Not running the London Marathon, yet…

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I was due to run the London Marathon at the end of the month (April 2020). Due to the COVID19 Pandemic, all major sporting events have been cancelled in the UK and around the world. This blog was going to give you an update on my progress with a view to my race in just under four weeks time, however it’s more an update on what my plans are now.

I started the training process by selecting the Asics 3hr, 16-week program and kicked off the day after my 39th birthday. I was in fairly good shape after some tough races over the holiday period and the first 6 weeks went really well including a new personal best at the Headcorn Half Marathon in Kent. It took place in the worst conditions I’ve ever experienced. It was raining sideways at the start and the course was flooded in places. My wife, Emily, won the women’s race in a new course record as we crossed the line together looking like a pair of drown rats. The prize for setting a new women’s course record was a free breakfast which she kindly donated to me. Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a bacon, egg and sausage sandwich!

Being a former athlete, I like to have structure in my life. I still keep a training diary and have the training plan pined above my desk at work. I overwrite in red the sessions as a general record and a tool to keep motivated. After all, no athlete likes a blank page in their training dairy. My 12 day trip to Poreč, Croatia, to be part of the DT at the European Cadet and Junior Fencing Championships didn’t cause any disruption to the program as feared. As I’ve written about in another blog, the DT team were all very accommodating and we had a rota so I was able to carry on and complete long runs along the picturesque Croatian coastline.

In summary, everything was going very well into month 3. There were rumours with the escalating virus issues and major events had started to be postponed or cancelled but, as athletes all over the world have to do, until the official line came, you carry on as normal. I completed a 20 mile race in week 9 and then a slightly easier week 10 saw it end with another Half Marathon race. The London Marathon was officially postponed on Friday 13th March and the Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon likely to be the last race taking place for a while. I decided to run this one out with a full effort and see where I was at fitness wise. I lined up at the start with 2,886 other hardy soles and set off at 9am on the dot.

I completed the course is another personal best of 1:20:25 finishing 15th overall. This was very pleasing as it was well inside my target of 82 minutes and the time is well under what a sub 3 hr marathon runner should expect.

I was a little unsure what to do with my training now. I needn’t have worried, 4 days letter I was out on what should have been a 9 mile progress run when I felt my hamstring tighten up 3 miles in. I jogged slowly home and took a few days off. With no marathon to train for and increasingly tightening controls on being able to leave the house I was upset at this set back but saved from the worry and hassle of having to train through an injury in an attempt to keep my mileage up.

A graph produced from my Garmin running app shows the increase in volume from just over 100 miles per month to well over 200 miles per month, that mixed with the half marathon done at 6:09 minute mile pace was probably too much for my old legs! Have noted this for next time.

As a side note, how did runners ever train without Garmin watches, the Strava app and iPods? I love to listen to a podcast or audiobook on a long run, it’s like my little treat when I’m not running with a group. If you want to connect with me via Strava, please feel free to add me, I’m the Jon Willis in London with a photo of me as a fencer. I tend to be a little mean with my kudos but if I give you some it’s because I think you really deserve it.

As I nurse my hamstring back to health, I’ve dropped the mileage and intensity of the running and discovered the world of virtual cycling on a program called ‘Zwift’. I’ve hooked my bike up to a turbo and in turn to my computer. I can now ride in a very realistic virtual world with my friends and complete strangers alike! It’s obviously not as good as the real thing but it’s infinitely better than sitting on an exercise bike in the gym. So far I’ve ridden around London, New York and the made up world of Watopia on virtual group rides with members of my running club. It’s a great way to exercise from home and the ideal way to keep fit in the current climate.

Finally, back to the subject of this blog. I won’t be running the London Marathon this year. In all likely hood I’ll be busy during October when hopefully the fencing world has return to normal. I will therefore defer my entry to April 2021 and keep my fundraising page open for another year.

