Swordplay encouraged at Knob Hill United Church

When dusk falls Monday and Wednesday nights, the unmistakable clashing and banging sounds of sword fighting ring out in Knob Hill United Church.

The church, at 23 Gage Ave., opened its doors to the Scarborough Fencing Club eight years ago. It’s just the latest chapter in the clubs long history, head coach Gordon Fong explained.

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“The Scarborough Fencing Club started in the late ’50s,” he said. “Over the years, we have rallied a large number of members.”

Fencing requires a lot of discipline, Fong said. It is as much about exerting physical energy as it is about using mental power, he said.

“There are basically six levels to fencing,” he said. “Members improve in their skills and precision in movement gradually.”

Supervising lessons and organizing sessions is a labour of love for Fong. The broadcast technician moonlights as a volunteer for the club.

“If I can still walk and move,” Fong said, “I would fence for as long as I can.”

Allan Spears, a volunteer coach like Fong, shares his passion for the sport.

“I started fencing at the Scarborough Fencing Club and knew that I liked the art of swordplay shortly after I took lessons,” Spears said. “The ethics behind the sports appeals to me. Through fencing we learn to be respectful to others and also to yourself.”

Tom Partington, a longtime coach at the club, first learned fencing from Bob Anderson, a sword-fighting trainer for many movies and Darth Vader stunt double in the original Star Wars trilogy.

“I have been fencing for 38 years,” the 64-year-old said. “I think many seniors still play the sport because it is excellent mental training. People have said that fencing is like chess played at the speed of light.”

Partington’s student, 32-year-old painter Josue Castro, became interested in fencing after he saw Bruce Dickinson, lead singer of his favourite band Iron Maiden, fence in a concert documentary.

“The sport looks very regal,” Castro said. “It is as if the players have ballet costumes on. This deceives people into thinking fencing is easy.”

His tip for learners new to the sport was, “You just have to practice regularly.”

The Scarborough Fencing Club holds beginner and intermediate lessons open to all ages every Monday and Wednesday from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Members of all levels are then free to join the individual and group open fencing sessions from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Anyone is welcome to try their hand at the sport with the experts during open sessions on Wednesday nights.