Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Author: Igor Chirashnya Page 1 of 94

Fencing Referee Hand Signals (Infographic)

There are several essential components to a fencing match. One consists of the fencers themselves, who are vying for points. Another are the weapons, those things that make the points possible. And the final essential component to a fencing bout is the person who calls the points.

Fencing bouts are monitored by that same stalwart bastion of sport control that everyone has – the referee. Depending on the bout, the venue that it’s in and the purpose for which it’s being fought, the referee could be either an officially certified referee or another fencer. Either way, the ref is not part of the action. The more official the venue, the more official the referee must be. The more informal the venue, the less official the ref will be.

Why use hand signals?

Fencing refs use hand signals because there are often language barriers in fencing. Fencers often come from all over. That’s part of why we love this sport so much! It brings together people from everywhere. No matter what language you speak, you can learn to understand fencing referee hand signals fairly easily. It’s not that complicated!

Hand signals are also helpful because it can be loud in a fencing venue with lots of other bouts going on around you. Hand signals mean that you don’t have to be able to hear in order to understand what’s going on in the bout. That’s helpful for people watching the bout because they can just watch the big gestures of the refs without having to be close enough to hear what the referee is saying.

Hand signals give us a universal, simple language with which to communicate effectively about the fencing bout.

A simple primer to fencing referee hand signals

The good news is that hand signals are very, very easy to understand and we’ve created an infographic to help you to recognize and learn the hand signals. There is also a printable pdf version available to download (size 6’x2′) which might be a good tool for fencing coaches if it is hung in their fencing club. You can download it here.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed by fencing referee hand signals! With just a bit of quick study, you’ll have this down in no time.

Fencing Referee Hand Signals

Why you need to understand fencing ref signals

While it might seem like you can just roll on without knowing the fencing ref’s signs (I mean they generally say things anyway right), it can actually make things MUCH more clear when you’re watching a match! Fencing matches run so quickly that there’s often not time to process the sound before the next thing happens. The better you know the fencing referee signals, the easier and more fun watching matches will be!

Keep in mind that every ref is going to be just a hair bit different. In general these signals are easy to recognize, but they can also be a bit confusing if you’re not exactly clear on what you’re looking at. That’s another reason it’s so important to learn those signals, because then you’ll have a better handle on what’s happening in the match, even if the ref’s signals are a bit unclear or vary slightly from the norm.

If you’re at a match with an electronic scoreboard, it’s incredibly informative to watch the scoreboard and the referee alternately to help you really learn the signals. This will allow you to make much more sense of the signals and to connect them with what’s happening in terms of the match winning or losing!

If you or your child is new to fencing, we highly recommend that you work to learn the hand signals of the fencing referee. Don’t just watch your child’s match – watch other matches to help you learn the signals and scoring!


Jumping Rope: How Fencers can Use this Old School Method to Improve their Game

Jumping Rope: How Fencers can Use this Old School Method to Improve their Game

There are high-tech ways to get in shape as a fencer, and there are low-tech ways to get in shape as a fencer. Though we tend to think that jumping rope is something for children to do on the playground, in reality, it’s a great way to train inexpensively and anywhere you are.

Why is jumping rope good for fencers?

When you jump rope, you’re bouncing up and down on the balls of your feet (or, as it is often said, on your toes), which is not dissimilar from how we want to put our weight towards the balls of our feet on the strip. The movement that you’re practicing when you jump rope is complementary to the movement that you want to improve on the strip. The whole notion of “being light on your feet” is exactly what we want to foster as fencers, and jumping rope does this beautifully. Overall, jumping rope is one of the most popular exercise tools for millions of athletes in any sport and one of my favorite suggestions to fencers.

Overall, this is a fantastic tool for fencers. Jump ropes are great for:

  • Improved coordination
  • Footwork agility
  • Cardiovascular endurance
  • Better balance
  • Posture, core, and leg strength
  • Improved speed
  • Developing focus

These are all aspects of physical fitness that are good for fencers, and as such it’s a good idea to leverage this tool as a way to get better in our sport. As a bonus, jumping rope can be done just about anywhere with obviously very little equipment. Even the more advanced jump ropes are inexpensive and tend to last users a long time. It’s a fantastic thing to pack for competition, as a jump rope doesn’t take up much room and can be used just about anywhere, including in a tightly packed competition venue when all you have is a few square feet for your pre-competition warmup.

Power in the Ballot – Why and How Fencing Parents Should Join USA Fencing by February 1, 2023

Power in the Ballot - Why and How Fencing Parents Should Join USA Fencing by February 1, 2023

There is power in the ballot.

Investing ourselves in the process of who and how are running the things that matter is important and for us in this context, that means USA Fencing. Though it can seem like we are unable to affect the big machines of organizations without investing time and energy that we may not have, in truth, we can make a huge difference with a single vote. 

