View Full Version : Talk to me about the sport Fencing
03-25-2005, 07:06 PM
My 6 yo son has been fascinated with sword-play even since he was about 2½ and first saw The Princess Bride. About a year ago I looked into lessons for him, but found that no one offered them to kids his age.
I just recently discovered that our local fencing club (http://www.sacfencing.org/) has a "Sabre Kids" class for kids 5-7 to introduce them to the sport and get them started. I'm thinking of signing Charlie up.
Does anyone here fence? How and what age did you get started? Anyone have experience with kids fencing? How old were they?
Any information at all would be welcome!
03-25-2005, 07:21 PM
i fenced for a year and a half when I was in college, and I'm sure he would enjoy it. It's not very like they make it look in the movies less swash, more buckle :) and can be a very disciplined sport to practice, but if they are running a kids club, it would mean they have experience in teaching it to kids (and keeping it fun :) )
The Hamster King
03-25-2005, 07:29 PM
I fenced in college. Like any martial art it's a great sport for learning mental as well as physical discipline.
I have a seven-year-old son who'll be eight this summer who's interested in swordplay. We let him try a few lessons at the local fencing club about a year ago and he was clearly too young then. He could handle some of the footwork, but he just didn't have the hand strength to control the foil ... or even hold it level for any length of time. We're going to let him try again in a few months.
Fencing is one sport where starting early doesn't give you much of an advantage, and might actually lead to developing bad habits that will have to be broken later. Much of the blade control is in the fingers and if a child is too young to hold the blade properly they won't get much from the lessons that can be applied later.
Some questions I would ask about the program:
Do the kids learn correct footwork (the en guard position, how to advance and retreat properly, how to lunge)?
Do the kids use full-weight blades, or some sort of child-sized blade? Are they taught how to hold the blade properly?
Are they taught the different formal attacks and parries? Or are they just allowed to whack at each other?
I'd also see if it was possible for your son to try out a class or two to see if he's capable before ponying up the money ... .
03-25-2005, 07:53 PM
Lapsed fencer really thinking about getting back into it here.
I had a blast fencing in college. The club attracted a certain type of person that I generally enjoyed being with (smart, goofy, likes to have a good time, sociable) and was generally a deterrent to numbskulls who like to debate whether Musashi's sword was the key factor in his success. Of course, we had a club and not a team, so there was a big difference between us doing it for fun and others who were doing it as a main focus in their lives.
This is not to say that we didn't take it seriously and do respectably in meets though.
However, I dropped fencing outside of college when I realized that the only fencing club around (well, the only one that I knew of) was full of total pricks. They had a kids through adults program and they really only attracted elitist jerks. On a couple of meets I went to I was surprised that they treated their members the way they did (very harshly). The kids were really bad too (I got the impression that they were generally spoiled rich types which may have had something to do with it. They were also the top X% of their class and since fencing is very insular, they were used to beating everyone so when they got to their first matches against the top X% of the other clubs, they didn't have practice in being humble).
Keep in mind that these are only a couple of clubs and YMMV of course. I also met some very nice people and since there are relatively few fencers, you get to know people pretty quickly even though you only see them three or four times a year. Of course, people hang out with people like them, so if you're nice and etc., you'll find people you enjoy being with.
Fencing is, though, something that you have to put a lot of time into. It's a game of finesse and 25ths of a second (at least for us epee folks). The equipment is fairly expensive (IIRC, my knickers and jacket were $75; my Olympic-level epee was another $75ish; I always used club helmets, but IIRC they were $100ish for a decent one; glove was $20ish. I used club lames (vests for electronic scoring) and cords as well and have no idea what they cost), plus you'll have to pay for lessons and if you want to go to tournaments more than the likely rare times your own club hosts them, you've got to figure in travel and days spent doing that, plus entrance fees. Dues to USFA, etc.
So, the people who really get into it really put a lot of time into it. If you join a smaller class, they'll almost definitely have the swords, helmets, vests and lames for you to use.
As I said, it's also a game of degrees, so unless your kid really likes working on small things, I don't know how he'll last. The attrition rate in college (and from what I understand in Park District type programs) was orders of magnatude - out of about 40 people who showed up to the first practice of the year, we'd maybe get three who stuck around for the year and one who came back the next year.
That said, the people who got into it young and stuck around (generally also being trained by A-rated fencers who were former Eastern European Olympians) were very impressive.
So yeah: 1) expensive 2) there's a cutoff that comes surprisingly quickly about whether you're serious or just having fun and 3) lots of hard work.
Considering that the kids in the pictures are wearing shorts (and not knickers), it doesn't look like they're terribly strict over there which could be good or bad - I didn't find enough on their site to tell.
I recommend going for it. The price seems reasonable and it's not a big deal if he doesn't like it.
03-25-2005, 11:44 PM
I fenced through high school and college. It is a wonderful sport- lots of self discipline, teaches great spatial skills, is relatively safe, promotes balance, timing, strategizing, and counting to five. ;)
I'd put my son in it if he were old enough. I say go for it.
Santenelli foils are the best, when/if you ever decide to buy.
03-25-2005, 11:56 PM
I took fencing in college and loved it. Haven't done it in a long time now, but one day I'd like to get back into it.
In the class I took, we learned mostly foil, and a little bit of saber. He talked about epee, but didn't teach it to us.
Lots of technique, though. And it's definitely about finesse, not the typical buckling of swashes. I was impressed by the choreography in the swordfight in "Princess Bride", though (since you mentioned it) -- it was truer to actual fencing than most movies with swordplay. (With of course some poetic license).
03-26-2005, 06:37 AM
I fenced in college competitively and worked in a fencing academy for a while. I even taught fencing overseas (the Pacific Rim) for a while.
I love the sport, the physical and mental conditioning it provides and I hate to see it trivialized. But that is perhaps me being snooty and as someone earlier suggested about people in the sport being, elitest.
I will warn you and your son that it is very repetitive and might seem rather tedious to a person as young as your son, but if the fencing school you are looking at does have a children's program, maybe they know how to deal with young ones.
In many ways I don't suppose it is much different than a child taking karate (or one of its brothers) which has many six year olds taking part. I suppose it is just my snootyness and fear of triviliazation coming though I suppose.
03-26-2005, 09:44 AM
Anyway, I just wanted to add that another benefit of fencing was that it's a great conversation starter (although that may just be because I'm boring in general). Also, the interviewer in every job interview I've been to since I started fencing has brought it up and then started to fill in the blanks themselves about what qualities it imparts.
"Oh, you fenced? Huh. Tell me about that. You know, I always wanted to do that. It focuses on X, Y and Z which I think are very good traits to have. Especially in this company. Don't you agree."
03-26-2005, 12:25 PM
Thanks everyone so far for your comments.
We definitely going to visit the fencing club this coming week. They said to drop in anytime they're open and someone will talk with us, show us around and we can observe the kids class.
I think he'll do Ok with the attention to detail needed. He tends to focus on details/rules more than most kids his age that I know. Also, since he's been playing chess since he was 3½ or so and can think 3-4 moves ahead, I think he'll do Ok with the strategy.
I suppose it is just my snootyness and fear of triviliazation coming though I suppose.
Don't worry about it. What with a 6½ year old who plays chess, rides English, and wants to fence...we're learning to be snooty fast! ;)
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