Keen fencer John Wood founded the Loughton Fencing Club in 1971. Wood’s daughter Elizabeth would later go on to represent Great Britain in the sport at the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984.
Loughton Hall on Rectory Green was the LFC’s first home, but in 2009 the club moved to the bigger and better facilities offered by the Debden Park High School on Willingale Road.
The club’s membership has fluctuated from 40 members and three coaches in its halcyon years to 17 members and one coach currently.
This rise and fall of interest is often down to the sport hitting the national consciousness during an Olympics or when movies featuring fencing, such as Zorro or the James Bond film Die Another Day, are released.
With only 10 adults and seven children the LFC’s small sections offer a great atmosphere for learning and fencers can develop skills quicker as they get more time with the coach.
The LFC attracts men and women, young and old. In fact, the ages range from children as young as 10 to the adults in their late 60s.
There’s a diverse membership and it’s trying to break the image fencing has as a sport only taught at private schools.
Both the children and adult sections meet on Wednesday evenings during the school term. Children from 7pm-8.30pm and adults from 7.30pm-9pm.
Each session starts with a warm up and foot exercises and then the fencers can challenge others in their group. The sessions overlap so the children can pick up new skills from the adults.
Putting them all through their paces is the Romanian international coach. Having a professional coach means the club has insurance to cover its members. The coach also helps members build up their British Fencing Association grades.
There’s no pressure to win competitions and chairman, Alan Hall feels the club is more sociable than competitive. There aren’t internal tournaments, but members are encouraged to compete with others and build up their experience.
The LFC does enter national competitions, however, and one of the highlights was its performance at the 2009 RCS Fencing Club Tournament - two club members came top of their categories.
People of all backgrounds and of all abilities are welcome at the LFC. Beginners can learn the basics of fencing from experienced members and the coach.
To encourage new members there’s a ‘two weeks free’ deal when they join, while they can also use the club’s kit to start with and work out if they enjoy it.
The sessions are priced at £10 for two hours. Not bad when you consider everything you get for it: learning a fun sport, getting fit, meeting new people and building your confidence.
By Ben Sneath