Fencing: it’s sexy, it’s elegant, it’s cool and apparently it’s a great workout too. Is it time to swap your yoga mat for a sabre? And will you end up with ridiculously toned arms like Madonna in Die Another Day?

madonna fencing

With this optimistic idea of what can be achieved in two hours in mind, I joined a two hour fencing taster session at the Central London Fencing Club. Clearly I wasn’t the only person who had heard about the benefits of fencing – the class was fully booked. My classmates were a varied bunch, and the club encouraged people to get to know one another and to swap fencing partners during the class. Initally, I found myself apologising profusely for stabbing people – not something I ever thought I’d need to do! It didn’t take long for all our awkward manners to go out the window though, and by the end of the session people had clearly surprised themselves at their surprisingly combative inner-musketeer!

We started with a few fencing-related warm ups – fencing is good for both aerobic and muscle-toning exercise, and so a full warm-up is essential. Fencing requires a lot of knees-bent sidestepping and lunges, which awoke muscles that I haven’t used for years (trust me, they protested!). We then moved on to learn the basic fencing moves: attacking and parrying. We were given plenty of time for friendly sparring, where you discover that all those cinematic sword fights are considerably more difficult than they look!

About half of the class were women, and apparently this is representative of the club’s attendance. It’s a great sport for women – it builds self-confidence as well as fitness, and as a more sociable sport it seems to appeal to groups of friends. While fencing, women wear a fetching protective plastic breast plate, along with a shoulder cover, a sturdy glove on your weapon arm, and thick white jacket. Oh, and a mask that covers your entire head. The result is like a mini-sauna while you work out.

There are many fitness benefits to fencing. It’s great for all-over toning: thanks to all those lunges your thighs and derriere get a good workout, as do your arms (not just the weapon arm – you use your other arm for counterbalance too). In addition, as a carefully held posture is essential, your core will get a decent workout too. And no, I didn’t come away with arms like Madonna after a two hour session, but I did come away buzzing with adrenaline and with newly-discovered muscles – and I’m definitely a fencing convert!


I took part in a two hour taster session at the Central London Fencing Club. You can find out more about fencing at the British Fencing Association.