With all things being well and with another year of running under my belt I’m going to change my target time. For this year I had a target of sub 3:15, I’m going to change that and go for a target of sub 3hrs in 2021. The directors of Leon Paul want me to run the marathon in full fencing kit… I’m not to sure about that one personally but if anyone wants to make a ridiculously large donation to my sponsorship page I could be persuaded…

Leon Paul are generously donating a Three Weapon Wireless set and a £100 Leon Paul Voucher as prizes for a draw to help raise money. Anyone who sponsors me via my ‘gofundme’ page and types the word FENCING! in the comment after donating will be entered into the draw which will be done on Wednesday 28th April 2021. You get 1 ticket for every multiple of £5 donated, so if you sponsor me £20 that’s 4 tickets! Anyone who has already sponsored me, thank you very much and don’t worry, your entries will be carried forward to the draw next year.

GoFundme
https://www.gofundme.com/f/jon039s-campaign-for-welbodi-partnership

After 10 years of fencing, this will be my last year with the youth…

Let me introduce myself. I am Daniël Giacon, a 19-year-old Dutch foilist. When I was a little kid every branch or stick I found I’d use it as a sword. At the age of 5 someone suggested my parents to see if fencing would be a suitable sport for me. That person was right: I fell in love with the foil immediately.

My first big foreign youth competition was the CEP Marathon in Paris in 2012. I clearly remember me sitting on the stairs in that enormous hall. I was so impressed by all those boys from all these different countries. Every participant receives a mask sticker with their name and country. For months I left this sticker on my mask. I was so proud that I had participated in one of the most important European youth tournaments.

Two days before my 13th birthday I competed in the first ECC tournament in Halle (Germany) and now we are a couple of weeks before my last Junior World Cup in Barcelona. Time has flown by!

Since January 2017 I am a member of the Dutch Senior team, so in my last Cadet year I participated in 3 World Championships: Cadets, Juniors and Seniors.

In season 2018/2019, after I graduated from high school, I took a gap year. The Netherlands has a small fencing community, so I spread my wings and trained in Denmark, Germany and Italy and participated in a lot of tournaments, both Junior and Senior. I used my gap year to play against many strong fencers abroad.

This year I started a new study and it is more difficult to combine University with Junior and Senior tournaments. Furthermore, there is always a financial issue as in the Netherlands we have to organize and pay all costs for tournaments ourselves (including hotel, travel costs and an allowance for our coach). In September I made a schedule with my trainer Daniël Nivard. The outcome was that I had to skip some Junior World Cups and concentrate more on the Senior World Cups and Grand Prix in Europe. The most important goal this season is closing the gap between the Juniors and Seniors and I think I am on the right track.

For me it’s a great experience to compete with the Seniors. I feel less pressure too. I know I am one of the youngsters, so there’s really nothing to lose. I learn a lot from every bout, because these Senior guys have a lot more experience than I do. On the other hand, in the Junior competitions I know almost all the players and they know me too. This makes some of the bouts pretty tough, but on the other hand sometimes a bit predictable, because we both know each other so well.

The Junior and Senior tournaments are all in the same period and switching from Junior to Senior tournaments goes automatically. For me it’s no big deal to swap between these two levels, because the best Juniors are competing at Senior level too. In the end I think you just need to be in it and not think about it too much. It always needs to come naturally, I think. Prior to the tournaments I try to empty my head, concentrate on my music and have a good warming up. That works for me.

Since childhood I always try to be the best at something I do. That hasn’t changed over the years. I am still aiming for the top. The way of getting there can be bothersome and tough, but I am enjoying every single step of the journey. After all these years fencing is still my passion and I am ready for the Seniors!

Running into Retirement

What does an international fencer do when they retire?

I stopped fencing in June 2012 with the European Championships in Italy being my final event. Barring a few little fun outings at small UK domestic events, I have not picked up an epee in anger for over 7 years. I’ve not completely stopped playing with swords, as I do a small amount of coaching in the club but no great volume.

As many people know, I started work for Leon Paul, my former equipment sponsors, as their Fencing Centre Manager in the summer of 2013. This kept me out of trouble during the day but I still had free time in the evenings. I tried several activities to fill my newfound freedom including playing 5-a-side football with LP Director, Ben Paul and his team. Ben is a surprisingly good goal scorer, a fox-in-the-box if you will. The lack of structure and no training sessions made it hard for me to buy into the activity though I did enjoy going to the pub after a game for a couple of beers.

