Fencing is often called physical chess. There is an old saying that goes with it “master fencing and you’ll master life”. This is especially true for children entering this individual sport.
Self Reliance: Unlike many “traditional” sports, in fencing you learn to rely on yourself and make critical decisions. Your success is up to you not your team. Kids learn that what they, as an individual, put into it is what they get out of it, from that they develop self-reliance and personal responsibility. This allows their own unique personality and self esteem to flourish and grow. Our coaches like to say “we are not making clones”, what makes this fun for the coaches is the individuality of each child. While this is an individual sport, our team spirit runs deep and your child will be surrounded by wonderful kids, parents, coaches who all support and encourage each other.
Off the devices & stress relief: It’s easy to get most children off a “device” with fencing.
The sport is mentally engaging, fast moving, requiring focus and thinking ahead. Time goes by very quickly and they are interacting verbally and physically to individuals. Adapting quickly to every evolving situation is part of what keeps it so fun. Someone is trying to hit you with a sword and you aren’t going to let them, instead you will lead the opponent into a trap you set up . . . all in a few moments. One gets completely immersed in the rapidly changing environment – so engaged you have forgotten all about school, work, problems, peers and (what device?) end each session feeling a tremendous sense of stress release, and accomplishment.
Emotional, self control and sportsmanship: Everyone learns to release their frustration and aggression on the strip, to channel it into a positive energy . Emotional and self control are part of lessons learned. Overcoming failure and making each failure a learning experience is one of the most valuable lessons learned from fencing and most sports. Learning to respect one’s opponent whether it is a close friend or complete stranger is intrinsic to the sport. Focusing on tactics, technique and strategy – and every opponent is different – good sportsmanship keeps things in perspective and makes every bout (duel) fun and different.
Healthy Body: Developing agility, co-ordination, flexibility, strength and body awareness through fun fitness is a big part of our program. Healthy eating and taking care of your body is the key to staying fit, injury prevention, mentally sharp and alert for academics. What’s amazing is they get an incredible overall body workout and don’t even realize it! Kids learn to love working hard and getting fit in a fun inspiring way. Workouts change by age group and our fitness pros adjust for what is right for your age group and what is going on with one’s body (like a fast growth spurt!). We use cardio, yoga, pilates, bands, kettle bells, kickboxing and a huge variety of tools to keep in different and interesting. We occasionally have a hip-hop class to mix it up!
Self confidence: It takes courage to stand on a strip and fence an opponent. Self confidence grows as one master’s different skills, techniques and tactics. Fencing rewards the confident in both offense and defense. While the talented athletic child can and does excel in this sport, tactics and skill will overcome the most physical fencer – it’s not the most athletic or fastest person who will win, it’s the person who can out-think, outwork and execute their plan. In our club girls, boys, men and women fence and practice together. You will commonly see a smaller person out fence a taller or more athletic fencer. Coaches help with encouragement, goal setting and seeing that each person works hard to achieve their goals. When a child achieves a goal they thought was out of their reach their self confidence grows by leaps and bounds.
Focus & strategic thinking: We have had many parents come into the club after trying almost every other available sport out there for their child.
Some of the most introverted children have found their passion in fencing. Athletically gifted kids have come to try fencing that still have not found their sport – What we find is that it is the “thinker” that is attracted to fencing, and that becomes a common bond and a basis for deep friendships among many in our club. Now we are playing physical chess – every move made by an opponent must be countered, in fencing terminology you will hear “parry (blocked), riposte (response)” move and counter move. The fencer must be completely in the moment, alert, every sense on high alert, and they are alone on the strip, no one can make the next move for them. The slightest loss of focus can cost the point. What to do next is completely up to them. Keeping focus under tremendous pressure isn’t easy. And that is just one of the things that most people love about fencing.
Community and New Friends: While fencing is an individual sport, your child will greatly benefit from the friendships and camaraderie found in our club and fencing
community. You’ll start to notice that everyone, no matter their age, sex, size, or ethnicity is happy to be fencing and sharing their knowledge and experience with each other. It’s great to make new friends out of school and be exposed to difference people from many walks of life, as you learn how to compete with and against great friends.
Fencing teaches an incredible amount of life skills that you can help your child learn as you support and encourage during their journey. It can help you bond with your child in a special way. I’ve highlighted many of them but author and father, Douglas E. Richards really articulates it well in a very personal way.
“When I was a kid, I lived for sports. So, as a father, I couldn’t wait to introduce my son to a wide variety of them. And I did. But although my son was a natural athlete, there was one problem: he had absolutely no interest. Not in any of them.
But then, miraculously, fencing came along. It challenged and excited him in a way those other sports could not. There were endless moves for him to learn. , , , The sport totally transformed my son . . .” Read much more about the effect fencing had on him and his son in his interesting article: Take a Stab at Fencing: Your Child Will Love It and So Will You!
We have the privilege and great pleasure of seeing and experiencing first hand what he describes for his son, repeated over and over in different ways, for each child is unique.
Chance to compete and meet: Training endlessly is like shooting hoops, to make it really exciting you need competition – really playing a game makes it come alive! We start by learning to compete in the club then move to the many local and regional tournaments for youth. Unlike many “traditional” sports, there are many opportunities to travel out of state to national level competitions once your child has reached that level. What’s really exciting is that at a national fencing tournament you will see national team members, world champions, Olympic champions, and national champions all competing at their highest levels. You’l find them a friendly and encouraging group. It’s easy to walk up to them and ask for an autograph, take a photo with them or just say hello.
