New Member Guide

Sign Up

Welcome to BFC! We're excited to have you join the club. We know it can be a little intimidating being the new student (we've all been there!), but we want to make your introduction and first few weeks as easy as possible. There are a few things we need to do to get started.

Register on Zen Planner

Please create an account in our system here. If you registered for Free Fencing online, setup a new password instead. Zen Planner (ZP) is the brain of the club. From attendance to paying class fees to scheduling private lessons, you can view all of these things in your account.

Create a USA Fencing Membership

This is our national organization which oversees our insurance, tournaments, and club affiliation. You can click here or the link in menu in ZP titled USA Fencing.

You have two membership options: Non-competitive (cannot compete in tournaments) is $10 annually per person and Competitive (obviously, CAN compete in tournaments) is $75 annually per person. This can be upgraded at any time and expires at the end of July each year.

Once you have your membership number after registration, please send us the email receipt OR add it to your ZP profile under Edit Profile and USFA #.

Join the Community! 

We have a Slack channel with many students, parents, and coaches for announcements and general discussion. Customize notifications for your phone as you wish (note: Channel-specific notifications).

Email us for the invite to join.

That's it for now! 

Your gear is covered for the first few weeks, so no worries there.

Reach out to your coach or info@fencingclub.org if you have any questions.

Costs

We've seen many sports be elusive about the costs associated when getting into a new sport. Frankly, all sports have a similar level of investment. However, your fencing budget can vary significantly depending on how often you fence, how well you take care of your equipment, how often you compete, and how far and often you're willing to travel to camps, clinics, and tournaments. We want to be completely transparent and honest about any costs associated with the sport. Here are the buckets of expenses you can expect for fencing, but your commitment to the sport and involvement will include/exclude many of these:

  • Class Fee / Membership
  • Private Lessons
  • Equipment
  • USA Fencing Membership
  • Tournament Registration Fees
  • Camps and Clinics
  • Minor Repairs to Existing Equipment
  • Miscellaneous Travel and Lodging Expenses

Below are example budgets for three, different fencers and budgets. These are NOT fees or charges from BFC. They are general budgeting examples to give you an idea of the "hidden expenses/costs" of getting into a sport. Where most clubs/sports fail and shy away from giving you this information, this is our attempt of laying everything out in front of you at the very beginning.

Note: we've excluded the one-time expense of the equipment needed to get started. For everything, that's about $350 but this can be broken up into two orders/phases of getting your own gear. This gear will last several years with proper care. Also, pricing for private lessons vary by the skill level of the coach so your budget for those may vary.

The Recreational Fencer
  • Class Fee / Membership: $150/monthly
  • USA Fencing Membership: $10/yearly (budgeted $1/monthly)
  • Minor Repairs to Existing Equipment: approximately $5/monthly

Total Overall Budget: approximately $160 monthly

The Moderate Competitor
  • Class Fee / Membership: $150/monthly
  • Private Lessons: once weekly, $100/monthly
  • USA Fencing Membership: $75/yearly (budgeted $6/monthly)
  • Local Tournament Registration Fees: $35/monthly
  • Regional Tournament Registration Fees: $240/yearly (budgeted $20/monthly)
  • Minor Repairs to Existing Equipment: approximately $5/monthly
  • Miscellaneous Travel and Lodging Expenses: approximately $500/yearly (budgeted $42/monthly)

Total Overall Budget: approximately $360 monthly

The Committed Athlete
  • Class Fee / Membership: $150/monthly
  • Private Lessons: once weekly, $180/monthly
  • USA Fencing Membership: $75/yearly (budgeted $6/monthly)
  • Local Tournament Registration Fees: $35/monthly
  • Regional Tournament Registration Fees (2): $240/yearly (budgeted $20/monthly)
  • National Tournament Registration Fees (1): $250/yearly (budgeted $21/monthly)
  • Camps and Clinics: $675/yearly (budgeted $56/monthly)
  • Minor Repairs to Existing Equipment: approximately $5/monthly
  • Miscellaneous Travel and Lodging Expenses: approximately $750/yearly (budgeted $63/monthly)

Total Overall Budget: approximately $540 monthly

Summary

Hopefully this gave you a good idea of what to expect in terms of ongoing costs associated with the sport and what to consider when signing up for any sport. If you're looking for more details, there's a Fencing Parents blog that goes into more detail about costs, but we believe the overall budgets are significantly more than what most of our students spend. We expect this is because of lower cost of living in our area and just how much your travel, equipment, and coaching costs can vary. Also, in the three budgets above we did not account for international travel/competitions.

