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Fencing Tournaments A Primer On

Just starting to compete?  Or have you been doing our intramural events for a while and beginning to think about participating in sanctioned events?  Here’s the parent’s and fencer’s guide of what you need to find, register, prepare, and compete at fencing tournaments.  

This guide is comprehensive and can be long winded. If you need a short version to print out, download this:


Finding, Understanding, and Registering for Tournaments

If you are beginning to compete, or even if you have been competing for a while, here’s a short explanation of tournaments, what you’re eligible for, and where to find them.

First, the easy one. Most clubs in North Carolina, the surrounding states, and all throughout the nation will post their tournaments on Askfred ( You can filter tournaments by your location, state, weapon, etc.

To make it easy to find All-American Fencing Academy tournaments, I always begin the tournament name with “AAFA:” so if you are searching for our tournaments, just type in AAFA: in the tournament name search form in the Upcoming Tournaments Menu.

Otherwise, you can use this link:

If you wanted to search for tournaments in North Carolina, you can filter the Division to just North Carolina, or use this link:

Anyone is welcome to participate in any tournament in any state. Just make sure you have the required equipment and USA Fencing Competitive Membership.

You can also view any National or Regional events at I won’t go too much into it here, but these tournaments are generally more expensive, more fencers, but a lot of fun. At the big events, there are usually equipment suppliers. If you are planning on participating in any of the national or regional events, please talk to your coach. Coach Gerhard will usually announce if he plans on attending one of these events with some students.

Primarily most of the tournaments you’ll find on Askfred are SANCTIONED. Meaning, competitors are required to have USA Fencing Competitive membership and full competitive gear. And there is a possibility of earning a rating at these tournaments.

Many of the tournament we host at the All-American Fencing Academy are unsanctioned, you can think of them as intramural events.

Ok, when you see events listed on Askfred, the event will say what kind of event it is and who are eligible to participate.

The Ages
You’ll often see the following ages in the events listed: Y10, Y12, Y14, Cadet, Junior, Senior, and Veteran. Senior is what you typically find in a lot of tournaments. These tournaments are usually ages 13 and above, but not necessarily. It is always by the athlete’s birth year. So you may have an athlete that’s still 12 that’s eligible for Senior events based on their birth year.

These years change every year, so ask your coach or search for the current season Age Classification Eligibility chart on USA Fencing to determine your event age classification.

If you don’t see an age classification designation, assume it’s a Senior event. If the event is for a different age category, like for youth, it will say so.

Skill Specific
Sometimes you’ll see “Open” in the event. Don’t confuse this with the Tournament Name. For example, you might see the tournament is called “The Fayetteville Open”; make sure you look at the individual events for that tournament.

If the event is Open or doesn’t have a label at all, that means the tournament is open to all skill levels.

However, you may also see things like:
Unrated: Only fencers without a rating may participate (you’ll know if you have a rating, ratings can only be earned at sanctioned events for certain age levels).
Div 3/Div III/E and Under: Only fencers with a rating of E or unrated can participate.
Div 2/Div II/C and Under: Only fencers with a rating of C, D, E or unrated can participate.
Div 1/Div I/C and Above: Only fencers with a rating of A, B, C can participate.

Gender Specific
You may see the following in the event:
Mixed: Both male and female fencers will be in the same event (if you don’t see a designation of mixed, men’s, or women’s, assume it’s a mixed event).
Men’s: Just male fencers
Women’s: Just female fencers

Weapon Specific
Lastly, the event will tell you what weapon the event is. Most All-American Fencing Academy fencers are foil fencers with a small number of epee. The epee people know who they are usually.

The three events you’ll see are Foil, Epee, and Sabre.

Tournament fees are based on the club and they may vary from $10-$35. Some clubs will allow registrations until the day of the event and some may have a registration deadline with late fees for late registrations.

Some clubs may have a registration fee AND and event fee!

Any of these specifications are usually in the information section of the event on Askfred. Remember to look at the information page for the event for specifics.

