There are many opportunities for fencers of all ages to fence in competition. This article describes the various different levels available and when fencers are typically ready for them.
For all tournaments outside of class, fencers must wear fencing pants, not jeans or sweat pants. We have these at RCFC, for sale or to borrow. Fencers also need socks long enough to overlap the pants. We sell these as well; baseball or soccer socks also work well. Also, all competitors in a tournament must be competitive members of USA Fencing. This is paid as an annual membership to USA Fencing (currently $70/year). We have the membership forms available at RCFC, or you can join online at the USA Fencing website, www.usfencing.org.
As part of our regular classes, we often conduct in-class refereed bouts. This is usually done in a “pool” format, where fencers are divided into groups of 4, 5, 6, or 7, and everyone fences everyone else in their pool to 5 touches. We usually use a 2-minute time limit to make sure we can complete a pool (or most of it) within a 1-hour class. The regulation time limit for pool bouts in a real tournament is 3 minutes.
RCFC Youth tournaments
Approximately once a month during the competitive season (September through June), Rain City Fencing Center hosts a youth tournament. We typically have foil events in all the Youth categories (Youth-8, Youth-10, Youth-12, and Youth-14). We sometimes also add Cadet or Junior foil events, or possibly an épée event as well. The entry fee for these tournaments is low, fencers may rent club electric equipment for a nominal additional fee, and the atmosphere is informal. These are the best way for young fencers to get started in competition. Typically fencers are ready to start competition after a few months of classes.
Usually these events are not large enough for youth fencers to earn letter classifications.
RCFC Thursday night tournaments
On one Thursday each month during the competitive season, usually the third Thursday of the month, RCFC holds an E & Under or D & Under tournament. The letters refer to the classifications that fencers can earn in competitions. “A” is the highest classification a fencer can earn, and “E” is the lowest. Our Thursday night tournaments are designed to be developmental events by excluding the stronger fencers. The atmosphere is a little more formal than our Youth tournaments, but entry fees are still low and fencers may rent electric gear.
Because these tournaments do not have a specific age group, they are considered Senior tournaments. Fencers who are young enough for Youth-10 or Youth-12 are ineligible to compete in these events.
RCFC Championship series
We hold a series of 8 tournaments in foil and épée throughout the season. These tournaments are typically held on open fencing nights. Placement in these tournaments earns points for our club standings, and top point holders at the end of the season win prizes. Because they are restricted to members of our club only, letter classifications cannot be earned in these tournaments, but underage fencers may compete if their coach approves.
Other Northwest clubs
Other fencing clubs in the Pacific Northwest hold tournaments at various levels. We encourage our competitive fencers to attend these events, for additional practice and experience of venues and officials outside RCFC. Fencers should have their own electric equipment for any tournament outside RCFC. Our club gear is not reliable enough to take to tournaments outside our club.
Tournaments listed as “Open” are open to all fencers who are too old for Youth-12, and to all classification levels. Open tournaments are significantly more difficult than D & Under or E & Under tournaments. We recommend fencers have several months to a year of experience before they start fencing opens.
Western Washington Division tournaments
In addition to two major Open tournaments every year, the Western Washington Division (WWD) of USA Fencing runs Qualifiers and Championships. Fencers who want to qualify for national championships must finish high enough in a local qualifier first. The Junior Olympic Qualifier is typically in November or December, and includes the Cadet and Junior age groups. The Summer Nationals Qualifier is typically in April, and includes Youth-14 and Division II/III (Senior) events.
The number of fencers who qualify for the national event is based on a percentage of the number of entrants in the qualifier. We encourage all of our competitive fencers to fence in qualifiers whenever possible, to increase the number of top fencers who qualify.
The WWD also runs its Senior Championships at the end of the season. This tournament is open to WWD fencers only. We encourage all of our competitive fencers to participate.
Regional Youth Circuits
USA Fencing has developed a Regional Youth Circuit (RYC) program to help foster youth competition. A “region” is loosely defined as “driving distance”. For Seattle-area fencers, this typically means RYCs in Seattle or Portland. Typically there is one at RCFC every season, and two at Northwest Fencing Center in Portland. RYCs usually feature Youth-10, Youth-12, and Youth-14 events in all three weapons.