I even got into online chess as a pass time. As a novice, it was fun playing low-rated online tournaments. Problems with online cheating and having a cat that makes a habit of walking over my keyboard when I’m trying to play, caused both annoyance and erratic play. This added to the complete lack of physicality left me feeling as though I was missing something in my new non-fencing life.

My then girlfriend, now wife, had started running and signed up for a marathon. As crazy as this sounded to me, she was really enjoying it and went on to join Trent Park Running Club. After about a year of watching and listening to her talking about it, I decided to give this running lark a go as well. Being a former athlete, I wasn’t a complete newbie to running but after struggling on my own for a bit I took the plunge and joined the club as well in November 2018.

Alongside starting fencing, taking the Leon Paul job and marrying Emily, giving running a go was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. It suits me down to the ground with the physical elements and training structure. However, even more is being part of a club again. The jokes and banter between the runners in my training group is so similar to being in a fencing squad it’s unreal. They never miss a chance to point out how much better at running my wife is than me.

I have been introduced to a whole new world from local Saturday morning Parkrun to Marathons all over the world.  I have lost 5kg in weight since I started running whilst actually eating more!  The feeling of being outside and doing physical activity again with a group of friends has been great for my physical and mental wellbeing.  With mental health being a more acceptable topic of conversation in today’s world, I would recommend to anyone who can, go out and walk, jog or run at their local 5km Parkrun on a Saturday morning.  It’s total free and the volunteering side is very rewarding also.

This brings me to my final point.  I will be running the London Marathon on Sunday 26th April 2020 and in doing so, raising money for the Welbodi Partnership.  It is a very worthwhile charity that works to build the capacity of the health systems in Sierra Leone, West Africa.  It is a cause very close to Leon Paul Director Alex Paul’s heart, as he and his wife spent a year out in Sierra Leone volunteering with the Charity.

Leon Paul is generously donating a Three Weapon Wireless set and a £100 Leon Paul Voucher as prizes for a draw to help raise money. Anyone who sponsors me via my ‘gofundme’ page and types the word FENCING! in the comment after donating will be entered into the draw which will be done on Monday 27th April, the day after the marathon. You get 1 ticket for every multiple of £5 donated, so if you sponsor me £20 that’s 4 tickets!

I know what you might be thinking, I’m not ‘sponsoring him to do something he wants to do’ but don’t worry, I promise not to ‘dial-this-one-in’ and plan to complete the Marathon is sub 3:15. You can rest assured in the knowledge that I will be suffering lots during the 750 planned training miles and then the 26.2 miles of the race itself.

LINKS

Parkrun          
https://www.parkrun.org.uk

Welbodi          
http://www.welbodipartnership.org

Trent Park Running Club        
https://www.trentparkrc.com

GoFundme      
https://www.gofundme.com/f/jon039s-campaign-for-welbodi-partnership

Becoming British Under 17 Champion.

In September this year I became British Under 17 (Cadet) Champion and followed it up the following day with silver in the Under 20 (Junior) Championships. At 14 years old it felt like the highlight of what had been a fantastic set of results for me in the previous 6 months.

Although I always review my performance after a competition with my dad and coach, Keith Cook, writing this blog forced me to think perhaps more deeply about why my weekend had been so successful. Normally we look at all the elements that made up my day – what I ate the night before and, on the day, how well I slept, my warm-up and how I was feeling on the piste both physically and mentally. And then we follow that up with a movie night of video analysis of my direct elimination fights.

What struck me most when thinking about this weekend was that I felt fresh and I was keen to test the work my dad and I had been putting in over the summer. The season had just started but my preparation for this event had begun in July with two training camps – one at the Leon Paul Centre immediately followed by a week of intensive sparring with the GB Senior Men’s Foil Team and some of the top Under 20 fencers in the country at the Salle Holyrood Summer Camp. This was such a special week for me which really motivated me to work even harder.

Part of the preparation for the British Cadet and Junior Championships was ensuring I was competition ready. We scheduled in three competitions before this to challenge me – the Leon Paul Summer Open, the Junior British Ranking Competition in London and the Fencers Club London Open. I’m starting to feel like London is my second home!

I felt good on the morning of the competition (I’d had my coca pops!) but also nervous. I knew how important a good result at this event would be to seal my selection for the GB squad to the first international in Budapest. Talking of nerves though, I think the most nerve-racking thing of the weekend was my winners’ interview with Georgina Usher after the event. That’s no reflection on Georgina.

