At some point you will want to attend your first competition, whether this is after 3 months of training or 3 years of training you will eventually want to compete in a Fencing Competition and this document has been written to assist you in that endeavour. Fencing Competitions vary in format, from Age Restrictions, Local Competitions, Provincial Competitions, Island Competitions, National Competitions and International Competitions and can either be for Individuals, teams or both.

It is recommended that your first competition be age restricted (in the case of younger fencers) or a open local event (in the case of older fencers). It is not recommended that you leap into the deep end and enter the nationals for your first competition as this could have an adverse impact on your confidence levels.

You should treat competitions as an opportunity to learn, grow and have fun with the sport of fencing. Some people are more mentally prepared than others for their first competition and if it is a child that is going to their first competition, make sure it is something they want to do and that they are ready to have a go at their first competition.

Remember, everyone started somewhere.

What follows is free advice for Children, Teenagers , Parents of Children, and Adults who are looking at entering either their first competition or looking to put more of a routine into their approach to competition fencing. This is meant as a guide only and if something doesn’t work for you then talk to your Coach, Trainer or even other Fencers and see what they do to prepare for a competition. Take that information on board and modify your approach to competition until it works for you.


Things you need to do well before the event

Licence - Fencing New Zealand (FeNZ) Membership (your affiliation fee.)

In order to fence in competitions within New Zealand you must be a financial member of FeNZ. This will allow you to enter any competition in New Zealand that you qualify for. The money that is paid to FeNZ helps with the organization of events,  helps purchase gear for the national body and assist with sending the countries high performance competitors to events overseas.

Gear - Getting the right gear to compete

In order to fence in a competition you will need gear. If you do not own your own gear then you will need to either purchase or borrow the gear from the club you train at.  You will likely need to organize this well in advance as other fencers from your club will likely want to compete in the event as well and may also need to borrow gear.

Doing this in advance of the event also allows you to make any exchanges for gear you have brought but are the wrong sizes or the order was incorrect. 

To compete in normal competitions you must have the following gear. Please note that age restricted competitions have different requirements as does any New Zealand Competition that has an Oceanic Component.

Minimum Equipment Standards for FeNZ Competitions

Fencers using size 3 blades or smaller (e.g. U13)







Long Trousers (openings zipped/taped closed)

(350N bib)

ALL other Fencers








(350N bib)

FeNZ hosted Tournament with international component (e.g. Oceanics)








(1600N bib)

FIE foil and epee blades / S2000 sabre blades also required for all for all tournaments except those with size 3 blades or smaller – ie in line with FIE requirements.


  1. Tournaments overseas (eg Australia) will have their own equipment requirements dependent on the Fencing Federation and the type of tournament.
  1. These standards are intended for New Zealand ONLY.
  1. It will be expected that where a fencer can use equipment of a higher standard – eg 800N or breeches rather than long trackpants, then they will do so.

BASIC EQUIPMENT (Under 13 Competitions or fencers using size 3 Blades or smaller)
•    Chest Protector (required for Women)
•    Fencing Glove
•    Socks (White and Knee high)
•    Shoes

BASIC EQUIPMENT (All Other Fencers)
•    Chest Protector (required for Women)
•    Fencing Glove
•    Socks (White and Knee high)
•    Shoes

FOIL Competitions
•    2 x FIE Electric Foils (unless using size 3 or smaller blades)
•    2 x Foil Body Wires
•    2 x Foil Mask Wires
•    Foil Lame
•    Foil Mask

EPEE Competitions
•    2 x FIE Electric Epees (unless using size 3 or smaller blades)
•    2 x Epee Body Wires
•    Epee Mask

SABRE Competitions
•    2 x FIE/S2000 Electric Sabres (unless using size 3 or smaller blades)
•    2 x Sabre Body Wires
•    2 x Sabre Mask Wires
•    Sabre Lame
•    Sabre Cuff
•    Sabre Mask

Registration – Registering for your Fencing Competition

To register for competition you can send the entry form back to competition organizers, or in a lot of cases you should be able to email them your registration, or fill out an on-line registration form. You need to be aware of any entry deadlines that require you to register in advance and make sure that you get your entry in before that cut off date.

