Searching for My Olympic Sport - Fencing

I found it quite difficult to attack a friend with a sword, even if it was a faux one, and I think really, this can only be a good thing.

So, no new events this week as I've been coming to terms with, and let's face it, having what can only be described as quite an extreme, cider and donut-based reaction to the news that I've got a place in next year's London Marathon.

I did however participate in my first boxing lesson, courtesy of the wonderful Girls in Gloves, about which there will be more in the coming weeks. The main thing I took from the first lesson was that, surprisingly, punching someone doesn't come very naturally to me, and as loyal best friend, Vera, pointed out "Well, that's worth knowing - because you're never really sure". I think she meant "you" as in "one".

A couple of weeks ago, Kayak champion/cheat, Jade, invited me along to the London Fencing Club, which has apparently seen a surge in interest since the summer's Olympics, for exactly what you would imagine happens at such an establishment. We turned up a little early, and watched the end of the beginners' class, practising their footwork. I was unphased by the scene before me as they shuffled about, gently.

In dribs and drabs, experienced fencers started to arrive in fantastical costumes, which simultaneously reminded me of both Morris Dancers and sort of Dickensian urchins and I started to suspect this shiz was about to get real.

We began our warm up which, after a few glasses of wine the evening before, made me feel a bit sick and I was relieved when we were told that we would start some footwork training. 'Footwork', I imagined, would be some more benign shuffling and had to be better than the burpees involved in the warm up. However, it transpired that 'footwork' was actually squatting and lunging for half an hour.

The problem with this challenge is that some people assume my intention is to prove how easy all sports are, when the sad reality is that it's clearly the exact opposite. Consequently, I get the impression they're sometimes out to make me pay for this. In this instance, the threat was pretty thinly veiled as the teacher muttered in my ear "So, you thought fencing was easy, did you?" in quite a sinister fashion, actually, followed by a gleeful promise of pain in the morning. At this point, a class member interjected "is that why you're making it so hard this evening?". So, there is a valuable lesson here: don't go to an advanced fencing class if your skills do not match the description.

Finally, we were instructed to go and get kitted out for an actual match, where we were confronted with giant plastic bras to protect us from being poked in the chest with the faux swords. Later on, after taking a couple of blows to the leg and sustaining some pretty impressive bruising, I was grateful for the mega bra.

Sweating profusely under the elaborate kit, we were put through our paces by a new instructor, Sylvio, a kindly chap who didn't appear to want to cause us physical pain. However, despite knowing that I couldn't be harmed by the faux sword, under the weight of the aforementioned elaborate kit, I found it a genuinely terrifying experience and screamed like a girl every time Sylvio lunged at me.

This theme continued into my match with Jade, as again I squealed and ran away rather than defended, against her pretty good attack. In fairness, I found it quite difficult to attack a friend with a sword, even if it was a faux one, and I think really, this can only be a good thing. If we were Muskehounds, I was definitely Dogtanian (who, lest we forget was actually pretty rubbish) to her Athos (who was doubly hard). But, Jade was frustrated by my defence, which was reasonably effective given my terror, as I twisted my chest away from the foil. Sylvio confirmed that this was both a legitimate and canny manoeuvre, making it harder for Jade to land the offending blows. The match was down to the wire, 4-4, but Jade was just too good for me and took the last point.

We ended the match with a salute, and even though Jade climbed to the top of the medal table alongside Mr Nick, whilst I languished in third place, I was thankful for both the ceasefire and the removal of the sweaty kit.

For exciting pictures of aforementioned megabras and the medal table, check out


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