Frequently Asked Questions
We're happy to answer your questions, but please take a moment to browse this page as we address the most common questions here...
How do I find a fencing club in my area?
The easiest way to find a local club is right here at the division web site. Click on the "Fencing Clubs" tab at the top of this page to see a list of clubs in our division. You can always e-mail the Division Chairman, Karyn Missimer and she can point you in the right direction.
What is the minimum age for fencing instruction?
This is a tricky question to answer, as it depends on the child, the coach and the parent's expectations. Children younger than seven are usually too young to begin fencing. Fencing is a very technical sport with rigorous requirements of fine and gross motor control, concentration and focus. Most very young children have yet to develop the fine motor/muscle control, for example, and this usually leads to frustration. It's not their fault, of course. They can see and what they should do, but their bodies often wont cooperate. The best thing to do is find a good fencing school and qualified instructor, and then ask for their specific policy.
Is fencing expensive?
Compared to what? Fencing equipment ranges from moderately priced items to expensive items. For example, a well-made fencing jacket can be purchased for about $60.00, or you can go for the top of the line jacket for about $300.00. The same holds true for masks, knickers, weapons... everything. A beginner's kit consisting of a mask, jacket, glove and foil will cost about $120.00. Add a bag to that list and the kit will cost about $150.00. Most fencing clubs have equipment that beginners can use, however, so you should not have to buy equipment while you're trying the sport on for size.
Is fencing safe?
Fencing is very safe and all fencing clothing is safety gear. The mask is made from a strong steel mesh. Low range jackets and knickers are sewn from heavy cotton duct while more expensive garments are made from high tech stretchy fabrics. Also, fencers wear a second thin half-jacket under their fencing jacket. Called a plastron, this piece provides even more protection to vital organs. Small bruises and the occasional muscle strain are the most common injuries.
What questions should I ask of a fencing club, school or program?
Start by asking about the programs and functions of the club. Many organizations listed as "fencing clubs" in the phone book or on a web site have little to do with modern fencing. Some groups are organized around historical weapons and the making and wearing of historical armor, or they're involved with "classical fencing."
Once you've found a club that offers the programs you're interested in, the most important consideration is the coach or instructor. Fencing is an intimate and technical sport, and as such, the qualifications and character of the instructor are of great importance. Ask the coach about their training as an instructor, whom they studied under and where they trained. Have they attended recognized courses, such as the USFA's Coaches College? Qualified coaches will have this information on the tips of their tongues. Also, ask the coach about their student population. For example, how much experience do they have teaching children or the elderly? What is the youngest age they will consider a pupil? How many of their fencers are competitive? Are they successful?
Finally, you should ask about the coach's certifications. In this country, the United States Fencing Coaches Association (USFCA) is the certifying body for fencing instructors.
Why learn from a Certified Coach?
Fencing coaches certified by the USFCA demonstrate their knowledge of the sport and their skill as teachers in rigorous written and practical examinations. These examinations verify that the coach meets current, internationally recognized standards in the sport. For 500 years this process has produced the best instructors of swordsmanship.
I've spoken to a coach who's trained in a foreign country. Does that count?
Fencing coaches who trained overseas are quite welcome in the USFCA. The USFCA is the domestic member organization of the Academie d'Armes Internationale (AAI). As such, the USFCA recognizes the training and certification from several international programs. Fencing coaches who received certifications abroad from AAI programs have their credentials and titles fully recognized by the USFCA. Coaches who trained in a non-AAI program must present themselves to the USFCA for written and practical examinations.
What should I look out for? What are the red flags?
Be wary of coaches with international credentials who don't have USFCA certifications. The unscrupulous may advertise international credentials or titles because they're difficult to confirm. If the coach truly earned a Fencing Master diploma from a recognized international program, their credentials will be recognized by the USFCA. If they earned their title from a good program that doesn't happen to be a member of the AAI, passing the tests should be no problem. Either way, it's easy to check on a coach's credentials. Just go to the USFCA web site (www.usfca.org) and contact the head of the Certification and Accreditation Board.
What are the USFCA's Professional Certifications?
From lowest to highest, the certification levels are:
Assistant Moniteur was created for fencers interested in coaching as part of their fencing career. Assistant Moniteurs work under the supervision of qualified professionals. They may lead drills and training activities, teach group or individual lessons and assist in the development of training plans for competitive fencers. Because this is a coaching development level, Assistant Moniteurs are expected to participate in training clinics, study coaching techniques, develop their own fencing skills and progress to the Moniteur level of certification.
Moniteur is the first professional level of certification, designed to prepare fencers to serve as instructors in clubs, schools or community sports programs. The Moniteur teaches basic fencing skills and techniques effectively in group lessons and insures the safety of fencers. Moniteurs complete both a written and a practical examination. The written examination includes fundamental fencing concepts, basic rules of the sport and safety management. In the practical examination, the Moniteur candidate must demonstrate how to organize a class, use appropriate teaching methods, properly warmup students, use games and drills, teach correct technique and follow standard safety rules. Moniteurs may be certified to teach in a single weapon, two weapons or all three weapons.
Prevot D'Armes is a professional coaching qualification demanding a comprehensive tactical understanding of the sport. Prevots are capable of coaching at the highest collegiate level as well as owning and managing a fencing club. Prevots complete both a written and a practical examination. The Prevot must be familiar with modern coaching theory and practice at a high level, understand risk management, be able to develop appropriate physical fitness activities and training cycles for their students and be knowledgeable of tournament organization. In the practical examination, the Prevot must demonstrate the ability to teach complex tactical actions, controlling the distance and proficiently using appropriate cues and corrections. Moreover, Prevots must demonstrate their qualifications with the foil, sabre and epee.
Fencing Master is the senior professional position in the sport. Fencing Masters are expected to be able to prepare fencers for high-level national and international competition and to manage and oversee all activity in their club or program. Fencing Masters complete a practical examination that requires a high degree of proficiency in tactical cueing, the development of a logical progression of actions, development of fencers' strategic skills and recognition and correction of even minor flaws in technique. Also, Fencing Masters are required to conduct independent research and prepare an appropriate thesis on a subject relevant to modern fencing. Fencing Masters must be able to teach foil, sabre and epee. In addition, Fencing Masters should be able to develop Moniteurs and Prevots.