame does not have sleeves. Epeeists do not wear lames as the whole body is a target. 

Breeches: Breeches have a high waist and go down to below the knee, overlapping the socks.  They provide protection for off-target hits.  Often track pants can be used instead. 

Socks: Long socks should reach above the knee and can be any colour other than black. 

Mask: Masks protect the face, sides and top of the head. Most masks are made out of mesh with a Kevlar bib. The bib covers the neck and the lower sides of the head and should cover the neck of the jacket.  

Glove: The glove protects the hand and fore arm. Gloves are worn over the jacket and can be any colour other than black.  The gloves should have a Velcro cuff which allows the body wire under the sleeve to easily connect to an electric weapon.  

Gloves are typically sized as small, medium or large; or in individual glove sizes. Gloves that are individually sized will usually provide a better fit but tend to be more expensive.   

Body and Mask Wires: Body and mask wires are required for electronic fencing and competitions. Not all competitions require mask wires to be used. 

Grip: A grip is the handle the foil is held by. You can purchase a blade and grip together or both separately Foil grips can be interchanged with other blades.

Each fencer requires their own glove. 

Most clubs have gear for beginners to borrow however it is recommended the second purchase be a mask, so your child (for hygiene reasons).  

Most competitions require the fencer to have their own gear. For local competitions your club may have gear that can be borrowed or rented.  

Note: Outgrown gear in reasonable condition can be on sold. Check out what is available for purchase.

FIE approved equipment is a higher standard of protection and is expected to last longer than non-FIE equipment, but it is also more expensive. As a general rule if you are competing at regional competitions it is okay to use non-FIE equipment, but if you want to compete at national competitions or internationally you will need some FIE equipment.

Your coach may be able to recommend specific retailers and what your child needs to own first. Until they are ready to compete a whole kit is not necessary. 

Ensure you are purchasing the correct gear for the level your child is fencing (and competing) at while allowing room for growth and progress, otherwise you will be continually purchasing new gear as they progress. 

It is important left handed fencers have a left handed glove, foil, lame, plastron and jacket. 

Our New Zealand supplier, Mainland Fencing, attends the majority of Fencing New Zealand competitions (i.e. NZ U15 and U17 championships, North Island, South Island and Nationals) and can assist with finding the best foil/epee/sabre blade for your child. However fencing equipment and clothing can easily be purchased online from the following websites.  

New Zealand: Mainland Fencing: 


Note: Depending on the total cost of your order, you may need to pay GST charges before the equipment is released from Customs

A beginner may choose to train once a week at a club. If they wish to improve, learn specific techniques or enter competitions it is likely they will need to increase their training to two times a week and add in a private lesson. 

In general training sessions involve the whole group, and includes drills or footwork skills followed by general fencing bouts. A private lesson is an additional cost to the general training sessions and is usually a one-on-one session with the coach 

The duration and frequency of private lessons varies from coach to coach and different fencing clubs have their own approach and cost structure. Ensure you are aware of the costs and duration of the lesson and the goals the fencer and coach are working towards together. 

Those interested at competing at a higher level may choose to train three to four times a week. As well as fencing sessions, training at this level is likely to include other types of fitness work.

Competitions should be treated as another opportunity to learn, grow and have fun. Start at an age appropriate level.  

In general your coach should let you know when your child is ready to compete. Feel free to ask the coach or trainer or other more senior fencers if you are aware of upcoming competitions that haven’t been mentionedFencing Norths’ website lists upcoming competitions on its home page.  

Your child should also express an interest in competing. If you force the issue, no one will enjoy it.  

Anyone can go along and watch a competition to see how they are run and this approach might suit your child if they are unsure whether they want to compete yet.

Individual Competitions 

Competitors are made up of round robin poules and then a series of direct elimination bouts. 

Before the tournament starts the Tournament Director will call out the fencers in each poule, the piste number along with the referee. Once completed all competitors head to their paste along with the mask, glove, foils, body wires and drink bottle.  Your child will fence every other person in their poule to a total of 5 points (or 3 minutes).  

At the conclusion of the poules, the fencers are ranked by their total score (number of victories compared to the number of points they conceded) ready for the Direct Elimination rounds. 

In Direct Elimination the fencer who is seeded number 1 will face number 32, number 2 will face 31, so on and so forth. If there are less than 32 fencers then some of the top fencers may get a “bye” and be automatically in the top 16. 

Direct Elimination bouts go up to 15 points and can take up to 9 minutes – 3 bouts of minute’s duration each with a 1 minute break between the first and second bout. 

The winner progresses to the next Direct Elimination round while the loser gets to socialise and enjoy watching the rest of the competition. This process is followed through the remaining rounds until the semi-finals. The winner of each semi-final progresses to the final while the losers usually place third equal. Occasionally they will have to fence off for third and fourth place. 

Unless the numbers are low the competitions are usually gender based.

It is a good idea to start at an age appropriate level and then broaden your child’s horizons. Fencing competitions are lots of fun and as long as competitors have realistic expectations everyone should have a great time.  

Local clubs often run their own age group competitions for U9, U11 and U13 fencers. These are fun occasions where the fencer is guided by the coach and referee and the emphasis is on participation. Clothing and affiliation requirements for these competitions often differ from older age group competitions. 

As your child progresses ask your coach and check out the Fencing North and Fencing New Zealand websites tournament calendar.  

If your child feels comfortable let them participate in appropriate older age group competitions so that they gain experience, grow their fencing skills and make a great new set of friends.  

During the school terms two and three Fencing North runs an Auckland Secondary Schools competition which is open to any fencer attending primary or secondary school in the Auckland region. This competition has fencers participating at all levels and is a great way to start getting involved in competitions.

Your child can fence two age group levels above their age. The official age groups are U13, U15, U17, U20, U23, Open and Veteran. (Note some clubs may hold U9 and U11 competitions.) 

The age of the fencer is determined by their age on January the first of that year. Therefore if a competition is in April, and your child turned 15 in March, they are still eligible for an U15 competition that year. 

If your child is a competent fencer, they can ask for permission to fence one level above the recommended age group. Their coach must also agree to this. To fencer at higher level the fencer will need their coach’s agreement and special dispensation from the tournaments organisers. 

When competing overseas the rules of the tournament govern the age group that can compete. Local competitions may have different rules than FIE or Asian Championship competitions.

The number of entrants for each gender often determines whether the competition will be mixed of gender specific. Generally a minimum of 6 competitors is required for each gender to make it a gender specific competition. 

Mixed competitions are fun and can challenge and improve a fencers abilities.


Fencing New Zealand regularly posts information about upcoming overseas competitions and advises whether the competition is open to any fencer or a specific number of fencers that qualify for that competition 

They also recommend you google overseas clubs and national fencing bodies and follow their competition dates. Often your coach can recommend suitable competitions to attend overseas. 

Some competitions require competitors to be submitted by Fencing New Zealand while others have open entries. The entry form or associated information usually contains this information. 

Australia holds the Koala Champs, a friendly competition for U9, U11 and U13 competitors and while the entries have to go through Fencing New Zealand, the competition is open to anyone who wants to compete. At a higher level Australia hosts the Australian U15 and U17 competitions to which a number of New Zealanders enter. 

Note: Make sure you have the correct gear for the competitions you are entering.

Yes. Some clubs offer adult lessons and training sessions. For more information contact a club near you.

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