Most of the time, you pay at the event. Some clubs set up payment on Askfred, but not many in North Carolina do.

National and regional tournaments are a different beast. There is almost always a registration fee and event fee. National events may also have a processing fee. All event registration and payment is done on the USA Fencing website.

What You Need For Tournaments

And How To Prepare

Required Competition Equipment

I won’t mention what’s required during the in house intramural events that the All-American Fencing Academy hosts. Everything you need, we’ll have available except for shoes and socks. Make sure you are wearing appropriate shoes; no slippers, flip flops, crocs, or footy shoes. And make sure you have socks that go up to the knee that cover the rest of your leg that the fencing knickers don’t cover.

So here’s what you need to for a sanctioned competition. I’ll mention just the foil equipment for now as most of our epee fencers know what they need.

  • Electric foil mask:
    These are the masks that have the conductive lame material on the bib. These are different from the practice or epee masks with no conductive lame material on the bib.
  • Foil lame:
    This is the metal conductive vest that is worn above the jacket. This is what the opponent must hit.
  • Fencing jacket:
    Whatever jacket they wear for practice can be the same jacket they wear for competition, as long as there are no holes in the jacket.
  • Underarm protector/plastron:
    This is the half jacket that is worn underneath the fencing jacket, it is added protection.
  • **Chest guard:
    A chest guard is required for females. It is not required for males. The plastic chest guards available for class cannot be used for sanctioned competition. The new padded FIE chest guards are required. If a male wears a chest guard, it also must be the new padded FIE chest guard.
  • Fencing glove:
    Whatever glove they wear for practice can be the same glove they use for competition, as long as there are no holes in the glove.
  • Fencing knickers/pants:
    Knickers worn for practice can also be worn for competition, there is no difference.
  • Socks:
    There are “fencing” socks, but there is no difference. Most people just buy soccer socks. As long as the socks cover the remainder of the exposed leg that the knickers do not cover.
  • Shoes:
    There are fencing shoes. Many fencers wear shoes specific for fencing, but there are elite fencers that just wear whatever they are comfortable with. As long as they are fencing appropriate shoes like any kind of sneakers. Slippers, flip flops, sandals, crocs, or footy shoes are not appropriate. What makes fencing shoes different? There is usually reinforcement and extra padding in the areas that experience the most wear and tear to extend the life of the shoe.
  • 2 mask cords:
    This connects the electric fencing mask to the lame. 2 are required on strip, the referee will be looking for them. 2 are required if one goes bad, you have a back up. If the other one goes bad, start praying that someone lends you one. These are relatively cheap and many of our regular competitive fencers have more than 2. These rarely fail unless they just break.
  • 2 body cords:
    This connects the weapon and lame to the floor reel, and eventually the box. Just like the mask cords, 2 are required in case 1 goes bad. These will fail more often and you will find fencers usually have more than 2. We always recommend you test all electronic equipment at the academy prior to bringing to the competition. These aren’t expensive, but they aren’t cheap either. It’s one that you might want to accumulate as you compete and buy equipment. If you are buying fencing equipment at anytime, throw in a body cord in with your order. The All-American Fencing Academy uses bayonet body cords. We recommend purchasing the same kind the academy uses, that way if you ever need to repair or borrow, our equipment is compatible with yours. You’ll find most clubs use 2 prong body cords and you won’t have many people to borrow from if all your equipment fails.
  • 2 electric weapons:
    Again, 2 in case 1 fails. The All-American Fencing Academy primarily uses bayonet plugs with our foils. We recommend you purchase a weapon with the same type of plug in case you need repair or borrow, we have compatible equipment. You’ll find most clubs use 2 prong plugs and you won’t have many people to borrow from if all your equipment fails.

We have much of the equipment required for competition if you need to borrow. The only thing we don’t have spares of are: FIE chest guard, socks, and shoes.

What Other Fencing Equipment Should I Bring Or Have?

