Fencing Competitions

Why should I compete?

Regardless of your reasons for fencing, everyone is encouraged to enter competitions. Not only are tournaments a great way to meet and fence with different people you are also able to test your skills and identify areas to improve in. After a few months of fencing in a club you may be ready to start competing. Your instructor will let you know when you’re ready and select some events that would be appropriate.

What are my competitive opportunities in fencing?

There are events for all different ages and skill levels. The most common types of tournaments are the local “Open” events. These tournaments are to anyone who wishes to enter. Some events may be Sanctioned, meaning results are used to determine future ratings of fencers. For Sanctioned events you will need a competitive membership. Sanctioned Open events also have an age requirement of 13 years and older.

Some tournaments will host events that target certain groups, such as Y14 for fencers under the age of 14, Veteran for fencers over the age of 40, or Division III for fencers above the age of 13 and have a rating of D, E, or U. Below you will find a table with the different event types listed.

Fencing Divisions such as the Western NY Division host two events a year to qualify fencers for the Junior Olympics National Championships (fencers under the ages of 20 and 17) and the Division II / III / Veteran National Championships. Fencers need to meet age, ranking and be a competitive member in order to compete.

Category   Classification
DIV I   A, B, OR C
DIV III   D, E, or U
Wheel Chair   N/A
Under 19 (Junior)   N/A
Under 16 (Cadet)   N/A
Under 20 (Junior Olympics)   N/A
Under 17 (Junior Olympics)   N/A
Youth 14   N/A
Youth 12   N/A
Youth 10   N/A
Veteran (40 & Older)   N/A
Vet 40 (40-49)   N/A
Vet 50 (50-59)   N/A
Vet 60 (60-69)   N/A
Vet 70 (70+)   N/A
Under 19 Team   N/A
Senior Team   N/A
Veteran Team   N/A
See usfencing.org for the current season’s
age and classification rules.


What is the competition format?

Fencing competitions usually consist of two rounds. In the first round of “pools,” six to eight fencers compete in a round-robin where each fencer fences every other fencer in the pool. A pool bout last for 3 minutes or if someones scores 5 touches, which ever happens first.  If the 3 minutes elapses the fencer with the higher score wins, unless the score is tied then bout goes into overtime. One fencer is awarded “priority” by a coin toss.  The bout then continues until a touch is scored or one minute elapses.  If no touch is scored after a minute, the bout goes to the “priority” fencer.

Results from the pool round are used to create the seeding of the next round – Direct Elimination or “DE.” A bracket is formed consisting of the highest and lowest seeded fencers facing each other, the second highest and lowest, and so on.  If there are not enough fencers in the competition to fill the bracket, the highest seeded fencers will receive a bye into the next round.

For foil and epee, direct elimination bouts are 15 touches, with one-minute breaks at three-minute intervals.  The bouts end when one fencer scores 15 touches or when three, three-minute periods elapse. The same priority rule is used if time elapses with a tied score. Sabre direct elimination bouts also go to 15 touches, with a one-minute break when either fencer reaches eight touches. For Youth and Veteran events, the DE rounds are fenced to 10 touches.

Team events may or may not have an individual pool round to determine seeding into a bracket. Once a bracket is formed teams of three fencers (four with an alternate) fence in a 45 point relay format where each fencer faces the three opponents of the other team.

What is a Rating and how does a fencer earn one?

In Sanctioned events fencers can earn a Rating based on their placement in the final results. That rating is dependent on how many fencers are competing in the event, their current ranking and their final placing. For example the winner an event with 15 people including 2 B’s, 2 C’s and 2 D’s could earn their B Rating. The rating is followed by the year it was earned such as a B-2014. Rating will decay by one letter after 4 years if not renewed. This change will be occur at the beginning of the new fencing season – August 1. For more information refer to the US Fencing Classification Reference Chart.

How do I enter a fencing competition?

Your instructor will let you know when you should start competing and help you select a tournament. A few things must be done before you enter. You should create an account on the askFRED website. This site is a great resource for planning competitions to attend.

Some competitions will require you to join US Fencing (United States Fencing Association). They are the governing body for the sport in the United States. The easiest way to join is through their website at usfencing.org.

A few other things to plan for when preparing for a tournament.

  • Arrive early, at least 30 minutes before the end of registration. Usually the time listed on askFRED is the close of check-in and fencing will begin shortly after it. Give yourself plenty of time to get registered, dressed, stretched and warm up. Light sparring with a teammate or friend is also a good idea.
  • Check all your weapons to ensure they are working properly at the club before the competition. You are required to have at a minimum two working weapons.
  • Bring the following items with you, all necessary fencing gear, repair kit, change of cloths, an appropriate lunch and snacks, and a book or other distraction for downtime or non-fencers.
  • You should set attainable goals for each competition. Your coach can help you with this.
  • Plan to have fun. Competitions are a good way to meet others fencers, many of whom you will see again at other tournaments. They are also a good way to test yourself and find ways to improve your game.

After the competition you should write down your thoughts in a fencing journal. Include progress through the day, what actions worked (against who and why), what actions did not work (against who and why), and anything else note worthy you would like to discuss with your coach.

What are Regions and which one am I in?

The US is divided into six regions. NY and PA are in Region 3.