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OLYMPICS: Fencing is 'a bit like a game of high-speed chess'
Buy this photo » 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
“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.
- To find out more about the club visit abingdonfencing.org.uk To find your local club email email@example.com