A Fencing Bag:

If you bought a beginner set, you probably already have a fencing bag. The beginner fencing bag is typically big enough to carry everything that was mentioned above. At the end of the competition, avoid storing your wet sweaty uniform and clothes with your metal electronic gear. Wet, salty sweat, and metal aren’t good bed fellows and will typically ruin your conductive electronic gear (lames, body cords, weapons, etc.)


Sometimes you just need to make repairs on the spot. Many of these quick fixes, you don’t need your coach or the armorer to do. These tools are helpful to have in your fencing bag. If not, it’s usually ok, someone on site, or the hosting fencing club usually has tools readily available.

  • Tightening tool:
    We use inside hexes for our pommels, make sure the tightening tool fits the inside hex. If you buy it from a fencing equipment supplier, it will fit.  Otherwise a 6mm allen key/wrench tool will work just fine (
  • Tip tape:
    If you hadn’t noticed, there is tape at the end of the competition foil. If any of the blade or barrel is touching the opponents lame when the tip is depressed, the weapon will ground out and an on target light will not turn on. That’s why there is tape at the end of the weapon. A roll of tape (best to just purchase it from an equipment supplier), is helpful in case the tape starts to degrade, rip, or too much of the blade is showing. DO NOT use electrical tape or duck tape.  We recommend this:
  • Jewelers screwdriver set:
    Chances are you don’t have to mess with the screws on your barrel, but if you do, or if you lose a screw (it happens), you have tools to replace them.
  • Green scrubby pads:
    Yep, the same one you can buy from the cleaning aisle at Walmart. Helpful if your weapons begin to rust (it happens if you store your sweaty gear with your metal equipment). Just run the scrubby pads up and down the weapon and it will get rid of most of the rust.
  • Hanger:
    Not really a tool, but we encourage you not to throw your lame in your bag after the tournament. It’s probably damp. Keep it straight and flat to dry out after the tournament. Just don’t forget it because it won’t be in your bag.

Extra Parts

This for your more advanced and experienced fencer. This requires some know how about repairing your equipment, so I won’t get too much into it. But there’s usually someone at the site, that knows how to fix your weapon. But they’re not going to give you parts to fix it, so having these spare parts and typically inexpensive can be helpful.

  • Complete tip: Barrel, tip, spring, and screws.
  • Extra bag of springs
  • Extra bag of screws
  • Gloves are cheap, sometimes gloves are misplaced, or a hole will develop during the competition.  

What Else Might You Need To Get You Through The Day?

Here’s some competition specific things that’s helpful for the athlete:

  • Snacks (Bananas, jerky, candy, crackers, oranges…anything that will keep them powered up)
  • Lunch (Depending on the fencer, some fencers will eat lunch during the tournament, some will just graze on snacks)
  • Water/Gatorade
  • Towel
  • Ibuprofin (Especially for the age 40+ fencers)

Things for the parents and family members that are at the competition:

  • Coffee
  • Snacks/lunch
  • Debit/credit card or cash:  Sometimes there are food vendors, they don’t always take card.  Also bigger events will have equipment vendors, you may want to purchase equipment of tournament souvenirs!
  • Camera:  If you use a camera separate from your phone
  • Extra charger or charging cable from your phones
  • Something to do: books, electronics, sketchbooks.  Not just for you, but for siblings that might be with you!  It could be a long day.
  • Folding seats:  Sometimes seats aren’t available.  And having something to sit on around your “camp site” is helpful.
  • Allergy medicine:  You don’t know how many times I’ve done a tournament in Washington DC only to be hit hard with pollen allergies. 

Non fencing related stuff for your athlete:

  • Homework:  Depending on the where the tournament is, maybe you need to get homework done while you’re away.  Don’t forget everything you’ll need for homework, like books, laptop, pencils, etc.
  • A change of clothes:  You may not get a chance to get a shower, go back to hotel, or really clean up after the tournament.  Have a change of clothes because no one wants that for a 3-6 hour ride home in the vehicle.  Especially undergarments, socks, and comfortable shoes.  Now is a good time to slip into those flip flops.
  • A toiletry bag:  Toothbrush, deodorant, and cleaning wipes are helpful after the event.
  • An extra bag for dirty clothes/gear.

