Many parents and athletes ask the question, “Is my child ready for competition?” There is no stock answer for this question, but this section may serve as a guide.

What does the child think?

It is usually a mistake to push a child into competition without the full and enthusiastic assent of the child. Students are usually the best judge of their own mental, physical, and emotional readiness for competition. Often, a child will broach the topic themselves as they see kids from their class or the class above them begin to come back with medals or stories of medals that got away. Children are aware that the purpose of studying a fighting art is to fight, and that the purpose of fighting is to win.

At the same time, the second part of that statement is very important. Expectations of instant or magical success must be carefully but firmly pulled back to solid ground. A child’s first few competitions are likely to be notably unsuccessful even at the lowest level. However, the experience one receives in managing emotions, pressure, triumph, disappointment, and - above all- good sportsmanship is truly invaluable.

Recipe for a good start to competition

  1. The child feels ready and is enthusiastic
  2. The coach agrees that skills are sufficiently developed
  3. Everyone involved understands that there is almost no expectation of results for several months, though signs of improvement are important

What equipment does my child need?

Each athlete needs the following to participate in competition :

  • Saber Competition glove (rated to resist 800 Newton’s of force, FIE approved
  • Underarm protector
  • Chest protector for girls (optional for boys)
  • Knickers (fencing pants)
  • Long socks (knee length)
  • Electric saber mask
  • Fencing jacket
  • Electric saber lame (name on back only required for national tournaments, country required for international )
  • Two weapons
  • Two body cords
  • Two mask cords
  • Optional - fencing shoes

Competitive USA fencing membership is required for all USA fencing sanctioned events!

Membership may be obtained or upgraded here : USA Fencing Membership

An FIE Card is required for all international competitions. Usually, participation must be approved by USA fencing as well.

Competitive divisions and types

Youth 8, 10, 12, and 14, Cadet (Y16), & Junior (Y19)
These competitions are age restricted. Age eligibility is determined by birth year , not actual age at time of competition.

For example, a fencer who is born on January 1, is eligible to fence Y12 for the entire - season but someone born December 31, must fence Y14, Cadet, Junior only.

Senior Eligibility

Senior events of all types are generally open to fencers who turned 13 in the first year of any season.

For example, someone who turns 13 on 12/31/ is eligible for senior events, but someone who turns 13 on 1/1/ is currently not.

More information to see exactly what you can qualify for is also available at Age and Classification Eligibility

Senior Divisions

Division 1: Only open to athletes C rated and over at time of entry (refer to “How do I get rated?” below)

Division 1-A: Open to all senior athletes regardless of rating

Division 2: Open to all senior athletes with a rank of C or lower at time of entry

Division 3: Open to all senior athletes with a rank of D or lower at time of entry

Veteran 40/50/60/70: Open to all senior athletes who meet the minimum age of the group by birth year

Rules and particulars of age competitions

Youth 8: Blade must be size 0, direct elimination to the score of ten

Youth 10: Blade must be size 1, direct elimination to the score of ten

Veteran: Blade must be size 2(adult), direct elimination to the score of ten

All other ages and divisions must have Blade size 2, direct eliminations are to the score of 15

Gender mixing

Often at small or local competitions at any level, organizers will mix genders to create a larger field. This does not affect the rating of the competition, per se, but can make it a higher rated competition. Regional and national events are always gender specific.

How do I find tournaments ?

One may find local/division tournaments on . Often, regional and super youth tournaments are listed there, but those listing are for informational purposes only!!

As of the 2018-19 season, any tournament at the regional or higher level must be entered via the USA fencing events website: USA Fencing Competitions

There is a master list of tournaments at this level on the USA Fencing website at 2021-2022 USA Fencing Regional Calendar.  

Note- this does not include the deadlines for entry which are usually several weeks before the tournament.

USA Fencing National Events Calendar

How do I qualify for National Championships?

There are 4 different paths listed by USA Fencing to qualify for the National Championship's events.

  • earning national points from NACs, Championships, July Challenge, SJCCs or SYCs and ranking on the relevant national points list
  • earning the required number of regional qualifying points from RYCs, RJCCs or ROC
  • for Y14, Division 2 and Division 3 events finishing in the top 25% of a respective Division Qualifier (DQ) event
  • for the Division 2 Championship, an alternative way is finishing in the top 40% at a Division 2 NAC

All of this information with more detail is also listed in the second chapter of the USA Fencing Athlete Handbook

How do I get rated?

The rating system is somewhat complex and difficult to understand. Please refer to the following for an overview.

USA Fencing Competition Rating Formulae

Youth events can be rated, but it is often difficult to get any rating higher than a D at a Y12 or lower event.