17 September 2019
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Getting started – fencing

October 6, 2009
getting-started-fencing

Fencing is not necessarily an obvious sport to try if you want to keep fit, but it is surprisingly athletic, combining speed, skill and stamina. Here’s Sportsister’s getting started guide to arm you with all the info you need to give it a go.

The mental challenge of fencing is as important as the physical. The emphasis is on out-witting your opponent, rather than brute strength, which makes it a great sport for women as well as men.

What’s also great is that it’s relatively inexpensive to learn and there are a large number of clubs situated across the country, where the age group can vary from 8 to 80.

What’s it all about?

 

Fencing is a martial art, dating back to the 16th century. It’s one of the oldest Olympic sports, appearing as far back as the revival of the games in 1896. There are three weapons to choose from; foil; epee and sabre, and the rules are slightly different for each weapon.

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Foil is the lightest of the three, originally a training weapon for combat. A point is scored by delivering a blow to the torso. Only the attacker can score the point. The defender only scores if their opponent misses, or the attack is parried and a counter attack succeeds.

Epee was introduced in France in the 1860’s. It recreated the conditions of a duel, where the intention was to draw blood rather than kill. This is reflected in the modern game, where the aim is to hit any part of the body, from head to toe.

The third weapon, Sabre, is a descendent of the cavalry sword. It has a different action to epee and foil, and is designed for slashing rather than using just the point of the sword. The target is from the waist up, excluding the sword hand.

Modern fencing takes place on a ‘piste’ or strip 14m by 2m long. Action is judged electronically rather than by eye because it’s so fast!

Where to start

 

To learn the basics of fencing as a modern sport, contact a local club to book a course of lessons. With 400 clubs in the UK, most being affiliated to the British fencing association, there’s bound to be a club local to you, with highly qualified, professional coaches. A course will usually last around 6-8 sessions and although costs will vary depending on the club, expect to pay around £40 for a beginners course.

 

What do I wear?

 

Jogging bottoms and trainers are all a beginner needs to start out. All other necessary equipment will be provided by the club. Wear a light weight t-shirt as you will be provided with an under-plastron and fencing jacket to go over the top of this, and you are likely to sweat once you get going!

Other equipment includes long white socks, breeches, a glove (for your sword hand), chest cups or protectors, wire mask, and of course, your weapon of choice. Once you have decided to continue then you can gradually build up your own collection of equipment. This can be done in your own time. Clubs are usually happy to continue loaning the kit if you decide to continue fencing with them.

Would fencing it suit me?

 

Fencing has something that appeals to everyone. Some people are naturally fast or athletic, others are tactical thinkers. Good balance, co-ordination and flexibility are also a bonus. Not many people are good at all of the above, which is why it appeals to such a broad range of people. It’s a great way of discovering new strengths and improving on weaknesses.

Despite its bloody history, fencing is considered a safe sport. Even minor injuries are uncommon provided the correct kit is used. But you should expect the occasional bruise!

Wheelchair fencing is a major sport in Paralympic games and one that Britain does very well at. Some disabilities are of little disadvantage in fencing. Those who may be unable to compete in some sports due to a disability, find that in fencing they can often compete on equal terms with able-bodied fencers.

Useful links

 

British Fencing Association www.britishfencing.com

British Disabled Fencing Association www.bpfa.org.uk

For kit, take a look at Leon Paul www.leonpaul.com or Duellist: www.duellist.com

Heather Mayers, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

Photo credits: Graham Morrison

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