DT, Run, Sleep, Repeat – Life on the Directoire Technique

The 2020 European Cadet & Junior Fencing Championships took place in Poreč, Croatia, during the backend of February and start of March this year. I was selected as one of the 5 DT members for the 10 days of competition. It felt like a nice follow up to being part of the DT for the European U23 Championships in Plovdiv last year.

Andras Szetey from Hungary was President of the DT. It’s his job to create the timetable and is ultimately he is the guy in charge of the competition. It was decided that Lena Tallroth-Kock from Finland and myself would be in charge of one weapon per day while Julius Kralik of the Czech Republic helped with operations in DT. The local DT member, Mirna Borosak, was officially the liaison between the DT and the local organising committee but she got her hands dirty running the competition with us on top of her other duties.

Every DT functions in a slightly different way. There is no exact formula to follow with every DT President having his or her own way of doing things. Everyone who has worked with me at any point over the last 7 years know exactly how I like to run my ship. My regular referees and now increasingly the fencers, parents & coaches know where to be at what time and there is very little margin for error on my timetables. There certainly isn’t time to go Starbucks between the poules and DE’s rounds!

Andras is a man after my own heart who sets very challenging timetables. For example he scheduled the men’s foil poules to start at 9am and the first flight of incomplete L128 to start at 11am. That’s 2 hours to get a foil poule of 7 done, the results in, checked and then the first flight of DE out and stated. I’ll admit now that I didn’t think it would be possible, however being the new guy on the team, it’s not my place to question the boss, my job was to make it happen.

Once the referee delegate had handed out the scoresheets to the referees my job was to walk the floor and make sure the fencers got to their piste in time to have their control marks checked by the referees and be ready to fence 5mins before the scheduled start time. At this level, most the athletes know the set up and we managed to start bang on time. I spent the rest of the poules walking around the field of play on hand to sort out any issues. One nice little trick was to photograph a the last finished poule sheet and ‘WhatsApp’ it back to DT so they could get the result into the computer quicker. Every second counts with a demanding timetable.

Amazingly we did it! The incomplete round of L128 started at 11am. The competition ran ahead of schedule and because there was no live TV for the finals we could bring the start time of the finals forward. This is better for all concerned including the fencers competing the following day and especially the officials who have to work the ten days straight.

Ten days in a row is tough, especially when you have to be there from first thing in the morning to last thing at night, you are pretty much looking at 12hour days for DT members. I was thrilled when I received my invitation to the championships but was worried that fell right in the middle of my marathon training program. I was chasing a fast time at London Marathon, somewhere around or ideally below, the 3 hour mark. Ten to twelve days of little or no running was going to make that a much tougher challenge than it already is. I apricate at the time of writing this that events have overtaken us so marathon training is no longer an issue with the cancellation of all major sporting events due to COVID19 but I wasn’t to know that at the time.

I needn’t have worried. The DT team where very accommodating and we actually took turns to have some mornings or afternoons off. The days when I was in charge of Men’s Sabre, I managed to do my long run on the morning with the poules not starting until 12 O’clock. I completed a total of 9 training runs and cover just over 94miles (150km) whilst in Poreč. I have written in a previous blog how much I enjoy running because I can switch off from thinking about work and just enjoy the podcast or audiobook I’m listening to at the time. Despite it being physically demanding, I think the running helped keep me mentally fresh.

The whole experience was very positive, it was the biggest Cadet and Junior European Championships yet and with the very positive DT President, we manged to finish ahead of schedule every day.  My favourite complement came from the French delegation who said the whole event had a ‘favourable ambiance’, high praise indeed from the French!  The DT team would like to take all the credit for this, but a competition is only as good as its referees and volunteers.  I don’t think I’ve worked with a better group, everyone was fantastic from the referees to the small children carrying the bags to the pistes.  It was great to catch up with some old friends as well as make many new ones as well.

The biggest perk of the job, apart from getting to cut the lunch queue, was that I could go anywhere on the field of play.  I got to pretty much stand piste side and watch some of the best young fencers in the world doing what they do best.  I was also asked to present Carolina Stutchbury of Great Britain her bronze medal in the Cadet Women’s Foil.  It’s always nice when your home nation wins a medal and you get to share in a tiny part of the celebrations.

In summary, I learnt a lot from the experience with the big takeaway being that you can achieve the same result, running an efficient competition, in different ways.  I have a few new ideas of how to improve fencing events in the UK and hopefully, if I’m asked to take part in more International events, can use my experience to help run major championships better as well.

The fencing magic of the 2018/19 season. Looking forward to some more….

The month of September traditionally rings the “back to school bell” and marks the start of a new fencing season. In order to get back into the swing of things, we’ve put together our highlights of the past season for you. See it as our extra dose of motivation for the upcoming season and it’s undeniable highlight, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics! 😉

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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!

Running the Great Wall Marathon in fencing kit: the training

Fencer, you remember Max Titmuss and his charity run in a fencing uniform to raise money for Ataxia UK? And not just any run, but the Great Wall Marathon in China? With just one month to go, it’s time for an update…


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Running the Great Wall Marathon in Fencing kit: The project

Who would be mad enough to run a marathon in fencing kit? Max Titmuss (a  fencer we spotted quite often in the Leon Paul Fencing Centre), apparently. On 1 May 2019, he will be running a full 42km marathon on the Great Wall of China in his Leon Paul Apex fencing kit for charity. Raising money for Ataxia UK, he hopes that something good will come out of this somewhat daft idea.
Want to know more (and maybe even support his charity run?)
Here’s the backstory.

