“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.

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.