Class Format

Birmingham Fencing Club offers a variety of classes designed to cater to fencers of all skill levels starting as young as 7 years old! These classes will help develop your fencing skills to understand the basics and techniques necessary to attack, defend, and score points against opponents. Read below for the basics of our class offerings. For more information about each class, check out their dedicated pages under in our Programs Menu!

Beginner Youth Foil Program - Tuesday and Thursdays

Our Beginner Youth Foil program has been developed over the years to give our young, new fencers the skills and techniques necessary to learn how to fence! Focused on how to move, attack, and defend, it's the natural first step to progressing your fencing skills while also designed to provide fun games and conditioning for your child. Following a year or two in the Beginner Program, you'll be ready to move on to our Advanced Training program!

The Beginner Youth program is age limited to children between 7-12 years old.

Beginner Teens/Adult Epee Program

Our Beginner Epee Program has been developed by Coach Troy and is designed to introduce fencers beginning at 13 years old to the sport and provide them with the basics in Epee. This class is catered around the different learning styles of Teens and Adults as well as a stronger focus on conditioning and tactics.

Advanced Training Program - Foil

Developed for more experienced fencers, Coach Wang and Coach Sun have built this program to providing fencers with higher level training in condition, tactics, and techniques. Here you will learn the skills to compete against fencers locally, regionally, and nationally with many of our competitive students winning medals at all levels!

Advanced Training Program - Epee

Just like with our Advanced Foil Program, Coach Troy has worked to develop our Advanced Training Program for Epee as well. In this group, there is heavier focus on advanced tactics and training with an increased focus on the conditioning necessary to help you advance to the later rounds of tournaments.

Open Bouting (practice) Night - Wednesdays

We also practice on Wednesday nights! All skill levels from both foil and epee are welcome. This isn't a class time, but it's an 'open bouting' time just to fence with your teammates. It usually starts at about 6:30 or 7:00, but doesn't have a hard start time per se.

To be clear, you are encouraged and expected to fence anyone, regardless of skill level. Fencing students above your skill level is the only way to improve your skill and experience.

Due to COVID-19, there are limitations in place for our Open Bouting Times and numbers of students admitted in. To see more details, check out the Open Bouting page under the Programs heading.

Private Lessons

To help aid in the progression of our students, each Coach offers private lessons tailored around each students' skill level, learning style, and ability. We strongly encourage all competitive students to schedule at least one lesson per week to give them the maximum opportunity to advance and give them the most focused approach to improving skills and techniques needed to compete.

Click here to schedule a private lesson with your coach!

Equipment

All of your main equipment is included for the first two months. After your first few weeks, we can place a order for your essential gear. You can order just the basics or everything you would need to fence.

Placing Your Order

Of course you don't have to order your equipment through us, but we have a partnership with Absolute Fencing Gear for a starter kit fitted just for you. We will personally take your measurements, place your order, and exchange anything that may not be the perfect fit.

Equipment Needed to Fence
  • Mask
  • Underarm Protector (aka half-jacket or plastron)
  • Jacket
  • Chest Protector (required for women, optional for men)
  • Glove
  • Fencing Pants
  • Electric Epee/Foil
  • Bodycord
  • Mask Cord (foil only)
  • Lamé (foil only)
Optional Add-Ons
  • Carrying Bag
  • Socks  -  we have custom BFC socks!
  • Higher Quality Metal Blade
  • Fencing Shoes

Looking to upgrade your shoes?

Check out this guide to selecting fencing shoes or other alternative shoes.

