Susie Rushton: Fencing for all hits the mark

Urban Notebook

Share
Related Topics

this week the Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw announced a £6m scheme to fund a new network of after-school sports clubs. These won't offer football or netball, you understand, but Olympic oddities including badminton, handball, table tennis and fencing. That's right, fencing, chortled the
Daily Mirror on Wednesday, under the inevitable "On Guard" headline (we fencers say
en guarde, SVP). And why these particular arcane pastimes? The more minority the category, goes the thinking, the better chance Team GB will have at winning medals.

As a creaky-jointed, dull-witted, ungainly fencer who only took up the sport at the age of 28 I'm not in any danger of bringing home Olympic medals for my country. I joined a new London club in January, one that uses a beautiful wood-panelled fencing hall at the public school St Paul's in Barnes, long after the boys have gone home for the evening. So I already have an after-school fencing club, and a new generation of young, energetic British teenaged girls armed with foils could make life quite exhausting for me (not having much competition in one's chosen sport does have its benefits). Even so, I think Bradshaw's on to something.

Because while vanilla team sports teach kids things like camaraderie and organisation, traits that later in life make you a useful employee and pliant citizen, fencing hones your wits. The rules are complicated yet logical. You develop a quick eye. It also teaches a useful kind of dishonesty. The fake attacks you're trained to make, dancing the tip of your foil as if to attack your opponent, only to loop around his riposte, are called feints; whether carrying them out yourself, or spotting when your opponent is using them, learning to feint sharpens the ability to second-guess.

Fencing also teaches patience and care; let emotions take over and attack without a strategy, and you'll almost certainly end up skewered. The best fencers never lose their temper. Neither can one be a lazy fencer. There's no appreciating it from the sofa or even sidelines, since the blades move too quickly for anyone but an experienced referee, standing at exactly the right angle, to follow. Oh, and there's a science bit, too: while the equipment is undeniably complicated, it does teach a few practical lessons about electrical circuits. Finally, the clincher for me: fencing does have the hands-down best outfit in sport. Sign up your daughters!

The jokes are on us

What a pleasure to discover London is the stage set for David Sedaris's latest short stories. On Saturday I caught the last night of the professionally bemused writer's three-night residency at the Leicester Square Theatre. Despite the show comprising just an ordinary-looking guy reading stories from behind a lectern, the auditorium is packed, sold out, and the queue for signed copies of his books threatens to swamp the foyer. Like Sedaris, most of the audience are American ex-pats; the best jokes, though, are no longer about eccentrics of North Carolina but describe encounters in Tesco, or infuriating experiences on double-decker buses. Sedaris has said in interviews he's reluctant to write about the English, but will he become the first American to persuade us to laugh about ourselves?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test