In her regular sports column Bobbie Makoni gets in a duel with Highams Park Fencing Club
For hundreds of years sword combat was the favoured method for settling questions of justice between individuals or on the battlefield.
It continued to develop throughout the Middle Ages, and became an integral part of chivalry. Modern fencing rose to prominence towards the end of the 19th Century, culminating in the sport being included in the inaugural modern Olympic Games in 1896.
However, despite its long and chivalrous history, in contrast to popular opinion, fencing is no longer just a sport for the elite. And nowhere is more testament to this than Highams Park Fencing Club.
Set up in 1994 by six avid fencers who dueled across Waltham Forest in the 1980s, the club has found a home at Bancroft’s School in High Road, Woodford Green. Husband and wife Ian and Jane Lepley decided to start the club when they realised there were no local opportunities for young people to take up fencing – a sport which had been and still is so dear to their hearts.
Since the club’s early days when they trained in a local church hall, the membership has steadily increased. The club boasts athletes who have represented Great Britain and also provided teams for Waltham Forest and Redbridge in the London Youth Games.
But even with the success of individual members Ian and Jane are extremely proud of the inclusive nature of the club: “We’re proud of the fact we’re a grassroots club, we have members from all walks of life and want to continue introducing new people to the sport.”
Club members of all ages speak about the sport as a game of physical chess and credit the full-body workout with producing greater focus and discipline in everyday activities.
Despite limited funding, the club are able to offer training in all three types of fencing weapons (foil, epee and sabre) and all equipment is provided for free. Ian and Jane are committed to keeping membership fees low – adults can join for a little as £40 a year and children for £20 a year – to encourage a wider pool of participants, something Ian and Jane believe is key to changing the perception of the sport as elitist.
Membership opens at the beginning of each school half-term and the club welcomes any new members over the age of eight. So whether you have a penchant for foil, epee or sabre, or have no idea of the difference, get ready to duel!
To find out more about Highams Park Fencing Club and to get involved