Young Y8 foil fencers discuss their fencing boutFor parents that want to start their child fencing as early as possible, this can be a tough question to answer. As fencing requires a large amount of skill, technique, and dedication, it is not very well suited for children as young as five. Despite this, there are many clubs out there that offer watered down versions of fencing classes using basic techniques and plastic swords. These are naturally directed more towards the children having fun than developing strong skills, but they can also provide a solid foundation for them to continue fencing as they get older. It can also be quite a lot of fun to see your six year-old acting out a duel with a new friend they’ve made.

Generally speaking, I believe that seven years old is the earliest time for a child to truly begin their fencing education. At this age, they are beginning to better understand the concepts of listening and studying, and their attention spans are much greater than those at a younger age. It is important to note that many factors can affect this.  If you are an avid fencer, your child may want to start even earlier and follow in your footsteps. My own children developed an interest at the age of five. Additionally, young children with older siblings may start fencing sooner after spending time in the club and becoming exposed to the sport. While instruction will still have to be made interesting (with shorter activities to maintain their attention) even very young children can begin to absorb the fencing atmosphere before they are old enough to begin developing their technique. .

If your child does want to start early, find a club that focuses on young children, explore the programs they have available, and talk to the coach. Visit a couple of regular training sessions to see how it goes. Take small steps as you begin their training program to find what suits them. Most of all, make sure your child will find it enjoyable before signing them up.

Another important piece of this discussion is how early children should start competing. While Y10 tournaments are open for children 10 and under, children as young as seven can begin competing in them. There are also some Y8 competitions, which are open exclusively to kids aged 6-8. It is essential for young fencers to understand how competition works, to be exposed to good fencers, start developing their sense of competition, and see where they stand in their own fencing. If you can prepare them beforehand to set their expectations at the right level, score a couple of touches, and most of all, enjoy themselves, they will have a great time at these early competitions. They may not be competing as often as they will when they’re older, but being a part of a tournament is an excellent learning experience for beginners.

Ultimately, the age at which your child should start fencing depends on your child. Some children’s motor skills and maturity levels progress faster than others. Some children simply may not be ready at age eight to listen to instruction and stay focused throughout a group class. The best way to find out is to bring your little fencer down to the club and see how they perform with other kids their age.

If you do have a young fencer who is already itching to compete, but intimidated by the age difference at Y10 competitions, there are some other options. Check to see if there are any Y8 events near you. If so, it may be worth it to sign them up and get your new fencer competing with other fencers their age.