PEARTREE LIFE: Experiencing Languages

Introduction into my favourite hobby... Fencing

Recently, many students have asked me about the biggest and possibly the best hobby I could have ever picked up - fencing.


For almost 4 years I have been practising this sport which I had always wanted to try and a few years ago, I decided to give it a go. I found a fencing club within a walking distance from my house and just sent an email to the main coach, Peter. I didn’t think that this sport would mean so much to me in the future and that I would find it more than just a hobby.

Fencing is very enjoyable, but it is a contact sport where people literally stab each other with swords. It doesn’t matter that the tip of the swords might not be as sharp as real swords or that the blade has a slightly different shape, when somebody stabs you with full force, it HURTS, and over the last few years, I don't remember a time when my body was without bruises. This is a clear sign that I still need to improve my technique.

Many people might think that fencing is only bashing of swords which look very bendy or like a stick (as one of our teachers once told me), but it is not true. The swords and the blades have different shapes that depend on the type of weapon. Also, the target and the system of scoring points is completely different. I will try to go through the different weapons very quickly (and not in many details), otherwise, I would need to give a whole presentation about fencing.

Sabre 

Sabre weapon
The sabre is probably one of the most popular or well-known swords. You could see this type of sword in all the great Hollywood movies and fighting scenes like ‘The mask of Zorro’ (do you remember the scene where Catherine Zeta-Jones is fighting with Antonio Banderas? Exactly, a sabre.) or ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. This sword has a long and flat blade, sometimes a bit curved as well, and has a different handle to the other two weapons. (Check the pic). The movements you can do are not similar to stabbing but more like cutting into your opponent’s body. You score only if you hit or cut the top part of your opponent’s body. There are some other rules, but as I haven’t actually tried this weapon, I can’t tell you much else.

Foil

The foil is a weapon similar to an epee (my weapon), but with a smaller handle and a slightly lighter blade. The blade has a rectangular shape and is very bendy (flexible) as the fencers need to make loads of flicks with the sword without injuring their opponents or breaking the blade. The hit is scored only if the fencer touches the opponent with the tip of their sword. If they hit them with the blade, the point is not scored.
Foil fencers
Points are scored only if the torso and/or groin are hit. The opponent needs to parry (block the attack) first, but if the fencer manages to hit them with the tip, they score the point. If the fencer hits the opponent but they don't parry, the hit doesn’t count.

Epee 

Two different grips
The epee is the last of the three weapons and it is actually the one I fight with. The blade has a rectangular shape as well, it is slightly thicker, but still very bendy. The handle can have two different shapes. One looking like a pistol or one completely straight (the French handle).

My broken sword, Henrich the 1st
I have two epee swords at home, but only one is functional at the moment. The second sword has a missing tip so I need to amend it soon. If you would like to know, I have actually named them. One is Travis, and the second one is Loki. My first sword (broken now) was named Henrich, the first. Don’t ask me why! I just looked at it and named it like that.

Epee fencing has only a few rules and I am not going to bother you with that. There is no rule about which part of the fencer’s body can be hit as the whole body is a target, even our head, face or back. So, if the fencer hits the opponent’s toe, they score a hit (I have managed that once :)). Again, the main point is to hit the opponent with the tip of the sword, not with the blade.

Every fencer needs to have a proper fencing kit, which is very important, and we need to check it regularly to make sure that we are protected while stabbing each other. The part of the kit is a mask (or helmet) which obviously covers our heads and faces. For the hand we fence with, we need to wear a long glove.
Fencing kit
The fencing clothes have a few different articles. Thee first one is fencing trousers-breeches. They are ¾ long and should go under your knees. On top of that, we wear long socks. Now, as I am a bit tall, I always have a small gap between my trousers and socks! Our torso is covered by three different pieces of protection. We wear a plastic plastron which covers our chest, on top of that there is another plastron (looking more like a half vest) made from very thick material and, on top of that, we need to put a jacket with a high neck collar, also made from very thick material. Sometimes it can get very hot wearing all these clothes, but we have to wear it otherwise we can be seriously injured. The last bit is an electronic wire which connects our sword and the electronic box that indicates when a fencer hits the opponent.

The only rule is, be quick and hit your opponent before they manage to hit you. The first fencer who scores 15 points is the winner of the fight unless you are in a competition, where the rules are set up in a slightly different way. Many people think that epee fencing is mostly about moving your hands, but the truth is that 70% of fencing is about leg and footwork. You need to train the right footwork for a long time to get used to the different moves and the right position of your body. ‘Heel toe, toe heel’ (the way of making steps in fencing) is like a Bible to us. Funnily enough, a small turn with your hips can influence your aim, meaning that you can completely miss your target.

Me practising fencing. I am wearing white socks

I could go on and on about fencing, but that would be a really long blog post. I just want to mention that fencing is for everybody! It doesn’t matter how old you are (my coach is 81 and his reflexes are brilliant) or what body shape you have. If you try and like it, you will find it a sport which you will fall in love with. Just get ready for the occasional pain :).
If you would like to try it, let me know and I can take you with me.
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About Info Peartree

Peartree Languages is a language school located in Cardiff.

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