RYCs are run on a more official level than local club tournaments, with stricter equipment requirements and more official referees. Fencers must have their own equipment to fence in an RYC.
RYCs are good higher-level competition experience for youth fencers. They are also a qualifying path for national events – Youth-10 and Youth-12 fencers who wish to fence in a national tournament must fence an RYC or SYC first. RYCs also allow fencers to earn regional point rankings, which are part of the qualifying path to Summer Nationals.
Super Youth Circuits
The next level in youth competition is the Super Youth Circuit. These are held throughout the season, typically with two or three in the Western US. RCFC hosts an SYC in the spring. These tournaments are significantly bigger and tougher than RYCs. Fencers can earn points towards the US national rankings at SYCs.
Regional Junior/Cadet Circuits
RJCC’s are a new program, similar to RYCs, for the Cadet (Under-17) and Junior (Under-20) age groups. Fencers earn regional points at RJCCs, to qualify for national tournaments such as the Junior Olympic Fencing Championships in February and the July Challenge at Summer Nationals in July.
Regional Open Circuits
Similar to SYCs, Regional Open Circuits (ROCs) are a qualifying path for the Senior events at Summer Nationals: Division IA, Division II, Division III, and Veterans. RCFC hosts the Battle in Seattle ROC every January. Other ROCs are held around the country throughout the season. Open ROCs are usually very strong tournaments, though not as large as national events.
North American Cups
North American Cups, or NACs, are the circuit of national tournaments run by USA Fencing. Each one has a different combination of events, selected from Youth, Cadet, Junior, Division I, Division II/III, and Veterans. There are NACs in October, November, December, January, March, and April. Except for the Youth-10 and Youth-12 events at the April NAC, there are no qualifying paths for NAC events – anyone who is the right age or right letter classification can enter.
Most NACs are designed so that younger and lower-rated fencers can fence more than one event at the same tournament, allowing more competition experience in a single trip. You may not fence more than one event on the same day, though.
All NAC events except Division II/III award national points to the top 40% or top 32 (64 in some cases) in each event.
NACs are a significant jump up from other levels of competition. Usually fencers need at least a couple of years of local competition experience before they’re ready for national tournaments. Your coach will let you know if you’re ready to take this step.
There are two National Championship events held by the USFA each year: Junior Olympics in February for the Cadet and Junior age groups, and Summer Nationals in July, for all age groups and categories. Almost all events at these championships require some sort of local or regional qualifying path to be able to attend.
As Summer Nationals includes events for all age groups and categories, it is possible to qualify for a large number of events. Fencing several events on consecutive days can lead to fatigue, burnout, or even injury. Talk to your coach about which events are appropriate for you to fence.
Above the USA Fencing level, there are international tournaments. Some are other countries’ versions of local or national tournaments. Some of the stronger of those are designated as FIE Satellite events, where top finishers can earn small numbers of points towards world rankings. There are also World Cup tournaments all over the world, which award points to the top 32 or top 64 finishers. Fencers should have several years of fencing experience, including significant national experience, before they consider FIE competitions. Most World Cups restrict entry to a certain number of fencers per country, so selection of US athletes is based on national rankings.
Equipment requirements vary depending on the level of tournament you’re considering. Listed below are the minimum requirements for various levels of competition. See our Equipment Requirements page for details.
We put announcements of our club’s events and other major tournaments on the bulletin board in our lobby. We also keep the Event Calendar section of our website updated with local, regional, and national events.
Virtually all tournaments in the Pacific Northwest are published on AskFRED.Net, the Fencing Results and Events Database. FRED will customize its front page display based on your location. FRED also handles pre-registration for local tournaments, and publishes results.
To receive email announcements of tournaments, you can subscribe to a couple of different email lists. These lists are moderated, so no junk mail will come through. The WWDFencing list is for announcements to the Western Washington Division, and will include other tournaments throughout the Pacific Northwest. The RainCityFencing list is for announcements of our club’s tournaments, plus schedule notifications and the occasional other local tournament that might be of interest to our fencers.
To join the WWD list, send a blank email message to firstname.lastname@example.org from the email address you want to subscribe. To join the RCFC list, click here and follow the instructions to “Apply for group membership”, or let us know at the front desk what email address you want to sign up. There will be a confirmation process to be sure your address wasn’t signed up by mistake.