Coaching the Disabled Fencer

IWASF: Wheelchair Fencing Rules

After analytical evaluation and functional tests a classification into Sport Classes is given according to the following criteria:

Eligibility to compete

An athlete must have a minimal handicap, that means: any fencer that, due to a permanent disability, cannot fence standing, as an able body fencer is eligible for wheelchair fencing. Otherwise the athlete gets the Sport Class “Ineligibility to Compete”. Athletes, who are eligible to compete, are classified into the following:

Class 1A: Athletes with no sitting balance who have a handicapped playing arm. No efficient elbow extension against gravity and no residual function of the hand which makes it necessary to fix the weapon with a bandage. Such a class is comparable to the old ISMGF 1A, or tetraplegics with spinal lesions level C5/C6.

Class 1B: Athletes without sitting balance and affected fencing arm. Functional elbow extension but no functional finger flexion. The weapon has to be fixed with a bandage. Comparable to complete tetraplegics level C7/C8 or higher incomplete lesion.

Class 2: Athletes with fair sitting balance and normal fencing arm, paraplegic type D1 – D9 (Functional tests 1 and 2 – not totaling more than 4 points ) or incomplete tetraplegics with minimally affected fencing arm and good sitting balance.

Class 3: Athletes with good Sitting balance, without support of legs and normal fencing arm, e.g. paraplegics from D10 to L2 (Functional tests 1 and 2 positive – with a point score from 5 to 9). Subjects with double above the knee amputation with short stumps, or incomplete lesions above D10 or comparable disabilities can be included in this class, provided that the legs can help in maintaining the sitting balance.

Class 4: Athletes with good sitting balance with the support of lower limbs and normal fencing arm, e.g. with lesion below L4 or comparable disability (tests 3 and 4 positive with at least 5 points).

In the case of cerebral lesion or even in the case of doubt, it is necessary to complete the evaluation by observing the athlete whilst fencing. The involvement of the athletes themselves in the classifying procedure is most important, which in fact the signature of an athlete (or technician) provides within the scope of the classification commission.

Coaching Wheelchair Fencing

The British Disabled Fencing Association (BDFA) organises and runs coaching courses for coaches interested in learning about coaching Wheelchair Fencing.

These courses are run by the national coaching team and participants are provided with a certificate of attendance to show they have a basic competency in coaching Wheelchair Fencing.

For further information and wheelchairs fencing specific rules:

Guide to the different disability categories at the Paralympics

Amputee: Includes athletes who have at least one major joint in a limb missing, i.e. elbow, wrist, knee, ankle. Depending on the sport, some amputees compete as wheelchair athletes.

Cerebral palsy: A disorder of movement and posture due to damage to an area, or areas, of the brain that control and coordinate muscle tone, reflexes, posture and movement. Cerebral means brain-centred; palsy is a lack of muscle control.

Intellectual disability: A person with an intellectual disability must have substantial limitation in present functioning characterised by intellectual functioning (the American Association of Mental Retardation defines this as an IQ of 70 or below), limitations in two or more of the following adaptive skill areas: communication, self-care, home living, social skills, community use, self-direction, health and safety, functional academics, leisure and work and have acquired their condition before age 18.

Les autres: Les autres is French for ‘the others’. It is a term used to describe athletes with a range of conditions, which result in locomotive disorders – such as dwarfism – that don’t fit into the traditional classification systems of the established disability groups.

Vision impaired: Any condition, which interferes with ‘normal’ vision. This incorporates the entire range of vision difficulties from correctable conditions through to total blindness.

Wheelchair: Generally in order to be eligible to compete in this category an athlete must have at least a 10% loss of function of their lower limbs. Some of the more common conditions which may result in individuals being eligible include: traumatic paraplegia and quadriplegia, spina bifida, poliomyelitis, amputees, cerebral palsy and all non ambulant les autres athletes.

Classification: Within the six disability categories the athletes still need to be divided according to their differing level of impairment. The classification systems differ from sport to sport, in accordance with the different skills required to perform the sport.