When you want to give fencing a try, the first question to ask is “what will I need?”. There’s a lot of equipment in fencing, the masks, the uniforms, and of course the sabers epeés and foils you use for the actual fencing.
When starting out though, you don’t need to buy this whole raft of fencing equipment.
Almost every fencing club will have their own equipment available for you to use as a beginner, and will not expect you to get all the fencing gear just to do an introductory course.
The exception to this will be for shoes – you will have to bring your own shoes for fencing.
This will be step zero of trying out fencing, before getting any equipment you’ll need shoes, however you can usually use ones you already have or get some quite cheaply.
For a complete overview of what shoes are best to use for fencing, you can click here.
So if you don’t need to get any equipment when you start, when exactly do people get it?
Well the normal thing to do as a beginner once you’ve decided you like the sport is to buy personal fencing equipment piece by piece as you become more experienced and involved in fencing.
You begin to develop your own preferences for what you like and don’t like, which moves you away from the generic club equipment for beginners.
Here is the order in which fencers tend to buy equipment as they move from beginner to intermediate:
- Jacket, Plastron, Pants (the fencing suit)
- Your own weapon & cables
- Lamé (If required)
The very first thing to buy is almost always your own glove. Gloves see the most wear and tear, and so club gear can develop holes and get worn out, not to mention that with your own glove you can make sure it fits you.
Gloves can also be some of the cheapest gear to buy, from 15$ to 50$ at the high end usually. They’ll be listed as “FIE” or “non-FIE” – the FIE gloves are for saber fencers, and the non-FIE gloves are for epeé and foil.
The number two on the list of things it’s better to have your own personal item of, is the fencing mask.
Having your own mask is more comfortable, as you can make sure that it fits your head correctly and can shape the contours to your own preference.
This will really help your neck, as using different masks will tend to make your neck sore. It also lets you clean and maintain your own mask, which is a big improvement over using a club mask with other beginners.
For details on how exactly to clean your mask and other equipment, click here. These will also be listed as “FIE” or “non-FIE”, as will the jackets and pants etc. later on.
This just indicates if they are usable at international competitions or not, so to start out with it’s fine ( and much more affordable) to go with the “non-FIE” fencing equipment.
3. Fencing Jacket, Plastron, And Pants
The “fencing suit” or “fencing whites” as it’s sometimes called, consists of three items: the plastron, the jacket and the pants. Of these, the plastron is the most important (sometimes also called the sous-plastron or under-plastron):
It’s the key piece of safety equipment and goes underneath the others. This is the one to get first – it’s close to your body so it’s more comfortable to have your own plastron, and also lasts for years and years.
After that, the jacket and pants are easy to borrow and so are some of the last two pieces to get your own versions of. The fit on these is more flexible, so if you’re a jacket size 40, you could easily wear a few sizes around that.
These two are lower on the list to get than the plastron but people usually get all three pieces at the same time as one “fencing suit”.
4. The Weapon And The Electric Cables
You might be wondering, why are these so low on the list to get? Well it’s because they’re some of the easiest pieces of equipment to borrow/interchange with the club equipment.
On top of that both the blades and the wires are weapon specific, while something like the fencing suit is used in all three fencing disciplines.
As a beginner you might end up preferring any one of the three different weapons, and so until you decide which one is your favorite there’s no need to get a specific blade.
Depending on what fencing discipline you end up doing, you may or may not require a lamé. Foil and Saber fencers need one (and it’s a different one for foil and saber – the saber one has sleeves). Epeé fencers do not need one.
This is further down the list, as it’s one of the most common items for fencers to borrow from their club as needed. You may also decide to focus on Epeé, in which case there’s no need to buy one.
Lamés are sold as standard or “ultralight”. The ultralight is much more expensive, and doesn’t last as long so tends to be used more by just high level fencers. In this case the standard is best, as it will last longer.
While you of course need to use fencing equipment to fence, to start fencing as a beginner and try the sport out you actually don’t need any equipment at all.
You just need sporty shoes, and the club you attend to try fencing will 99% of the time have their own gear for you to try out and use without buying your own.
As a tip for getting your own equipment, make sure that you try on all the different types of gloves for example at the club, so that when you do buy your own you know that you’re getting something you like!
This also goes for masks, weapons, and the other pieces of equipment – the best way to get them is to try on club equipment or ask to wear equipment from friends and clubmates to find something that feels comfortable and the right size for you.