While watching Arya Stark and Brienne of Tarth train in the snowy courtyard of Winterfell in Game Of Thrones, or the fierce Ragnar wielding a sword and shield in the series VikingsI often found myself imagining what it would be like to step into the boots of a daring swashbuckler and launch into battle with longsword in hand.
Luckily the same week Game Of Thrones When season 7 was over I was offered the opportunity to try both long sword fighting and fencing with a private lesson at the Peterborough Multi-Sport Club (275 Rink Street, Unit 14, Peterborough, 705-775-5095), a sports facility that specializes in fencing, archery, jiu jitsu and, more recently, the German longsword.
I was ready to unleash my inner warrior.
The subtleties of fencing
After a quick tour of the facility by hospital owners Scott Nichols and Michelle Curran and a briefing on the history of the club and the new after-school program, Curran took me in official fencing gear – the all-important mask in wire mesh, glove, padded jacket, a protective “breastplate” that covers the torso, a compulsory breastplate and a light, thin sword (also known as foil).
At first you can borrow club gear, but if you decide to take it more seriously, you’ll want your own kit.
I start with a warm-up by doing tricks, jumps and lunges through the gym for about 10 minutes until it’s time to learn some sword-wielding techniques from Nichols, the trainer- club leader.
We face each other and bow our swords to the ground in salute.
It begins by explaining the basic controls, movements and positions of fencing – a subtle sport that emphasizes etiquette and technique.
We have a friendly fight on a rectangular strip, using the tip of our sword to touch our opponent’s vest, or to block the sword, while doing a kind of slippery stroke.
My feet never leave the ground but move forward or backward, with my left foot back and my right foot in front.
“It’s a mental game,” said Curran, the club’s assistant coach. “The one who asks for speed and a decisive strategy.
“It’s not so much about reacting to what your opponent is doing, but trying to strategize and plan moves in advance, hoping to draw your opponent in so you can get him to attack you wherever. you want, and be prepared with the appropriate distance and defense to outsmart them.
Having previous sporting experience certainly gives you a head start, but it’s not a requirement to start fencing.
“You can do well even if you’re not an athlete,” says Nichols. “Anyone who is engaged in fencing can learn footwork and positions.
“It’s always been a sport that attracts people who don’t thrive in team sports. It is for those who like intellectual sports.
Curran says people don’t realize how awesome training fencing is, and the practice can offer more than the monotony of going to the gym after work.
“You can go to the gym and have a good workout, or you can come to the club and get the same benefits playing with swords,” Curran laughs.
The medieval sword
After half an hour of dueling, Nichols and I move on to German longsword combat, a revival of an ancient, once-forgotten European martial art with timed battles and intricate rules. The biggest differences between the longsword and fencing are the practical uses behind the sword.
While fencing is considered a sport, Nichols says, the longsword focuses more on historical context. All of the techniques used in their practices are based on historical European martial arts and are supported by strength, speed and assertive execution.
Sport is gaining momentum in Peterborough. Over the years, the club has invited Ottawa fencing instructor Craig Shackleton, who has researched and trained in medieval European combat since 1997, to give sessions to youth and adults.
VIDEO: Medieval saber arrives at Peterborough Multi-Sport Club
I turn off the fencing part of my brain and get ready to train like I see in the movies. This time around we’re using heavy steel swords that require the use of both hands while I get a lesson in basic longsword techniques.
“Long sword fighting is a contact sport,” says Nichols. “Your objective is to hit your opponent.”
He shows me some basic movements. I start with a few defensive blocks, and after knocking them down, I block several of his attacks in a row.
“Skill and technique decide the outcome here, rather than strength and size. “
Nichols adds that the key to the art is to strike a blow while preventing an opponent’s backlash.
Arya would be proud.
The Peterborough Multi-Sport Club is offering an open house and longsword workshop on Sunday October 1 at 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm The cost of the workshop is $ 20.
If you are interested in participating, contact the club by phone at 705-775-5095 or by email at [email protected] to register.
Unique sports that are growing in popularity
With the sports market already saturated in Peterborough, it can be difficult for a minor sport to fight to breathe and survive among all the new and different programs available.
Nichols says that seems to be changing. Medieval fencing and fighting are still fairly niche, but are quickly experiencing a resurgence, all the more so with the release of each Game Of Thrones season or a Star wars blockbuster.
This is great news for die-hard sword enthusiasts.
Extracurricular sports program
Starting this month, the Peterborough Multi-Sport Club is offering an after-school sports program for children in grades 1-8 in fencing, longsword, jiu jitsu, archery and the circus arts to help them improve their fitness and connect them to the sports they otherwise might not have the opportunity to try.
Nichols says the after-school program encourages a team environment, but most importantly individual success in a supportive environment.
“If children don’t like a common sport that is offered to them at school, sometimes they don’t see themselves as athletes. Giving them the opportunity to experience different activities could give them the confidence they need to play a sport.
The program will run from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, and will feature a different sport every day of the week. Pickup from local schools is available as well as extended pickup times after 5:00 p.m. to accommodate busy family schedules.
Call Peterborough Multi-Sport Club at 705-775-5095 for more details and to reserve a spot.
VIDEO: Peterborough Multisport Club