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A first timer’s guide to… Fencing

Jamie Glassman finds becoming the new Zorro is not as easy as it looks
A first timer’s guide to… Fencing
March 13, 2017   |    Jamie Glassman

Blades, Great Portland Street

This may sound obvious but fencing classes are for people who really want to fence. If you thought, like I did, that it would involve a lot of mucking about with swords, shouting ‘en garde’ and ‘touché’ you’re in for a shock. For a start they’re called ‘foils’, you imbecile!

Fencing takes a lot of hard work and dedication. This much I picked up in my taster session with Blades Fencing Club in Great Portland Street. You could say I learned how much I had to learn.


Blades caters for all fencers – beginners, intermediates and advanced – and it was certainly welcoming to me and the other two beginners, Arj and Jason, as we were gently guided through foot drills and hitting drills by our patient instructor, while the intermediate and advanced fencers battled nearby.

No foils for us, though, not until we had destroyed our thighs by shuffling our feet up and down, forwards and backwards, again and again and again.

Only then was it time for some hitting drills. Great! I thought. A chance to put on a mask and pick up a sword, I mean a foil, even a rubber beginners’ one.

In fact, Arj, Jason and I took it in turns to stand still while the other two hit us repeatedly in the chest with their rubber foils. It doesn’t not hurt, shall we say.


There was a strange privacy that came from wearing a mask with a wire mesh grate so you could see out but your opponent can’t see in. I could suddenly imagine how exhilarating it would be to be locked in combat as you try to outwit your opponent.

For me, sadly, fencing came 30 years too late. I reckon I would have loved it as a 15 year old. If you are made of sterner stuff, then give it a go. Just don’t expect to be shouting ‘touché’ any time soon.

What would you like Jamie to try next? Tweet us @BalanceLDN

Suitable for everyone

Taster is £25 on the door

One hour


Calm corner


Attraction without distraction

Next time you are spending time with someone you love, turn your phone off. Really focus on them and listen attentively. Look at them with fresh eyes, noticing the nuances of their mannerisms, the tone of their skin, the light in their eyes. Give the conversation your total focus.

Calm by Michael Acton Smith is published by Penguin Life, £6.99

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