Despite knowing the importance of the competitions ahead, one of the things I always try to work on is not to think about the bigger picture – “how will I do, I need to get such and such a result” etc – but rather maintain my focus on each hit. My poule in the Cadets went great and I felt I was fencing well. I dropped only 4 hits putting me at the top of the rankings going into the Direct Eliminations. Despite my hard work, I had a pretty tough run to the final and only won this by a single hit. The only point at which I was up in the fight. I was pleased with my performance for lots of reasons – I kept the head, stayed in control, stayed focused and really believed I could win, despite being down for the whole of the final match in the Cadets. One of the things my dad and I had been working on was active defence, making it difficult for my opponent to get into a rhythm and find the right distance and timing to attack. This was something I felt really pleased with over the weekend. Sadly, by the time I came to the final of the Juniors the next day, my legs finally ran out of steam and my active defence was a little less active!

What made my Cadet Championship win so special was that I shared the podium with two of my clubmates, Callum and Rhys. These two results at the start of the Cadet season, together with a last 16 at the British Under 23 Championships put me in Number 1 spot in the British Cadet Rankings. A great feeling and I’m so looking forward to the journey this season.

Belt and Road Chang’an International Fencing Master Competition

When I was first invited to the Belt and Road Master event, I had no idea what to expect. There wasn’t a lot of information other than that it was going to be held in Xi’an (formerly known as Chang’an) and that it was going to be held sometime after the World Championships. Even on my flight over to Xi’an, I was a bit unsure of how to competition was going to be run and what exactly we were supposed to do. Turns out my worries would be unfounded as the event not only exceeded my expectations, but was a true spectacle through and through.

Xi’an is a very important city in Chinese history for not only was the beginning of the Silk Road (an ancient trading route that brought Chinese influences to Middle Eastern and Western countries and vice versa), it was also the ancient Chinese capital and burial place of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. When I first told my mom that I was invited to compete in a competition in Xi’an, she was ecstatic because this was an opportunity for me to see the Terracotta Warriors. The Terracotta Warriors are not only world famous, but are extremely culturally significant to the Chinese people because they were built to protect the first Chinese Emperor in the afterlife. Qin Shi Huang was the first person to fully unify China as a country and though he did fight war after war to unify China, he is also credited with standardizing everything in China. Before Qin Shi Huang, each province had their own dialect, their own measuring system, and their own currency. Qin Shi Huang was able to standardize everything so that it would be the same in all of China, including a written language which made communication much easier amongst all of the provinces. His influence can still be seen today because even though all the different provinces in China still have their own provincial dialects, the written language is still the same. Growing up with a Chinese mother and attending a Chinese bilingual school for 11 years, I was really excited to see the city that I had only previously studied or heard stories of.

The competition in Xi’an featured four men’s foilists and women’s saberists from the world and four each from China. In the men’s foil competition I was joined by Peter Joppich, Erwann LePechoux, and Alessio Foconi whereas the women’s saberists were Mariel Zagunis, Olga Kharlan, Irene Vecchi, and Manon Brunet. Though I was familiar with all these fencers, this was an opportunity to get to bond and get to know everyone a little more.

The first night we arrived to Xi’an, after dinner, I decided to go explore the city a bit with some of the other fencers. Erwann had mentioned a night market that was within walking distance from the hotel, so we decided to go there. Though I am familiar with Chinese night

markets, the night market in Xi’an was different than any I had gone to before. You could tell right away the influence the Silk Road had on the city of Xi’an because the second you walked into the night market you could smell a plethora of different middle eastern spices. Not only that, the night market is located around an old mosque that was built for the first Muslim settlers in Xi’an so you can see Islamic architecture and writing on the buildings and walls surrounding the night market. Erwann, Manon, and Olga were fascinated by some of the exotic foods that were being sold at the various stands. There were deep fried crabs on a stick, pigs feet (these were sold by non-Islamic stands) on a stick, grilled squid on a stick, and much much more. We went through the night just soaking it all in and regretting that we had eaten so much food at dinner but even though we were full, we decided we had to try something. It being a staple at almost every night market across China, I bought some candied strawberries and candied shan-zha (a Chinese fruit, almost like a mini apple) for the group to share.

