Competitions are completely optional!

Some enjoy them and some do not, but they are a great way to learn where you need to improve your technique! It is also a chance to fence someone different as you do get familiar with the styles of your club colleagues.  And they are good fun and you meet different people!

Competitions are great for personal improvement and add that something extra to your personal experience of fencing especially if you see yourself as ‘an athlete’. There are an amazing number of competitions held every weekend around the country for all ages and abilities.

Fencers at the London Youth Games, a team competition between London Boroughs
Fencers at the London Youth Games, a team competition between London Boroughs

They start at a club level then inter club, and progress up through Counties, and Regions to National, European and World events.

For fencers under 20

Competitions are split into age groups, starting with Under 10 (U10) and progress through U12, U14, U16, and U18.

The group entered is based on the fencer’s age on 1st January, not their current age. So if you are 10 years old on 1st January you must enter the U12. The ‘Under’ bit is important! All fencers must be a member of British Fencing for insurance purposes. You can get membership on line in a few minutes but it really is best to apply a few days before an event. You need the Compete level of membership.

Youngsters may start at the County level and progress to the British Youth Championships (BYC), for which a qualifying competition is run at Regional level, in the above age groups, with a national final over the May bank holiday weekend. However, County and BYCs are both run only once a year.

For more regular competitions, Leon Paul, the UK fencing equipment maker, sponsors the Leon Paul Junior Series (LPJS), using U11, U13, U15 and U17 age groups. Hosted at clubs around the country entrants gather points towards a national ranking if they wish to do that, but competitions are ‘stand alone’.

Newham Swords also runs a series of four foil competitions in a similar manner to LPJS but all are held at Sportsdock, in London Docklands, which saves driving around the country! They are also regarded as ‘ranking’ competitions for British Fencing’s junior ranking tables.

If a fencer has aspirations to fence at a national level or above then BYCs, LPJS and Newham Series, are going to get you recognition of your ability and your coach may then recommend that you enter Cadet and/or Junior events.

As a Cadet (U17) and Junior (U20) there are National, European and International competitions. National competitions are known as British Ranking Competitions (BRC) for which there is a point based system. Successful fencers are invited to represent England and/or GB at international events in these categories.

Competitions for Adults

There are many Open competitions around the country and overseas, and anyone from age 13 upwards can enter these, but you must check the entry requirements! Again points are earned towards national rankings and can lead to invitations to represent England and/or GB at international events. There are also competitions for novices and intermediates (more than three years of fencing experience) for adults that have started fencing later in life.

If you are over 40 then there are Veteran events which are also held in age groups of 40 & 50, up to 80! Usually as part of one competition.

Team Events

These are great fun and you get to fence for your Club, County or Region, but they do not earn ranking points. The Winton Cup is an inter Region competition held individually for Juniors, Seniors and Veterans and the Excalibur tournament is an inter-county event, the biggest competition in the country, where each county fields teams at foil, epee and sabre. Teams are made up of three fencers plus a substitute and events are by invitation only.

Dan Hepner takes the LR CAPITAL Open Bronze in the Plate
Dan Hepner takes the CAPITAL Open Bronze in the Plate

Entering Competitions

There is no central listing of competitions! Although an increasing number are now listed and entered on the Sport80 BF Membership website. There are a number of other websites you can check and these are listed under the Calendar menu tab on this website.

Most competitions have a closing date for entries a week or two before the comp but they usually allow late entries for an additional charge. Its always worth asking.

Make sure you check what weapon size you need and whether you need a mask with a lamé, the conductive material on the bib of the mask. Regulations change according to age with breaks at 10 and 13 but some competitions have their own rules on this. You will also need two foils and two body wires, to ensure you have spares and do not delay the competition if you get any faults. Your club may be able to lend you equipment.

Competitions can be long events and become an issue of fitness and stamina. You may have to ‘check in’ at anytime from 8.30am to 1.30 or 2pm with fencing starting about 30 minutes later so you cannot be late! If you have a long way to travel then an overnight stay somewhere nearby may be wise. If there are a lot of entries fencing may continue for much of the day, so you have to keep warm and ready to fence and ensure you have a diet of energy giving foods and not stodgy sandwiches and plenty to drink but not fizzy drinks!

How competitions are organised

Check in times can change as the organisers have to schedule each age group competition to finish by a certain time and ensure referees are available. This depends on the number of entries so do check that the times have not changed since registering for the competition. Two days before is a good time and again the night before!

Once you have arrived 30 minutes before Check in (!) and got yourself ticked on the list, get changed and warmed up. You need to listen carefully to announcements and information posted on walls or noticeboards. These will tell you which piste to go to.

The competition is run by one or more people called the DT (Directoire Technique). They schedule the fencing and record the scores, perhaps with the aid of computers. They also deal with any interpretation of the rules, disputes or disciplinary matters. The appointed ref will check everyone is present on the piste. If you are late on the piste or do not have your kit ready to go you can lose a point (Red card).

You will fence in a group called a ‘poule’, or sometimes ‘pool’, of 5, 6 or 7 fencers. You fence everyone in your poule up to 5 points and have three minutes of fencing time governed by a stop watch or timer on the score box. Some competitions have two rounds of poules. If there is more than one poule for your age group/weapon, the results are merged. Fencers are ranked from best to worst and then you enter the Direct Elimination (DE) round. As it says, you then have to win it to stay in it.

In the DE you will fence up to 15 points (up to 10 for younger age groups) and have nine minutes of fencing time. This is split into three periods of 3 minutes with a minute rest between periods. If you complete the 9 minutes then the score achieved at that point is recorded. There are also rules for dealing with a tie.

Depending on the number of fencers in your age group/weapon you will progress down to the last 64, 32, 16, 8 (quarter finals), 4 (semi-finals) and the last 2 will be the in the finals and get the gold and silver medals. Those knocked out in the semis get bronzes, one each. You rarely fence off for 3rd place.

If you get knocked out early you can go home!

Always let your Coach know if you have entered a competition then they can ensure you are prepared and give you advice on how they are run and what to expect.