If you have any questions regarding the event the competition organizers will be happy to help you out in answering these questions.

Leading up to the Competition


Almost everyone will suggest that you get a good night’s sleep the night before the competition, but if you are travelling for the event or are likely to have pre-competition nerves it is generally considered a better plan to stay well rested during the week before the event. If it’s your first competition then it is recommended that you rest during the week as you are more likely to have pre-competition nerves.


The week before your event, practice by bouting others and implementing all you have learned. Now is not the time for invention and the learning of new tricks. Now is the time fine tuning what you already know in preparation for the competition.

Also, make sure that you don’t end up over-training in the lead up week to the competition as this will do more harm than good. Part of your practice regime should involve your warm up routine; this routine should be used during the competition as well, as it will help you get into your comfort zone.

Another thing that you will want to practice is hooking yourself on and off the fencing strip, it’s an invaluable skill if you plan on competing regularly and gives you a little alone time to get your mind in the place.


There are things that you will want to do and/or take into account the night “before“ the competition, what follows is  some basic advice towards that end.  Over time you will likely alter this advice into something that works for you, remember to discuss this approach with your parents/coaches to get their feedback on what you are doing.

Food & Drink

Many athletes will Carb-Load (carbohydrate) the night before a competition, this helps them get the energy levels that they will require for the event the next day. They will also drink plenty of water (H2O) so that they are well hydrated for the day to follow, being well hydrated is an important part of performing well and should never be over looked.

You should avoid eating foods that you know you don’t handle well or know can cause you to be unwell, Examples of such foods may be: Seafood, Curry or Fast Food.

It’s also advised that you avoid diuretics like Coffee or Soda and anything that will dehydrate you (such as alcohol) the night before a competition.

Gear Testing

Take some time and test all of the gear you are going to need for the competition.  This should take only a few minutes, unless you need to make some adjustments. The basic things to check for each weapon are as follows.

•    Are the blades well taped?
•    Does the tip require more than 500g pressure to register the hit?
•    Do your body cords work?

•    Does the tip have 2 grub screws?
•    Does the tip meet the gauge/shim requirements?
•    Does the tip require more than 750g pressure to register the hit?
•    Do your body cords work?

•    Do your body cords work?
•    Do your Mask cords work?
•    Are your sabres rust free and completed? (Check for broken tips)

Note: If you don’t have the testing gear you require to do this the night before then make sure you do all of this on your last day of practice and if you are not sure what you are doing, ask a senior fencer to show you what to do - they will be more than willing to help you.

Weapon Check (Pre-Event)

Many of the bigger tournaments will have a Weapon/Gear check requirement.  You cannot use gear in these events without them having the competition weapon control mark on it. If you have time the night before, it’s recommended that you to take your Masks, Body-cords, Weapons & Lames to the Weapon Check and have them signed off.

This means that if you need to do anything to get the gear up to specifications, you have the chance to get the problems fixed before the competition and it also means you don’t have to spend 30 minutes standing in a queue on the day of the competition.


It is now time to get all of the gear you are going to need for the competition and make sure that you have everything. You don’t want to get to the competition and realize that you have forgotten your Weapons, Fencing Socks or Water bottle - so make sure you have everything you need the night before the competition.  You may also want to consider taking something for if you want some quiet time alone during the competition – eg MP3 player or book.

Note: At the end of this document there is a check list that will help you, feel free to take this list and modify it so it suits what you take to competitions.


It is ill advised that the night before a competition that you go out and paint the town red - spend your night relaxed and get plenty of sleep before the next day.  If this is your first event you will likely be quite nervous and it is unlikely that you will sleep well - everyone handles nerves differently.