The next day was the competition. The format for the competition was direct elimination from a table of eight with each “world team” fencer matched against a Chinese national team fencer. My first match was against Wu Bin, the current anchor for the Chinese team. Though I have fenced him before and had success, I knew I had to be focused because I hadn’t trained too much yet after World Championships and also the Chinese fencers would have the benefit of the hometown crowd. The preliminary bouts all took place in a mall across from the main gates of the old city of Xi’an. Although it was just the prelims, there was quite a decent crowd spectating the matches so I knew I needed to fence hard. Starting off the bout, I could tell that my opponent was ready and motivated to fence. It was a back and forth affair, trading touches throughout the bout, but I was able to secure my spot in the semi finals, 15-13. My next match was against another Chinese fencer who had beaten Le Pechoux the bout before. Huang Meng Kai is a strong fencer and I’ve actually known him since my last junior world championships. Again, right from the beginning of the match, he was motivated and fencing hard. With the crowd cheering for him, the last Chinese fencer standing, he was able to take me down 15-14 to face Foconi in the finals. Though I lost the bout, I was really honored to partake in the individual event and have so many fans show up to watch the competition. I even won over some new fans when the organizer (knowing I speak Mandarin) asked me to say a few words to the crowd. Even though I had such a good experience during the prelims, nothing would prepare me for what I was going to experience in the finals.

Before the finals began we were taken to the front gates of the old city of Xi’an. These city walls were originally built in the 14th century to protect the old city and the end of the Silk Road. Though we had seen the city walls during the daytime, seeing them lit up during sunset and the night time was quite spectacular. The opening ceremonies began with a presentation and

performance of some old Chinese folk songs, all while we were busy signing autographs for the many children in the audience. Though we thought that had the opening ceremonies concluded right there it would’ve already been a great opening ceremonies, we were all blown out of the water with what came next. Once the singing finished and the sun began to set, we began to hear music blaring from the speakers all around the front of the city gates and a light show began right in front of us. The opening ceremony involved over a hundred performers dressed in traditional Chinese garb, not only putting on a performance, but leading us into through the old city walls and to the finals arena. They even brought the drawbridge down for us to ceremonially walk across and into the old city of Xi’an. All the fencers already were in awe of the opening ceremony, but when we came to the finals arena, everyone’s jaws dropped.

The finals were held outdoors, in between two palaces, with a massive jumbotron behind the fencing strip. Even with the wealth of experience shared between Joppich, Le Pechoux, Foconi, and myself, all of us agreed that we had never fenced in a venue like this ever before. Just knowing you are going to fence in a venue like this makes you want to perform as well as possible, no matter the circumstances. Although I didn’t have a chance to finish my individual

competition in the finals venue, we had the friendly “China vs. the World” team event to come. Unlike the normal team event that involves three fencers fencing the other three fencers on the opposing team to a total score of 45, because this was just a friendly match, each fencer was only to fence one bout against a single fencer on the opposing team. As members of the “World Team” we drew straws to determine the order in which we would fence. The final order, from first to last was: Joppich, Foconi, me, Le Pechoux. Getting on the strip in such a grand fencing venue was truly surreal, but luckily my team gave me a bit of a lead going into my bout. It was really an honor to fence in such a spectacular venue, and I tried to savor the brief moment I was on stage competing up there. I was able to win my bout against Chen Hai Wei and Le Pechoux closed out his bout to bring home the victory for the World Team.

The next day was organized for just sightseeing and relaxation. We started our morning by touring one of the local elementary schools in Xi’an. We were all greeted extremely warmly and it was a good opportunity for us to interact directly with the students and fencers who were

watching the competition the day before. Not only did we get to watch some fencing between the athletes of the school, we were able to spend our time signing autographs and speaking directly with the kids. Being able to interact with the kids on a personal level, and not just taking photos and signing autographs, is what is truly rewarding to me because I want to be able to inspire the next generation and be a role model for the athletes that come after me. Being able to do it in China, where the kids are less exposed to international fencers, is also particularly rewarding because you can tell how excited the kids are to meet, not only me, but all of the athletes who were there.

