Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the Member benefits for club membership?

IFA Boston member benefits include the following:

  • Eligibility of receiving 1:1 private lessons with IFA coaches

  • Discounted tuition on group classes

  • Privilege access and/or discounts for fencing camps

  • Representing IFA in fencing tournaments

  • Eligibility for strip coaching in competitions

  • Assistance with fencing gear order and repair through club

  • Free club T shirt

  • College alumni fencers can attend group classes and fencing camps at no costs

Club membership fee applies to students at intermediate level or above. Fee is waived for youth beginners and alumni. 

2. What Fencing programs does IFA offer?

Currently we offer the following fencing programs: youth beginners, youth intermediate, youth competitive, cadet competitive, advanced, and teen/adult programs. The description of each program and training schedule can be found on the club website. The tuition and sign up links for each program are in the member area (password are sent separately to club members). 

3. What should I know before my first trial class?

You will receive an email confirmation with the class you signed up. Please come at your selected date and be on time.

Location: 141 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington, MA
(near Burlington Mall. It's the first yellow building on the right, after passing the traffic light on Middlesex Tpk at Third Ave.)

There is limited space in the front of the building and is for drive through. You can take a peek at the space, or drop off your child, but please do not park in the front and block others.

Parking: Our parking lot is in the rear of the building. You can use "Great Meadow Rd, Burlington MA" for rough location on GPS.

Directions to parking lot: after passing the club on the right side, make a sharp right turn at the first intersection (Great Meadow Rd), and you will see a sign "141 Middlesex Turnpike" on your right. After parking your car, please take the long stairs and open a grayish metal door to enter the building, and walk upstairs to the club.

What to wear/bring: sneakers, long sports pants, water

About reschedule: If you choose to come on a different date, please make the change online from the link you signed up. You will need to login with your signupgenius account, and make the change at least 24 hours prior to class start time. No need to contact us for the online reschedule. If it’s within 24 hours, please send an email to ifa.boston@gmail.com to cancel your slot. In the no-show situation, the class will be considered as “taken” and you will lose your opportunity for a free trial.

4. if i want to continue to learn fencing after the trial, what should i do?

To continue to learn fencing at IFA, please take the following actions:
(1) Register as a USA fencing member (member.usafencing.org) and pay the USFA annual membership fee ($10 per year for non-competitive member)
(2) Fill in the club membership form online: bit.ly/ifa-membership and pay the club membership fee (the club membership fee is waived for youth beginners)
(3) Sign up additional group classes on the same signup link as your trial class: beginners | intermediate | teen | advanced
You can also sign up for private lessons. Private lessons
Please read the description of the signup and understand the policy for reschedule or cancellation.
(4) Come to the group class on time. For private lessons, please arrive 10 minutes early.
(5) Additional information: please refer to member area (password required) and club policy.

Class signup is mandatory for all students. Please make sure your class signup and attendance are consistent. Coaches need to know who will come to the class so they can make appropriate training plans customized to the participants. In case of any changes in the class (for example, class cancellation due to weather), the students who signed up will be notified by email, text or phone call.

About tuition: Please refer to the member area (password required) for the tuition of each program. If you join in the midst of a session, the tuition will be prorated on an hourly rate for the classes attended.

About payment: There is no charge for the first trial class. After that, the tuition will be calculated as the lesser amount of the corresponding program choice or pay-by-class (group class rate: $40/1-hour, $45/1.5-hour, or $55/2-hour).

Example: students A and B are both youth beginners. Student A joined at the beginning of the session and attended 7 classes. Student B joined in the middle of the session and attended 3 classes.

Tuition for student A: $225 for the session

Tuition for student B: $80 for the 2 classes (excluding trial)

Similar calculations apply to all other programs.

Payment method: personal check / cash / online bank account (with invoice)
Personal check: can be dropped in the red wood deposit box on the reception desk. No envelope needed. Please indicate fencer’s name on the memo.
Cash: Please put it in an envelope (you can find the envelopes on the side of the deposit box) and write fencer’s name on the envelope.
If you pay personal check or cash, you will receive a confirmation email for tuition payment.
Students who regularly attend the IFA programs will receive the invoice on a monthly basis. In addition to the cash or check payment, the invoice can also be paid online via bank account.

Additional training options: group class is once a week for youth beginners and teens, up to 4 times a week for intermediate and advanced students. Private lessons can be scheduled online. Customized programs are available to meet the individual needs.

About gears: Fencing gears are provided for the beginners class at no cost. However, if your child wants to have his/her own gears, we could help you place an order. The full set include more than 10 items (fencing bag, mask, foil, glove, underarm protector, chest protector, jackets, pants, lame, fencing socks, body cord, mask cord), but for beginner students, you only need to get some of them (fencing bag, mask, foil, glove, maybe jacket & chest protector) to start with.

