Fencing is quickly becoming a popular sport for parents to choose for their children for a number of reasons. It’s beneficial for both the brain and body, as fencing is one of the only sports that requires a mental skill that matches the physical skill that’s required.
The other major point is that fencing is a sport that nearly anyone can participate in. Whether you are big or small, young or not-so-young, female or male, or even in many cases if you don’t have much of a “natural” athletic ability. For parents looking for a sport that their child can play for the rest of their lives, fencing is it. For parents who are looking for a sport that can possibly help their kids get a scholarship for college, fencing is it too. For parents looking for a sport that will teach their kids profound lessons that will cross over into their academic and professional lives, fencing is definitely the way to go.
Fencing is an excellent option (and for good reason! Or how about for good reasons?)
Why Fencing Is Good For Kids
There are a ton of reasons why fencing is a great sport for kids. On this blog we’ve talked about how fencing can improve self-esteem, how it can combat kid’s constant longing for electronic devices, and even how fencing can improve behavior and academics at school.
Now it’s time to dig a little deeper into what the sport of fencing is all about, and what makes it perfect for a young person to participate in. Here are nine reasons why fencing is so very good for kids.
1. Fencing is safe
When it comes to injuries during a competition, fencing is relatively safe. Compared to other sports like soccer or gymnastics, fencing has an incredibly low rate of injury. Firstly, your child is protected by a ton of padding and gear. The gear is loaded with sensors that allow it to mark points that are scored. Any “hit” is felt by those sensors, even at a high level of competition. This is an important point because when you get down to it, the goal of fencing isn’t to hit the other fencer but to get the score to be sensed by those sensors. That distinction matters when we think of injury prevention.
No, the blades are not sharp. In fact, most of them come to a blunt end. Your child will also wear a full face mask, so there is no risk to injury to the eyes or to the face. While rare, most injuries are related to the physicality of fencing and are like the injuries you’d find in any other sport. Think of muscle injuries from not properly warming up, stretching, or using poor form during a bout. Those injuries are the kind of thing that can be prevented through repetition and better practice.
2. Fencing is Challenging
Fencing is often been referred to as a physical game of chess. It requires both physically aggressive moves where you are on the offense and mental agility to read the cues from your opponent to perform defensive moves. These often have to happen at the same time or within seconds of one another. It’s a constant back and forth, keeping the fencer’s mind on its toes as well as their feet on their toes!
A fencing bout can happen very fast. To react at a quick pace both physically and mentally helps your child learn how to react quickly. They learn how to read subtle cues in their opponent, interpret them, and hopefully, use them to their advantage, all in the span of seconds. What is best about this is that your child learns to trust their instincts. They have to follow through so quickly that their training must kick in in order for them to react appropriately. It’s a great thing for a child to be challenged and then to follow through and conquer that challenge. There’s nothing like it and fencing offers exactly the kind of challenge that kids need to grow.
3. Nearly Anyone can Fence
Regardless of any athletic experience, fencing is a sport that anyone can start at any time in their life. Although beginning while your child is young surely will prove beneficial, that doesn’t mean that starting later is going to be a bad thing. Though it was at one point common for fencing clubs to hold off on training kids until they were ten years old, today it is not uncommon for fencers to begin training as young as five. Obviously, those youngest fencers are not doing exactly the same things as their older counterparts, but they certainly get the fundamentals of fencing.
The Paralympics even have an extremely competitive (and exciting) wheelchair fencing circuit (now renamed to Parafencing). The fencers cannot move back and forth, but they must have clean hits which create very exciting matches. They are both fun for the fencers, but they are also extremely fun to watch. From the ground up, fencing is an inclusive sport.
Fencing encourages each athlete to utilize their natural height, size, and skill to their advantage. It’s not uncommon to see a taller child paired up with a much smaller one during a competitive bout. When we see those matches, it’s easier to understand why fencing is such a great sport for every child. Kids learn that there are always advantages, and how they can use what seems like a disadvantage to help them win. A taller child can use their height and arm length to their advantage in an offensive stance, while a shorter child can do the same while utilizing their height to move more aggressively and more quickly. For fencers, being a short fencer can be a distinct advantage because their opponent cannot hit them with the tip of the blade for a point so readily. There is always a way to make it work if you fence smartly!
4. Fencing is a Great Work Out
Fencing is a great cardio workout, it gets that heart pumping! By moving back and forth on the strip, doing lunges and quick recoveries, your child will naturally build up lung capacity and endurance. When you watch a fencing match, you see that the fencers are constantly moving. That movement adds up to lots of blood pumping and tons of cardio endurance.
Fencing can also be a strength training workout. Keep in mind that a fencer must hold their weapon at the ready at all times, and maintaining that posture is going to build up muscle strength. The challenge of holding the correct form, while holding your sword of choice, while lunging, striking, or avoiding a hit builds muscle. That means core strength, leg and arm strength, and muscle control as well. The movements support a healthy back, improving your child’s overall posture and their whole muscle mass. Talk to any fencer after training or competition and they’ll tell you that they are worn out! Look at someone who is a serious fencer and you’ll see that muscle definition too.
5. Fencing Improves Self Esteem
Studies show time and again how the impact of participating in sports can positively influence your child. Fencing is one of the best in that it can combine the elements of both an individual sport (such as tennis or golf) with a team sport (such as soccer or baseball).