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When a fencing manufacturer goes designer (3/3): 3D printing a fencing mask

Fencers! The mask worn by world class sabre fencer James Honeybone on the runway at the FIE 105th anniversary gala has caught the attention of lots of you! In the last part of our series about how we came up with the ideas for the fencing fashion of the future seen on stage at the Grand Palais in Paris, our director Ben Paul explains (and shows!) how we made this one-of-a-kind mask and what was the ispiration behind it.  Read the full story after the jump!


3D printing a fencing mask

by Ben Paul


The last task for the fashion show was the mask to be used on the Overwatch uniform. We wanted to do something a little different and really push the boundaries of mask-making further.

After lots of research on masks, I had a few ideas of what we could try to replicate and adapt but I also wanted to use this project to test some new machines and technologies we have invested in. Technologies of the future, no less – think 3D-printing.

Yes indeed, we have a new 3D printing machine! This allows us to rapid prototype products. We can then take these 3D files and use a CNC mill to make metal versions of a product to test…. We can then inverse the 3D drawing to make a mould tool, take this to our injection moulding machine and mass produce the new component part. This process used to take months but now can be done in days.

So, we decided to 3D print the mask for the FIE gala fashion show and use the mill to make some of the metal fittings for the mask. I believe in 10 years time all or most fencing mask will be 3D printed from metal in a honeycomb structure so it is lighter and more breathable and be fully adjustable to a customers head. This project presented a is a nice way to start testing these theories and offer an outlook towards the future of fencing, which the FIE gala was all about.

As time was limited we decided to take a mask that had lots of images and work around it done by fans, and this mask (as many of you have recognised!) was the iconic mask from the film Iron Man.

By printing the masks in a transparent plastic we could then add LED lighting, so it could become part of the scoring systems used in fencing.

Lastly, we wanted the mask to open and close automatically, imagine how cool this would be if you could just press a button inside the mask to open it and discuss with the referee your issue with their last bad decision!

We used some carbon fiber to strengthen the mask and we could have used some neck protection that we use in HEMA (Historical European Martial arts), but we decided this took away from the aesthetics and this was after all a fashion project trying to show how the future of fencing might look.

Here’s the mask in action at the fashion show:


From this work I really think in the future masks can be produced from 3D printing in Titanium and designs could be made that were lighter, stronger and more practical. The technology will become cheaper over time and I cannot wait to see the first mask produced using this technique.

Walking the fashion show at the FIE anniversary gala (and the idea behind it)

Working at Leon Paul definitely comes with unexpected tasks and experiences. If you don’t believe us, just ask our Instagram girl Johanna, whom we sent to Paris this past weekend on a quite extraordinary mission: at the gala held at the Grand Palais in Paris to celebrate the 105th anniversary of the International Fencing Federation, along with World cup fencer (and accidentally also her colleague) James Honeybone; she walked down the runway in what we think is a fencing uniform that could ensure the future of our sport by making it attractive for new audiences. Read all about that unique experience after the jump.

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When a fencing manufacturer goes designer (2/3): Fencing uniforms based on teams for the e-sports league

It’s fencing fashion show time again, fencers! Two days ago, our director Ben Paul explained the leading principles behind the design for the FIE Fashion show held in Paris on December 9th, and today he will tell you more about the design and the actual products being made…make sure to check our social networks this weekend for more insight, some behind the scene glimpses (and then pictures of the actual uniforms, of course!)
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When a fencing manufacturer goes designer (1/3): the idea behind Leon Paul’s uniforms for the FIE fencing fashion show

With December now upon us, the festive season is definitely here. But, at least for the international fencing crowd, December 2018 is about more than just Christmas celebrations.  During their annual Congress on the second weekend of December, this year the F.I.E. will celebrate their 105 year anniversary in Paris and as part of the festivities, they are hosting a massive gala event at the Grand Palais, right next to the world-famous Champs-Elysées. What would a gala event in Paris, the city of Haute Couture and designers be, without a fashion show? In this particular case involving fencing fashion, of course!  So that’s what the fencing world is going to see in Paris:  All the major manufactures of fencing equipment produce two uniforms and get an opportunity to show it on stage at the event. Talk about a great chance to showcase new and exciting ideas to the whole fencing community! 5 years ago, for the 100th anniversary of the F.I.E., we did a project that explored lighting fencing gear and a lighting system showing the fencers face (a project by the way which is about to come in for a new wireless fencing system we have worked on… more on that next year, stay tuned!), but this year, our company director Ben Paul had something different in mind. Read all about his inspiration after the jump (and look forward to more, as this is only the first instalment of a three-part series!)

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A Leon Paul Fencing Centre Wedding

December 2016, Emily & I were chasing the Northern Lights on a holiday in Iceland when I asked her to marry me. While the aurora borealis might have escaped us, she said yes. We had to wait to set the date, I didn’t want any clashes with the European or World Championships but following the publication of the international fencing calendar a suitable date was found and the challenge of finding a venue was next.

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