If I’m completely honest, like many others I have spoken to about Fencing, I have often thought of this being a sport for the privileged few. Something you might learn in private school, and not something that the likes of me might be able to tap into. Most perceptions of sports are down to the media, especially films, but with the musketeers in mind and the opportunity to have a go whilst staying at Hengar Manor, it was time to find out what it was all about.
I had met Tommy my instructor previously through a Crossbow lesson, so I had a nice laid back introduction to the sport, and being that I was the only one booked in, a one on one session.
Tommy talked me though the gear and how it protects you. It was nice to know because your first thought with Fencing is, will this hurt? I needn’t of worried as the top…. is made of thick material to protect your torso, and the helmet is a wire meshed piece, with an extra padded bit around your neck to stop any wayward thrusts. You do feel very protected with all of the equipment on, but it still takes a while to get used to having a sword wielded at you.
The technical terms used for fencing were explained to me too, and it all finally made sense to me. For years I have watched films, the olympics and probably the musketeers, and had picked up the odd word, without knowing what they actually meant. For example, the sword we were using is know as a “foil” and “a thrust” is thrusting the “foil” towards your component. A “lunge” is taking a step forward as you “thrust” and a “parry” is when you block with your “foil”.
Your stance is a key point in fencing as you need to make your hit zone, which is your torso, as small a target as possible, and protecting it is essential.
We started by learning a few key moves and how to counteract them. At first it seems like a lot to think about, and Tommy made quick work of me as I left myself open to attack.
I slowly started to gain more confidence in going forward and found myself blocking lunges, which just gave me more confidence and then left me open to attack. At times I was getting close to scoring a hit, and my mind seemed to be working faster.
I didn’t realise how much skill was involved in Fencing, its like chess but with a foil. You have to try and get your opponent to leave themselves open for you to lunge in an get a hit. And this can be done by all manner of ways, pressure on the foil, trickery, fancy moves, counter moves and aggression too.
One thing I will say though, its hot work! I can see why fencers are fit, you need to be. We had regular breaks to break-down what we had just done, which to be honest I was grateful of.
This is not a sport I really thought of trying before I put together the Challenge200 list, but I’m really glad I did, and I would definitely have another go. The public school boy perception is also long gone, with lots of clubs up and down the country open to all, there has never been a better time to go and try it for yourself.
To sum up fencing for me would be as follows: fun, fast, skillfull and challenging!