Updated: Aug 3, 2020
If you’re not offering a “free trial” class at your club, I would really encourage you to do so. A free, no-risk, no-pressure session is an easy way to get new people through the door. It’s a great way to show off the culture you’ve created at your club and to let members of the community see the amazing things you’re doing. We allow observers to photograph and/or record whatever they wish. If they tag the club in the photos they post on Facebook, so much the better!
The single, most important element of hosting a great free class is the person leading it. You need to choose someone who is personable and who can make newbies feel comfortable. This is especially true for beginner adults who are sometimes very hard on themselves and need to be around someone who can make them laugh and relax. This person needs to be able to demonstrate proper technique but their personality, not their fencing ability, is key. You don’t need an elite fencer or, for that matter, a coach to teach the class but rather someone who loves the sport and is extremely enthusiastic about it.
At Cutting Edge Fencing Center, we hold a free class once a month (usually the last Friday) from 7-8:30 pm. We choose that day so that they don’t have long to wait before the next round of Beginner classes starts. There’s nothing worse than being all excited about a new activity, only to have to wait a month before getting to do it again.
There is nothing else going on at the club on those evenings, no distractions, no big crowds impatient to get on strip for bouting. We don’t spend any money advertising it, choosing instead to post the event on Yelp!, painting the date on our front window, and listing it in the events on our Facebook page. We have an RSVP list on ZenPlanner to keep track of who has pre-registered and who is a walk-in. We limit the class size to 20 but our classes normally run from 5-12 participants.
Here’s our approximate schedule:
6:45-7:00 Check in: as the participants trickle in, they sign the “free event waiver”, are told where the bathrooms are, get a little tour of the club, and are made to feel welcome.
7:00-7:15 Everyone (parents and observers included) is taken out onto the floor. They are regaled with the history of fencing (make it as interesting as possible), they are shown the three weapons (we emphasize how great sabre is and why), and they get to see/touch all of the fencing gear. We make sure to emphasize how safe our sport is (moms need to hear this), thanks in part to all the gear that fencers wear. We always start right on time, even if we are expecting others, to show everyone that you will miss out on fun if you are late to our classes.