When it comes to the sport of fencing, Adam Blight is keen to quash any ‘silly’ swashbuckling stereotypes.
As the head coach of Sheffield Buccanneers, Adam - who has worked as a full-time professional fencing coach since 1993 - has heard them all.
“People have this idea that fencing is something only done in private schools, or by a certain type of person, but at Sheffield Buccaneers we teach regular kids from all across the region every single week.”
Fencers trained by Adam, both from this and other clubs in the area, have gone on to win National Championships and have represented their country in International events including World, European and Asian Championships and Olympic Games. Most recently, Sheffield hosted the Fencing British Youth Championships at English Institute of Sport, which saw more than 1,000 young people from all over the country attend the three-day event in the city, earlier this month.
“It’s always an incredible event,” said Adam, who began fencing himself in the 70s.
“We have many successful national fencers in Sheffield who attend, plus many more from all over Britain who have qualified, and it’s one of the highlights of the fencing calendar. This year, one of our boys won the British under 16s, actually fencing against his own training partner - with whom he’s trained for years - in the final.
“Sheffield Buccaneers is kind of a hub for the whole of the north, and we have kids coming to us from Nottingham, Manchester, Leeds and beyond.”
Fencing is a modern sport developed from the sword fighting techniques of old. In the modern sport there are three different weapons - the foil, epee and sabre - each of which have different rules and conventions. Sheffield Bucaneers trains its students in all three. And Adam explains that, much like dance, or a martial art, fencing takes years of intensive training.
“First of all, it’s intensely physically demanding,” says Adam.
“It’s also very practical and precise, with lots of technique, and so it requires years of hard work. Some of the 16-year-olds in our club have already been fencing for years and years.
“We hold coaching sessions twice a week, and can expect up to about 30 people at each of these sessions, with a wide range of ages and abilities.”
Sheffield Buccaneers sessions are held on a Wednesday evening, in the sports hall at Birkdale School, and on Monday at St Mary’s College.”
Adam - who is also a member of the British Fencing talent team - has travelled all over the world to various championships and Olympics, supporting his students.
“If you want to get good, you have to travel and compete as much as possible,” he adds.
“No matter where you are, any other sports hall in any other part of the world, the principals of fencing are all the same.”
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