As Jason Sheridan (fencing coach) says in his excellent article “. . . contact with excellence does amazing things for a kid. Meeting and fencing with the top athletes in the sport, getting the chance to compete all around the country and the world, can have a profound effect on a child’s psychology. It changes his idea of what’s possible. It makes greatness seem achievable. Once a child has that belief—once he sees that becoming truly excellent at something is actually doable—it can alter the way he approaches everything in his life. It can change the way he deals with adversity.
There is nothing better you can ask from a sport.” See his complete article here.
How do I get my child started? A fencing camp is ideal to get started. We have several throughout the year in our club in Beaverton, or through the Parks and Rec’s program in the City of Hillsboro. Check out our camps page here, or if you don’t want to wait come into our Saturday morning beginners class and give it a try year-round. If you are out of our area (Portland Oregon), check your local directory for a club new you or search for “fencing club, fencing classes”.
Washing your lame (pronounced La-may) correctly will extend the life and use of it. If you use your practice lame daily or several times a week then a monthly washing is a must. There are several fabrications of lames.
For copper or non-stainless steel lames (usually these start to turn greenish with oxidation): you will need to ADD about 1/4 cup of Windex (must contain ammonia-some Windex products do NOT contain ammonia and won’t remove the green oxidation) or 50% white vinegar.
For stainless steel lames (these are usually the more expensive lames) just using Woolite or a mild hand-washing clothing detergent (do not use normal laundry soap).
Fill your sink about 1/2 way with lukewarm water. Add the Woolite or mild hand-washing clothing detergent (see bottle for measurement instructions – usually a capful) to the water and mix it well. Take the lame and push it completely underwater. Swirl it around for several minutes. If the non metallic part of the edge of the sleeves is heavily soiled rub and gently scrub that part taking care NOT to rub the metal fabric. If your garment is green with alot of oxidation add the white vinegar (a full gallon) OR Windex, making sure the Windex contains Ammonia. Let the lame soak for about 15 minutes (your water will turn a murky blueish green). Drain, then rinse well, you may need to rinse several times if the water turned very green.
Do NOT wring the water out! The easiest thing is to hang it up on a non-metal hanger in the shower. Turn on the ventilation fan so the air circulates helping the lame to dry faster. Some people will roll the damp lame in a towel to remove alot of the water then hang it up. The faster it dries the less chance of corrosion.
We highly recommend that you always turn your lame inside out after you wear it to let the sweat dry quickly, and hang i up. Do not throw it on the floor or leave it wadded up inside your gear bag. A little care will greatly extend the life of your gear.
Unfortunately it is fairly common that a fencer will end up fencing one or more teammates during a competition. It m
ay happen during the pool round and again in the direct elimination (D.E.) round.
Coach Policy when teammates fence
When two teammates fence one another in competition, the coach will NOT coach either fencer. Instead, they will go to another bout or step away from the match. This is our policy and the policy in the majority of fencing clubs. Our coaches are very interested in the outcome of ALL our fencers. We do not want one teammate to feel a coach favored one fencer over another.
Club Policy for Parents and Supports when teammates fence
We sometimes see parents or friends jump in, assume the role of coach and start strip coaching their child or friend. Please do NOT do this if one teammate is fencing another. For the same reason that our coaches don’t strip coach during a teammates bout, parents and supporters should not be doing the same thing either. You can best help your fencer by watching and enjoying the match. During the one minute break of a direct elimination match ONE person only, can hand the fencer their drink. If you do, please do not give any coaching advice. General comments like “remember to breathe”, “be ready”, or “think about it”,”try your best”, is about all you want to say. It’s best if your fencer has their drink ready and learn to rely on themselves only.
NO Cheering AGAINST teammates. Whether you are a parent, sibling, spouse or a friend, cheering one teammate against another is against club policy, even if the fencers are from a different club (if the fencers are teammates at a different club). Cheering against people who are teammates (especially your teammates) bothers both fencers and takes away from a good tournament experience.
Why cheering against teammates is not good
Most fencers cannot hear strangers who cheer for their opponent, but hearing and seeing familiar faces and voices cheering for the opponent is very distracting, can be confusing and can be taken personally.
Cheering teammates on against each other is just bad sportsmanship. Teammates have to train and practice together.
It’s very much like a family. Just like you would not cheer one sibling on against another, we don’t cheer for one teammate against another.
It can be uncomfortable when your child or fencer has to fence a teammate and friend. It’s even more stressful if you are cheering against their friend and teammate. The fencers have to learn how to compete in the club against each other and remain friends. When the fencers are young children, having a friend’s parent or family cheering against them is extremely distracting, causes them to lose focus and wonder why the parent doesn’t like them, they can take it very personally. Trust in them and their training to handle it.
Ultimately the winner will be decided by their own actions, preparation, skill and experience. You’ll be modeling and teaching them valuable life skills about how to treat and value other people. An equally valuable lesson is that you trust they can handle the situation on their own, helping to grow their self confidence.
How to Wash a Fencing Glove
Keeping the glove clean is important! Bacteria builds up from sweaty hands and can make the glove very stinky and cause a rash.
The easiest way to clean it is to throw an inexpensive practice glove into a regular washer- NOT the saber competition glove as that must be hand-washed. Inexpensive practice gloves can go into the washer but NEVER with fencing whites. If you put it in with whites it will most likely turn the whites a shade of the color in the glove. For the more expensive competition saber glove, hand-washing the glove as below is the best way to go:
For a saber FIE tournament glove
1. Mix warm (not hot) water with hand wash detergent like woolite and put the glove in.
2. Wash gently by rubbing with your hands or with a sponge.
3. Rinse well several times and squeeze gently.
4. Gently dab the remaining water with a dry towel. Don’t wring or twist as that will damage and deform the glove.
5. Pull out the fingers to restore the good shape of your glove.
6. Air dry or lay out in the sun with the Velcro open, aiming a fan at it will help it dry faster.