Having learnt the basics of fencing a few months ago on the foil, this week I moved on to the sabre. I was lucky enough to be coached by Ian Williams of the Camden(and Scimitar) Fencing Clubs. Ian is a former Olympian and ex-Senior National Sabre coach to the British women and men’s teams. During his competitive career Ian topped the British Men’s Senior Sabre rankings eight times during the period 1989 -1998. He came 31st at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and won a Gold medal at the 1998 Commonwealth Fencing Championships in Malaysia.
To a novice such as myself, the main difference between foil and sabre is that the former is all about hitting the opponent with the tip of your blade while the latter involves ‘cutting and slashing’ – as Ronald Velden (Camden Fencing Club President) put it when he greeted Martin and me. I’ll admit to being slightly apprehensive when I heard that. However, as the session developed, I began to appreciate the variety offered by the sabre and ended up thoroughly enjoying it.
We quickly ran through the basics of how to move forwards and backwards, the differing kinds of attacking strokes and how to parry. After a few practice bouts with Martin, Ian was good enough to take me on. He initially fought left handed and was just so quick I couldn’t get anywhere near him. He then switched to his right hand (he’s left handed) and I may have nicked a point or two (more likely he’d taken pity on me by that stage.)
I also got to fight with three of the younger members of the club – two of whom had just finished in the top three in the national U20 championships. Everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming and, while the club is focussed on youngsters, Ian assures me that they also cater for adult beginners so give it a go. En garde!