Every summer, when Wimbledon comes around, people across the country are inspired to head to their local tennis court. On 25th April, when Game Of Thrones returns to TV screens, a similar level of inspiration should enter the minds of those watching – but to grab a sword rather than a racket.
In the interest of personal and public safety, it’s wisest to wield a blade under the careful eye of a professional. Coach spoke to Dave Rawlings, head instructor at the London Longsword Academy, about what beginners can expect from sword fighting.
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What are the fitness benefits of sword fighting?
It depends on what you do. Unlike sports fencing, there’s a lot of lateral movement to help you vie for a better line, or pull the opponent from theirs. Then when you’re sparring, that really ups the cardio. You might not notice it as you have somebody trying to stab you in the face, which tends to mask the fact your heart is going like a nutcase.
What kind of weapons are on offer?
Monday is rapier, Wednesday is sword and buckler [a small shield]. Thursday is pole weapons – spears, longstaffs, poleaxes. Heavier stuff, with circuits on each. Friday is longsword.
Is there a weapon you recommend for newcomers?
It’s usually a case of people coming to us and saying they want to do this. There’s no right place to start.
Is the longsword the heaviest?
Heavy is a misleading thing. As with most weapons, it’s balance that is key. The weight can vary massively: the heaviest longsword I’ve handled is about 9lb [4.1kg].
Do you need to be very strong for sword fighting?
Not really. I train very much on structure. The point where you can find that null [balanced] point, it’s actually your structure that’s doing all the work. As long as you put those things in place, somebody who’s very small can handle a large sword. The youngest we have is a 14-year-old girl, who handles a 3.5lb [1.6kg] sword.
Do you do circuits as well to work on fitness?
We sometimes do footwork, but it’s easiest to do with a weapon because you need to move the weapon first and your body follows behind it.
So when you’re there you’ll have a sword to play with?
Absolutely. We’ll very rarely take swords out of our hands.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.