Remember to set your alarm - if you don’t get to the competition in time for registration, you won’t be fighting. So, remember to take things like breakfast, showering and traffic into account.


Food & Drink

Everybody is different when it comes to mornings - stick to your own routine. If you normally have breakfast then have your breakfast; if you normally don’t have breakfast, then now is not the time to head down to McDonalds and get 3 Super Sized Breakfasts!

Also, remember to hydrate as you will have a long day ahead - maybe add some Lemon and Sugar into the water to help with keeping you hydrated and getting some additional nutrients.

Competition Check in

If you are late, you won’t get to compete!

When you arrive at the venue check in with the registration table so that they know you are there.  In most New Zealand events, there will be a roll call to confirm that everyone is there and accounted for.  Do not rely on the roll call to make sure you are registered for the event.

Camp Setup

In most cases clubs, cities, regions or counties will set up a “Camp” or “Base of Operations”. This is where fencers from the same group will base themselves and their gear.  It’s a good idea to do this as you can all look over each other’s gear and it gives you a chance to support and chat with other fencers from the same area as yourself.

Some fencers however like to sit away from their peers as they find it easier to focus, and that’s fine as well. Just make sure that your fencing equipment is located in a place that is secure, you wouldn’t want to go to a competition and have something stolen.

Weapon Check (Event)

If you were unable to make the “Pre-Event” weapon check then you will now need to get your gear checked - you cannot use gear in these events without them having the competition weapon control mark on it.  At this point, you need to get your Masks, Body-cords, Weapons & Lames checked and signed off.

This means that if your gear has not passed the weapons check, you will have to either get it up to spec or try and borrow a replacement from someone.

This is obviously not an ideal situation to be in, so it is recommended that you try and get you gear tested the night before at Pre-Event weapon check.


Let the Competition Begin

Now that you have gone through getting to the event, confirming all your gear up to regulation and setting up camp you are now ready to prepare for the day.

Warm up

Before the pools you will want to warm.  As previously mentioned, now is when you should go through your warm up routine; this routine should be the same as you have used during training sessions.  This will help you get into your comfort zone.

After you have warmed up, put your gear on and look for someone to have a warm up bout with. The best way to approach this is to bout with someone you have never (or very rarely) fought against before. This will help you get over the first bout jitters that even experienced fencers suffer from.

Over your first few tournaments you should be able to work out what works best for you.  For some people, it’s to fight a couple of intense bouts; for others its all about getting their eye, hand and timing in place. Work out what works for you and amend your competition routine to encompass it.

Poule Allocation

When the Tournament Director is ready, everyone will be advised that they need to pay attention.  If at this point the Tournament Director has any announcements they will make them and then they will announce the pool sheets.

When your name is called you will be allocated to a strip, wait until the Tournament Director has announced everyone and then get you gear and head to the strip, remember to take your Weapons, Mask, Spear Body wires, Water bottle and Notebook (for making notes on opponents and noting your results). 

When you arrive there will be a referee that has been assigned to your pool.  In a lot of smaller competitions within NZ it is often left up to the fencers competing to referee the bouts in the pool and is generally done by senior fencers. If you are new to fencing or an unconfident referee, it is strongly advised that you do not referee.  If you advise the senior fencers in your pool that this is the case, they will completely understand.

Poule bouts run for 3 minutes or until one of the fencers reaches 5 points.

NOTE: If on the off chance your name is not called then see the Tournament Director immediately and advise them that your name was not called and they can address the matter straight away.

Getting hooked up!

All fencers regardless of age or ability should be able to hook themselves up onto the strip; you should have practised doing this before the competition.

While getting hooked up it’s a good time to focus on the bout ahead and get your mind set in the right place, try and concentrate on the bout and block everything else out… because from now until the end of the fight, it’s all up to you.

Understanding what’s going on

It is important during the pools to know when you’re fencing next and to be ready to get on the strip when directed by the Referee.  It is during this time that you should be studying your opponent’s bout and taking notes to help you for when you face them.

