Fencing competitions can be big and boisterous, loud, and slightly confusing events that can throw new fencers off guard. There’s so much movement and so many things going on – how can you find places to warm up and whether you can even use some spaces is a question for many fencers heading to competitions for the first time.
The first rule of warmup space
At a fencing competition, the first and best rule to follow is to follow the lead of other fencers from your club, especially those who are more experienced than you, who are also warming up, or to seek an empty space before you start to warm up. This goes not only for strips but also for unusual spaces.
Most venues where fencing competitions are held are full of nooks and crannies. Fencers can often find secluded spaces where they can go stretch, meditate, do cardio-like jumping jacks, or where they get out their weapon and do some training. Finding a good space is incredibly important for getting yourself ready to perform at your best level.
Look out for spaces that are clear and well away from active strips, as you don’t want to get in the way of official tournament goings-on. You’ll always see lots of fencers along the walls of competition venues with their clubs, often with banners hanging up to identify their specific organization.
If you need a more secluded space, for whatever reason, it’s absolutely acceptable to go out into the venue and look for something that works for you. A wide hallway might feel easier for you when you’re stretching or doing other prep work as part of your warmup.
Should you go out into the space and away from the tournament, like some presumably unused room, make sure to ask someone from the venue if you’re permitted to be in the space. This isn’t just because you want to follow the rules – it’s much more selfish than that. Also, you’re unlikely to get into any real trouble for warming up somewhere that you shouldn’t be. The reason to ask and follow the rules is so that you don’t break your concentration and end up hurting yourself later in the competition.
It can be rattling to have someone come and tell you that you’re doing something wrong, then have to adjust your space and start your warmup all over again, only this time with extra stress. That’s never worth it.
Using empty strips to warm up
Can you use empty fencing strips in the venue to warm up? Yes! Absolutely.
If you’ve gotten to the venue and gone through your usual warmup routine off the strip, then you are free to go onto the strips that no one is using and work out. You can even do this with a partner if you have someone who you can practice with.
The trick to doing this is the same as the trick to finding any great warmup space in the venue – verify that an event isn’t about to get going. Though it’s common practice for fencers to hop onto empty strips at a competition to get themselves ready, you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you are in someone’s way.
Another rule about using empty strips is to stay away from the referee’s table. Occasionally, refs will leave clipboards, weights, shims, remotes, or other things on the referee table. It’s pretty obvious, but we should be clear here – don’t bother anything that’s not yours. You’re there to warm up!
Finally, you want to make sure that you do get out of the way if a pool or a DE is starting. Even if you’ve checked the schedule, know that sometimes strip assignments shift for various reasons. If someone from the tournament approaches you and asks you to stop, then stop immediately. Don’t try to finish your bout, don’t ask for another minute, just move along and be thankful for the warmup you’ve been able to get.
Follow your event/weapon for your warm up
In large multi-event competitions, such as Regionals and Nationals, many events are conducted at the same time. If you see an empty strip and want to use it for your warm-up bouts then go ahead and do it, as we described before.
However, often you wouldn’t see an empty strip. In that case, look for the strips used by fencers in your own event (say, Youth 10 Men’s Epee) or at least by fencers in your own weapon (for example, Youth 12 Women’s Epee). You definitely can go to these strips and join these guys to warm up. Approach these strips and ask these fencers nicely if you can warm up with them and who is the last in line. I never saw anyone refusing – usually, fencers are very nice and expect total strangers to join them!
If you travel with a group of your teammates, you should try to warm up together, but be mindful of other fencers. Be mindful if you see a deficit of empty strips and a large line of fencers waiting for a strip! Don’t fence 5 bouts of 15 touches – fence a bout or two of 5 touches (with a different opponent, so more people warm up!) and let others use the strip.
How to warm up if you can’t find an empty strip
Try to take advantage of fencing on a strip in competition whenever possible! Don’t be discouraged if you cannot find an empty strip for fencing! That happens more often than we want to admit!
In that case, take your friends and do some dry drills or even dry fencing. That’s totally ok and totally fine! You can do it in any safe area of the venue. While it is beneficial to fence a couple of bouts using real electric fencing, it’s not the end of the world if you cannot, and it should not be an excuse to be unprepared for the start of the competition.
When can you warm up on the strips?
You can use empty strips any time they’re free! This not only goes for the days that you’re actually competing but also for other days at the tournament if you’re there early or if you have a day between your events.
In fact, getting some strip time in on those down days at a multi-day tournament is a very good use of your time. It will give you an extra boost physically, and it will also give you invaluable experience in the venue. Finding mental ease in space is only possible for some fencers when they experience the venue, and this is a great way to do that.
Some fencers prefer to get to the venue early to get some good work in well before the competition begins, when everything is quiet and they can settle into the space. This is a great strategy if you have the time.
If there’s a long break between the pools and the DE, you can use empty strips to keep your body loose and your mind ready, though make sure not to overdo it and burn yourself out.
Overall, don’t blow out your energy doing lots of work on empty strips on competition days. It’s a great idea to jump on for a few minutes, but it’s never a good idea to go too hard. Save your energy for the competition!
Variations of warming up
There’s a whole range of activities that are part of the fencing warmup process. Fencers need to get not only their bodies in the right condition to start fencing, but their minds need to be in the right place as well.
Getting into that good mindset and great physical condition necessarily involves warming it all up, but that doesn’t have to happen on the strip exclusively. Make sure that you look at all of your options for getting ready on the day of the competition, including what your hotel might offer as well as where else in the venue you might be able to find some good space.
This is a way that experienced fencers often push their minds in the right direction and find their comfort zone in the venue.