What To Expect During The Tournament

What The Fencer Is Doing And What Parents Can Do

Getting To The Tournament

Lay out bags and equipment the night before. Make sure you have everything so you don’t need to look for it in the morning.

I usually like to get to the tournament 1 hour before the start/registration closes. This gives me plenty of time to find parking, possibly get lost, find my way around, check in, dress up, go through my warm up routine, re-test my equipment, and get in a few practice bouts.

Checking In

Whether it’s a local tournament, national tournament, sanctioned, or unsanctioned, make sure you check in. It doesn’t matter if you had registered on Askfred or on the USA Fencing website, you must check in for your tournament. This let’s the tournament organizers know you are actually there. If you aren’t checked in or late by the time registration closes, they may start the tournament without you! It may also be helpful to have the tournament organizer phone number in case you run into extenuating circumstances. Always make sure you have a copy/proof of your USA Fencing membership and in some tournaments, proof of age (like a passport, ID, or copy of birth certificate). Know ahead of time if they require a proof of age. It will say so in the registration information. If you haven’t, I recommend sending the proof of age to USA Fencing so that it shows it on your membership.

Equipment Check

Whether it’s a local tournament, national tournament, sanctioned, or unsanctioned, make sure you check in. It doesn’t matter if you had registered on Askfred or on the USA Fencing website, you must check in for your tournament. This let’s the tournament organizers know you are actually there. If you aren’t checked in or late by the time registration closes, they may start the tournament without you! It may also be helpful to have the tournament organizer phone number in case you run into extenuating circumstances. Always make sure you have a copy/proof of your USA Fencing membership and in some tournaments, proof of age (like a passport, ID, or copy of birth certificate). Know ahead of time if they require a proof of age. It will say so in the registration information. If you haven’t, I recommend sending the proof of age to USA Fencing so that it shows it on your membership.

National and regional events will have an equipment check. For foil Fencers, they want to check your body cords and mask cords, lamés, gloves, and masks. All passing equipment will get a mark on it to show that it passed. You may only use the passing equipment during the competition. So if you decide to switch out a mask or body cord, make sure they have gone through the equipment check! You cannot use an unchecked body cord, mask cord, lamé, or mask on the strip?

Do Your Own Equipment Check

Notice in the equipment check above, they don’t check your weapons. Try to get an opportunity to check that your weapons still work and that they pass the tip weight. You don’t want to go on the strip with failing equipment and get yellow cards before the bout even starts, or worse yet find out none of your weapons work! So know some basic armoring or know someone at the tournament that does!

Window Shopping

If you are at a larger National or Regional event, there are usually equipment and t-shirt vendors. This might be a good time to pick up gear you need/want, pick up extra gear, or maybe get you name printed on your jacket or lamé, or get a tournament shirt.

Warm Ups and Practice Bouting

Have seen the teens and adults stretching, jogging, and doing footwork before the tournament? That’s probably their own warm up routine. You don’t want to start a competition cold, you might injure yourself! Also, get some practice bouts in! You dont want your first bouts in the tournament to be your warm up and wake up, it probably won’t go well. Do some practice bouts with a friend or just find a fencer that’s also looking for a practice bout. Maybe in that practice bout, you’ll remember what you’ve been working on in class. Maybe those practice bouts will be your only losses of the day. Get some practice bouts in!

Pool Announcements

Not long after the initial seedings are posted, they will post the pool announcements. This could be a piece of paper on the wall or larger events on a monitor and/or online. This will tell you what strip and which fencers you are fencing with. Now is not the time to go to the bathroom or get refreshments. Once the pool announcements are posted the referees will begin looking for fencers at their strip. At smaller events it’s pretty easy to find your strip, but at larger events your strip may be on the other side of the convention hall so get moving! Referees will make a first call, if you are not there in a minute, there will be a second call. If you arrive after the second call, you now have a yellow card in your first bout. If you still haven’t arrived, in another minute they will give you a third call. If you don’t arrive within a minute of your third call, you will be withdrawn from the tournament.

