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Written by James Singleton, BA English Literature and Language

Fencing gets much less press than televised, big-money sports, and there isn’t a subculture dedicated to it like there are with many others; it’s likely that many don’t go because for the simple reason that they don’t know much about it. That was the case for me anyway – but, having never seen the appeal of fencing before, the Give It a Go week taster session got my foot into a door from which to appreciate a technically and physically demanding. For anyone seeking a high-intensity sport with a social side, fencing could be the answer. UCL students are bound to spend much of their time sedentary, in the library or in lectures, and a high-intensity sport can often be a highroad out of the head, relieving some of the energy that coops itself up during those long and demanding hours at a desk.

Committing to two hours of fencing is by no means committing to two hours of relaxation. The session began with a safety briefing and a demonstration from two veterans of the Club. It was over only moments after it began, but the technical prowess of the fencers was clear, both of whom are a testament to its ability to rear up skilful fencers and effective teachers. Nowsha had never fenced before coming to UCL, but has racked up a string of accolades, and will even be going international in a few months to pit herself against opponents in Paris.

After the preliminaries were over, we were then given a hands-on demonstration of the basics of fencing: position and stance, for right and left handers. Everyone split up into two groups, one to get into the kit – jackets, faceguards, and swords are all provided by the society – and the other to be shown the art of the dance in fencing by one of the student novice leaders, who led the steps, and made sure that the try-outs were up to speed in no time. Each of the kitted-out team, meanwhile, was given an épée (one of three categories of fencing swords, and the one used by the society’s novice members), and shown how to strike their opponent, before going through the motions themselves. Teams were swapped, so that everybody got a taste of the technical and the physical side of fencing.

The instructing team-members were helpful and responsive, but let the try-outs do the work and get the feel of fencing for ourselves. It takes two to fence, so the mood was cheerful, with many of us going up against people we’d never met before. And with no other option besides lunging at each other with what in any other context would be deemed a dangerous weapon, getting comfortable with one another was mandatory. The cohort was easy and up for the challenge, and everyone managed to get out of the workspace and into fighting spirit. Neither the swords nor the experience was even remotely daunting, and if UCL’s Give It A Go week gives any indication of what it is to be part of a society, then fencing seems like it has something for everyone. Sadly it doesn’t look like I, personally, will have the time to commit to fencing this year, with final exams looming and a string of other commitments keeping me off the piste; but for anyone with enthusiasm for a new interest alongside your degree, fencing might be for you.