All Summer One Sport: Fencing

Modern Day Zorro

Growing up, I loved Zorro. No matter the occasion, you would find me there all dressed up, sword and all. As with many childhood obsessions, the older I got, the more I drifted away from wanting to be the next sword-wielding superhero. Little did I know that my fascination with swords would be suddenly awoken when I arrived at Repsol Sport Centre to meet with Josh Riker-Fox, sports manager and coach with Ares Pentathlon and Fencing Club.

What exactly is fencing? When I first arrived at the club, I knew a little bit about what it was. I had seen some people practising earlier in the week while I was at the gym, but I didn’t pay much attention.

The goal of the sport is simple: touch your opponent anywhere with the tip of épée and you score a point (the sword). Seems easy right? That is until you try the sport out.

Whenever I try these sports, I like to try on the uniform (if there is one available) to understand what it is really like. The uniform for fencing is the first thing that most people notice when they first see the sport. The all-white body suit and mask could be compared to a modern bee-keepers suit, except instead of keeping bees out, it keeps the épée out.

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By now, you are probably wondering what an épée is. It is the main piece of equipment that fencers use, a sword of sorts. However, there is one major difference between an épée and a sword. The épée is completely dull; a rolling pin is sharper. At the tip of the épée is a small button, which transmits a signal to a score box whenever it is pushed down.

 Depending on your size, the épée length changes.

Depending on your size, the épée length changes.

There was one piece of equipment that I never knew existed, which adds a new element to the sport. When you are competing, a rope is attached to the back of your fencing leotard, pulling you back when you lunge forward.

Now that you know about the equipment, you are probably wondering how to fence. The first step is footing. This seemingly simple part of the sport really threw me off (I am not the most coordinated guy out there). You must make a backwards T with your feet, while quickly moving back and forth. I didn’t really understand the importance of this position until I started competing in a match. The back foot helped me not fall over as I repeatedly lunged at my partner.

Once I knew how to step properly, I was left wondering if I was supposed to go for it and start swinging. Thankfully for everyone involved, including me, all that's needed to score a point is to tap the opponent with the end of your épée, triggering the button. Doing this will subsequently send a signal through the cord in your glove to the score box signalling the end of the round.

To win a match, you need to score 15 touches first. The longest a bout can go for is nine minutes, with three periods. This may seem short, but the sport requires an extremely high level of concentration and coordination. Trust me, I was sweating like none other after five minutes.

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Who is in the club?

Ares Pentathlon and Fencing Club has members from age seven all the way up to 65, with the bulk being in the 11 to 16 age category. Unlike many sports, there is an even split between men and women. With all ages and abilities, there is a place for anyone that wants to try fencing!

How can you join? Click here.


Check out some of my other recent All Summer One Sport adventures:

1) Sledge Hockey (Para Ice Hockey)

2) Pickleball

3) Flying Trapeze


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Walter Woodroffe-Brown