Your child’s fencing journey is directly connected to the opportunities that USA Fencing puts before them. When the structure of competition changes, it changes the long-term outcomes of your children. You should have a say in that. You do have a say in that.

The people who read this blog have a deep passion for fencing and fencing education – that’s why you’re reading this. It’s that passion for the sport that drives me to keep pursuing the hard work of writing it. Fencing parents have the power to take that passion to the next level by casting a vote in the upcoming USA Fencing Elections. 

You must have Access Membership in USA Fencing by February 1, 2023 to vote in the May elections!

You can sign up for Access Membership here.

The Board of USA Fencing makes decisions on what events are offered, where those events are offered, how fencers qualify, policies, and so much more. It’s critical that parents take part in making those decisions by voting! Fencing parents have a distinct perspective on what their children need because we’re on the ground seeing how these decisions affect our kids. 

In the next few months, there is a major election coming up that will shape fencing in the United States for the next three years due to the number of seats that will open all at once. In the past, fencing parents have not come out in force to vote in these elections, even though their children are the most affected by the decisions made! 

Power belongs to the fencing community. Voting for the board members has the potential to significantly impact the immediate and long-term future of our fencers. 

The Rule of Three – How to Make Fencing a Part of Your Child’s Life without Sacrificing their Education

The Rule of Three - How to Make Fencing a Part of Your Child's Life without Sacrificing their Education

As a parent, you want your child to have the best of both worlds – a great education and the opportunity to excel in their chosen sport of fencing.

One of the things that participating in a sport like fencing gives (or should give) kids is a sense of equilibrium. Life shouldn’t be all about school and family responsibilities, just as it shouldn’t be all about work and family responsibilities for parents. (FYI – fencing for adults has the same benefits as fencing for kids.)

Unfortunately, life can devolve into our just checking things off of endless to-do lists that don’t hold much meaning anymore. This happens to kids and teenagers, too. Go to school. Go to fencing practice. Go to bed. Eat breakfast. Compete in a fencing tournament. 

The problem here is that we lose all perspective. What’s it all for if you’re just checking off boxes? How can young fencers find more meaning in both their fencing and their academic work? One way that has worked for a lot of people is to use the rule of three to create a synergy in their lives that helps them stay connected.

Do Youth Fencers Need an FIE Blade?

Do Youth Fencers Need an FIE Blade?

Because fencing is a niche sport, there aren’t always easily available guidelines for youth fencers especially on what to do in the case of things like training and equipment. For the most part, there is a wide variety of wisdom out there on things like choosing the right blade, and sometimes it can be conflicting. 

Today, I want to offer some clear advice to parents who are trying to choose the right blade for their youth fencers. This is an area that people are often confused about because fencing blades are so specific – it’s not quite the same as choosing a basketball or a soccer ball. Choosing the right one is more important than choosing the right ball. 

Parents naturally want their children to have the best equipment, both because it will save them money down the road in having to replace equipment that gets battered through use, and because they want their kids to have every advantage. 

In fencing, where the sport is intense and the costs can add up, parents often come to us to ask about what the best thing for their child is. This brings us to FIE blades.

What are FIE blades?

FIE is the International Fencing Federation (Fédération Internationale d’Escrime), and it’s the governing body of international competition. 

There are two kinds of fencing gear – FIE and non FIE. 

The FIE requirements for equipment are more rigorous than the requirements for USA Fencing. The fabric has to be tougher and have more layers, the combat gear has to withstand more hits, and the conductive gear has to be more durable. This is in large part due to the elite level of international fencing, where bouts are more intense and hits are harder. Once fencers hit a certain level, this kind of equipment is essential. 

That being said, most countries outside of the U.S. follow FIE protocols for their gear in competition. The United States is fairly unique in the world for having a different set of standards for its gear in competitions. In other places, the lower level of gear is only used when fencers are training at the club. 

FIE fencing blades must meet specific requirements in strength and durability. They’re usually made of maraging steel, a formula of steel that holds together for longer when cracked. When a fencing blade breaks, it usually starts with a tiny knick, which then cascades into a crack, which eventually leads to a break. The treatment required for blades for FIE does keep the blades from breaking as often as they do in swords that don’t have FIE strength blades.

Non-FIE blades are made of a different grade of steel that doesn’t require the same kind of treatment. They are less dense and don’t do as good a job of resisting cracking, though by no means does that make them fragile. Some of the difference is also in the regulation. FIE blades are manufactured in facilities that are more heavily regulated than non-FIE blades. This extends to the treatment of the blades in terms of heat etc. 

The mechanics of steel are complicated, but the takeaway is that FIE blades will last longer and deform less under heavy use, and are heavier than non-FIE blades. There are slightly different requirements for each kind of weapon, and FIE is constantly evaluating and tweaking what it requires for each of its pieces of equipment to make things safer and longer lasting. The end product is that FIE level equipment can cost significantly more than non-FIE equipment.  

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