Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Fencing Blade Size: How to Choose the Right One

How to choose the right fencing blade sizeGetting the fencing blade size right is an important, if sometimes mystifying, process. It’s one of those things that so many new fencers just aren’t sure about!

Where it starts

The regulated weapon size for youth 10 events is #2, while older category fencers use #5. What those numbers mean is that the #2 weapon is 3 inches shorter than the #5 weapon is. But that extra length also means that it is a bit heavier.

Typically kids retire their Y10 short weapons once they age out of Y10 category.  And typically they rush to purchase a shiny new “real size” weapon. Most parents know about either #5 or #2 blades and oftentimes do not know exactly what to purchase when.

The goal of this post is to help novice parent choose the right blade for their child. One word of caution though – before you make your decision based on what I write in this post, consult with your coach. They see your child fence every day, they know their strengths and weaknesses and will be able to make the right choice of the weapon.

So what do blade size numbers mean?

Numbers on the weapon blades means the length of the blade in inches.

There are 4 different weapon sizes: #0, #2, #4, #5. The shortest, #0 has a length of 30 inches, the standard youth #2 blade has a length of 32 inch and the regular standard #5 is 35 inch long.

Why fencing blade size matters

While it looks to the novice person like there is no big difference between blades (who cares about 1 inch, right?), in reality the difference is quite substantial.

First of all, longer blade is heavier. And while just holding it for a moment, this difference might not seem to be a significant weight difference between #2 and #5 weapons, training or fencing with that weapon for a prolonged period of time is definitely much more difficult. And when the weapon becomes to be too heavy for the small hands of a young fencer, their form and technique are sacrificed.

Another thing to think about is that it is more difficult to control the precision of  and manipulate the longer weapon.

There’s an easy exercise that everyone of us in our lives experiences  before – it is much more difficult to be precise with longer stick. Whether we’re mopping the cobwebs from upper windows or trying to pick our fruits at harvest with a fruit picker, the longer the stick the more difficult it is to be precise.

What does this all mean?

Well, this really means that in order to help your child to find success in fencing the fencing blade size matters a lot.

If your child is relatively small for Y12 (and especially if he/she still fences Y10) there is no need to buy a #5 just yet, especially in foil. Keep your child with #2 until your child matures and gains more power and better point control.

If your child is tiny for Y10, the best thing would be to purchase #0 blade.

If your child aged out from Y10 and moved to the Y12 category but physically (and technically, again especially in foil) are not yet fully developed for their age compared with their peers, move to #4 meanwhile, don’t go directly to #5.

Does an inch matter that much?

This one inch does make a difference and will help your child develop in the long term.

Often parents ask me whether their child will have a disadvantage in a competition with such approach, compared to other competitors.

The answer is yes in some cases, especially in epee, the disadvantage might be felt. In foil I think it is much less important. Also, I tend to take more of a long term view on this whole issue. I would rather have them develop the right technique and form than win because of two inches.

As a parent, I try to apply this rule to my own kids.

With my oldest 10 year old son it is clear – he has only #2 foils and fences with them in the Y12 category. I never saw that his performance or results in Y12 were even remotely affected by lack of 3 inches.  I believe that even next year when he moves to the Y12 category, given that he is currently shorter than most boys of his age, he will move to #4 foil blades.

His twin sister, who is an epee fencer, up until this season fenced exclusively with #2 epees, and only now I started to transition her to #5 blades for Y12 competitions.

My petite youngest Y8 girl fences with #0 weapon, as #2 was too big and too heavy for her.

Additional important aspects of getting the right blade configuration

Fencing blade size is only one aspect of weapon configuration. Additional aspects are grip type and size, blade type, pommel type and weight for epees, and  blade stiffness. Most of these parameters are for more advanced fencers and I plan to cover them in some future posts.

I hope this post will help you to decide which blade size to purchase for your child. And I really must  mention this again  – before you go changing your blade, always consult with your coach!

How to choose the right fencing blade size

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10 Comments

  1. sharon c yung

    where i can get size 4 saber blade ? i am not able to find one online or at the vendor. my is son shorter than average kids. He does well in y10. this year just start y12. size 5 blade is a bit heavy for him. thanks!

    • Igor Chirashnya

      Hi Sharon, I recommend calling major vendors and asking them. I did not see #4 on Absolute site, and frankly as we are epee/foil club not sure whether sabre #4 exists, so I would definitely recommend calling them.

  2. Jennifer Stepancik

    I took beginners fencing in college. I would like to get back into the sport for exercise and my own enjoyment. I am a 5′ 7″ young 40yo woman. What type/size weapon should I start with?

    • Igor Chirashnya

      Hi Jennifer, welcome back to fencing! The size is easy – it should be standard #5. However, what type of weapon is a bit more tricky question. Because mostly it will be determined by what club you have near you and what weapon they teach. If there are several clubs around you just choose the one you like more. Read their reviews, talk to their members and coaches. The most important is the enjoyment and choosing the right club is important.

      If everything is equal I would go for an epee – it will be easier for a novice fencer to get into fast. If they do not teach epee, then either foil or sabre is equally good. I do not have that much experience with sabre teaching for adults as we teach only epee and foil, but for sure you can get to any discipline. Regardless of the weapon, I would recommend taking at least 5-10 private lessons to recall the basics you learned in college.

      Hope this makes sense.

  3. John

    Do you know where I can purchase Size #3 foil blades? I understand that manufacturing too many sizes leads to wastage but for children, 1” make a big difference as it makes it considerably heavier proportionately. They should make sizes #0, 1, 2, 3, 5.

  4. Pedro

    Hello, I have question about blades. I am looking for the lightest possible #5 blade Non-FIE epee blade available. This is for a 10yo that will be fencing Y12’s this season. Any suggestions?? Thank you.

    • Igor Chirashnya

      I would recommend going with the STM blades – they will give you the overall good performance for this level and I think they are relatively light.

  5. Zhijun

    Hi Igor,
    I have a epee sword which has blade broken. I want to change a Epee blade. Can you let me know how do I choose the blade cut?
    Thanks,
    Zhijun

    • Igor Chirashnya

      Hi Zhijun,
      If your grip is french then no cut. If pistol grip then based on the grip size.
      Igor.

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