The Sport of Fencing

Although swordplay has been around since ancient times, it was not until the 18th Century that equipment was safe enough for sport, and rules of engagement were codified. What developed was the basis for modern fencing, one of a few sports to appear in every Olympics since 1896. It is a fast, athletic game, made up of three events:


Dubbed the "Sport of Kings," the foil is a descendant of the light, court sword formerly used by nobility to train for duels. It has a flexible, rectangular blade approximately 35 inches in length and weighing less than one pound. Points are scored with the tip of the blade and must land on valid target: torso, from shoulders to groin in the front, and shoulders to the waist in the back.

Foil employs rules of right of way. The fencer who starts to attack first is given priority should his opponent counter-attack.

An electrical scoring system detects hits on valid target. Each foil has a blunt, spring-loaded button at the point of the blade that must be depressed with a pressure of 500 grams or more to register a hit. The foil fencer's uniform features an electrically wired metallic vest called a lame - a hit to the lame causes the scoring machine to display a colored light on the side of the fencer that scored the touch.


The epee (pronounced EPP-pay - literally meaning "sword" in French) is the descendant of the dueling sword. It is heavier than the foil, weighing approximately 27 ounces, with a stiffer, thicker blade and a larger guard. As in foil, touches are scored only with the point of the blade; however, in epee the entire body, head-to-toe, is valid target - much like in an actual duel. There is no concept of "off-target" in epee. Some people refer to epee as "Freestyle Fencing" because anything goes.


The saber is the modern version of the slashing cavalry sword. As such, the major difference between saber and the other two weapons is that saberists can score with the edge of their blade as well as their point. In saber, the target area is the entire body above the waist, excluding the hands. In addition, saber has rules of right of way which are very similar to foil but with subtle differences.

At Presidio Fencing Club, we consider the Epee and Saber to be advanced weapons. Seniors (i.e. those aged 13+), may choose to practice with these weapons during sparring sessions.

The above information is provided with thanks from US Fencing. Visit their website for more information.

Sport Fencing in Santa Barbara

Presidio Fencing Club comprises a group of fencing enthusiasts from Santa Ynez all the way down to Carpinteria. Through bi-weekly practices, we provide opportunities for training in Olympic sport fencing to novice and experienced athletes, aged 10 to Adult. Presidio Fencing Club is a member of the Southern California Division of the United States Fencing Association. We operate under the umbrella of the Central Coast Fencing Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (tax ID# 820540198).

The club began in 2004 as the Santa Barbara Youth Fencers. In 2006 we changed our namesake to identify as an outpost for sport fencing in the Santa Barbara area. In 2011, we began Presidio North, a venue for fencing classes in Northern Santa Barbara County. Most Presidio fencers are recreational athletes, coming to practices to break a sweat. A few of us travel to Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and elsewhere in the country for competition.

For insurance purposes, membership with the United States Fencing Association is required before joining any class. Membership is $10, and expires on July 31. It may be purchased by visiting

Fencing is a great sport for athletes in middle school and high school. We are proud of our Varsity and Junior Varsity titles (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2016) in the Southern California Scholastic Fencing League. Upon graduation, our young fencers have gone on to compete at both the varsity and the club level at these colleges and universities:

  • Stanford
  • Duke
  • UC San Diego
  • M.I.T.
    Club Programs
  • Cal Poly SLO
  • GeorgiaTech
  • U Chicago
  • U Washington
  • UC Santa Barbara
  • UC Berkeley
  • UC Davis
  • UC Santa Cruz
  • UT Austin
  • USC

Practices in Santa Barbara

We train as a team, with practices organized into Drills and Sparring. A typical practice starts with a group warm-up, along with some footwork drills to improve strength, agility, and power, and provide a foundation for tactics. We then split into groups for drills or set up our electrical strips for situational sparring. Occasionally, we address topics such as nutrition, goal setting, tournament mentality, and equipment maintenance.

Note that fencers must have their own gear to participate. We only provide the basic equipment for introductory lessons (i.e. when you get to touch the coach, but the coach doesn't touch back).

Winter 2020 Classes

Tuesday and Thursday nights, Jan 7 - Apr 2

6:30 pm Warm up and Footwork
7:00 pm Sparring and lessons

No class Mar 24 or Mar 26.

Funk v Meinhold

Tim Robinson
Tim Robinson holds the rank of Prevot d'Armes with the US Fencing Coaches Association (USFCA). He began coaching in 2002 as a lecturer in the Exercise and Sports Studies Department at UC Santa Barbara. Although he left this position in 2019 to focus on his appointment in the Computer Science Department, Tim still coaches the UCSB Fencing Team and Club. He is the founding coach of Presidio Fencing Club.