Things to look for include:

•    What is their favourite attack?
•    What is their favourite parry?
•    Where do they spend a lot of their time on the strip?
•    What attacks against them are scoring touches?
•    What sort of pace do they set during their bout, do they change the pace a lot?

After each bout

After the bout has ended make sure you go back to your en-guard line and Salute your opponent and the referee and then shake your opponent’s hand and thank them for a good bout.

Before you unhook yourself, remember to quickly check the weight and/or gauges for weapon, just because it passed for that fight doesn’t mean it will for the next fight. You may have crushed the inner spring or lost a grub screw. If your weapon fails during the weapon testing in your next bout then you will get a yellow card.

If you have discovered that something’s wrong with your weapon, you may have time to fix it before your next fight; if you don’t then you will have to start with your backup weapon. 

Some competitions may have an Armourer onsite, if you need an item repaired go and have them repair the item for you; they are there to help you. (Note: Armourers may charge you a small fee for repairing your items – this covers parts and labour)

After you have finished the bout and finished checking your gear, write your result into a note book and make notes of what worked and what didn’t work against your opponent.  You may also want to write down what they did that worked against you so you and your coach can review it later.

And now, it’s time to start to prepare for your next bout!

When the pools are completed

Once the poule is completed you will get the chance to check the pool sheet and make sure the scores are correct. Make sure that they match up with your notebook and sign them off if required.

Make sure you also take the opportunity to shake the referees hand and thank him for refereeing the pool. Referees are volunteers who have donated their time to help make everything run smoothly. It’s a thankless job and they are not being paid for it, so make sure you thank them.

Now grab your gear up and head back to your camp, have a rest, a snack and if you have to make any repairs to equipment then sit quietly and get that done. Now is your chance to relax a little and get yourself into the zone for the next bout.


The penalties handed out are the same for all weapons:

Yellow card = Warning. No points are awarded but a fencer can’t score a touch if he or she gets a yellow card while they are scoring. Any subsequent penalty results in a red card.  An example of a yellow card offense would be coming to the piste with a weapon that fails inspection.

Red card = A point is awarded to the offended party. Also, a second yellow card action in the same bout results in a red card.  An example of a red card offense would be dangerous, violent or vindictive action; blow with guard or pommel.  Another more common example is the fencer who comes to the piste and whose first two foils fail inspection – they have to get a third foil and they start the bout down 0-1.

Black card = The worst offence. If a fencer receives a black card he/she is kicked out of the tournament and might be stood down for a period of time to be determined by Fencing New Zealand.  An example of a black card offense would be insulting a referee, or throwing a fencing weapon or mask down on the strip or refusing to fence.

The Scoring

Epee -  Pretty simple, when their light goes off, they’ve scored.

Foil and Sabre - Which fencer actually gets the touch is determined by the priority rule so that a fencer can only score when he/she has the right-of-way. In foil, there are white lights that indicate an “off target” hit. An off target hit stops the action, but no point is scored.


Direct Elimination

After all of the results have been tabulated, there will be an announcement from the Tournament Director that the standings are now up and the Direct Elimination seeding is now available to preview. In Direct Elimination the fencer who is seeded number 1 will face number 32, number 2 will face 31, so on and so forth. If there are less than 32 fencers then some people may get a “bye” and be automatically in the top 16.

Most tournaments in New Zealand follow the format of – 1 round of pools and then direct elimination rounds until there is a winner. Sometimes the Tournament structure may be different but this should be indicated on the entry form or will be announced at the beginning or the competition.

Shortly after this is announced, the Tournament Director or a Referee will announce who and where the bouts will take place.  Once you know where your bout is, grab your gear and head to that strip immediately

Direct Elimination Bouts

Direct Elimination (DE) bouts are different from normal bouts.  A DE bout is fenced to 15 instead of 5 and can take up to 9 minutes. (That’s 3 periods of 3 minutes).  Sabre is different in how it’s handled with regards to DE bouts. If one fencers gets 8 points before the 3 minute mark the fight stops and the fencers get a 1 minute break.