Students in intermediate program and higher must purchase their own gears. We will help order the gears for club members and ensure the customized fit. The full set costs $400-500. Back up foil and body cord are strongly recommended when the student comes to the class two or more times a week. Students who attend competitions can have separate mask, glove and lame for weapon check. In national competitions, it is required to have last name printed on the back of the lame.

Group messages: Most fencing parents use wechat (a mobile app similar to whatsapp) group to stay connected (e.g. swap private lessons, look for missing gears, etc). Alternatively you can join the IFA facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/ifaboston/) to receive notifications or reminders of class schedule change.

5. When can I go to A fencing competition?

It usually takes 1-3 years after training in the intermediate program to get ready for competitions. Before making any decisions in attending the fencing tournaments, please ask coach for recommendations. You need to be a competitive member of United States Fencing Association (USFA) to be eligible in any fencing competitions. 

There are different levels of tournaments, including local, regional, national, and international. The events are posted in the bulletin board in club. You can also find them on www.usfencing.org or www.askfred.net.

6. What is the format of a fencing competition?

Fencing competitions for individual events usually consist of two rounds of bouting: pools and direct elimination (DE).

In the first round of “pools,” 5-8 fencers compete in a round of 5-touch/3 minute bouts. Pool results inform the seeding of the next round, Direct Elimination or “DE.”

The table for DE are based on the seeding after pools. For example, in the event of 32 fencers, the bouts for DE will be seed 1 vs. 32, seed 2 vs. 31, seed 3 vs. 30... seed 16 vs. 17. The 16 winners from this round of DE will enter the next round and fence for top 8, top 4, semi-final, and final bout. 

In most tournaments, the DE bouts are 15 touches (with the exception of Y10 at 10 touches), with one-minute breaks at three-minute intervals.  The bouts end when one fencer scores 15 touches or when three, three-minute periods elapse. If the bout is tied at this point, one fencer is awarded “advantage” by a coin toss.  The bout then continues until a touch is scored or one minute elapses.  If no touch is scored after a minute, the bout goes to the “advantage” fencer.  

7. What is USA Fencing?

USA Fencing is the recognized national governing body for the sport of fencing in the United States. USA Fencing was founded in 1891 as the Amateur Fencers League of America and changed its name to the United States Fencing Association in 1981. USA Fencing is affiliated with the Féderation Internationale d'Escrime(FIE), the international federation for fencing founded in Paris in 1913.

The mission of USA Fencing is to grow and promote the sport of fencing in the United States, honor its rich traditions, and to achieve sustained competitive international excellence. The vision is to inspire a lifetime enriched by fencing. Core values: Excellence, Respect, Teamwork, Inclusion, and Passion.

There are different types of memberships. All students are required to have the USA Fencing membership. The non-competitive membership costs $10 per year and can be converted to competitive type during the year. 

Non-Competitive Membership:   

  • Includes secondary medical/accident insurance, but does not allow the member to vote or compete.

  • Magazine subscription and membership card are not included.

  • Membership can be upgraded.

Competitive Membership: 

  • Competitive members have the right to enter and compete in local, divisional, regional, and national-level competitions

  • Includes secondary medical/accident insurance

  • May vote in elections of the USA Fencing membership subject to the member voting age restriction and deadlines as to the date of membership or be a candidate for office in USA Fencing elections.

  • Magazine subscription and membership card are included.

8. What are the USFA ratings?

USFA ratings are a system of classification for USFA fencers; they are primarily used to seed tournaments, but are also considered to be broad indicators of skill. When a fencer first joins the USFA, he or she will have a classification of "U", or "Unrated." There are six different ratings in the USFA those being U (the lowest rating), E, D, C, B, A (the highest rating). Fencers may increase their classification—from U to E, and then up to A—by placing in USFA-sanctioned tournaments. A tournament must have a certain amount of competitors, and those competitors must maintain a certain ratio of classifications, for the top fencers to be eligible for ratings.

USFA Classification Chart

Note: Cadet and youth events do not use the E1 or D1 classifications. This means that those events are "NR" until they achieve a C1 level or higher.

