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The Fencing Way To Fighting Fit

Fencing is a fun way to de-stress and stay fit at the same time. Vikram Singh Barhat touchés the Dubai fencing scene.

  • Brandishing blades: A fencing enthusiast at a Dubai club gets ready for a duel. Image Credit:XPRESS/Randi Sokoloff
  • Sabre touch: Zahi Al Khoury, coach of the UAE fencing team. Image Credit:XPRESS/Abdel-Krim kallouche
  • Maria Kouzeva, is master coach at The Dubai Fencing Club at the Madinat Jumeirah. Image Credit:XPRESS/Randi Sokoloff
  • Touch and go: Learners going through the paces at Dubai’s fencing clubs. Image Credit:XPRESS/Randi Sokoloff
  • Fencing is a sport that helps develop dexterity, endurance, flexibility, grace and overall fitness. Image Credit:XPRESS/Randi Sokoloff
  • It is only after undergoing basic training that one graduates to fencing bouts. Image Credit:XPRESS/Randi Sokoloff
  • One of the biggest misconceptions associated with fencing is that one may get hurt. Image Credit:XPRESS/Randi Sokoloff
  • Fencing gear and equipment are very expensive, but the good news is that clubs offer both for free. Image Credit:XPRESS/Abdel Krim-Kallouche
  • The popularity of the fencing led to the formation of the Dubai-based UAE Fencing Federation in the beginning Image Credit:XPRESS/Abdel-Krim Kallouche
  • Fencing, unlike aerobics, is not for everyone. It is more powerful and challenging than aerobics, says Al KhouImage Credit:XPRESS/Randi Sokoloff
XPRESS

You have seen it in the movies The Three Musketeers, The Mask of Zorro and Pirates of the Caribbean. In fact, sword fighting has been around since the earliest days of cinema – wowing audiences with its skill and energy.

For those who want to learn the art of wielding a sword and get ‘fighting' fit, there's no better way than heading to one of Dubai's fencing clubs.

According to Zahi Al Khoury, one of the finalists in the World Fencing Championships of 1997, fencing is a sport that helps develop dexterity, endurance, flexibility, grace and overall fitness.

Al Khoury, 37, a Lebanese national, is a busy man - he owns an advertising agency, is the national coach of the UAE's fencing team and runs the International Fencing Club of Dubai at the Metropolitan Hotel on Shaikh Zayed Road. The club currently has more than 30 members with varying degrees of fencing skills.

He said, "Fencing demands a great deal of concentration, speed, fitness, flexibility and ability to make snap decisions. There are coaches at the fencing club who offer beginners lessons in fitness and footwork, in addition to fencing tactics and techniques."

Learning to fence is not an easy process – it is only after undergoing basic training that one graduates to fencing bouts.

Al Khoury stressed, "Learning to fence requires time and hard work. It takes about a month or a month and a half for a beginner to acquire the ability to start fencing with an épée [the most basic and popular form of fencing]."

Comparing fencing with aerobics, Al Khoury said, "Fencing, unlike aerobics, is not for everyone. Fencing requires more concentration and physical endurance. It is more powerful and challenging than aerobics.

"Those who want to de-stress and lose weight should definitely come to fencing. It is a fun way to stay fit and is something that can be pursued by anyone regardless of their shape and size."

Maria Kouzeva, 25, is master coach at another fencing establishment – The Dubai Fencing Club at the Madinat Jumeirah. She agrees with Al Khoury that fencing is an excellent way to burn calories.

The Bulgarian has been fencing since the age of 12 and has been coaching for the past six years.

"It is encouraging to see many Emirati women joining the fencing club. In the beginning, there was the perception that since it is an Arab country they could not take up fencing. So the first step was very difficult for them. But when they came and tried it and realised they could fence with their heads covered the perception changed dramatically."

One of the biggest misconceptions associated with fencing is that one may get hurt. But Al Khoury was quick to allay those fears.

"Nobody gets hurt in fencing. Accidents used to happen before, but many changes have made the sport safer now."

Fencing gear and equipment are very expensive, but the good news is that clubs offer both for free to make it affordable to more people.

The popularity of the sport led to the formation of the Dubai-based UAE Fencing Federation in the beginning of 2006. The federation promotes fencing among Emiratis. Before every tournament the fencers are trained and made to compete against each other. In the end, the best of the lot get to represent the country on an international level.

Al Khoury, who trains the UAE national team, said: "We are not worried about the results yet. The international tournaments give our young team experience and exposure to quality fencing. But by joining the international fencing community we have announced our arrival. They had better watch out for us."

Your Essential Guide To Fencing

Foil: A fencing weapon with rectangular cross-section blade and a small bell guard. This duelling sword is blunted to render it less dangerous for practice. For beginners.

Épée: Similar to the foil, this weapon is somewhat heavier and comes with a triangular cross-section blade and a large bell guard. Can be touched anywhere on the body. Intermediate.

Parry: A block of the attack, made with the forté of one's own blade.

Piste: The linear strip on which a fencing bout is fought.

Point: A valid touch; the tip of the sword; an attack made with the point.

Sabre: Another important piece of fencing equipment, this weapon has a flat blade and knuckle guard, used with cutting or thrusting actions. Touching area includes waist up including head and mask. For experts.

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