Fencing is a sport that is surrounded by an air of inaccessibility and mystery for most of us outside the fencing world and it’s no secret that the majority of people who fence start when they are very young. As an adult beginner, in the world of this ancient discipline, I wanted to share with you my experience of starting out.
For a lot of people the first question I get asked is “Why Fencing?” it’s a very niche sport for someone to take up. For me the answer to this I quite simple, a year ago, I began working for Leon Paul, a company which any fencer will know is one of the leading manufacturers in fencing equipment. My experience with sport in the past has been patchy to say the least, never one to enjoy PE at school and I was often that kid that simply didn’t turn up for lessons or would always forget his kit. My colleagues and bosses said I should try fencing, it seemed foolish to pass up the opportunity when I have two-time world cup winner Jon Willis and the UKs best fencing centre, literally at work.
So, I thought about the 3 disciplines as anyone beginning fencing does, and decided that based purely on the totalitarian aspect of the rules (and lack of ROW), that Epee would be the one for me. Under Jon’s’ advisement I started attending the club in the evenings, a club full of very skilled, but very nice people.
Despite my usual aversion to sport, I was pleasantly surprised when I realised that, I love fencing. It’s challenging, mentally and physically, it’s hard, it’s rewarding, it relies upon you as a fencer but involves a team spirit with your club mates and most of all, its damned good exercise.
At the point of writing this, I have been fencing for approximately 3 months. More or less, twice a week at the club. Many people have asked me since, questions like, am I too old to start? How hard is it? How much does it hurt? How expensive is it? How should I go about starting?
At the Leon Paul Epee Club, there are fencers from young teens, kids all the way up to middle aged and even older. So, my answers to those questions are as follows.
Am I too old to start? – Absolutely not, if you require fitness, fencing will give you this, if you lack co-ordination, you will be forced to improve.
How hard is it? – As hard as you want it to be, the reward you receive and your success will always equal or exceed the amount of effort that you put in.
How much does it hurt? – Not as much as you think, you probably won’t notice it most of the time. When you do get hit and it hurts a bit, it gives you incentive to do better.
How expensive is it? – To begin with, not at all, as most clubs will allow you to use their kit. A full set of kit once you’re a few months in can cost as little as £300-£400. Which when you compare it to another equipment heavy sport like Golf, which needs minimum about £400-£500. Which is also far less cool.
How should I go about starting? – Join a local club, start attending, it’s that simple. They’ll most likely direct you to a beginner’s course, which is a great place to start.
Owen Jordan and Myself at Christmas ^
I will finish by explaining, after 3 months of fencing, what I have gotten out of it, so you can get an idea as to what the benefits of a sport like this can bring. I’ll start with the obvious, I’m not exactly the oldest adult beginner, but I was in a degrading state of fitness, having not done anything about 3 years prior, and I really mean, not done anything. I still have far to go to be at a level I would like, but I’m certainly on the climb and it’s a great feeling, it’s like a gym that you actually want to go to. Mentally it’s like a game of chess, at high speeds, with your whole body, with a weapon in your hand. It’s fantastic. Team based? Whilst fencing is primarily a 1 on 1 sport, the sense of team exists as the club you’re part of, learning together, improving together, providing each other with support and analysis in your fights.
Recently I took part in a Novice Open, a competition where everyone has to have less than 2 years’ experience. Jon and Owen (Both excellent Epeeists that I would always take the advice of) suggested that I should try this competition as a good introduction to competing. At the time, I didn’t realise how different a competition would be to fencing at the club. Turns out it could be very different, the pressure of each fight and the format of a competition was great to experience, 2 of my club mates had also entered, both of whom had similar experience to me. It was great to support each other through poules, all the while hoping that we would not be forced to fight one another. One thing I have never found wanting in fencing is sportsmanship, the respect that fencers afford one another is just a natural part of the sport. In the end, I was very happy to walk away with Silver and it left me very hungry for more.
Leon Paul Novice Open Podium^
It’s fair to say that even after such a short period of time, I’m well and truly hooked. I’ve never known anything like it and I would strongly advise anyone that has any interest should give it a try, get hooked, and never look back. It doesn’t matter your age or physical fitness, if you want to improve, you will, and you will not regret making that jump into the world of fencing.