Beginners Guide to Fencing Tournaments (Part 1)



7 Essential Things To Know To Start Competing in the Sport of Fencing!

1. Decide to Start Competing! (Do it!) 
We recommend that competition be a regular part of a student's development in the sport of fencing.

The key is selecting tournaments that are within a student's level and managing expectations (first tournaments are about learning!).

2. Get a USA Fencing "Competitive Membership" at the USA Fencing website. (Link Below) 

Everyone that competes must have a USA Fencing "Competitive Membership" which is $75 dollars and runs from when it is purchased until July 31 of the current year. 

Once you get a membership, you will a USA Fencing Membership # and you must have this number available when checking in at competitions. 


 3. Know your "Age Classification and Eligibility"

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Your USA Fencing "Age/Classification Eligibility" is based on a fencers BIRTH YEAR (Month and Day doesn't matter!). 

There are associated rules about which "age categories" a fencer can compete in based on their "classification age". You can be too young or too old.  

A General rule of thumb is that you can't compete in age categories BELOW your current age category but you can compete in some age categories above your age category. (Review the chart below)


4. Have All The Necessary Fencing Equipment: (Check Specifications)

Required Equipment: 

  1. Electric Saber Fencing Mask

  2. Fencing Jacket (Dry)

  3. Fencing Pants (Dry)

  4. Underarm Protector

  5. Electric Fencing Jacket for Saber (Buy Stainless steel! It will last longer)

  6. 2-Body Cords (You must always have a backup at a competition)

  7. 2-Head Clips (You must always have a backup at a competition)

  8. Fencing Socks (These are long socks - no skin can show between sneaker and the start of the fencing pants)

  9. ** 800-Newton Saber Fencing Glove (The Practice Gloves cannot be used in competitions!)

  10. 2 Sabers (Youth-10 must use "2" Length sabers" and Youth-12 and upwards can us a "5" Length Sabers. You must have a backup saber at a competition

Recommended: (But Not Required) 

  • Fencing bag (That fits all the equipment)

  • Fencing Shoes

5. Pick Your Competition!

Start with Local Competitions at your club or other fencing clubs!

You generally want to compete in your age category first, especially if you are Y8, Y10, Y12 or Y14. If you are a Cadet/Junior or Senior aged fencer the find  "Unrated" or "E and Under" competitions.

We recommend competing once a month after you have begun competing so that the fencer can get experience. Do not be deterred by the placement of the fencer in early competitions.)

6. Registering For Competitions: (There are three main places to find competitions)

* Generally, tournaments have entry deadlines, so ensure you register before the deadline or you may have to pay double fees. Local tournaments usually allow "day of" walk-ins but regional and national ones do not. 

Places to Find Competitions: 

1. Askfred:
This website generally has competitions hosted by fencing clubs. You can search by zip code. 

2. USA
The USA Fencing website now requires all regional and national tournament registration to go through their website. You will need to login to your account and search their database. 

Quick Guide to Fencing Tournament Acronyms: (Regional and National) 

SYC/RYC: Competitions for Youth-10, Youth-12 and Youth 14 fencers
RJCC: Competitions for Cadet (Under-17) and Junior (Under-20) competitions
ROC: (Fencers over 14). Categories: Open, Division 1A, Division 2 and Division 3 competitions
NAC: North American Cups. National Competitions. 

* At Tim Morehouse Fencing Club we have a Tournament Calendar and the Master Schedule includes all the regional, National and International Competitions that we recommend for our members. 

There are 4 Competition Levels: 
1. Local
2. Regional
3. National
4. International

7. What's Next? 

  • The 4 main things you can earn at fencing competitions:

    1. Fencing and Life Experience: (Invaluable if you learn from every tournament regardless of the result)

    2. "Ratings": (U (Unrated), E, D, C, B and A). These impact seeding at competitions. You start as a U.

    3. "Points": There are a number of different points lists. Regional, national and International. Generally, your region, national and international events all have systems where you earn points based on either top-32 finishes or top-40% in the field.

    4. Qualifying for Bigger Competitions: (You can qualify for one ofthe "Championships" through good results)

Qualification Competitions Include: 

  • Summer Nationals and July Challenge: This is one of the first big tournaments that students will qualify to compete in. This tournament is held over 10-days around the July 4 weekend every year. (There are events in every age category except Youth-8)

  • World Championship Teams - Only in Cadet, Junior and Senior divisions.

  • Division 1 NACs (The events that help qualify you for the Olympics or World Championships depending on the year): You must be a C and over-14 to compete. You earn "Div. 1 National points" through top-32 finishes.

  • Junior Olympics (Under-17 and Under-20)

  • Division 1 National Champions (You must have earned points in a "North American Cup (NAC)" competition to qualify. Generally, a top-32 results earns national points at a Division 1 event.

  • Competing in Cadet, Junior and Senior World Cups: (Generally, you must be ranked in the top-16 or better to qualify to compete in international competitions in the main age categories and Division 1)

The Bigger Competitions and Pinnacle Events in the Sport of Fencing: 

  • The Olympics: You must be top-8 (Minimum top-16) in the USA in Division 1 to even attempt to qualify for the Olympics. Top-8 fencers are qualified to fence in the Grand Prix and World Cup competitions. You qualify of the Olympics by earning points at World Cups and Grand Prix competitions (8 of them) and World Championships the year before the Olympics. (Only top-4 compete)

  • World Championships (Cadet, Junior and Senior/Division 1): The Top-3/4 fencers in the USA at the end of the qualification periods will qualify to represent the USA at the World Championship events. Cadet (Under-17), Junior (Under-20) and Senior/Division 1. (Above 14+)

  • Other Major Competitions: The Pan American Games (Every 4 years), the Pan American Championships (Every year), World University Games.