We often get questions from fencers or parents as they complete the first cycle of beginner classes, “What’s next for me or my kid in fencing?”
Progressing in the sport of fencing at Fencing Club Asheville will look like this:
- Complete one or more cycles of Beginner Classes.
- Choose Foil or Epee. (We don’t have a sabre group…yet)
- Start buying equipment and attending Open Fencing either in addition to or as a replacement for beginner classes.
- Attend tournaments, camps, clinics and other events in nearby cities.
- Attend regional or national tournaments.
A bit more about each stage.
Beginner Foil classes are designed to rush students thru all the basics of foil fencing in 8 or 12 weeks. However, each technique learned in beginner classes requires hours of muscle memory to execute correctly. Classes after the first cycle are designed for fencers to continue to work on each technique while the newer fencers learn it for the first time. In order to be ready to move out of beginner classes, fencers need to show body control and confidence during bouts in practice. Different students get ready to move out of beginner classes at different rates. Younger kids, 9-12 often need a long time to become comfortable as fencers and ready to move beyond the beginner class stage. People who cannot attend classes almost every week take a lot longer to be ready to move on than fencers who attend classes extremely regularly. Intermittent attendance (e.g. attending only 2 weeks out of a month) makes it vastly more difficult to build confidence and muscle memory. Seasonal rotation of sports (i.e. doing basketball in the winter and fencing in Spring-Summer-Fall) usually is fine however.
Intermediate Foil Classes are designed for kids that are ready to move out of beginner classes but are still looking for group instruction between 7-8pm before open fencing. Intermediate classes will cover the same basic techniques as Beginner classes, but there will be more emphasis on combining footwork with bladework and doing drills while moving. Therefore the intermediate group will require a higher standard of physical fitness.
Generally people attending the intermediate group will also want to begin regularly attending Open fencing and buying their own electric fencing equipment.
Open Fencing is where fencers move on to high intensity boutwork against stronger opponents. Generally new fencers to Open Fencing should play around a bit with both foil and Epee and choose the weapon that suits their personality. Fencers below high school age should stick to foil. Practicing two weapons at the same time is not advised, as this tends to confuse the all important “muscle memory”. If a fencer gets bored in one, they can always switch later, but focus is key starting out.
Open Fencing is fenced mainly with electric scoring equipment. Fencers may not attend open fencing while permanently borrowing club gear, because we don’t have enough to go around. Therefore, if you want to attend open fencing, a fencer will need to begin obtaining their own gear (see equipment page) Having 100% of your own gear is not required, but you have to be moving towards having all your own gear.
Open fencing is designed to be self-directed and fun. During beginner classes a coach will direct the entire class, while fencers who attend open fencing take responsibility for their own training and try to use their time as best they can and get better. Coaches will often work with fencers individually during this time. However fencers are encouraged to ask for coaches or clubmates to help them with things. We’re not going to push individual fencers (well we’ll push a little bit, but you gotta WANT to fence!)
It’s fine to attend beginner classes and then stay for Open Fencing. However, if a kid has homework, or an adult has adult demands on their time, we recommend making sure there is time for Open Fencing even if it means coming later, it will be a more fun, personalized and intense experience.
Tournaments within a couple hours drive are essential to further development once a fencer has gear and attends open fencing. FC Asheville is a tiny part of the fencing universe and seeing other fencers, coaches and referees in action will help a fencer get the most out of each Wednesday night Open Fencing sessions. In addition, there are Fencing Camps and Clinics put on by larger clubs and universities in the nearby cities. www.askfred.net is the best place to find out info about these events. Please let coaches know if you plan to attend. We often attend local tournaments as well and are more likely to make a point of it if we know you’re going.
Regional and National Tournaments are where a fencer can find both better competition and competition more suitable to their age (national events have both veteran and youth age groups, unlike local tournaments.) Attending these tournaments requires overnight travel and is slightly expensive. Generally fencers who have a comfort level with local tournaments have a better experience at regional or national events. But be warned, competition can be intense and rules will be strictly enforced!
As always, feel free to give Bren a call about this stuff at 301-537-0211 or send email. Coaches can also talk about it at practice, but we do have limited time, so we have to stick to shorter conversations while practice is going on.