What is the best weapon for a beginner to start with?
Foil is the most common starter weapon. It is an excellent weapon
to begin with if you have no preferences or want to learn
generalized principles of swordfighting. Transitions to the other
weapons from foil are relatively straight forward. Foil is an
abstracted form of fencing that emphasises proper defense, and
cleanly executed killing attacks. Historically it was a training
weapon for the small sword, so it is well suited for the purposes of
learning. However, it is far from a simple weapon, and many
experienced fencers return to foil after trying the others.
Sabre can also be an effective starter weapon, for a few reasons.
Like foil, it has rules of right-of-way to emphasize proper defense,
and its de-emphasis of point attacks can be a relief to a beginner
who doesn't yet have much point control. Also, many low-level sabre
competitions are still fenced dry, meaning that it can be the
cheapest of all weapons to compete in (although electric sabre is
definitely the most expensive weapon to compete in). However, sabre
differs from foil and epee in a few key respects that can reduce its
effectiveness as a starter weapon if the fencer plans to try the
others in the future. Among these differences are the
aforementioned de-emphasis of point attacks, and a different sense
of timing and distance.
Epee can sometimes be a good starter weapon for two reasons. First,
the rules are simple and easy to grasp, and second, the competition
costs are lower, since no lame' is required. However, the apparent
simplicity of the sport can obscure its subtleties to the beginner,
and make progress difficult later on. Furthermore, the lack of
right-of-way in epee can make transitions to the other two weapons
difficult, if put off for too long.
Link to the next chapter: How long does it take to