Your Questions Answered

Pistol V French?

Foil & Epee have the option of either French (the long straight grip) or Pistol (ergonomic). Most coaches will have you start with French grips. The reason is mainly to have you hold the weapon correctly. After a period, the length of time depends on the coach and how often you’re training, you may be told to move to a pistol grip. When that time comes, you can make an appointment to come to the workshop so we can personalise the grip to your hand and stance. The set is slightly different and there are other small nuances with fitting a pistol grip which are best worked out one on one. Sabre has only one style of grip – similar to French grip, but the way the guard sits, it isn’t possible to change to pistol.

2-pin or Bayonet?

Bayonets cannot presently be used at FIE competitions outside Australia. This is a ruling by the FIE. The AFF decided it was not following this ruling because it is not a safety issue but because of their unsuitability & unreliability for wireless fencing, which is rarely used in Australia. 2 pin sockets are widely used for both foil and sabre, even though each weapons socket is slightly different with the foil sockets having insulation, but the sabre does not. Epee only has one type of socket even though several styles are available because each manufacturer does things slightly differently. This pertains to both weapon sockets and body wire sockets!!

Cheap and Cheerful or the Rolls Royce version?

To begin with, we suggest you consult your coach. If you (or your child, the fencer) is U13, FIE is not mandatory for comps (except for a plastron in NSW), and is also not compulsory for most state comps. Obviously FIE gear is more protective, but with that comes extra cost. There is some Chinese FIE gear which is quite reasonably priced, and will do the trick, as you progress further into the world of fencing, you might like full stretch or semi stretch fabric. Each of the manufacturers will have at least 2 ranges of gear in the FIE versions. The price is accordingly higher for the ‘stretchier’ fabrics. You can also have gear made to measure, there is a cost involved, but there is nothing like having gear that fits you perfectly! It doesn’t have to be the top shelf!

Remember that if you look after your gear, wash it regularly & if there is any stitching that needs repair, get on to it before it becomes a bigger issue, it will last for years!


Most fencers at some point discover they don’t need something, (often because children grow out of things) so quite often second hand gear is available and generally is in good condition, but make sure you have a close look if possible.

Chest protectors – to use or not to use?

These are a hard plastic ‘cover’ for your chest/bust. These are mandatory for girls – the flat ones are fine for younger girls, but clearly not for older girls. Boys under 13 should also wear a chest protector, again some State associations have a requirement that chest protectors are mandatory for boys in all age groups up to u13. These are a case of personal preference for adult males.

Personal Boy Boxes – seriously?

Well what can I say? Boys should probably think about wearing boxes if they find themselves getting hit in the crotch. Talk to us about making sure you get one that feels comfortable. I will stress that not many men wear these, but again, personal preference.


What is FIE?  Have I just been insulted?

FIE stands for Federation Internationale D’Escrime (or in English: International Fencing Federation). This group is responsible for running the sport of Fencing worldwide. They are also responsible for the rules governing the standards of equipment used. For clothing this standard is 800NW (Newtons), which is equivalent to 80kgs of point (so stabbing action) pressure. You will need a jacket, plastron (see note on plastrons) & breeches.

Masks: standard for FIE is 1600NW, so 160kg of pressure before the mesh degrades.

In the case of Sabre, gloves are also required to be made of FIE fabric.

Weapons: the blades must be marked with the FIE stamp (some will also have the manufacturers stamp on them in addition) The only exception is Sabre blades for which there are some FIE Blades, but the standard worldwide is S2000, so there is no need for FIE on top of that, but that is of course personal preference.

Do I need it?

You must have FIE clothing and equipment for National & International competitions, you will need clothing, masks and weapons manufactured to the FIE standards. Fencers (in Victoria) entering Category 1 competitions, you must also be fully kitted in FIE gear. Check with your local association for their requirements.

Licences? Do I need to be 18?

If you are fencing overseas, it is highly likely that you will need to purchase an FIE Licence, and depending on the location or type of competition, you may need an EFC (European Fencing Confederation) licence too. You do not need to complete any testing or be over 18 to purchase these. They are available in Australia through:


What is a plastron – will it hurt?

A plastron is a small one armed ‘half jacket’ that goes under your jacket on your weapon arm, it provides and extra layer of protection where it is needed.  There are ambidextrous ones and double armed ones around. For all fencers in NSW an FIE plastron is mandatory, again check with your state association about their clothing requirements.


Should I enter comps?

Check with your coach first. Always best to be prepared mentally too. It can be quite disheartening (particularly for young children) to enter comps for the first time and find themselves overwhelmed. Setting realistic goals can help with this, some examples could include:

Scoring points in each bout

Making it past the first Direct Elimination bout

(finding the toilet was my fencers’ first goal! It was in an obscure place in and even more obscure factory that was the Victorian venue in those days)

Then once those are achieved:

Winning the majority of bouts in the poules stage

Making it into the top 16/8

For kids (or anyone for that matter) going to their first Nationals, some realistic goals may be; understanding how a large comp works. Identifying the DT? What roles do they play? (There is a separate section about DT’s in this list). Being selected for a team comp.

Above all though – HAVE FUN!


What do I do at comps? (parents)

Parents can sometimes find it very nerve-wracking to be standing on the sidelines and watching their children. Children of fencers are often in the same boat when watching their parents’ bout too! Some states have some ‘advice’ type documents, Fencing Victoria has a “competition preparation document”, this is specific in some respects to the U15 & Cadet Nationals held in Australia each year, but has some great parent suggestions. It’s a dynamic and changes each year, you can find the 2016 version here; ** link to PDF. Check and see if your state association has anything similar!


What is a DT?  Is it contagious?

DT or Directoire Technique are the people (or person) who run the competition. For larger comps, you’ll find there will be 2 or more people in the roles of DT. Most comps use a program called ‘EnGarde’ to run the comps. One person will generally do the data entry, while another will allocate referees & pistes to matches (bouts) as well as making the announcements calling fencers to their next match, take part (or run) the medal presentations, presenting the top 8, then the major medal presentation at the end. It is important to note the DT’s announcements. For larger competitions, it is advisable to remember not to approach them unless in case of emergency, speak to a team manager or official first. During a bout, the DT may be called if a fencer feels that the referee is not being the best they can and a fencer is well within their rights to call the DT and request hand judges.


Now I’ve got everything, how do I look after it?

What a loaded question!! It’s also one most parents ask, and believe me, everything gets ruined if it’s not looked after.

Clothing should be laundered regularly, take care to read the instructions but generally: wash whites in mild detergent and NEVER use normal bleach. Oxygen bleach (like Napisan/Vanish) is ok. After a full week of training and fencing, the whites really don’t look white anymore so I soak them after a spray (of stain remover that is oxygen based), which I leave on for about 30 mins, then soak in warm water with Napisan and wash as normal in more (fresh) Napisan. It is also not advisable to use fabric softener, it can coat the fibres and damage them. Also, don’t hang them in full sunlight, the fabric may shrink and become hard, making it all very uncomfortable– we hang ours up inside.