5 minutes with: Former GB fencing star Paul Davis
PUBLISHED: 06:00 19 August 2016 | UPDATED: 10:49 26 August 2016
The founder of the Paul Davis Fencing Academy in St Albans discusses the rise of the sport of kings
How did you get involved in the sport?
I was introduced to fencing as a pupil at Verulam School in St Albans. I loved the outdoors and the idea of sword fighting was irresistible. My goal was to compete in the modern pentathlon, however I soon found out I was better at fencing. I was awarded bursaries to fence at Newcastle University and during this time represented Great Britain. On my return to Hertfordshire I re-established the fencing club at Verulam. With the popularity of the class I decided to attempt a community club and booked a six-week block. We started in 2009 with 10 fencers and six years down the line we have nearly 600 members from aged four to 60 plus, training at over 50 sessions a week. We are now on of the country’s leading fencing academies and also offer wheelchair fencing.
The academy has had big successes this year. Who are the faces for the future?
This year has been our most successful season, with fencers competing in Europe and across the UK. Those to watch include 13-year-old Thomas Raut from Harpenden, who recently won bronze at the English Youth Championships and has been selected to represent England in 2017, and 11-year-old Thomas Heath from St Albans who while fairly new to the sport has achieved top results at national events and is knocking on the door of the England squad. Aldwickbury School in Harpenden recently became the number one prep school for fencing in the country.
Fencing in Hertfordshire has experienced an expediential growth over the last five years and we are proud to be leading the way. It’s one of the most technically advanced sports. Whether you picture the light sabre duals in Star Wars, swashbuckling in Pirates of the Caribbean or the slick performances on the Olympic stage, the draw of sword fighting has played a huge part in its growing popularity.
The academy is sponsoring Britain’s world number one wheelchair fencer Piers Gilliver at the Paralympics next month, what’s the relationship?
We operate as a social enterprise – we reinvest in the wellbeing of our community and support their needs by using fencing as a tool to educate and empower individuals. As part of this our academy members were asked to select a charitable cause to support, Piers was the outright winner. We have raised over £3,500 to support him on his road to Rio, covering the costs of travel and equipment. In return Piers is a strong supporter of the academy - regularly engaging with our fencers through social media and attending training camps.
What skills are required to fence?
Fencing has been proven to improve flexibility, reflexes, speed and agility. For those who excel on strategy and tactics, fencing has been labelled as ‘athletics chess’ because of the need to always be four steps ahead of your opponent. It can engage all types of people who might not have found their chosen sport, as such you can start at any age with any level of fitness.
Paul Davis Fencing Academy offers free taster sessions. Go to teampdfa.com for full details.