What Happens When You Get To The Pool/Strip?

Referees will make sure everyone is available at the strip. They will check for equipment check markings (if there was a equipment check). They will ask to see your spare body and mask cords, and weapon.

Referees will also check to make sure you have your plasteon (underarm protector) on, and if you are female, your FIE padded chest protector. Or if you are a male and wearing a chest protector, it is the FIE padded chest protector.

You may not be able to have your fencing bag with you so make sure you or parents have everything else you need for the duration of the pool like water, snacks, and I always like to carry my weapon tightening tool. You never know when your weapon will become loose. Also take a look or take a picture of the bout sheet to know what the order of bouts are and to be ready to hook up when you are on deck. Pools, depending on how many are in your pool may take between an hour to two hours. So be prepared.

Parents, if you are with your fencer, be Johnny on the spot for anything they might need like water, weapons, body cords, or snacks. If the coach is with your fencer, just be supportive. Cheer on your fencer and be positive! Let the coach be the coach. If there isn’t a coach remember to be supportive and be positive. You can give reminders like remember what you worked on, move your feet, fence smart and work hard! The voa h will make the corrections later. Things like good job, point out things that did work well like, good touch, or way to keep moving! Just be positive and suppotive.

Don’t forget pictures! With all that’s happening, don’t forget to take pictures!

What do Fencers need to be doing during the pools?

Not on their phone or wandering about! They need to watch the other fencers and problem solving! They should be observing the other fencers and figuring out how they attack and how they defend. Sometimes the first two touches you score is because you watched your opponent before your bout and you already had a plan. Trust me, they are watching you, and they are already figuring out how to beat you!

Make sure you are also starting hydrated. If you are prone to cramps, I like eating bananas. Pools are 5 touch bouts, 3 minutes fencing time.

The Pools Is Over

Fencers will check and sign the bout sheet after looking it over to make sure it is correct. I also like to take a minute to recheck my equipment. I’ll use the the strip we were just on and use the weight tester. Don’t forget to pick up any equipment that was taken by the referee if it failed on the strip.

Drink and munch. See how your friends did and wait for all the pools to complete. Once all the pools are complete, the bout committee will post the seedings based on the the pools. Then shortly after that, elimination brackets will be posted. At larger National and regional events they may post the strips for each bracket, but at smaller events just listen for the referee to call fencers to the strip.

Elimination Rounds

Elimination rounds are 15 touches (10 touches for Y10) with three 3-minute rounds with a break in between. If fencers reach the 1 minute break, if a coach is available, only one person can be on the strip with the fencer, most likely the coach will be talking to your fencer. Otherwise, you can be there and bring them water and encourage them!

Elimination rounds will continue until your fencer loses. Once your fencer loses, the day is over. But don’t quoted pack it up yet! Make sure you have all your equipment and stick around to watch the semi finals and finals, this is great fencing to watch! Also at National and Regional events awards may go all the way to 8th place.

And depending on how you finished you may feel the need to buy more equipment!

The Tournament Is Over...

Now What Should We Do?

Tournament Is Over...Now What?

As we mentioned previously, stick around if you have time.  Watch the semi-finals and finals, you’ll see some great fencing!  Walk around and talk to friends, encourage and support those that are still fencing.  Maybe go around to the equipment vendors and pick up some last minute stuff.

Parents, no matter how the day went, stay optimistic and positive about their day.  Fencers are always hard on themselves if the day didn’t go well, point on the things that did go well.  Personally, I always reward my kids with some place cool to eat.  They know no matter how the day went, we’re going someplace nice to eat.

Let the coaches make the corrections and lessons when they get back to the fencing club.  Enjoy the rest of the trip and don’t forget to double check that you have all your gear before you leave!