After we left the school, we finally were headed to where I was most excited to see this trip: the Terracotta Warriors. As I mentioned before, the Terracotta Warriors are extremely culturally significant to the Chinese people and even my mom has always wanted to go see them herself. When she heard I was invited to compete in a competition in Xi’an she told me I had to

do it, if only to see the Terracotta Warriors. They did not disappoint. The sheer number of warriors was already an amazing sight but, if you look closely, you can notice that the details on each of the several thousands of warriors are completely unique. Whether it be the facial hair carved on the head, the weapons they were carrying, or the colors that they were painted, no two soldiers are the same. Unfortunately the color has faded from most of the soldiers that are open to the public, but there are photos from when the excavation first started that shows how differently each warrior was painted. Not only that, but each warrior carries a different rank based on their height, hairstyle, and uniform. Whether they were a soldier, archer, general, crossbowman, or cavalryman, you can identify their rank or position just by looking at them. All of us were truly blown away by the craftsmanship demonstrated in these ancient warriors, especially because without this trip, many of us would have never seen the Terracotta Warriors in person. Seeing such an integral part of China’s history was absolutely amazing and it was an experience I will never forget.

Once we finished our tour of the Terracotta Warriors, our last dinner was to be held at the Xi’an Fencing and Golf Club where some of the fencing official would help host a traditional Chinese dinner. Exhausted from such an exciting day (and trip), it was the perfect way to spend the last night of the trip. These are some of the moments that I will always look back fondly on once I retire from fencing. Outside of the athletic world, how often do people have an opportunity to sit down with friends and competitors from all over the world, just to share a meal and some laughs? A big part of fencing is just enjoying the process. Make new friends from all different places and backgrounds, experience what the world has to offer, be adventurous and do things you have never done before. As we finished that last dinner and thought about heading home, we all agreed on one thing: we were enjoying the process.

Tokyo Legacy

Leon Paul and the Japanese Fencing Association have partnered up for a second time. This is an exciting time for us to be involved with Japanese fencing. The first time we worked together was around the 2012 Olympics, I had been inspired by a speech by Yuki Ota that he gave in London about what he had need to succeed in sport.

Yuki and Peter with our forge machine.
First hit wins

Yuki had talked about how 10,000 hours of practice was not enough, and it was only when he had the full package of support, training, coaching and a little luck that he was able to succeed on the very highest stage, the Olympics. Here are my brief notes I made during the speech all those years ago:

After that, I was determined to work with Japan and the team that Yuki had talked about. The first time we sponsored the team we provided kit for some of the top fencers and designed some special, secret equipment to try and improve athlete’s performance.

Fast forward 7 years and we are on the cusp of the next Olympic games, which will be held in Tokyo, and I cannot wait. After I visited Tokyo in 2018, to visit clubs, coaches and meet with Yuki and the Japanese Fencing Federation, we decided that we should change focus for the next partnership. We have moved our focus from the high level athletes and decided that we should look to create a lasting legacy from the Games. We are still supplying some kit for the team and looking at ways to give Japanese fencers the best chance of success. For example, when I visited the Japanese fencing training centre I noticed that some of the scoring kit they were using look quite old, when I tested them I found that the timings for some of the weapons was out of specification. That meant the athletes were training the wrong speeds and distance on a daily basis. We quickly helped lend the Federation new scoring systems that had the correct timings, that will be used at the Tokyo Olympics. I believe that Leon Paul are the only fencing company that have designed and made a machine that can test all the timings in fencing scoring systems. We can tell if you are fencing to the latest rules.

The new focus for this sponsorship is;

  • To create new fencers and coaches after the 2018 games has finished. We want to create more competitions for youth fencing, also making their events cheaper to run and easier to set up. This is based on the very successful Leon Paul Junior Series we run in the UK but modified for the cultural and environmental differences of Japan. For example, the we will incorporate our ‘Fencing Passport’ that kids use to track their competition results:
  • To provide a simple to use, but fantastic looking finals set up so that the federation can visit schools and public display areas to showcase the very best of the sport.
  • To cultivate a wireless revolution, by helping clubs and coaches get competition level wireless fencing sets so that they can fence anywhere, quickly and easily.
  • To translate the fantastic children’s fencing book; About Fencing
About Fencing

I am hugely excited to see the fencing in Tokyo 2020, but I am equally excited to see a fencing legacy can be left so that even more people can learn and enjoy the sport, and perhaps make the next generation of legends like Yuki Ota’s for Japan.

