Center for Historical Fencing

A resource hub for those teaching Medieval, Renaissance, or Enlightenment Swordplay

Skill Development Program

The Center for Historical Fencing offers a three level skill development program for use by members who teach historical fencing.  The program is designed to be applicable to historical fencing programs using any weapon in the Medieval, Renaissance, or Enlightenment periods.

Objective:  The objective of the program is to provide benchmarks for skill development that can be used to recognize and encourage fencers in the development of historically accurate technique during their first two years of study.  Fencers at the Bronze Level should have foundational skills for further learning and for bouting.  Students at the Silver Level should have a wider range of skills sufficient to achieve regular success against opponents.  Students at the Gold Level should be prepared for advanced study of their particular weapon and period.

Requirements:  At each level, the skill development program requires that students meet standards that will help them develop as historical fencers:

(1) demonstrate knowledge through a written test,

(2) demonstrate physical skill at arms through a practical examination of fencing technique measured against the technique as taught by Masters of the period, 

(3) participate in a regular program of lessons and training in historical fencing, and

(4) demonstrate reasonable ability to apply technique under the pressure of bouting with opponents.

The three levels and their requirements are:

  Level 1 – Bronze Level 2 – Silver Level 3 - Gold
Practical Examination (note 1)


(1) minimum footwork required to advance, retreat, and attack

(2) one basic guard

(3) one attack

(4) one defense


(1) four footwork techniques in response to opponent movements

(2) three basic guards

(3) three simple attacks

(4) two attacks that requiring feinting, leverage, or changing of line

(5) three defenses


(1) ability to fence at varying distances

(2) use of footwork in defense and to achieve an attacking position

(3) four basic guards and four attacks

(4) ability to sense the state of the opponent’s blade

(5) use of an adjunct weapon (if included in the system)

(6) a flow of at least three actions that result in a hit
Written Examination (note 2)basic knowledge of history of fencing (tested from a standard study guide) (note 5)knowledge of common principles of fencing (tested from a standard study guide) (note 5)knowledge of the doctrine of the system taught in the club
Participation (Note 3)three months of at least one lesson per weekone year of at least one lesson per weektwo years of at least one lesson per week
Bouting (note 4)minimum of 50 bouts using the rules of the clubminimum of 250 bouts using the rules of the clubminimum of 500 bouts using the rules of the club

Note 1 – the practical examination is scored using a score sheet that examines skill performance elements common to all periods of historical fencing.  The expectation is that techniques demonstrated will be sufficient to allow the student to participate in bouting, and that the performance demonstrated will show smooth, controlled movement, correct placement of body and weapons, and accurate execution of movement with weapons.  The quality of movement and control is expected to improve from Level 1 to Level 3.  If the number of techniques required exceeds the number commonly used in the system, the smaller number may be used. 

Note 2 – the written examination is a multiple choice test based on a standard handout for Level 1 and Level 2, and a short answer examination testing knowledge of the doctrine of the system, school, or tradition taught for Level 3.

Note 3 – participation requirements are minimums that must be met regardless of when a student meets other requirements. 

Note 4 – we believe that regular bouting is key to developing an understanding of the dynamics of fencing in any period.  Bouts may be fenced using any set of rules used in the period or using standard rules the Center supplies.

Note 5 - copies available to clubs on request.

Extended Participation:  Students who remain in the historical fencing program for more than three years may be recognized by annual awards of a higher Gold Level (Levels 4 and higher) equivalent to their years of study, as long as they continue to exhibit historically accurate technique, fence at least 100 bouts a year, and maintain regular weekly attendance.  Regardless of prior experience awards are not retroactive to cover time prior to entry in the program.

Program Administration:  The Center provides standard study guides, written knowledge, and scoring sheets for practical examinations to any Center member who wishes to use the program in his or her club, school, salle, or other program for a basic administrative fee of $10.00.  Members administering the program are required to report the names and levels of those who successfully complete the requirements by e-mail.  For students who complete a level, the Center can provide an appropriate certificate and a patch for uniform wear for a fee of $5.00 to cover the cost of materials and postage. 

Open Badges:  The Center supports the Open Badge movement by providing electronic credentials consisting of an icon with embedded meta-data for fencers who complete a level of the skills program and whose names and e-mail addresses are reported to the Center by an instructor who has registered as a user of the skills program.  Our badges are hosted on, and we suggest use of Mozilla's backpack system to store badges for use on web pages, in social media, on resumes, etc.