The cost is prohibitive for most individuals and many clubs to purchase a state of the art wheelchair fencing frame. Currently all IWFC approved frames are made in Europe and cost anywhere from $2000.00 upwards depending on the construction.
The French created a design that incorporates carbon fiber and is extremely durable, yet weighs very little. If you are interested in obtaining a European frame, please use the contact page and forward your email address to us so that we may assist you.
Frame plans for a non-sanctioned but cost-effective training fencing frame are also available on this website and have been used by coaches around the country for about as long as wheelchair fencing has been offered in the United States. Comparatively, this "training frame" is mostly wooden construction, with metal fittings and hardware. This fencing frame can be assembled in an afternoon with costs well under $300.00. (Some of the fittings require minor welding prior to assembly.)
There are three different classifications for fencers based on a functional assessment test: A, B, & C with A's belonging to the fencers with the greatest mobility, including (usually) full control of their abdominal muscles and good upper body strength, B's who are mostly paraplegics with little to no abdominal control and good upper body and arm and hand strength, and C's with the least mobility, generally no control of abdominal muscles, and often loss of grip or hand strength in one or both hands.
There are as many exceptions to the rule and every candidate for wheelchair fencing will be assessed on an individual basis with an emphasis on their level of function and overall ability.
Amputees, Polio, Cerebral Palsy, Paraplegics, Hemiplegics, Quadriplegics, and TBI are good candidates for wheelchair fencing. Anyone with an injury or disability comparible to a below the knee amputation is elligible to participate in wheelchair fencing.
Blade work and strategy for wheelchair fencing is very much the same as it is in able-bodied fencing, but, because the fencers compete in such close proximity, the game tends to develop more quickly and there is less time to react. This is why it is so important early on to begin to develop good habits and skills.
Working under the tutelage of a bona-fide fencing coach and practicing with other experienced fencers, (both wheelchair and able-bodied) is highly recommended. Your coach will take you through a series of lessons and drills specifically designed to reinforce learning all of the basic parries and skills necessary to "survive" a bout. These skills and drills further support and help to develop muscle memory to keep your actions small and tight.
The ultimate goal is to train your hand to perform all of the skills and appropriate actions or counter-actions (without having to think about it.) Ideally, everything becomes second nature so that you can focus on devising a strategy to score a point instead of being overwhelmed or bogged down by mechanics.
To achieve the speed and accuracy that fencing demands, it is also important to remain loose and relaxed. Only when making contact with the target should the hand begin to grip the weapon tighter. The shoulder should also remain relaxed and all actions performed by the fencer have a better chance of succeeding if he or she remains fluid rather than stiff or choppy.
The irony is that footwork is just as useful and important in wheelchair fencing as it is in able-bodied fencing. While able-bodied fencers focus on moving up and down the strip, advancing and retreating with their lower extremities, ever changing the speed and tempo to gain an advantage over their opponent, so it is with wheelchair fencing. The difference being that the wheelchair fencer uses his upper body position, shifting it incrementally to open or close the distance between himself and his opponent. A wheelchair fencer's footwork begins with pivoting or bending at the waist, using his abdominal muscles and non-weapon arm and hand to pull or push himself into various positions: (3) neutral or the "on guard" position, going backward (2) half retreat and (1) full retreat, and going forward (4) advance, & (5) lunge.
Understandably the A fencers tend to use the full range that your bodies allow them to move whereas the less functional B or C fencers tend not to move over as great of distance and as easily.
Just like in able-bodied fencing, we can perform all manner of attacks from simple to compound, with or without preparation, counter-attacks, basically almost every move or counter-move an able-bodied fencer would be allowed to do, except the fleche,
While there is plenty of movement in the chair, the fencer is not allowed to leave, raise up or slide along the cushion to the point where he or she has moved to sitting on the wheel and on the non-weapon side, the sideguard should prevent most if not all fencers from retreating beyond the legal limit.