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 become good?