OLYMPICS: Fencing is 'a bit like a game of high-speed chess'

Junior fencers take the salute at Abingdon Fencing Club, which is receiving two or three requests a week to join its junior section. Pictures: OX54759 Ric Mellis

Club chairman Andrew Banks

James Beazley, red socks, fences with Richard Hill

First published in News Banbury Cake: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

“I WENT to stand up, only to find the tip of her sabre at my throat, and I realised I was in love.”

Those are the words of 27-year-old Richard Hill, on meeting his girlfriend Nichola Middleton-Stewart at university. Welcome to the romantic, dangerous, swashbuckling world of fencing.

Mr Hill, who now practises with the Abingdon Fencing Club, was a second year student at Bath University, chairman of its fencing club, and testing out the new recruits.

He said: “She picked up the épée, so I did the same. We started fencing as normal, but I quickly realised she was better than me. I went for a hit and she countered back at me. I lost my footing and fell to the floor. “I thought that I was it, so I went to stand up, only to find the tip of her sabre at my throat.”

Mr Hill started fencing at university when he was 19, spurred on by a childhood swashbuckling with sticks in the back garden.

He joined Abingdon Fencing Club when he and Miss Middleton-Stewart moved a year ago.

Fencing is swordplay, essentially, with three different sections fought with different swords.

A foil is a light training weapon, whose target is the trunk of the body: points are scored in the sport by hitting your opponent with the tip of the sword.

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An épée is heavier and more closely aligned to a dueling sword, but points are scored in the same way.

A sabre is a very light variation on a cavalry sword, and points are scored by hitting your opponent with the blade.

Abingdon Fencing Club chairman Andrew Banks describes it as “a bit like high-speed chess”.

“You are trying to maneuvre your opponent into a position where you can hit them,” he explained. “It is not just swashbuckling.

There is a lot of discipline and control involved. You have to be quite safe, fit and balanced.”

Before the Olympics the club had one or two requests a month, but it is now receiving two or three requests a week to join the junior section.

Comments (1)

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6:27pm Tue 9 Oct 12

Myron Blatz says...

And fencing is so very useful for children and adults in their everyday lives, when one never knows if one is going to need the skills to foil an opponent - like scrambling to get on the bus with a pushchair, when others are trying to pack themselves into the wheelchair user space, or cutting back the odds at the supermarket check-out que!
And fencing is so very useful for children and adults in their everyday lives, when one never knows if one is going to need the skills to foil an opponent - like scrambling to get on the bus with a pushchair, when others are trying to pack themselves into the wheelchair user space, or cutting back the odds at the supermarket check-out que! Myron Blatz
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