All swash and buckle

All swash and buckle

Fencing is a lot more exciting than the gym and great exercise too, finds Kate Fassett

July 8, 2006

Fencing article from Sunday Telegraph

Having just turned 40 and given up smoking, I am keen to start some form of exercise, but one that leaves my dignity intact. With their unflattering outfits and potential for public humiliation, anything that involves cycling, swimming or running is a no-go. As for gyms, the sheer boredom leaves me cold. Fortunately, my friend Vicki has just introduced me to the delights of fencing with all its thrilling, dangerous connotations.

I met her at the Salle Gadaski London Fencing School in east London, where she has just moved on from the initial beginners' class. "It is brilliant,'' says Vicki. "I can't believe how painful it was at first. I could barely walk for the pain in my buttocks and thighs, but it's getting easier and my general fitness has improved immensely.''

There are about 8,000 members of the British Fencing Association and another 20,000 or so who fence socially. These numbers swell periodically when swashbuckling films such as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest are released.

Malcolm Fare, editor of The Sword magazine and curator of the National Fencing Museum, says: "Whenever a film with some glamorous swordplay comes out, like The Mask of Zorro or Die Another Day, clubs are swamped with new recruits dreaming of cutting a dash like Antonio Banderas or Madonna.''

It is all very well watching actors, but I'm going to need some reassuring that I will not bleed to death before I have a go.

Apparently, the blades are now made from maraging steel, which is twice as hard as stainless steel. Injuries are rare, however, and modern fencing outfits provide good protection.

My first lesson is spent warming up and learning about the ancient history of the sport and the different types of swords. The class of 20 pairs up. Partners do "distance exercises'', which teach us how to maintain personal space. This involves entwining fingers, at which point a dating angle occurs to me (this is a class of attractive 20- to 30-year-olds after all), but then the lunging starts and I forget about this as the pace quickens.

We are sent away and told to get fitter. After seeing myself lunge for the first time in front of the mirror, this is sound advice. No weapons until next week. I can't wait.

Salle Gadaski London Fencing School (07951 414409; www.sallegadaski. com). Prices start at £ 90 for a beginners' course of six sessions.

Picture Caption: Have at you: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest; Kate warms up, below


Copyright: Telegraph Group Ltd

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