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 lamé - a hit to the lamé 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 and Lompoc all the way down to Carpinteria. Through 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 a recreational outfit called "Santa Barbara Youth Fencers." In 2006 we changed our namesake to identify ourselves 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 others  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 August 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

Practices in Santa Barbara

We train as a team, with practices organized into two sessions: Drills and Sparring. A typical practice starts with a group warm-up, along with some general conditioning intended to improve strength, agility, and power. We then break into drills to work on sport-specific technical and tactical skills in a controlled setting. We explore a set of footwork and blade work actions with partners to solve problems related to actual fencing bouts. Occasionally, we also address topics such as nutrition, goal setting, tournament mentality, and equipment maintenance.

We spend the last hour or so sparring with foils and epees. Note that all fencers must have their own electric gear to participate in sparring sessions. Fencers also need electrical equipment in order to enter competitions.


Tues 6:30 pm
7:30 pm
Thurs 6:30 pm
7:30 pm

Moore v Meinhold

Photo courtesy of Mario Rodriguez
Tim Robinson

Tim Robinson coaches at Presidio Fencing Club and at UCSB, where he has held a lecturer position in Exercise and Sports Studies since 2002. He holds the rank of Prevot d'Armes with the International Academy of Arms.

Coach Robinson's focus is on functional and athletic development, with an emphasis on kinesthetic awareness and motor skills improvement. This dedication has earned him a Coach of the Year award from in 2008. His students have reached medal rounds in various local and national tournaments since 2006, including Division IA, Division II, and Division III events.

Find Us

Westside Community Center
423 W Victoria St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Practices in Los Olivos

Presidio North brings swordplay to Northern Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley with a community class at Los Olivos Elementary and a high school team at the Dunn School. The first hour of each Tuesday night practice is a drill class, taught in a group format and aimed primarily at beginning-level fencers. The second hour focuses more on sparring. Intermediate and advanced fencers can receive an invitation to practice at the Dunn School for a second night of training.


Note: Tuesday night practices are on hold for the remainder of the season. All Los Olivos practices through June will be held at the Dunn School.

Mon 6:30 pm Drills and Sparring
Tues on hold

Dunn Fencing Team

Dunn School Foil Team. 2016 Central Coast High School Fencing Champions.
Photo courtesy Pamela Brown.
Walter Goodwater

Presidio North is fortunate to have dedicated volunteers with considerable fencing experience. Walter Goodwater, for example, coaches the Dunn School Fencing Team and leads the practices at Presidio North. Coach Goodwater is a competitive fencer, an experienced referee, and the organizer of many fencing tournaments on the Central Coast. He is also Chair of the Central Coast Fencing Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the sport of fencing in our area.

Another experienced regular at Los Olivos practices is Kevin Sparkman. A former collegiate fencer, Kevin was on the UCSB Men's Foil team when the Gauchos won their intercollegiate conference three years in a row.

Find Us

Los Olivos Elementary
2540 Alamo Pintado Ave
Los Olivos, CA 93441

Learning to Fence

Fencing Lessons
You may be able to join our drill classes if you are born in 2006 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 (October, January, and April). Fencing is a difficult sport to experience in just a single class or two. New students should plan on spending their first few classes just learning the basic footwork. To continue beyond that, students will need to purchase their own gear. See our equipment page for a list of what to buy.

To offset the cost of purchasing gear, we waive the first quarter of membership dues. But remember: we can only take new students when space allows.

How to Register for Classes

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

Step 2: purchase a non-competitive membership from the United States Fencing Association. This $10 membership provides insurance, and is collected by US Fencing.

Step 3: 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 4: After getting an idea of foot work, come to a practice at 6:30 pm. Wear comfortable clothes, athletic shoes, and bring a water bottle.  You might also want to bring a spare t-shirt. Your first few practices will only involve practicing footwork, and will likely only last until 7 pm or so.

Step 5:  Once you can confidently demonstrate the basic footwork, and you are sure you want to continue with fencing, purchase your equipment. Find a list of what to buy on our equipment page. A complete set of brand new gear will cost ~$200. 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: Once you are comfortable with both the basic footwork and blade-work drills, you are welcome to join the sparring sessions. And that's it. Welcome to the club!

Club Fees

Cash or Check
 PayPal Acceptance Mark

Fall, Winter, Spring

NOTE: $35 discount available to continuing members who pay via cash or check by April 20, 2017.

$200 /quarter

for one Month

$75 /month

Private Lessons

One-on-one lessons with Tim  during Sparring (after 7:30 pm).

Only available to current club members.

Lessons must be purchased in advance as a punch card, with a 5-lesson commitment, and must be taken during the quarter they are purchased.

Only a limited number of lessons are available for purchase.

Quantity remaining: 12

$85 /5 lessons

Cash or check only.

Presidio North Classes

Practices in Los Olivos.
Classes are purchased via
a "punch card"
due to scheduling.


Payment temporarily on hold for Presidio North classes.

Sparring "Floor Fee"

Sparring practice for non-members.
No access to drills.
"Drop in" after 7:30 pm.
USFA Membership still required.

$5 /night


Coaching at Events

see notes



see notes


    Notes on Fees
  1. 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. 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.
  3. There is no drop-in option for drill classes.  Space is limited, and so we ask for a commitment of at least one month for access to drills. 
  4. For larger competitions involving travel, all participating athletes will share in their coach's travel expenses and Per Diem.
  5. Equipment repairs, such as fixing body cords or rewiring weapons, may require additional fees.
  6. Need-based financial assistance may be available.
  7. Quarters are as follows:

        Fall: Oct 1 - Dec. 31
        Winter: Jan 1 - March 31
        Spring: April 1 - June 30
        Summer: Aug - Sept 30

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.