Our Culture

We believe that everyone deserves to fence, and deserves the journey of self discovery that fencing gives you. 

And the best way to take up that journey is with a diverse group of people who support you.

As long as you are willing to accept those around you who may be different from you, you are welcome at DHFA.

  • Feedback is safe to give, and we are all grateful to receive it.

  • Sparring is for learning, not for winning.

  • Feel good about where you are, not where you're not.

  • We all learn together. Instructors are mentors, not dictators.


Sparring Commandments


Sparring is at the heart of almost everything we do. It is how you learn what techniques work best for you, or how to leverage your personal attributes. The old masters said you cannot learn fencing from a book, and we agree - but in order for that sparring to be valuable and productive, the following rules are critical to be followed:

1. You will discuss every match, every time.

After every match, spend 2-5 minutes with your partner discussing what happened.

  • What did you like about their sparring?

  • What were you trying to do that they either shut down, or you were successful with?

  • What did you notice in their sparring that you took advantage of?

This reciprocal feedback is a core value of DHFA. Talk to each other, and learn from each other.

2. speak up, as well as listen, about reckless sparring.

If your sparring partner tells you that you have hit too hard, respect the effort it took for them to tell you, and lower your power levels. The same goes for suicidal or desperate fencing - they are giving you valuable feedback. 

And if you are the fencer who is worried about their partner being reckless? Your job is to tell them. Honest dialogue is critical.

3. You will not lose YOUR shit on Your sparring partner

Fencing can be emotional and deeply personal. But getting angry or violent with your sparring partner is not tolerated. Throwing items, screaming at them, throwing punches, etc are all disallowed.

Fencing is a mind game, and learning how to control your emotions during a match is *critical.*

The first incident will be an immediate suspension of class privileges for one week. The second incident you will be asked to not return.

4. You will not beat up on newer fencers just 'because'.

Some clubs have a culture of beating up on new people because it 'teaches' them something. We think that's bullshit.

You will not be using sparring time with new fencers as a way to make yourself feel good. Use the opportunity to fence as clean as possible, while rewarding them when they do something right. If you are winning every single exchange against a new fencer, then you are treating sparring as a game to be won.

5. You will not consider an exchange ‘good’ unless you have withdrawn properly.

In sparring, the timing of an afterblow means nothing - at best, you should always consider it a valid afterblow regardless of timing. At worst, consider them doubles.

For in club sparring, you should only consider an exchange valid or complete if you have successfully withdrawn from the exchange, either through footwork, parrying the afterblow, or cutting away. If you didn't leave the exchange clean, then you have something you need to work on.

6. You will always blame yourself for receiving an afterblow.

There is no such thing as an ‘intentional’ afterblow.  Unless someone is being wildly reckless, swords in motion have the nagging ability to still hit you. This is realistic  - If you were struck by an afterblow, you need to assess what part of the exchange you were at fault for not paying attention to the weapons in play.

By all means, talk to your partner afterward if you thought they were prone to doubles or after-blows, but never blame or accuse them of doing it on purpose. It’s your job to protect yourself, not theirs.

7. respect your partner’s request for stimuli and speed.

If your partner has asked you to thrust at them a lot, then do so. If they ask to go at half speed, listen. This is give and take, so also ask to see things from them as well. You don’t have to blindly give them everything they ask for, but be sure to pepper the match with their requests.

8. You will not treat sparring as a game to be won.

Sparring is about learning and experimenting. If you are using your partner’s stimulus requests as a way to defeat them, or you are solely going in for your own personal benefit, then you are sparring wrong.

If you have hit someone with the same technique more than twice in a match - stop sparring, and tell them what you’re seeing and how you’re exploiting it.

9. ALWAYS be constructive with your feedback, and never defensive when receiving it.

Don’t treat people like they’re stupid, and don’t be condescending. And when someone is giving you honest feedback, don’t dismiss it, and don’t be defensive. Think about what truths are in what they say, even if you disagree with the point they're trying to make.

And always thank them for it.

10. You will get out safely before stopping a match.

If  you seem something that is unsafe or need to talk to your partner, GET OUT OF RANGE before stopping and pulling your mask. Too often people will try to stop in the action while in in the Krieg, and it’s far too dangerous to do so. Remove yourself from the exchange first, THEN look to discuss.

11. Thou shalt pull thy mask.

This is your #1 reaction to things getting out of hand. At any point whilst fighting (assuming you are in a safe position to do so), it is acceptable to remove your mask as a clear signal that something is wrong. This can be anything from being too winded to continue to feeling like your in danger of coming to harm or harming others. The majority of fouls found within this list can be avoided by pulling your mask.

  • Was there a violation of the terms you discussed? Pull your mask.

  • Did either you or your opponent do something reckless? Pull your mask.

  • Are you about to lose your shit, or did your partner lose his shit on you? Pull your mask.

  • Are you a newer fencer who feels like you’re being beaten up on? Pull your mask.

  • Have things gotten too intense and you need to calm down? Pull your mask.

There is never any judgment when it comes to this. It is always the correct course of action. Even if you are not sure, pull your mask, take a breath, and reevaluate the situation or speak to your partner before continuing.