Here are some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) I’ve received while delivering sessions in clubs since 1991. Questions in bold text. Responses in italic text:
- Is the sport safe? Absolutely yes! Safety is the most important aspect of the training fencers receive from the outset and safe behaviour is re-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 on a permanent basis. However, in my 20 year career as a coach, nothing beyond a gentle reminder has ever been needed to correct a small deviation from safe fencing procedures.
- What should pupils wear for fencing sessions? For sessions using metal swords full protective fencing clothing is required. Long sports trousers or fencing breeches are necessary. It is also a requirement for girls to wear the plastic chest protectors that will be provided to avoid both short term discomfort and the possibility of long term damage to mammary tissue. Boys are also advised to wear a cricket box (rigid nylon type WITHOUT air holes) for similar reasons. GO/FENCE sessions using plastic swords require only normal sports kit is and chest protectors are not compulsory. Court shoes or fencing shoes are best but running shoes/trainers are OK. 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.
- How much will it cost to learn to fence? Many clubs will provide beginners and intermediate fencers with the equipment needed to safely learn to fencer. Most clubs will require you to become a member before you make use of the club’s facilities and coaching resource. Some charge £100′s to join I believe in keeping the barriers to participation to a minimum so only agree to coach at clubs who have a low nominal annual fee and session fees with discounts for students, children and groups/families. While many clubs charge a term at a time in advance which can work out at over £100, I only agree to coach at clubs who charge on a monthly basis. When you get serious about your fencing you’ll want your own equipment, a full set can cost from as little as £130, as at June 2016, in either adult or youth sizes. A competition standard set of equipment costs about £200.
- What achievement awards can be gained while learning to fence? British Fencing has an achievement award scheme for each weapon, the achievement scheme starts at grade 1 and goes as far as grade 9. To be awarded a grading in fencing pupils have to have attended training sessions covering all of the syllabus for the grade, be able to demonstrate with the coach or a partner the appropriate moves in a lesson setting and in a bout. They also have to describe the necessary concepts to the coach to show the understanding necessary to apply tactics appropriate for the particular weapon. Later grades also require the demonstration of practical skills such as refereeing and score keeping.
- Who is the National Governing Body (NGB) of fencing in this country? All fencing activities, clubs and coaches are regulated by British Fencing (BF).
- What qualifications do fencing instructors hold? Coaches registered with British Fencing (NGB) qualify to coach the individual weapons (Foil, Epee or Sabre) separately. Qualifications start at Level 1 and currently finish at Level 4. Certificates are valid for 5 years after which time a re-validation process is undertaken. BF decided First Aid training is optional but for me it’s better to be safe than sorry. As part of my own Continuing Professional Development (CPD) I also voluntarily undertake a range of additional training, e.g. Equity in Coaching, Coaching Disabled Athletes, etc.
- Are Disclosure and Baring Service (previously Criminal Records Bureau) 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 DBS 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 more than £5M (five million) pounds of cover.
- The equipment needed, who provides it? Clubs/coaches provide the fencing equipment used in club based sessions. The cost of buying, maintaining and replacing kit is built into the fees charged by the club. Some pupils find it better if they have their own equipment, especially when they start to compete. Coaches will be happy to give guidance in this matter. Most people, for practical reasons, have to buy their kit on-line, this web site has a page devoted to links to the various supplier web sites.
- Does the equipment used meet British and EU safety standards? Yes, fencing equipment is highly regulated and has to meet both the International Fencing Federation (FIE) and Conformité Européenne (CE Mark) safety standards. These regulations are applied to all of the equipment used including swords, masks, protective clothing, etc.
- Which weapon do you like most? Like most other fencers I was taught Foil first and loved the sport. But after a few months I took a shine to Sabre and concentrated on that for most of my competitive career. It wasn’t until I started coaching Foil to beginners that I really started to understand the weapon (‘To teach is to learn’ as someone once said) and grew to like it. I also had an early grounding in Epee which was useful when I fell out of love with Sabre following numerous rules changes in the years after electronic judging was introduced. Eventually the most of the daft Sabre rules where withdrawn and I could bear to re-acquaint myself with the beautiful weapon. If truth be told I prefer to fence from a wheelchair rather than on a piste, not because of any movement issues but because wheelchair fencing is the fastest form of the sport which suits me! It also develops fantastic visual perception and hand speed useful in all forms of fencing.
If you didn’t find an answer to a question you have about fencing in clubs 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.