A Basic Tournament Primer

A Basic Tournament Primer

Signing Up:

Part 1: USFA: If the tournament is a “Sanctioned” event then it is recognized by the USFA as a legitimate tourney. The tourney structure, how it is run and managed, how it is refereed and how the results are awarded and reported must abide by the rules set forth by the USFA. To fence in USFA sanctioned events, you must be a competitive member of the USFA. (If the tourney is unsanctioned, then you don’t have to be a USFA member. You can skip all of the registration stuff…)

You sign up for USFA membership at the link below: Please note that our Division is Central California (CEN CAL).



Part 2: ASKFRED: Once you have signed up for competitive membership in the USFA, you need to register on ASKFRED. This is a free service that fencers/ coaches/ clubs use to post tournaments, camps, clinics, tourney results etc. Register once and you can use it forever.

This is a step by step for ASKFRED registration:


This is the actual site: https://askfred.net/Myfred/registerFencer.php


Part 3: Baycup:  The Baycup is our own local  fencing tournament circuit. Clubs all over the bay area host tourneys that are part of this circuit. To schedule your fencing season, it’s helpful to get on their mailing list so you will know when tournaments are coming up:

Click this link and ask to be put on their mailing list.



Annoying, I know, but at least all that’s done…. now on to more interesting stuff…


Before the tourney:

  1. Maintain or slightly reduce your usual amount of exercise the week before a tourney.
  2. Sleep well at least two nights before tournament day.
  3. Eat healthy foods the night before. Drink lots of water the day before.
  4. Pack your fencing gear the night before.
  5. Pack snack foods, water and sports drinks the night before.
  6. Consider packing a folding chair. Some venues have painfully little seating.
  7. Go over what you’ve packed. Did you remember to bring:
    1. Jacket
    2. Lame
    3. Mask
    4. Electric foil (s) (2-5)
    5. Body cord (s) (2-5)
    6. Glove
    7. Under-arm protector (plastron)
    8. Knickers
    9. Tool bag
    10. Water, snacks, sports drinks
    11. Snacks
    12. Towel
    13. Knee-high Socks
    14. A change of clothes and shoes for after the tourney
    15. Folding Chair
    16. Reading material or something else to quietly pass the time

Morning of:

  1. Eat a light breakfast. Fresh fruit is a good choice for a morning tournament. I usually eat a couple-three bananas. A bit of protein an hour and a half before competing is also good.
  2. Arrive an hour before close of registration.
  3. Find out where the dressing rooms/ bathrooms/ snack machines are.
  4. Register sooner rather than later.
  5. Start warming up. Break a sweat. Do the same types of warm-ups you do at practice.
  6. Start sipping your water. Sip…. Sip Sip…….. sip…….
  7. Drink water before you need it.  Sip often throughout the day.
  8. Gear up.
  9. Get on a strip and practice with a team mate or coach.

 The Tourney:

  1. The tourney organizers will create pools (groups) of 4-8 fencers. They will try to balance the pools so that the pools are evenly matched. (More about this later). After that, they will try not to put people from the same fencing club in the same pool. Sometimes you get pools that are hard. Sometimes the pools are kinda easy. But organizers try their best to keep things balanced.
  2. Initial seedings may be posted. That is, a ranking of fencers from best to worst will be posted based on previous tournament results. More on this later.
  3. Now is a really really good time to use the restroom.
  4. Someone will shout something incomprehensible. If you happen to be standing right next to him, you will learn that fencing will begin in a few minutes. Probably 5. Maybe 10.
  5. 3-15 minutes after that, referees will move to strips with Pool Sheets in hand. They will call your name. Go to them and introduce yourself.
  6. They will ask to see:
    1. Your plastron. Unzip your jacket and lame a little and show them.
    2. Your spare weapon. Show them.
    3. Your spare body cord. Show them that too.
    4. For Women- your Chest Protector. You can show them visually, or audibly, by tapping on it with a knuckle.
  7. They will tell you your Pool Number. Remember it. This is the number they call when it’s your turn to fence.
  8. Remember… the first number called goes to the directors right.
  9. Do your best to STAY AT YOUR STRIP until ALL the bouts are done.
  10. Do your best and keep a pleasant mindset. Each touch is a new chance.
  11. When pools are done, review and initial the score sheet.
  12. Relax a little. You have probably a half hour or more to rest and snack.

After pools try to relax. Towel off. Snack on fruit and nuts. A bit of bread is fine. Continue to sip your water. Try not to think too much or talk too much. Read a little or listen to music. Let your mind wander.

This is another really really good time to use the restroom.

Eventually someone official looking will yell something incomprehensible. If you happen to be standing next to him, you will hear that they will be posting something called “Seeding”. They will tape this seeding thing to a wall and people will crowd around it. Seeding is the rank of fencers from best to least.

Shortly after the seeding is taped to the wall they will begin fencing the Direct Elimination (DE ) bouts. In DE’s the best fencers fence the least fencers in a tournament ladder. Depending on the number of fencers, sometimes the best fencers get a “bye” for their first pool.

Stay close and LISTEN FOR YOUR NAME. Your name will eventually be called to fence. In DE’s, once a bout is lost, the fencer is out of the tournament and can undress and cool off. Otherwise the fencer continues until defeated or has won the tourney.

At the end of the day…

If you can, try to stay until the awards ceremonies– held soon after the gold medal bout. Usually awards are given to the top 4 fencers, 1st , 2nd and a tie for 3rd.

If you won… hooray! If you didn’t… aw :-/
Try not to give it much more importance than that.

Next time the results will be different. And again the time after that. And again the time after that.  Fencing is fickle. You may have an off day, or others will. Sometimes you win when you shouldn’t or lose when you shouldn’t or… anything. You only really know if you’re improving compared to your peers when reviewing compiled results from many tournaments season to season— Not tourney to tourney or bout to bout. Also. Winning is rarely the best measure of success. I’ve been the proud champion and the ashamed fool many times in my life— fencing and otherwise. Not one of those experiences seem as big a deal now as they did at the time.

About rankings.

( This is the “more- later” part mentioned above)

Official Tourneys, even small ones, are sanctioned by the United States Fencing Association. If you intend on going to tourneys outside of class you should become a member of the USFA. You must become a member at or before attending a USFA tourney. USFA Tourneys are “Ranked” from hardest to weakest, smallest to largest depending on the number and successes of the fencers in the tourney. The ranks from hardest to weakest are: A. B, C, D, E and U (Unranked). Fencers get these ranks too, depending on how well they do in these tournaments. If you win a “C” ranked tourney. You become a “C” ranked fencer. Second place may get a “D” ranking. Etc. More info on this can be found here. When the initial pools are being set up, tourney organizers will evenly distribute, as best they can, the rankings of the fencers among the pools.