Described as ' an art, a science, and a sport ' Fencing is an all-encompassing compliment to the education of a child. Principally the concept of ' technique ', the application of which plays the crucial role in improving the chance of success; and how this concept transitions across all sports and the academic subjects - this is the logical element of fencing. The deployment of the technical skills in 'combat' or free play is where the Artistic attributes develop, as the fencer composes their tactics according to their intellectual characteristics.
Teaching the child to control emotions and subsequently maintain capability for analytical thinking under pressure, is vital both for their ability to deploy strategy, as well as to the overarching principal of good 'gamesmanship'.
Similar to Ballet (the movements of which originate from Fencing ); the acquisition of asymmetric co-ordination; the encouragement of self reliance & self discipline; the challenge of maintaining grace under pressure; is of immense benefit to development. Those more ‘Fencing specific ' attributes such as; improving reflexes ( simple reaction speed as well as both compound and decision reaction speeds ) ; combat psychology ; discernment between tactical and strategic thinking; are skills only beginning to become attainable for Upper School students at Garden House.
The Syllabus follows the national grading system with IX grades. All students will attain the first grade by the end of their schooling at Garden House. Some are capable of achieving grade I in MSII, two years ahead of their peers, the grade being an indication of co-ordination and application.
The focus of our method at the school is to give the students a very clear understanding of the basic idea of fencing. For the girls, we use the ‘linear method’ starting with games and exercises in pairs to help develop good 'distance keeping’ and targets mounted on the wall develop quality lunges for attacking. In the penultimate year, USI, the girls wear protective jackets and masks and practice simple attacks and parry ripostes in pairs, training each other. Once these distance keeping, defense/attack and contact skills are competently programmed we can safely start free play as a group.
However, it is recognised as a curriculum subject some latitude is to be permitted when it comes to 'competitive' play. It is important to stress that no one is obliged to fight, as this would be contrary to the philosophy of Fencing.
By the end of their time at Garden House the class takes the form of a 'club' whereby the students are granted autonomy and responsibility for themselves. This affords the Master the opportunity to give individual lessons to squad fencers and to give tactical piste side advice as well… some of the girls like to referee, whilst others support and help the fencers with their kit, timekeeping or scoring; Some girls will be working towards grade IV & will have won medals at national competition ! As such the group is a reflection of Life with all characters contributing to the goal, because the creation of one great fencer requires the participation and energy of a unified group.