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Have a stab at something new to tone up after festive season

PUBLISHED: 16:02 08 January 2013

Fencing master Tim Gadaski and reporter Chloe Mayer prepare to fight during the fencing course. Pic: Carmen Valino.

Fencing master Tim Gadaski and reporter Chloe Mayer prepare to fight during the fencing course. Pic: Carmen Valino.

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It’s time for us to dust off those same old New Year’s Resolutions again - but this year, reporter Chloe Mayer is going to try something new in an attempt to get back into shape after the excesses of Christmas.

So. January is here and it’s time to start putting those New Year’s Resolutions into effect.

For many of us, our resolutions will be the same; get fit and lose a bit of weight.

It seems like a particularly worthwhile pursuit as our tummies come to terms with all those long boozy days over the festive period, polishing off the last of the Christmas leftovers, scoffing party food nibbles, and guzzling the remains of chocolate selection boxes in front of the telly.

Gym memberships typically soar at this time of the year, as thousands of us make our annual pledge to get in shape.

But while many of us start off with the best of intentions, our resolve weakens as our trips to the gym start to become a bit… well, boring.

It’s hard work lifting weights and running on treadmills, but it’s the monotony of it that gets to most of us in the end.

Not this year though. For 2013, I’m trying something different.

I’ve just taken up fencing.

Health

Fencing master Tim Gadaski, who founded the London Fencing Club, said: “You can do it for general fitness instead of the gym.

“It’s much more interesting than lifting weights - and you can’t stop during a fight so you keep pushing yourself.”

He praised the health benefits of the sport, pointing out it’s a great cardiovascular exercise regime as well as being particularly good for toning up bums and thighs.

And you’ll be learning a new skill with lots of new people, he added, so it’s a sociable activity and an excellent way to make new friends.

Course

I met Tim when I signed up for an intensive beginners’ course at the London Fencing Club, which runs a variety of classes – including children’s lessons – at various venues in the capital.

About 20 people were on my course, which consisted of two three-hour Saturday sessions at the Finsbury Leisure Centre in Norman Street. There was a pretty even mix of men and women and most were aged from the mid-20s to mid-40s.

Andy Barden, a 48-year-old financial advisor from Reading, was there because his partner had bought him vouchers for the course as a quirky Christmas present.

“It was a surprise gift from her,” he said. “It was out of the blue, although I’d enjoyed watching a bit of fencing during the Olympics.

“I’ve got a couple of dogs so I go running most days and I’m relatively fit. But this has been really interesting – it’s good, but it’s hard work!”

Tim began the first session by giving a fascinating talk on the history of fencing while passing around his collection of swords – some of which were hundreds of years old.

He was really knowledgeable and passionate about his subject and it was a great way to start. We learned about the three fencing disciplines, which each have their own sword – foil, epee, and sabre.

We were going to be learning the sabre, which is fastest and most dynamic weapon of the three. The target is anything above the waist – even the head is fair game - and you can “cut” your opponent with your sword, as though you’re slashing them, as well as “thrust” forward, as if you’re stabbing them.

The end of the sword was bent down though, so it wasn’t sharp, and we were well-protected in modern safety gear.

Fun

We kicked off the course with a warm-up, and then progressed to some footwork exercises to teach us the basics.

We were all sweating profusely before we donned the proper fencing outfits and armed ourselves.

Then it was time to fight.

Tim was quite witty and made lots of jokes which made the class really good fun. He was a patient teacher too, and showed us new moves and demonstrated them before letting us put them into practice during fights with each other.

Tim founded the club 10 years ago and today it boasts more than 300 members.

“We’re probably the biggest club in the country, by numbers,” he said.

The club traditionally sees lots of new members joining in the New Year, but there was an extra influx of new members last summer after the Olympics.

Benefits

After the course, every muscle in my body hurt – but in a good way.

I felt like I’d had a really good workout at the gym, but the experience was so much more enjoyable and didn’t even feel like exercise because it was so much fun.

On the second week, we got stuck straight into fighting after the warm-up, and the course ended with a tournament in which we all fought each other to get through to a final.

Amazingly, I won the women’s category and was presented with a medal. I’ve never been an athletic person and it felt brilliant to win a sports prize. Everyone agreed the tournament was a really fun way to end the final session.

In fact, I enjoyed the course so much that I’ve decided to take up fencing properly. Instead of a vague intention to “get in shape”, this year my resolution is simply to attend weekly fencing classes. I have no doubt that getting fitter will happen as a consequence of that.

Here’s to a happy – and healthy – 2013.

• Chloe’s course cost £150, although the London Fencing Club frequently offers substantial discounts so check the website for up-do-date prices. The club offers classes every day except Fridays and Sundays. Lessons take place at Finsbury Leisure Centre, in Norman Street, and Central Foundation Boys’ School, Cowper Street, Shoreditch. Both venues are just a short walk from Old Street Tube station. For more information, visit www.londonfencingclub.co.uk.


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