Here are some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) I’ve received while planning and delivering sessions for community groups such as Scout, Guides, Rotary Clubs, etc since 1993. Questions in bold text. Responses in italic text:
- Who is the activity suitable for? With the correct equipment choice, group size, teaching/coaching methods and approach the vast majority of the population can gain from participating in fencing sessions. I tend to believe most children younger than 7 years old should wait for their first experience of the sport. There isn’t an upper age limit in my mind so long as each individual has the motivation to ‘give it a go’. Clearly some medical conditions, irrespective of age, will be an issue but coaches and prospective fencers should be guided my medical advice. Over that past 25 years I have been repeatedly surprised by who has gained from taking up fencing.
- What type and size of space is needed? What support is needed? It depends on the type of instruction and the number of participants. For instruction of groups taster sessions 16 to 30 a gym of badminton court size hall is sufficient when using plastic training weapons. If necessary a relay system can be used to accommodate the larger numbers.
- How long do sessions last and when can they be held? It is possible to deliver group taster sessions which last between 45 minutes and 2 hours, however 90 minutes to 2 hours is best for groups with no prior experience. I have delivered sessions in lunch periods, during curriculum time, in experiential time, after school, in the evening, at weekends and during the holidays. I have not yet delivered breakfast sessions but can’t think you this wouldn’t be possible in the right circumstances. If fencing is being delivered as part of a 1 day multi-sports event I recommend delivering the activity in 2 parts. A morning session of 1 hour when the participants learn about the sport of fencing, are gradually introduced to the various skills and rules while practising with a range of partners. They also learn how to judge and referee bouts. An afternoon session sees the new fencers running an individual competition in pools then finishing with a direct elimination event for the fencers most successful in the pools. The remainder officiating the bouts with the help of a coach.
- Is the sport safe? Absolutely yes! Safety is the most important aspect of the training fencers receive from the outset. Safe behaviour is enforced by the coach should a lapse occur. Any repeated breaches or disregard for the safety of yourself or others together with any violent conduct, will trigger disciplinary procedures and will lead to exclusion unless acceptable conduct is restored.
- Can you supply a risk assessment for the activity? Yes I have risk assessments for Midi-Fence and fencing with metal sword which are review on a regular basis. I’m happy to provide copies of these by email to interested parties.
- What qualifications do fencing instructors hold? All coaches have to register with British Fencing. Qualifications start at Level 1 and currently finish at Level 4, I am a Level 3 Foil coach. I’m also trained in First Aid trained, Equity in Coaching, Coaching Disabled Athletes and in Child Protection/Vulnerable Person awareness/Safeguarding.
- Are Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks made by the National Governing Body (NGB) on coaches? Yes, all coaches and volunteers involved in coaching children or vulnerable people under go an Enhanced CRB check every three years.
- Do coaches have public liability insurance and how much? Coaches registered with the NGB are covered by an insurance policy which gives £5M (five million) pounds of cover.
- Can people with learning and physical disabilities take part? Yes. In many instances they can be integrated with mainstream groups. Sometimes sessions for people in similar circumstances work better. I have delivered sessions to those people of all ages with moderate learning difficulties right through the spectrum to people with severe and multiple difficulties. All have been interesting, challenging and fun for myself and the participants due to the correct level of support staff being available. The sessions have included plastic ‘Midi-Fence’ and also metal swords.
- What should be worn for fencing sessions? For Midi-Fence sessions using plastic swords normal sports kit is OK, court shoes are better than running shoes. Girls/ladies might find it more comfortable to wear the plastic chest protectors that will be provided. For sessions using metal swords full protective fencing clothing is required. Long sports trousers are necessary. It is also a requirement for girls/ladies to wear the plastic chest protectors that will be provided to avoid both short term discomfort an the possibility of long term damage to mammary tissue. For either type of session lasting longer than 45 minutes it is advisable for the pupils to provide themselves with a bottle of still water. Refreshment in hot weather is particularly necessary.
- Will participants reach a standard when an achievement award could be gained? Sadly no, even reaching Foil grade 1 standard will need many more hours of learning, understanding and practice. However, if you attend one of my taster sessions you will be invited along to one of the club I coach at for a free session to see if you like the club and want to continue learning to fence using metal swords and gain achievement awards that way. Grade 1 takes about 10 sessions to cover all the moves, learn the theory and be able to put it into practice to a high enough standard.
If you didn’t find an answer to a question you have about fencing sessions for community groups please don’t hesitate to contact me either through the Blog on this site or via telephone or email. My contact details are on the Contact page of this web site. I look forward to being able to help you.