Watch some of the best fencers in the city battle it out this week or choose your weapon and give the sport a go for yourself.
The sport of fencing is fast and athletic, a far cry from the choreographed swashbuckling bouts you see in films. Instead of swinging from chandeliers or leaping from balconies, the modern art form is more of an intense dance than a duel to the death, with movements so fast the touches are scored electrically – more Star Wars than The Three Musketeers.
‘No, fencing is not like the movies and no, we cannot turn someone into Zorro,’ head coach at Dubai Fencing Club, Master Mihail Kouzev proclaims in his strong Bulgarian accent. Kouzev has a degree in fencing and has competed in four world championships: who are we to argue?
‘It is like a physical game of chess,’ he continues. ‘Fencing takes mental agility as well as physical fitness to succeed. We are talking about a traditional and prestigious sport – one of the oldest – and one of the first to be admitted into the Olympics in 1896,’ he declares proudly.
Training an Olympian is something the 29-year-old has set his sights on since setting up Dubai Fencing Club with his sister Maria Kouzeva (also an accomplished fencer) three years ago. He says there is no reason a UAE fencer shouldn’t be bringing home a medal in years to come. ‘Our next aim is to get a local fencer into the Asian Games which will be the first international competition this country has been represented in, and then who knows,’ he says optimistically.
‘Initially when we formed the club there was more interest from expats than the local community, but now that’s changing. We have sponsorship from companies including Mercedes Benz, local men are joining the classes and we’ve also started closed-door training sessions for local women – which Maria teaches. We even have a Sheikh as a member.’ And that’s not to mention the club’s 20 plus youngsters – a future generation of potential fencing champions aged 8-14, who are currently learning the ropes in the junior classes.
More than 30 of the city’s finest fencers will be competing in this year’s Open Championship Epée at Dubai International Academy at 11am on Friday February 17 – where you can see firsthand the catlike speed and graceful precision needed to master the sport. Members of the public are free to spectate and need only turn up when the doors open, but space is limited. For further information phone Mihail on 050 7944 190.
If you can’t tell your attack from your riposte, there are a few things you’ll need to know before entering the arena. Fencing is a general term used to describe swordplay and there are three types of weapon contenders can choose to specialise in: the epée, the sabre or the foil. The skills needed to succeed vary from weapon to weapon as does the area of the body you must target to score points.
While the technicalities would boggle a beginner, in basic terms fencing is a one-on-one game in which the aim is to score points through touches on your opponent. You aim to score 15 points/touches within a nine-minute time limit split into three three-minute rounds with a one minute break in between.
If you feel tempted to don a white suit, but don’t know where to start your best bet is to give one of the city’s three fencing clubs (listed below) a call before signing up for a beginners’ class. While becoming a ‘master’ takes years of dedicated training and recognition on an international stage, you can be battling your way to victory in your first bout after just three or four lessons.
You’ll need to be fairly fit and own trainers and a tracksuit, but all of the clubs provide all the specialist equipment you will need – a protective outfit, crucial face mask and the all-important weapon of choice. You’ll be cutting and thrusting your way to the call of ‘en garde’ before you know it – just don’t ask for a black cape. Michelle Byrne.