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Insights into the world of fencing and thoughts on life

  • Writer's pictureKate

Fencing Newbie: Seven Steps to Tournament Success

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

In a previous post I talked about all the gear and “stuff” you might want to take to a tournament. You can check it out here:  Fencing Newbie: What do I take to a tournament?

So now you’ve made it to the tournament with all the items from the checklist. That’s Step One.

Step Two: Registration. When you get to the tournament venue, find the Registration Desk. Most of the time it’s near the entrance. You’ll need to present proof of membership in the USFA (United States Fencing Association), turn in a waiver, and pay your entry fee. For certain events (usually youth or Veteran) you’ll need to show a copy of your birth certificate. Check with the tournament organizers if you have any questions about that requirement. 

Step Three: find a place in the venue to “set up camp”.  This is your home base, the place where you’ll leave your pile of equipment. If you have teammates at the same tournament, “camp” together. There’s safety in numbers and it’s reassuring to know where you’ll be able to find your supporters.

Step Four: Armoury. Go get your gear inspected. For sabre tournaments this usually means getting your mask, lame, cuff, glove, body cords, and head cords checked. The armourers will stamp your mask, lame, cuff, and glove. Make sure they do it–they are often very busy and might forget to stamp it. Since the referees will check for each stamp–and will give you a red card if it doesn’t have an inspection mark–this is a big deal. They will put a bit of colored tape on your head and body cords after they pass inspection. Referees will also check for those. 

Step Five: Warm up. At our club, we encourage our fencers to do 10 minutes of mobile stretches, followed by some footwork and practice bouting. Ideally it takes a fencer about 45 minutes to do all of it. Your warm-up might change from tournament to tournament (sometimes I need to do more stretching) but it’s important to have a pre-tournament warm-up routine and stick to it. That will help keep your nerves in control and will click the “I have to fence soon” button on in your brain. Some fencers like to listen to music during their stretching time. You’ll need to experiment and find out what kinds of music (if any) help you mentally prepare for competition. One of the ladies at our club prefers 80s easy listening. She gets too excited from anything else. I like salsa music, AC/DC, and the March of Cambreadth.

Step Six: Personal “check-in”. Make sure you are not hungry, thirsty, or need to use the restroom. Check your body to make sure no muscles are overly tight. If you don’t feel sweaty, go warm up some more.

Step Seven: Go out there and learn. It’s time to compete. When you first start fencing (or anytime you move to a different age/rating category) you will need to be kind to yourself. What you are doing is challenging. Allow yourself to learn from mistakes. Make sure you let yourself have fun. You are, after all, spending a few hours swinging a sword at other people!

What helps you prepare for a tournament? Did I leave any steps out? Please let me know in the comments or by emailing me at

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