As I am sure is true of most people at university, my first year was spent becoming unfit. Sure, I studied, I went out, but the combination of frequent hangovers, my lack of culinary abilities and the fact that, even as a Halifax student, the longest I ever had to walk for a lecture was 10 minutes meant that my sporting abilities, never the best anyway, plummeted to an all time low. Sport at university was something that I saw on 22 Acre Field as I trudged along the path from Halifax to campus.
So to second year and a new start. My sporting outings had been restricted to a few games of rugby at school, so I was looking to start something new. Fencing meant missing Tuesday at Toffs but this was something I could live with. So, along with my housemate Chris, who had been responsible for most of the hangovers mentioned above, I went along to see if it was any good.
To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect; my sole impression of the sport was from a scene in the James Bond film Die Another Day. The first thing I did learn was that being a left hander, I would annoy absolutely everyone I fenced against. So that was a good start. It also made it more difficult to practise the moves taught as my brain had to reinterpret the move for a left hander. On the plus side, it did confuse all of my opponents, which was certainly an advantage.
That said, once the various moves were learned and honed, it began to be really good fun. There is nothing like trying to hit someone with a sword to bring out the medieval knight in you. As manouvres were taught and gradually understood, bouts began to look more professional (rather than just the free-for-all sword-swinging that characterised the first few weeks).
The end of term provided an opportunity to bring out the competitive side in all of us with the beginners’ tournament. It was with some relief that I made it past the first round and I was beginning to feel rather confident about my chances. After all, I had won two out of my first four matches in the heats and I had continued to use my trump card, being left handed, to very good effect.
Sadly, it didn’t last and I was soon knocked out. This was while my housemate Chris went the whole way and won the tournament, leaving me with nothing but a drink owed to him.
What was best about the whole experience was the fact that it gave an insight into a minority sport. Fencing is barely mentioned in the national sporting press. Even though I am now familiar with some of the nuances of the sport I still cannot think of a single well-known fencer. Whilst this article is not intended to be a blanket advocation of the Athletics Union, the AU does provide a great opportunity to try out sports that usually fall under the sporting radar. It also became a great way to get fit. It may not look it to the untrained eye, but two hours of fencing is an absolutely knackering workout, but at the same time pretty good fun.