I knew, the very first time I picked up a sabre, it was what I’d been searching for my entire life.
This is the classic starting point for any good sports autobiography. The way this is supposed to work is that I would then go on to describe my childhood adventures, my early competitive defeats, and my most hard-won victories. I would finish off with some kind of great success, ideally at the pinnacle of the sport, along with some pithy lessons about wielding a sabre that would translate well to life lessons for aspiring athletes and corporate weekend warriors. There are many books like that, some of them good.
I can’t write that book. Because the first time I picked up a sabre was when I was 23 years old.
So my story is different. I fenced some sabre, sure. But then in 2011, I founded Sydney Sabre with my wife Frances. At its pre-Covid height, the club was the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, had more than 500 people come through its doors in any given week, and by 2020 had taught more than 10,000 people how to play the sport.
All this because of our radical idea: to teach adults how to fence sabre, properly, rather than just using them as cannon-fodder for little children who might one day become champions.
And, accidentally, discover how sabre actually works: at the highest levels of completion, after the kids and the simplifications used to teach kids have been stripped away, given nuance, and placed in their context.
So this book is about how I learned to fence sabre as an adult, compete at the top of the sport, and teach other adults how to do so too. I was never one of the greatest fencers of my time, but I would always put up a fight against them. This I could because of those who helped me along the way, people who were great fencers and coaches. This book is as much about them, and their kind guidance, as about the sabre and me.
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