By Sergey Danilov
Another question I get asked very often: Is 5 years old too early…or I am 50 – is it too late to start fencing?
Let’s start with the younger age first. I was raised in the Soviet Union and back in my time – we were not allowed to start fencing until 9-10 years old. Earlier, before me, the age to start was even 12 years old (if I remember this correctly). Why is it so? Well, equipment during that period was much less safe than now, much heavier. Fencing, requiring much focus and a lot of repetition, would be hard for someone at the age of 6-7 with all that equipment, focus and hard work. Did I mention that the question “did you have fun?” was not even a question back then? So, if you come to the sport, coaches expect you to work hard and improve on a daily basis like professionals… that, of course requires a level of focus that little guys do not have yet. On top of that, your first tournament would be sometime when you turn 14-15, not earlier.
Nowadays, people start fencing much younger. The first Cadet World Championship (under 17 yo) started in 1987. If you decided to represent your country at the World Championships, you would have to start training much earlier. Of course, shortly after, many National World Federations started to create local, National and International events for this age category and younger (for example, under 13 yo in Europe and under 14 yo in the US). And in order to be able to compete successfully in these categories, you have to start training earlier.
What about equipment? Well, problem solved – it’s the 21st century with new technologies – lighter and much safer equipment was created. Now you have much, much lighter equipment and swords which are easier to bend. The first official event is under 10 yo (Youth 10). Some local events feature even Youth 8 events but have not been official on the National level.
While at a younger age, you don’t compete as often as later on – learning fundamentals, learning how competition works, learning ethics of improving during the class, listening, cooperating with other kids and just having a great time learning – it is beneficial to start earlier. And with all the new equipment (yes, fencing now even has plastic equipment for the youngest kids, like 5-7 years old, which weigh almost nothing) kids will enjoy the classes.
Another question, parents always ask, is 14-15 years old too late? Well, here is the first question… What is your goal? If you are 15 and planning to go to the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020, then yes – it is too late. Fencing is a unique sport, and I heard a story of a girl who started the sport at the age of 18, out of a bet with her boyfriend, and then fell in love with the sport and became an Olympic Champion. In my career, I had quite a few students starting at the age of 14 and ending up getting Athletic Scholarships at top Universities. What you have to understand – there will be a lot of losing in the beginning, while you’re catching up with the sport – you will be fencing much more experienced fencers. And it really will take hard work to catch up. But that hard work will definitely pay off.
Now, are you looking for the sport to develop your mind and body, maybe competing, maybe not? Want to try something new? Then fencing it is and it is not too late. Besides what we discussed earlier – it will help to develop strategic thinking, time management, new friends and… who knows maybe you will fall in love with the sport and will be the next Olympic Champion some years later.
I also often hear from people who already have jobs, kids, etc. that they want to try… GREAT! I think this is the best sport for adults. While many sports require you to be fit in a certain way, fencing can be done at your own pace, at your own level of fitness. While, of course, it involves physical activity, it is also “physical chess”, where strategy and thinking is just as important as the movements. If you are looking for a low injury sport that’s interesting, fun, and will boost your level of fitness… well then this sport is for you as well.
So, you are looking for a new sport, and you are somewhere between 5 or 6 and 99+? Then FENCING will be a great sport to try…