How to Learn to Start Fencing Online

Six months ago, I would have told you that this isn’t worth it. I would have said to you that it was all temporary and that start fencing online was a stop gap for a few weeks until we figured things out. 

Today of course we know differently. We know now that we have to adapt and learn in a situation that is far from what we have traditionally worked with. Learning fencing is different.

It’s important to realize here that adaptation is everything. There is not a straight line from the start of the pandemic to the end of the pandemic – it is back and forth, up and down. Moving forward and backwards on the strip. We have seen stay at home orders loosen and tighten, and who knows what will happen in the coming months. The only sure thing is change, so we have to change with it. If you want to fence and have not before, now is the time to start!

Most clubs and coaches in the world now see this online option as part of their job. It is what fencing is now, with all of its frustrating disadvantages and all of its wonderful advantages. We have learned, adapted, and created programs to teach fencers of any level, from total novices to the most advanced fencers.

You can start fencing online. Whether you are uncomfortable in person because of the pandemic or whether you have other factors that keep you away from physical instruction in person, it doesn’t matter. You can definitely start fencing right now!

Step-by-step guide to getting started with online fencing

Starting is the hardest part!  If you’re reading this, then you are probably lost with how to get going with your fencing. It can seem like a big task if you’re new to it, but don’t worry – we’re here to walk you through. Step-by-step and easy do it is the way to get going. 

Step 1 – Look for fencing clubs in your area

There’s no such thing as distance with zoom right? That’s true, but really you should find something that’s within a reasonable driving distance to you. The pandemic is not going to last forever, and you’re going to need to be close enough to your club to train in person once that’s possible.  That doesn’t mean you can’t supplement with online private intensives or camps from other clubs, but you need a fencing home that is reasonable to drive to. 

Depending on where you live and what your preferences are, that could mean looking fifty or more miles away. There are fantastic clubs all over the country. This is a great opportunity to stretch your distance since you’ll start online or mostly online. Be open to possibilities!

Step 2 – Know the basics 

There are three weapons in fencing which are foil, epee, and sabre. There are significant differences between the weapons, so you want to be sure that you know what you’re getting into. Not all clubs teach all weapons, and in fact most clubs focus on one or two. Your weapon could be dictated by the club that you are close to, and that is ok. Fencing is still a niche sport after all!

Fencing can be competitive or non-competitive. This means that you can fence just for enrichment because it is super fun and has lots of benefits as a sport, or you can fence for all those reasons plus compete in tournaments. They are both great paths.

Age is just a number for fencing. You can start when you are seven or when you are seventy – it does not matter! Your fitness level at the start doesn’t matter either. If you feel like you are out of shape after lots of quarantine baking or if your child is out of practice with sports canceled, it truly does not matter. Fencing is for everyone!

Step 3 – Check out the club

Now it’s time to find out more about the club that you’re looking at. Phone or zoom are the perfect ways to talk to your potential fencing club because these are more personal than email and safer in the time of COVID than going in person. You might need to email first to set up a time to make this happen, but it is the best way. Fencing is a mouth-to-ear discipline! Keep that alive when you are doing this part. 

Here are some questions you want to ask:

  • Do you offer online introductory training for beginners?
  • Do you do online classes for more advanced levels?
  • Do you offer private lessons online?

Step 4 – Choose your format

If these answers are yes, then it’s time to ask them about what is needed to get started with online classes. 

If the answer is no, then you still have options. Some clubs in some areas have stopped online training and are only doing in person training. This doesn’t mean that’s not the club for you! If you are uncomfortable with in-person lessons, then you can start with another club that is not close for online lessons and transition to in-person with your local club when you are comfortable. You want to make sure that whatever weapon you are fencing with online is offered at your local club. 

Search for clubs that provide online training. You do not need to find one in your geographic area as Zoom does not care where you live. (Most probably it will be over Zoom). Contact this club or read through their online descriptions to see what they offer. Your weapon choice here is so, so important! You definitely want to start with the same weapon that you’ll eventually have in your club. You don’t want to invest time and effort into relearning later, and it’s just overall a hassle to switch weapons if you don’t have to. 

Step 5 – Choose your classes

It’s our opinion that it’s better to start with online private lessons before you join group classes. This is because when you don’t know anything about fencing the learning curve is steep. Individual attention from a coach to learn the basics is going to lead you to much better success, especially online where things can already be a little unwieldy. 

Check with the club you’re looking at to see if they have both group and individual lessons. Some might have both, while others might do only one or the other. If you can find a club that does both group and private lessons then you’ll be set up beautifully. This is because you’ll want to move to group lessons eventually as it is both more cost effective and also more fun because you’re sharing the sport with others!

Timing is a factor of course, because there are school and work commitments that put pressure on everyone. Work out a time that is right for you, keeping in mind that weekends are great and that sometimes you can fit an online lesson into an online school day if there is a gap. 

Step 6 – Get set up

You’ll need some minimal equipment to get started.

Unlike with in person training when clubs would be able to loan you their equipment to start, remote training and COVID mean that you’ll have to have your own equipment. Since you aren’t fencing against an opponent, the investment is luckily not that significant. The weapon and the glove are the two most basic essentials, but there is a little more to it. 

All online fencing programs are going to vary from one another slightly. This is what we require, but your club might have some slight variations. 

There are several places that you can purchase fencing gear. We typically advise buying either from Absolute Fencing Gear or The Fencing Post, but there might be other options where you live.

  • Weapon 
    • Go with an epee, foil, or saber based on the program you’ve chosen to train with. 
    • Pay attention to whether it is left handed or right handed and choose correctly.
    • Avoid practice weapons, though they are generally cheaper. The reason is that usually the blades are stiff and don’t have the same feeling as real electrical blades. Go with an entry level electrical weapon from one of the fencing vendors mentioned. 
  • Glove 
    • You need one glove, based on whether you are left handed or right handed.
    • Glove goes on the hand that you hold your weapon with.
    • Size matters, but brand does not at this stage. Go for the least expensive option for now.
  • Target
    • You will need to construct a target to practice. 
    • Option 1 – We’ve written about how to make a target from a fencing jacket, and we’ve noticed that these targets were among the best. My own kids have trained 4-5 times a week for several months with these targets and they work fantastically. But you need a fencing jacket for that – see photo above.
    • Option 2 – You can also purchase a cheap target from the fencing vendor when you buy your weapon. For example, AF Gear has this version of a target which you mount on a wall – many other vendors have too.
  • Practice space
    • Flat, preferably inside or on a wooden surface outside.
    • You need roughly eight feet by eight feet to practice without hitting anything
    • Make sure pets and small children are well away when practicing!
    • Use the biggest screen possible. We’ve had lots of people plug their laptops into a TV screen to make it huge.That’s great but not necessary. A laptop is much better than a phone of course!

That’s it! The simple, straightforward basics to get started fencing online. Whether you have always wanted to fence or have just gotten the bug to get started, this is a wonderful time to get going with this sport. Don’t be shy – jump onto the strip! The homemade strip that is right in your home.