As an individual sport, you are responsible for your wins and losses (although there are some elements that you cannot control). How you are able to implement what you’ve learned in practice over and over again in competition can feel really good. Whether you win or lose, your child can step back and look at their performance and say, you know what? I did the best that I could! And now I know what I have to do better next time!
It’s similar to a team sport in that you’re constantly practicing against and alongside your club mates, building relationships with regular opponents, and creating camaraderie through shared experiences. As your club mates improve, so do you and vice versa. And of course, don’t forget there are fencing team competitions, that are super fun in their own right!
6. Fencing Improves Academics
Much like self-esteem, studies have shown the positive impact of athletics on academic performance. Melding together exercise, competition, and mental stimulation creates a lasting change in the ability of kids to work across disciplines. Children seamlessly weave these skills into their school work, borrowing the skills that they build on the fencing strip when they are under pressure during academic tasks. Kids learn to manage the rush of adrenaline in competition with a clear head, which is strikingly like the rush of adrenaline during testing or challenging school assignments.
The exercise has the added benefit of mental clarity. Kids sleep better when their muscles are tired, which leads to improved focus during homework and class time. Fencing students learn tools to help them analyze situations, make complex decisions quickly, and think on their feet. The speed of a fencing match is quick, and learning to pull one’s entire focus into the moment is a skill that they can use in the classroom not just now, but on into college and beyond.
7. Fencing Appeals to the Gamer Mindset
Fencing is one of the five original sports played in the Olympics. There’s something exciting about wielding a sword toward an opponent that appeals to kids who love to play video games. That of course is just about all kids. The buzzing, and beeps of the scoring systems during competition also compliment this feeling that kids are chasing in their electronic games. We’ve even had some kids comment that fencing makes them feel like they’re in some kind of virtual reality video game! That’s with the exception of having the whole body move instead of just their fingers. Why just sit on the couch and push buttons when you can stand up and do the things that are in the video games? Today’s games often closely imitate swordplay with controllers, which makes real fencing even better.
If your kid is into Star Wars, this feeling is there as well. Some fencers feel like they’re swinging around actual lightsabers! Complete with a light illuminating after a successful touch (which is how a scored point is signaled).
Swords in general appeal to most kids. Everyone in the world has been exposed to swords in some way – during backyard games, in school plays, with friends, in movies. Swords and swordfighting are engraved in our culture in so many ways, regardless of where a given individual is from. That’s one reason it appeals to every single person. Beyond Star Wars, there are the Three Musketeers, the Princess Bride, Zorro, King Arthur, the Pirates of Caribbean and Jack Sparrow, and so many more. The pop culture they are a part of extends the way that kids play and imagine, so when they take a real fencing sword they are able to live the legends that they idolize.
Whether it’s gaming or movies, fencing allows kids to be a real life part of what they could otherwise only imagine.
8. Fencing Builds Lifelong Friendships
The fencing community is both vast and small at the same time. Over the years, many young fencers grow through the sport alongside their fellow athletes. They can then continue to play the sport in college and beyond. It’s not unusual to see some of your high school or junior high school fencing buddies at a college match. It’s not just kids who are on the same team that become close friends, nor is it kids who fence the same weapon. We find that fencers make friendships with older fencers who become mentors to them and then with younger fencers who they become mentors for. There is a camaraderie in fencing among those training together that is unlike anything else.
At the same time, the travel involved in fencing allows kids the opportunity to make friends with children from all over the country, and in some cases all over the world! This is rare in many other sports, which keep their matches primarily local to their city and state. The fencing community is rich with connections, and in the age of social media they stay even stronger over time. It’s the in person interactions that make it all happen though, Young fencers meet each other again and again on the tournament circuit once they get to a certain level in the sport. They become friends even as they are opponents! This is a hallmark of competitive fencing.
9. Fencing instills respect for the material
We recently wrote about what you’re really paying for when you’re investing in fencing for your child. But when it comes to a need tp purchase a fencing gear, it turns out it is not that expensive as people think. Especially as compared to some other sports (such as Hockey and Baseball). While there are a few initial investments that most parents need to make (mostly for the gear) fencing equipment is not that much more expensive than other popular sports. And most clubs will let you practice with gear that has been donated.
Fencing gear has a reputation for being expensive, after all it is the sport of the elite. It’s true that fencing is more expensive than team sports like rec soccer or middle school cheerleading. However the price tag should not be a reason that kids stay out of the sport, but because of some inflated notions of the financial cost of fencing, sometimes parents can get worried about that aspect. Fencing doesn’t have to break the bank though, and the pricey gear can actually be a good thing!
In part, it’s the expense of the fencing gear that helps it to be so good for the kid’s development. Playing and expensive sport means that kids have to learn to respect their gear, their possessions. Fencing equipment does cost a lot, but it also lasts long time. If it’s taken good care of, that is. There are lots of ways to extend the life of the gear, mostly by improving regular cleaning and taking good care of the pieces of the weapon, Even a growing child gets you a good long life to the equipment, with at least a couple of years to go through the season. It’s also true that in most cases, the broken weapons and cords are easily fixable. The vast majority of issues can be simply fixed without replacing the big parts. Better yet, some families often sell or donate their used gear as children size out of equipment so it’s helpful to ask fellow club members if they know of anyone looking to unload some old gear.
These are just a few of the many, many reasons that we love fencing and why fencing is good for kids!