In Foil and Epee the fencers get a break at the 3 minute mark, irrespective of the score.

In between the 3 minute periods the fencer gets 1 minute to rest.  There are some rules that surround this break that you need to be aware of.

•    The Fencer cannot leave the strip
•    The Fencer is allowed 1 coach on the strip to offer advice or give the fencer water
•    If you want to change weapons, confirm with the referee that it is ok. (Note: It will need to be re-tested)

This 1 minute break is very important.  It’s a chance analyze what is going right and what is going wrong and make changes to your game plan from there as required. If you have a coach then they will likely talk with you and offer guidance during this 1 minute break.

The tactics used in DE bouts are different from that of a normal bout (1st to 5 touch bout).  In a normal bout, 1-2 tricks can see you through but in a DE match you will be tested on many fronts so remember, you will need you “A” game.

When the bout ends remember to salute you opponent, the referee and remember to shake their hands and thank them

After the Direct elimination Bout

Winning a DE bout is likely going to be one of your first goals as you step into the world of the competitive fencer, but don’t let it rule you. If you lose a DE match, don’t be discouraged - it simply means that you need to improve. If you won that’s fantastic, but remember to use it as a learning opportunity.

Just like pool bouts you should write notes in your notebook, these notes will likely be a bit more in-depth than pool notes - you have after all just had a long bout with someone and had time to work out the Triumphs and Pitfalls of bouting with that person.  The notes you make now will help you in the future in both improving your game, and preparing for theirs!

So you think you’re done for the day

Most people, once they lose their DE match and are eliminated, pack up their gear and head home - it’s a mistake.

A better idea is to stay and see what the fencers still fighting are doing and again make notes.  You will likely run across some of them in other events - and won’t they be surprised when you have a bit of knowledge already on how they fight!  You will be surprised what you can learn by simply observing.

After the competition is complete

Make sure you have done a cool-down routine and packed all of your fencing gear away. Make sure that all of your gear is account for and take a cursory glance at the strips you were bouting at during the day to make sure you haven’t forgotten something.

If you have time then thank the Tournament Directors for hosting the event and ask them if there is any packing up you can help with.  Remember the Tournament Directors and their volunteers spent a lot of time setting the event up and preparing the venue - many hands make light work.

In Conclusion

Remember that fencing should be fun and that competitive fencing can take a while to get into and  it is recommended that for your first season of competitive fencing that you start by competing at local events.

Talk with your coach and/or parent as to what you think is best for you.


Tournament Checklist

Fencing Equipment

•    Fencing Jacket
•    Fencing Pants
•    Plastron/Underarm Protector
•    Chest Protector (Required for Women)
•    Electric Lame (Foil/Sabre)
•    Mask (Foil/Epee/Sabre)
•    Fencing Glove
•    Socks (White and Knee high)
•    Shoes
•    2 x Working body wires
•    2 x Working mask wires (Foil/Sabre)
•    2 working weapons

Personal Equipment

•    Entrance Fee
•    Extra T-shirt (Quick-dry is popular)
•    Change of Clothes (This for after the tournament)
•    Towel
•    Water Bottle
•    Snacks for between rounds/DE matches
•    Lunch – or money for lunch
•    Journal/Notebook & Pencil/Pen

Optional Equipment

•    Money in case you need gear repaired by an armourer
•    Cellphone
•    IPod/Discman
•    Book/Magazine
•    Jumper/Jacket if the venue is air conditioned
•    Ice pack (For treating sprains or cooling down)
•    Plasters

Repair Equipment (Optional)

•    Allen Key (6mm)
•    Tip Screwdriver
•    Small pair of scissors or pocket knife
•    Epee Gauges/Shims
•    Light Sandpaper/Emery Paper

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