Karate Kid or Fencing Fanatic?

Do you have fond childhood memories of swashbuckling heroes and heroines on the big screen? Who could forget the famous Karate Kid movie of the 80’s? It’s no surprise that Karate has always had mass appeal. Fencing is another activity that fascinates kids and young adults. Both hugely popular amongst kids both children activities have a rich and fascinating history.

In this blog we explore the benefits of this marvellous martial art and fantastic fencing phenomenon. We will explore whether these two classic art forms are completely poles apart or surprisingly similar and share tips for getting your child started and set for shouting either En-Garde or Kawate.

But first

Did you know…

  • The Martial Art of Karate originated from Japan and is translated as “empty hand”

  • 50% of Fencing World Champions are left-handed

  • Karate is one of the new sports being introduced to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo

  • Famous Fencers include Angelina Jolie and Tom Cruise! (1)

Karate - An Overview

Karate originated on the Japanese island of Okinawa in the 1600s. It was developed as a technique of self defence as weapons were forbidden and outlawed on the island. Famous for its quick, sharp movements, Karate is a high energy sport and can be identified through its use of punches, strikes, kicks and hard blocks. Taking the physical elements of the sport aside, Karate also focuses on courtesy, the respect for your opponent and positive mental attitude.

Children can achieve goal attainment via a system of coloured belts. These different stages or belts show their progression and proficiency in the number of movement and skills achieved in the sport. Coloured belt often start at red or white for complete beginners and move through yellow, orange, purple, green, brown and finally black for experts. It is no mean feat to reach black belt status in Karate as each of the higher belt colours usually have three levels that must be achieved before progressing. Even when your child reaches the top - there are also 10 different levels that can be mastered in black belt.

It has recently been announced that this highly competitive sport will be included in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. This is an amazing opportunity for Team GB to showcase Karate on the worldwide stage and become sporting heroes and role model for future generations.

Karate - The Benefits

Karate for All

As a sport there are no real restrictions on who can participate. Karate is enjoyed by both girls and boys, and can be particularly empowering for girls to take part. Goal attainment through the belt system gives kids a sense of progression as well as achievement. Karate works on a number of skills not purely speed or athleticism.

Fighting Fit

Getting involved in Karate will bring some great health benefits. Not only does the sport improve physical conditioning in general, it also helps with your child’s coordination and flexibility in terms of learning the kicks and punches. Training will also provide your child with a great aerobic workout as they progress through the sport.

Martial Arts Mindfulness

Karate is very much based on discipline, respect for others and perseverance. Various breathing techniques used in training can teach your child how to focus and achieve inner calm both in and outside of the gym. This level of mindfulness can only help to support your child with their concentration and self discipline.

Fencing - An Overview

Fencing as a sport was led by Domenico Angelo who brought his academy to Soho in London in 1763. Angelo’s School of Arms taught the aristocracy skills in swordsmanship. Angelo was the first fencing master to share the health and sporting benefits of the sport (2). Fencing is one of the only four sports that has featured at every modern day Olympic Games since 1896. Team GB have had some medal success in the sport with Gillian Sheen winning a Gold Medal in the 1956 Games in the individual Foil event. Fencing as a sport is fast and athletic, you need fast footwork and agility to master the art.

Interestingly enough like Karate, Fencing also involves discipline and focus. It also relies on an individual’s creativity and strategy. You not only have to be fast on your feet, but you must try to preempt what your opponent might do next.

There are three types of weapon that can be used in Fencing: Foil, Epee and Saber. The Foil is predominantly used for beginners and in competitions. Although it can take longer to master, the Foil is the best weapon to use to develop the basic skills needed for Fencing.

Fencing - The Benefits

En Garde Everyone!

Fencing is a sport where girls and boys of various ages can spar and compete against each other on equal terms. If your child is left-handed, Fencing is a sport where they can be at an advantage. Fencing as a sport has a sense of gallantry in which it draws upon gracious manners and courtesy towards your opponent (not too much unlike Karate!)

Fast Footwork

Fencing requires quick movements and fast footwork and so can be quite an aerobic activity. Sparring and lunging help to strengthen leg muscles, and the sport is great for balance, agility and dexterity when holding the Foil.

Tip Top Tactics

Along with basic Fencing skills your child will learn to develop their strategic thinking and concentration. In competition Fencers must ‘hit’ their opponent up to fifteen times by touching them with their Foil in a specific target zone. Children must learn to think tactically and think about their strategy whilst participating in the sport.

Karate - What you will need

Starting Out

Children as young as three years of age can start to learn some basic Karate moves and skills. However most children start their instructions between five and nine years old, where children are more likely to be more confident in mastering basic Karate moves such as punching, kicking and turning safely.

Karate Kit

Ask your child’s activity provider about any protective gear if required. This is particularly useful if they are a complete beginner in protecting their head, hands and feet. You may able to borrow this safety kit when they are first starting out. Your child may also require a particular uniform for training and/or for competitions so it’s worth checking with your activity provider on what kit/clothing you will need to buy.

Get Clued up on Classes

Find out if your activity provider offers a free trial or introductory session to see if your child enjoys the sport before committing to a course of lessons. Visit the class with your child and see if they are happy to participate. Enquire about the student/instructor ratio to ensure that your child will get the right level of instruction to track their progress.

Fencing - What you will need

Safety First

Children usually start Fencing between the ages of nine and twelve. This is a good age to start as there are lots of skills and safety elements to master. As you can imagine, although the Foils used for children are shorter and light, there is still quite a lot of protective kit required for Fencing. Your child will need a standard metal mesh helmet and protective padded glove, along with a padded chest/underarm protection (‘Plastron’). In addition, girls may require a hard plastic chest plate (‘Dinger’) and boys athletic cups. You should ask your activity provider if they can provide this or if you need to buy your own equipment.

Fencer Fashion

Along with the protective equipment, speak to your activity provider about the clothing your child should wear to their Fencing lessons. This is usually long sleeved trousers and long sleeved top, but there may be a specific team uniform that is required. You may also need to enquire what footwear can be worn.

Getting Started

Fencing is definitely not a sport of instant gratification and can take some time to master. So it is well worth contacting your local activity provider to see if they run taster sessions. Make sure that your child is happy and confident to commit before signing up for a course. Again as with Karate you may want to make a note of the student/instructor ratio so that your child’s progress in Fencing is monitored.

Local clubs

To find out how we can help you search and plan for local after school activities, simply sign up on our website.




Twickenham Martial Art


London Karate (Kyo Rei Shukokai Karate)



Kingston Fencing Club


London Thames Fencing club


St Paul's Fencing Club


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