Women in fencing: my sword fighting journey

A few years ago I wrote a blog post for my friend Mirka Moore who runs the fitness website fitness4mamas about my passion for fencing and why I consider it the perfect sport for aging women to help maintain healthy joint and reflexes. A few years down the line, I am still super passionate about fencing and would love to get more mums to fence as it is a sport that you can keep doing until you are 90 or so because it is low impact on the heart.

My journey into fencing started eight years ago when I turned 40. At the time, I had a pre-schooler at home and I was doing very little exercise except for walking and cycling. I was not as keen to go to the gym as before having the baby, because it wasn’t motivating enough.

Photocredit: Memorygate  www.memorygate.co.uk 

So, I decided to do something very challenging for me. At the time I did yoga which helped keeping me fit throughout my pregnancy because I had to stop cycling to avoid nasty falls.

I also needed a more social sport to motivate me to do cardiovascular exercise.

I have never been super fit and I am not a naturally athletic person either. I have never been slim and I did not want to enrol in classes filled with skinny and fit mums that would make me feel a total looser. Having said that, I have a competitive spirit that can be quite healthy in sport and in life.

Once upon a time … in 2010 on Saint George’s day at my son’s nursery there was a celebration including performances of young fencers from the local secondary school. I thought it was very cool for kids to do it. The sword fighting club left a leaflet behind inviting adults to trial the sport. That was the beginning of my fencing journey and I have never looked back ever since!

Photocredit: Memorygate  www.memorygate.co.uk 

On my first lesson after just 15 minutes into the class, I was given a sword that immediately made me feel empowered. Forget paying a shrink to rebuild your self-confidence. Fencing totally build a new ME!

Within a few years from that day I ended up winning everything I could in both the novice and intermediate categories (many Gold and Silver medals as well as regional cups for team events). I am now theoretically ready to enter the senior and Veterans’ competitions. A few not-fencing-related injuries knocked my confidence but I am in the process of rebuilding myself once again through fencing.

Photocredit: Memorygate  www.memorygate.co.uk 

I never thought I would ever win anything in sport in my lifetime considering how un-sporty I was. But in fencing body fitness is only one element. Mind game and tactics are equally important and I am quite good at compensating the lack of athletic skills with strategic playing.

I only train once a week because I also play in an amateur football league for ladies. My fencing coaches have changed my life helping me build confidence and a healthier lifestyle. My general fitness levels have improved a great deal since the beginning and I have more stamina and better reflexes too.

Fencing changed my life and gave me a new perspective to sport and fitness at an age when most people think they are not going to reach their peak any more.

It’s never too late for women after 40 to start a new sport and to achieve success.

If I have achieved it, I’d say everybody could! Trust me when I say it…

These days I train every Monday night with a lovely bunch at the Club Des Artists in Putney. Watch some pics from our recent fencing party at Bishops Park called PISCHT (which stands for Pretty Inebriated Sword and Champagne Tournament) and sounds like PISSED where we had to drink alcohol before every bout. It was totally bonkers and fun!

There are many inspirational stories of people in their eighties who are still very much competing and training.

This is what I love the most about this sport. Behind the mask there is no discrimination of age or sex!!

En Guarde! Ready, Fence

Saint GeorgeHere I am proudly posing with my former coach and Olympic champion Jim Philbin and one of my fellow trainer and now Paralympic champion Dimitri Coutya. 


Why fencing can help the aging brain

Certain sports may aid the aging brain and fencing is one of them. I have often attended competitions where I faced experienced fencers who were 30 years older than me, which means people in their seventies. This proves that fencing has huge physical benefits for people after 40, but I am now almost sure that this fast-moving sport can also help cognitive health.

Credit: Action-Images

Having youth on your side is not always an advantage in fencing. In fact I have always lost my bouts against senior fencers. Despite the age difference, where one is more agile physically, the other’s tactic for winning is to outthink the younger opponent in moves and positioning. The key to success is being completely focused. 

Science suggests that fencing and other sports that require quick decision-making may improve cognition in both young and old people, and help slow down certain mental declines associated with aging.

Fencing requires fast decisions and places high demands on visual attention and flexibility which is associated with improvement of certain cognitive functions, such as attention and processing, that naturally decline with aging.

A fencer has to think through several ways of attacking, not to mention rapidly choosing from among nine different types of parries when fending off an opponent. That gets quite complex and has to be executed very quickly.

Just saying!

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