Coach Robinson was named USFCA Coach of the Year in 2017 for his work with the UCSB Team. His focus on the functional and athletic development of young fencers also earned him a Coach of the Year award from in 2008. Tim's students have reached medal rounds in various local and national tournaments since 2006.

Find Us

Westside Comm Center
Where Victoria St meets Castillo St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Learning to Fence

Fencing Lessons
You may be able to join our drill classes if you are born in 2009 or earlier. Use the Google form to inquire about availability and register for introductory classes.

The best time to start a new class is at the beginning of the quarter (September, January, and April). Fencing is a difficult sport to experience in just a single class or two. New students should plan on spending time just learning the basic footwork and movements. When they're ready to join the regular classes they will need to purchase their own gear. See our equipment page for a list of what to buy.

How to Register for Classes

Step 1: Add your name to our waiting list by completing the Google Form.

Step 2: Watch the preparatory and footwork videos linked in our References section. Video Group #1 is a little dated, but the actions are sound. Video Group #2 is an innovative approach to fencing movements taught by Olympian Dave Littell. He provides a whole series of valuable videos that start with a functional understanding of the sport.

Step 3: purchase a non-competitive membership from the United States Fencing Association. This $10 membership provides insurance, and is collected by US Fencing.

Step 4: Arrange for some introductory lessons. Although brief, they can be intense. And they will impart the basics needed for participation in the drill sessons. Wear comfortable clothes, athletic shoes, and bring a water bottle. You might also want to bring a spare t-shirt. Your first few practices may only involve practicing footwork, and will likely only last until 7:30 pm or so. Introductory lessons are $25/each, and we provide the necessary equipment for working one-on-one with a coach. We recommend at least five introductory lessons.

Step 5: When you're ready for group drills and to try some sparring, purchase your equipment. Find a list of what to buy on our equipment page. A complete set of brand new gear will cost ~$310 (mask, jacket, glove, underarm protector, electric foil, body cord, and electrical jacket). Presidio Fencing Club is not an equipment vendor; however, we do try to connect new and old fencers to sell second-hand gear.

Step 6: Welcome to the club, and the sport of fencing!

Club Fees

Cash or Check
 PayPal Acceptance Mark

Member Dues
Paid Quarterly

$220/ quarter


Nightly "Floor Fee"

Fee for non-members.

USFA Membership required.

$20/ practice


$50/ 3 practices



Intro Lessons

$100/ 4 lessons


Coaching at Events

see notes



see notes


    Some Notes on Fees
  1. Dues:
    All membership dues go directly to the operations of Presidio Fencing Club (rent, insurance, equipment, etc). Tax deductible donations can also be made to the Central Coast Fencing Foundation. To make a donation, or for more information about the Foundation, visit
  2. Payment
    Classes must be paid for in advance via cash, check, or charge (via PayPal). There are no refunds. All sales are final. Please contact us directly if you have questions. Note that payments through PayPal will incur a small processing fee.
  3. Private Lessons and Intro Lessons
    When given one-on-one, a lesson is approximately 20 minutes in length. Some lessons might end earlier, at the coach's discretion, and for various reasons (i.e. student fatigue or lack of focus). Some lessons might last longer.
    Lessons should be purchased in advance as a punch card/package, with a 5-lesson commitment, and must be taken during the quarter they are purchased.
  4. Tournament Coaching Fees
    For larger competitions involving travel (i.e. some qualifiers, RYC, SYC, ROC, and NAC), all participating athletes will share in their coach's travel expenses and Per Diem.
  5. Equipment repairs
    Services such as fixing body cords or rewiring weapons, may require additional fees.
  6. Scholarships
    Need-based financial assistance may be available.

Reference Material


DPHS Men's Foil Team

Presidio's Dos Pueblos High Men's Foil team. 2016 SoCal Scholastic Champions, Varsity B Division. Los Angeles, CA. Photo courtesy Richard Block.

There are a number of different fencing leagues, including those for youth, those for inter-scholastic competition, and those leading up to the Olympic Games. Each league or conference tends to have its own championship event. Rather than try to keep track of all of the events, we have prepared a list of links to various league calendars.


DPHS Men's Foil Team

Photo courtesy Doug Golupski

All fencers must purchase their own equipment to participate in our practices. Presidio is not an equipment vendor, but we provide a list of trusted vendors and guidelines on what to buy.

We also try to connect people to buy and sell second-hand gear. Are you looking for another jacket or mask? Have you or your child outgrown a jacket or mask? Let us know.