Washing Your Gear

All of your main equipment is included for the first two months. After your first few weeks, we can place a order for your essential gear. You can order just the basics or everything you would need to fence.

Washing Cloth Gear
  1. Wrap up the straps and tie them in a loose knot
  2. Wash with cold water on a gentle setting
  3. Use a detergent that does not include bleach or oxy-agent
  4. Hang dry
Washing Masks

If you have removable pieces (most masks do not), then you can remove and wash those just like the gear mentioned above. If not...

  1. Wipe the interior padding with isopropyl alcohol (Clorox wipes)
  2. Try not to wipe down any metal surfaces, but pat dry if so
  3. Repeat a couple of times as needed

Lockers

We sometimes have lockers available to rent for a small additional fee. These lockers will help you keep your equipment stored and safe in a climate controlled environment and reduce the likelihood of rusting or deterioration.

When renting a locker, we'll add it as a monthly class fee so there is no need for any separate payments.

A small locker is $10/month and a large is $15/month.

Private Lessons

There are a few elements to progressing quickly in fencing and any other similar sport: practice (classes and open bouting), conditioning, tournament experience, and private lessons.

We offer private lessons in order to help fencers focus and develop skills outside the classes.  Private lessons are optional and available to all fencers. Ask your individual coaches about scheduling (20 minutes each lesson). 

$40 – Head Coaches: Yuanjing Wang and Hongyun Sun
$30 – Assistant Coach: Luona Wang
$25 – Assistant Coaches: Will Curtis, Troy Arias, and Matt Neu

Note: each private lesson is 20 minutes unless special arrangements are made in advance. 

Click here to schedule a Lesson with your coach!

Get the Most Out of Private Lessons

  • Arrive at least 30 minutes before your lesson to have plenty of time to get ready, stretch, and practice some handwork or fence with others.
  • Take notes after each lesson to look back and implement your lessons during class/bouting

Tournaments

We encourage students to compete in tournaments to apply the skills learned in class. Our club and other clubs across the Southeast host tournaments throughout the year. USA Fencing provides tournaments at the regional and national level as well. Costs for tournaments primarily involve travel expenses, with tournament fees ranging from $40 for a local tournament to $180 for national tournaments.

Before we get into tournament registration and participation, we have to mention: you need a Competitive USA Fencing membership to be eligible to compete in tournaments. It's also a good idea to have a printed copy of your membership card on hand for tournament check-in.

Finding Tournaments and Pre-registration

We're going to break this section into three categories because the process and level of competition varies: local, regional, and national tournaments.

Types of Events

Tournament Events (like swimming and other sports) are broken down into the following criteria: weapon, age, gender, and rating category (DIV I, DIV II,  DIV III, DIV IA). Check out the current age and classification eligibility from USA Fencing.

Weapon: foil, epee, or saber
Age: youth, cadet, junior, senior, and veterans
Gender
: mens, womens, and mixed
Rating
: ranging from E to A (highest), these are designated in three groups

  • DIV 1 (DIV I): ratings A through C
  • DIV 2 (DIV II): ratings C and under
  • DIV 3 (DIVIII): ratings D and under
  • DIV 1A (DIV IA): everyone eligible for a senior event
Local Tournaments

Local tournaments can be found on AskFRED (stands for Fencing Results [and] Events Database) along with camps and clinics. On the Upcoming Tournaments page, you can filter by distance, age, weapon, etc. If you find a tournament that looks like a good fit, go ahead and put your name down and "Preregister." This is your way to RSVP, help the organizers plan on headcount, and entice other fencers to attend as well. If you haven't yet, you'll create an account there as well (free).

Note: most of the local tournaments will have events like Senior Mixed Epee, which covers ages approximately 14 and up and both genders.

Regional Tournaments

Birmingham Fencing Club is in USA Fencing's Region 6 which covers the Southeastern US. These events are designed to give younger competitors the ability to experience fencing at higher levels against fencers in their area. Events are commonly held in Birmingham, Atlanta, Orlando, Nashville, and Fairfax.

