Am I too old to start fencing?

I get this question a lot and I see it online all the time. Sometimes parents will ask if their children are too old to start fencing. Without asking how old you are, I can tell you the answer:

You are never too old to start fencing.

I started fencing when I was 18 years old as a freshman at Clemson University. Through the fencing club there, was able to travel to multiple collegiate fencing events around the country. In my time there, I medalled in a North American Cup, the Summer National Championships, and 3 USA Collegiate Fencing Club championship events. Now, I’m still fencing today - even though I spend more time coaching rather than competing.

Olympic fencing is a lifelong sport. Sure, the odds of winning an Olympic medal in fencing is going to decrease if you start in your mid-40s. But, at least in the United States, there are age categories for a wide variety of competitive age groups, including adults.

Age categories in the US:

Youth 10 & Under
Youth 12 & Under
Youth 14 & Under
Cadet (16 & Under)
Junior(20 & Under)
Veteran 40 & Above
Veteran 50 & Above
Veteran 60 & Above
Veteran 70 & Above
Veteran 80 & Above

Senior (13 & Above)

Each age group’s eligibility is based on the athlete’s birth year. You can see the requirements for each age group online at USA Fencing’s site here:

Beyond Competition

While there is a competitive outlet for all age groups in fencing, there’s also a community that’s welcoming of athletes of all ages and backgrounds! Fencing is all about improving yourself one step at a time, and that’s a journey that can start any time.

Get Started

Emerald City Fencing Club has options to start for all ages as well. In addition to our youth and cadet beginner classes, we have beginner fencing classes for adults as well.

Competitive Fencing Equipment

Last week, we talked about the basic fencing equipment that you would see in the beginner fencing classes at Emerald City Fencing Club. This week, we’re going to talk about the gear required for competitive fencing.

All of the equipment icons were provided by with their permission.

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Competitive Fencing Jackets

When you purchase your own jacket, we highly recommend getting a front-zip jacket enough. Any standard jacket is legal for competition in the US. For international competition, the FIE (the international governing body of fencing) requires FIE-certified jackets.

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Competitive Fencing Pants

Competition requires pants specifically for fencing. These pants will fasten just below the knee, so you’ll also need to wear long socks that cover the knees. Some vendors sell fencing specific socks, but any soccer socks will do. International competition requires FIE pants as well.

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Fencing Glove

You’ll need one fencing glove for your weapon hand to compete. Foil does not require an FIE certified glove, but competitions do typically inspect your glove for any holes or significant tears. Your glove will need to be in good shape to be approved for competition.

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Competitive Foil Fencing Masks

In foil competition, you’ll need a mask with lame material on the bib as this is part of the target area. In the us, a standard foil mask is legal, but international competition requires and FIE-certified mask.

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Chest Protectors & Underarm Protectors

Competitions require a layer of approved foam over the hard plastic to reduce any ‘skipping’ of the opponent’s point on the hard surface. The hard plastic chest protector is optional for men, but mandatory for women. Underarm protectors are mandatory for everyone in competition. Any standard underarm protector is legal in the US, but international competition requires FIE certification.

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Electric Fencing Foils

To compete, you’ll need to bring two competition-ready foils with you. These electric foils have a plug so that they can be connected to the electrical scoring equipment. US competitions don’t require FIE certified foils like international competitions do, but this is one place where we do recommend making the upgrade anyways. An FIE foil can be twice as expensive as a non-FIE blade, but it can easily last more than twice the lifespan before breaking.

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Foil Lame

For electric fencing, you’ll need to wear a special vest that designates the target area in foil fencing (the torso). You only need one foil lame to compete. The inexpensive lames are typically lined with copper which can oxidize and turn green over time. The more expensive lames typically use nickel and other tarnish-resistant materials.

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Body cords & Mask cords

Electric fencing will require a body cord that runs from the weapon, up the sleeve of the fencing jacket, and hooks into the electric scoring system. You’ll also need a cord that connects your foil lame to the bib of your foil fencing mask. Competition requires two body cords & two mask cords.

Fencing Equipment

We get a lot of questions about the equipment in fencing, usually about what’s needed for our classes. To start, Emerald City Fencing Club provides all of the fencing equipment that you’ll need. You just have to wear athletic shoes and pants and you’re ready to go!

Here, we’ll go over the equipment you’ll see around the club in the beginner classes. You can also read more about the requirements for competitive fencing equipment.

All of the equipment icons were provided by with their permission.

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Fencing Jackets

For our classes we use padded, back-zip jackets. These have the benefit of being usable by both left and right handed fencers, with the drawback that you might need to ask a friend to help zip you up. The padding also helps increase the comfort level of getting hit in a beginner fencing class.

When you purchase your own jacket, we can’t recommend getting a front-zip jacket enough. It will definitely improve your fencing life.

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Fencing Gloves

In fencing, you only need one glove on your weapon-hand. We sometimes see beginners stuff the cuff of the glove into the sleeve of the jacket, but the cuff needs to be on the outside to protect you from a point slipping up the sleeve. In class, we use standard fencing gloves that range from XS - XL.

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Fencing Masks

In fencing, each weapon has its own specific mask for competition. Foil masks have lamé material on the bib of the mask for use with the electric scoring system. For our beginner classes, we provide standard epee masks that have all the same safety features as the foil mask, just without the scoring part necessary for competitions. If you buy your own, you’ll want to get a standard foil mask along with the cords to attach it to the rest of the scoring equipment.

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Chest Protectors & Underarm Protectors

Underneath the jacket, you’ll wear an additional layer of protection. The hard plastic chest protectors help with the impact of being hit while the soft underarm protector serves as a redundant safety layer on the weapon-arm side where you’ll receive the most hits. Competitions require a layer of approved foam over the hard plastic to reduce any ‘skipping’ of the opponent’s point on the hard surface. The hard plastic chest protector is optional for men, but mandatory for women. Underarm protectors are mandatory for everyone in competition.


Fencing Foils

In class, we use standard practice foils with French grips. These are inexpensive and can be a good starter weapon for your own, but we usually recommend that if you’re going to buy a weapon you go ahead and get a competition-ready foil. They’re a little more expensive, but overall more cost-efficient if you’ll end up competing later since the competition foil can still be used in practice.