Before we go more in detail into Fencing, there are some terms that need to be explained.
FIE (Federate International Escrime) is a governing board for the fencing sport. All international tournaments require fencers to use FIE-approved equipment. It is the highest standard in fencing. FIE-approved equipment usually carries an FIE logo. USA local or national tournaments do NOT require FIE fencing equipment. The following list of items that may have FIE versions: masks, jackets, knickers, underarm protectors, saber gloves and blades. There are no FIE socks, shoes or electrical jackets (Lames) because they do not protect a life-threatening part of the body.
CE is a standard for anything sold to the European Community. This standard is NOT required in the USA but it serves as a good reference for safety of your equipment.
Please note that fencing is an intensive sport that involves a potential risk of personal injury. Fencers are responsible to check all fencing equipment for safety every time before using it. Never fence with or against a broken blade or weapon. Always wear all protective equipment when you fence. A practice foil or epee MUST carry a protective rubber tip! We always recommend that fencers wear equipment that meets the highest standards financially allowed.
There are 3 types of weapons in fencing: Foil, Epee and Sabre.
Foil – This is the smallest weapon of all. Most fencers start with a foil. The target area for foil is upper body only EXCLUDING arm and neck. Foil fencers must wear a metallic vest called a lame for target area. A lame does not protect fencers but it serves as a target area. Some foil blades are FIE-approved. The FIE-approved blades are usually made from a type of high-end stainless steel metal called Maragine. The FIE foil blades are a little heavier and more expensive but they provide a substantial longer life span than the non-FIE blades. Foil masks were previously the same as the epee masks. As of Aug 1st, 2011, the United States Fencing Association adopted the new rule of requiring a conductive bib on the foil mask for all national level and open ROC tournaments. However, the local tournaments may or may not require the conductive bib for foil fencing. Foil is the most popular fencing sport in the U.S. compared to epee and sabre. FIE foil blades are NOT required in U.S. local or national tournaments but are required for all international tournaments.
Epee – Epee has a bigger guard compared to foil. The blade on the epee weapon is also wider, thicker, and heavier. The target area is from head to toe. Some epee blades are FIE approved. The FIE approved blades are usually made from a type of high-end stainless steel metal called Maragine. The FIE blades are a little heavier and more expensive but they provide a substantial longer life span than the non-FIE blades. Epee blades are usually more expensive than the foil or saber blades. FIE epee blades are NOT required in U.S. local or national tournaments but are required for all international tournaments.
Sabre – Sabre differs from foil and epee in the action of touch. There is much more slashing in sabre fencing while foil and epee fencers mainly pokes the opponents. The target area for sabre is any place above the waistline including arms and head. Sabre fencers must wear an electrical jacket (called a lame) for target area. Some sabre blades are FIE approved. The FIE approved blades are usually made from a type of high-end stainless steel metal called Maragine. The FIE blades are a little heavier and more expensive but they provide a substantial longer life span than the non-FIE blades. Unlike foil and epee, sabre FIE blades are NOT required in domestic or international tournaments. The replacement blades for sabre are also the cheapest among the three.
Regardless of which weapon you practice, the protective equipment for all three weapons is the same: masks, jackets, underarm protectors/plastrons, knickers, gloves, socks, and shoes.
Masks – In terms of protection, there are two major categories: FIE and Non-FIE. FIE masks provide 1600 Newton pressure test protection on the bib (protection for throat). Non-FIE usually provides 350 Newton. (Our BG basic masks provide 400-1000 Newton protection). The mesh for both FIE and non-FIE masks MUST pass the same 12 kg punch test for safety. The FIE masks mesh is required to use high grade stainless steel. The non-FIE masks usually use regular steel.
Jackets and Knickers – There are FIE and non-FIE jackets and knickers as well. The FIE jackets and knickers pass the 800 Newton pressure test and the non-FIE jackets and knickers are usually 350 Newton. (BG has a style that withstands 512 Newton, which is right in the middle in terms of protection.) The most basic jackets are usually made from thick white cotton. As a natural fabric, cotton breathes better than synthetics. However, the cotton may shrink a little after washing and it is less flexible than the synthetic models. In addition, some jackets are back zippered and some are front zippered. The back zippered jackets are less expensive, but it is harder to put on by yourself. The front zippered jacket is usually a preferred choice among fencers.
Underarm Protector/Plastron – This is a half jacket that is worn inside the regular jacket. It is either FIE (800 Newton protection) or non-FIE (usually 350 Newton protection). This layer of protection is required for all U.S. tournaments.
Chest protectors – The chest protectors are optional for men/boy but are required for women/girl in all tournaments. They are usually made of hard plastic.
Gloves – At least one fencing glove is required, which is usually for the hand that holds the weapon.
Socks – All tournaments require fencers to wear socks that cover up to the knees.
Shoes – All sneakers can be used as fencing shoes, however, fencing shoes usually come with enhancements specifically designed for the movement in fencing.
If you plan to compete in a fencing tournament, you should have the following equipment:
Your protective equipment includes a fencing jacket, fencing knickers, fencing underarm protector, fencing mask, chest protector (for female only), fencing glove, and fencing socks (long socks).
Your weapon: Two (2) working weapons and two (2) body cord (plus two  mask cords if you fence saber or foil with conductive bib only)
Blade size. If you are 10 years old competing in a tournament, you must use shorter blades on your weapon (#2 blade). The regular adult blade length is #5. If you are 11 years old, you cannot compete in Y10 anymore. The youngest age group that you can compete in is Y12, which you can use up to #5 blade.