Regional events also allow fencers to compete against fencers closer in age to themselves. Regional Events are commonly set up as 10&Under, 12&Under, and 14&Under with separate categories for older and more experienced students (Cadet and Juniors.) Placement at Regional Events earns points necessary for qualifying for National Events like Junior Olympics and Summer Nationals. These events will be explained in more detail in the National Tournament Section below.

These events can be signed up for on the USA Fencing Event portal linked below.

National Tournaments

National Tournaments are like Regional Events in that they are separated by gender and age categories and can award points toward qualification for events like Junior Olympics, Summer Nationals, and Senior Division 1 Championships. These events are much larger and are against some of the finest fencers in the country and sometimes even internationally. Be prepared to need to fly and spend 3-4 days away from home for a National Tournament.

Most National Events do not have qualification requirements with the exception of the three listed below.

Junior Olympics

Division 1 Championships

Summer National Championships and July Challenge

These events can be signed up for on the USA Fencing Event portal linked below.

Resources

Ratings

During your progression through competitions, there will be opportunities to earn ratings. Ratings act as a benchmark for the difficulty of the event and the relative skill of the competitors. Ratings available to be earned are determined by the number of competitors and difficulty of the event.

Basic information about these ratings can be found at: https://askfred.net/Info/eventClass.php

Later on down the line, you may find that certain events are limited to fencers with certain ratings. This is commonly shown as a D & Under, C & Under, etc event.

Referrals & Reviews

Hopefully, we've provided the coaching, community, and experience that you've thoroughly enjoyed so far. Sharing your experience is essential to small business like ourselves. If you want to support the club and share your experience with others who may be interested, please share a review on Google or Facebook and bring a friend(s) to our next Free Fencing event.

If you bring someone to the club and the join a class, we'll thank you with one of the following options!

  • One FREE private lesson
  • Two pairs of BFC fencing socks (while supplies last)
  • $20 cash

Parent Support

Clubs like ours would not exist if it weren't for the amazing network of parents that help us day to day. From helping assist us run tournaments, to traveling with our students to various tournaments, you all keep us going!

We encourage our parents to register for a Supporter's Membership through USA Fencing in addition to their children's competitive memberships. This membership feature grants parents the rights to vote in all USA Fencing Elections determining the leadership and direction in the sport. More importantly, it allows parents entrance to all National Level Events without paying for a ticket.

Supporter Memberships are $25 annually and can be purchased through the USA Fencing Membership Portal.

Join the #parents channel on Slack for club updates.

Exercises at Home

You may have noticed, even Olympic fencers aren't the most buff athletes in the world. Because of the nature of the support, we don't require a lot of upper body strength, but we definitely have high-intensity endurance and lower-body strength for those fast lunges and footwork.

Practicing at home is highly encouraged to help progress quickly and stay agile. Below are some suggestions, but always be sure to have proper supervision and stretch properly before any of these exercises.

Technique & Target Practice

There are several ways to practice handwork with your foil/epee at home.

  • Simple extensions to a target focused on smooth arm movement and point control
  • Watch your arm movement in the mirror to ensure you aren't pulling in your elbow (common for beginners) or using too much arm/shoulder movement
  • With your foil/epee, touch a golfball or tennis ball with tied to a wall or the middle of a door frame by a string

Footwork

BetterFencer is a fantastic resource from Olympic fencer, Jason Rogers. Below are a couple of those exercises:

Speed Skaters
  1. Stand with your feet about 1 foot apart
  2. Lift a leg about 8 inches and leap in that direction (left or right)
  3. Land only on the foot that you first lifted without wobbling
  4. Alternate directions/feet, keeping only one foot on the ground at any given time
Pistol Squats
  1. Balance on one leg
  2. Slowly squat on that leg without that raised foot touching the floor without wobbling
  3. Start with a 45 degree bend of your supporting leg, and work your way up to 100 degrees
  4. After a few squats, alternate to the other leg

In addition to these exercises, medium-distance sprints and climbing stairs are great exercises you can do at a local gym or stadium.

Researching More Exercises

As you're finding more resources and workouts online, focus on exercises that increase your core strength and burst movement from the lower body. These are core areas of focus for high-level fencing.