Ben Paul and Yuki Ota

Environmental strategy what’s our plan? Ben Paul – Part 2

BYO!! (bring your own…. water, not alcohol) 

If you have been reading our previous blog posts, then you will know we are continually looking at how we can reduce our environmental impact on the planet. Part of the project is to reduce our plastic use and plastic footprint. Leon Paul runs and services many fencing events worldwide, and one of the things that you notice is that after the events the hall is littered with plastic bottles. Even though these can be recycled, I would say nine times out of ten, they end up in landfill.

This year with British Fencing, Dr Clare Halsted and Marcus Mepstead, we are looking to make our fencing events single-use plastic bottle free.

The best place to start is where we can have the quickest impact. Here at the Leon Paul Fencing Centre we have a vending machine, as we cannot prepare food on site without a licence. We have stocked water and energy drinks for years, but no more! We have replaced the water fountain for a new refrigerated water dispenser designed to be used with reusable water bottles.

The vending machine will now sell empty sports water bottles so you can fill your own with cold water. From now on, if you visit, remember to bring your own water.

At events that we travel to, we have no control over what they sell in vending machines or the facilities that they have. Therefore, we are limited to trying to promote our ideas before events and in the venues.

About one year ago, Marcus Mepstead, one of our sponsored British Foilists, was asking me what more he could do for Leon Paul. I jokingly said. “Save the World or win an Olympic medal”, to be fair, he is on course for giving the latter a good go! Marcus has also engaged with a company that recycles plastic and turn it into very strong fibres, and he is working on a campaign “fighting for the ocean”. Look out for more on this in a future blog post.

Here he is promoting bringing your own to fencing events.

Finally, we decided we need some eye-catching images that we could place around competitions and fencing centres to remind athletes of our goals. People have produced some stunning photos that can relay an idea far better than any words. I asked my friend, fencer and talented designer Jason Scrimshaw to come up with some images and I love the final version.

And here is the artwork in action on the new ‘Say no to rubbish’ banner for the fencing centre.

Are you already trying to avoid plastic in training and competitions? Let us know in the comments and share your strategies with the fencing world!

From fencer to fencer: my Leon Paul Weapon Carrier Pro review

Our new fencing bag is here! Fencers, please meet the weapon carrier pro. At first glance, it may look a bit like a traditional top bag you would usually use to carry your weapons around during tournaments, but actually our new release is far more than that. We aimed at nothing less than the – almost – impossible. Offering you a fencing bag that holds all of your kit (yes, even if you’re a pro), but that can still be comfortably worn over your shoulders. For that reason, it couldnʼt bear the name “weapon carrier PRO” without at least being tested by one! Meet professional fencer Ben Peggs, who is used to travelling all around the world for World Cup tournaments, and other fencing events. Read on to discover the review (and vlog!) by the former European Games Champion and current Commonwealth Champion.

Continue reading “From fencer to fencer: my Leon Paul Weapon Carrier Pro review”

Golden Hat trick in Sharjah

In September 2018, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games qualifying period for wheelchair fencing started and will run through until May 2020. For me, my qualifying period could not have got off to a better start, winning both the World Cup Epee events in Tbilisi, Georgia & Kyoto, Japan and so I was delighted to be able to carry my form through into the new season and secure my third Epee Gold of the qualifiers by taking the win in Sharjah, U.A.E!

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Reasons for choosing Leon Paul – the story of Polish top fencer Radosław Zawrotniak

“When you fence at a world class level, you need to be sure that your epee will not fail you when you’re at a decisive moment of the match”. These are the words of Radosław Zawrotniak (or Radek, for his friends), the best Polish épée fencer. We got Radek to reveal us his opinion about fencing equipment. What’s most important to him when selecting an epee? What makes fencing clothing truly outstanding? What should a fencer pay attention to when choosing their mask? And why did the Leon Paul Fusion Pro blade win his heart?

 

Continue reading “Reasons for choosing Leon Paul – the story of Polish top fencer Radosław Zawrotniak”