Event

Minimum
Fencers

Rated
Fencers
Required

Rated
Fencers
Must
Finish

Classifications
Awarded

Group E1

6

NONE

N/A

1

E

Group D1

15


4 E's
(or higher)

2 E's
(or higher)
in top 8

1
2-4

D
E

Group C1

15

2 C's &
2 D's &
2 E's
(or higher)

2 C's &
2 D's
(or higher)
in top 8

1
2-4
5-8

C
D
E

Group C2

25

4 D's &
4 E's
(or higher)

4 D's
(or higher)
in top 8

1
2-4
5-8

C
D
E

Group C3

64

24 D's &
12 E's
(or higher)

4 D's
in top 8 &
4 E's
(or higher)
in top 12

1-4
5-8
9-16

C
D
E

Group B1

15

2 B's &
2 C's &
2 D's
(or higher)

2 B's &
2 C's
(or higher)
in top 8

1
2-4
5-6
7-8

B
C
D
E

Group B2

25

2 B's &
2 C's &
2 D's
(or higher)

2 B's &
2 C's
(or higher)
in top 8

1
2-4
5-8
9-12

B
C
D
E

Group B3

64

24 C's &
12 D's
(or higher)

4 C's
in top 8 &
4 D's
(or higher)
in top 12

1-4
5-8
9-16
17-32

B
C
D
E

Group A1

15

2 A's &
2 B's &
2 C's
(or higher)

2 A's &
2 B's
(or higher)
in top 8

1
2
3-4
5-6
7-8

A
B
C
D
E

Group A2

25

2 A's &
2 B's &
2 C's
(or higher)

2 A's &
2 B's
(or higher)
in top 8

1
2-4
5-8
9-10
11-12

A
B
C
D
E

Group A3

64

24 B's &
12 C's
(or higher)

4 B's
in top 8 &
4 C's
(or higher)
in top 12

1-4
5-8
9-16
17-24
25-32

A
B
C
D
E

Group A4

64

12 A's &
12 B's &
12 C's
(or higher)

4 A's
in top 8 &
4 B's
(or higher)
in top 12

1-8
9-16
17-24
25-32
33-48

A
B
C
D
E

9. What are the competitive age groups?

Competitive age groups in US Fencing are:

  • Youth 10 (7-10 years old)

  • Youth 12 (9-12 years old)

  • Youth 14 (11-14 years old)

  • Cadet, a.k.a Under 16 (13-16 years old)

  • Junior, a.k.a. Under 19 (13-19 years old)

  • Senior (13 years old and above)

  • Veteran Open (40 years old and above)

  • Veteran 40 (40-49 years old)

  • Veteran 50 (50-59 years old)

  • Veteran 60 (60-69 years old)

  • Veteran 70 (70 years old and above)

Please note that age is defined by birth year only. For example, for the season of 2019-2020, a child with birth date of 1/1/2009 still qualifies for Y10 events, while another child with birth date of 12/31/2018 is no longer qualified (2019 - 2008 >10).

10. What are the competitive skill groups?

Typically, age-restricted competitions, like Y14, or Vet50, are not further restricted to a skill level. Senior competitions, however, are sometimes further restricted at local or regional competitions, to, say, "novice" (beginners), unrated, A, and similar. At National-level events, senior fencers are sub-divided into the following skill-level groups:

  • Division III (Unrated, E, and D-rated)

  • Division II (Unrated, E, D, and C-rated)

  • Division I (C, B, and A-rated)

11. What does "USFA-sanctioned competition" mean?

The competition is "USFA-sanctioned" if it has been approved by the US Fencing Association. Please ask the competition organizers if the competition is USFA-sanctioned or not. To compete in the USFA-sanctioned competition, you have to be a USFA member, you have to fence in complete regulation equipment, and strips have to be equipped with electronic scoring equipment. Some competitions are open to all USFA members, and some (qualifiers for Junior Olympics and for the National Championships in particular) are restricted to USFA members from a particular geographical region.

12. WHAT FENCING GEAR SHOULD I BUY? HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

(1) For the youth beginner students, you do not need to buy anything. You can use club gears for the group class or private lessons.

(2) For beginner students who take private lessons and want to have their own gears, you can get the following items:

- foil (practice foil or electric foil)
- mask
- fencing glove
- fencing bag

These 4 items usually cost around $150-200.

(3) When Coach thinks the beginner students are ready to move up to the next level, Coach will invite them to join a move-up clinic and/or try out a 1.5-hour class. At this step we will order the remaining gears for the students and ensure the fit, which includes:

- fencing jacket
- knickers (fencing pants)
- plastron (underarm protector)
- lame (metal vest)
- chest protector
- body cord
- fencing socks (or socks of knee height)
- electric foil, mask, glove, bag (if you don’t have them)

This total set of 11-item usually costs $400-500. The students are encouraged to learn how to dress up after receiving the full set.

(4) After the students get used to electric fencing, they should have a second foil and body cord in their fencing bag. The blade and body cord might be broken after extensive use. It’s good to have backup.

(5) When the students are ready for local competitions, they need to have mask cord, and at least 2 foils, 2 body cords, all in working condition.

(6) When the students attend regional and national competitions routinely, it works well to have a separate set of fencing uniforms (especially lame), mask, body cords, along with a roller bag, for competitions only. You need to check your foils before you leave for competitions and make sure they are all in working condition.


If you have any other questions, please contact us directly. Frequently asked questions will be posted in the FAQ page.