Coach's Corner

Gordon Fong, Head Coach

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers for the New Fencer

How long does it take to become a good Fencer?

There is a saying that it takes two lifetimes to master fencing. By the time anyone has come close to “mastering” the sport, they are long past their athletic prime. Some may feel that this is a drawback to the sport, but most fencers see it as a great strength as fencing never becomes dull or routine; there are always new skills to master and new grounds to conquer. In times past, students were only permitted to hold a weapon after they had completed a year or two of footwork training. Modern training programs rarely wait this long, so, waiting about a month and a half at the Scarborough Fencing Club is fair, however, in many cases students will be fencing (albeit very badly) almost immediately.

Novice-level competition is feasible within 6-12 months or more. Competition at this point should be viewed as a learning aid, never as a dedicated effort to win. Serious attempts at competing will be possible after 2-3 years or more, when the basic skills have been sufficiently mastered and the mind is free to consider strategy. A moderate level of skill, for example, C classification, can take a few years of regular proper practice and competition. Advancing to the elite rank, for example, world cup, international ‘A’ level, demands three to five days per week of proper practice and competition and, usually, at least 10 years of experience. Progress can be faster or slower, depending on the fencer’s aptitude, dedication, quality of instruction, and the age at which they begin. Rapid progress normally requires at least three proper practices per week and regular competition against superior fencers. With the increasing emphasis on athleticism in the modern sport, fencers are getting younger, and the champions are getting to the podiums faster.

What qualities make a good fencer?

All of them!

On the athletic side, speed and cardiovascular fitness rank high. Other traits that can be exploited are strength, explosive power, manual dexterity, and flexibility. Quick reaction time is extremely important. On the mental side, a fencer must be adaptable, observant, and have a good mind for strategy and tactics. Psychologically, he or she must be able to maintain focus, concentration, and emotional calmness under intense conditions of combat.

As far as body type goes, it is always possible to adapt your style to take advantage of your natural traits. Normally, height seems to be most useful in epee. Small or thin people are harder to hit in foil. A long reach helps in epee and long legs are an asset in foil. It should be noted that left handers seem to enjoy a slight advantage, especially against less experienced fencers. This may account for the fact that lefties make up 15% of novice fencers, but, close to half of FIE world champions.

If you have a subject that you would like covered or comments, please e-mail me at

"All For One And One For All"

Gordon Fong, Head Coach
Scarborough Fencing Club

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