This is NOT the official Usenet fencing FAQ.  It is, rather, a semi-humorous FAQ that a few people and I put together for use on the Fencing Illini website. Some of it was club-specific and I've omitted, but here's the rest:

Q: Does it hurt?
A: The blades are not sharp, but they are made of high quality steel.  Stretching can hurt a little.  The physical conditioning necessary can be tiring.  Your fencing partner or opponent can accidently hit you too hard.   If you wear shorts you may get a cut or two on your legs.  You may cry if you lose.   Big dumb guys might not have the control you do and accidently run into you while fencing. Oof. Watch out for big beginners.

Q: What weapons are used?
A:There are three weapons used in USFA/FIE approved fencing.

  • The foil, which most Americans start out on.
  • The epee, which is a bigger and heavier weapon.
  • And the sabre, a remmant of horse and calvary days.
The foil is the most popular as it leaves the fewest dents and scars on you. Most fencers in smallish clubs fence foil as their only or primary weapon.

Q: What does the equipment cost?
A: Fencing equipment varies in price, quality and quantity. The cheapest way to get started is to buy a starter's set of fencing gear from one of the main suppliers of equipment.   Currently a starter set for foil that includes a jacket, mask, glove and foil costs around $110.00.  Ask more experienced fencers about the right equipment. You'll get an earful and maybe some useful information.

Q: What other sources of information are around?
A: There's a bunch of stuff on the Web. Try the USFA web site:  There's even books in the library and bookstores. Be creative. Learning to read can be fun.

Q: Can I become great at this sport in two or three weeks?
A:  In a word, no.  If you've had training in martial arts, dance, or something fancy with your hands you'll progress faster.  If you're a couch potato it'll require a little more work.  It may take you two years to become reasonably good.

Here are the suggested skills and talents of Olympic-grade fencers:

  •     started in the cradle
  •     catches flies with a chopstick
  •     moves like the wind
  •     can measure small distances accurately
  •     tall
  •     smooth
  •     self-motivating
  •     will to win
  •     fast
  •     would rather fence than eat
  •     fences while sleeping
  •     born in another country and stayed there to train
Sorry if you don't quite make it. Nobody else has.

Q: Will speaking French help?
A: Oui.  You'll be hipper.  Fencing bouts are conducted in French traditionally. And many of the terms used in the sport are in Old French.

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