A swiftness of movement façades immense strength, as swords slice through air, seeking the touch of the opponent. The control sabreurs hold both over the spectators and their own strength is riveting - and watching the young fencers at Salle Ossian, their dedication and passion is evident in every glide of the sword.
Salle Ossian is one of the top fencing clubs in the U.K, and boasts the title of Scotland’s only sabre dedicated centre – and its located right here in Perth. Last year they won the coveted ‘British Fencing Club of the Year’ award, and this year they’ve gone from strength to strength, with some of their junior fencers recently returning from representing Scotland on a world stage. I caught up with club founder, Phil Carson to find out more.
First things first, seven of your fencers were selected to represent Scotland at the 2018 Cadet and Junior Fencing Championships in Newcastle, which took place just last week. You brought home many medals for Scotland – congratulations! What was this experience like? What kind of training did you do at Salle Ossian in the lead up to this?
Yes, the experience for the kids was amazing. We’re still talking about the last Championships in Cape Town, and they’ll be talking about these ones for a long time to come. The organisers provided world class staging, commentating and live-streaming which made them feel very special indeed.
The fencers prepared well. On top of school work they train 4 evenings a week. We put in an extra three weeks training at the beginning of the season that got them well prepared.
You’ve travelled a lot, before settling in Perth. What made you decide to start a fencing club in Perth? And how does teaching in Perth differ from some of the other places you’ve both taught and trained in?
I actually had my dream job as head coach in Sydney, Australia when my wife got her dream job in Scotland. Like many of these things we decided to compromise, so I moved to Scotland! Since then we set up the first dedicated training centre in Scotland and have now got to the stage of producing regular members of the GB Team. For example, Mark Alvares was the first male Scot to make it to the junior European Championships team, and SJ Hampson and Kate Daykin are also the first Scots to be selected for the senior GB Team.
There are a lot of advantages to coaching in Perth because we operate away from the main fencing hubs in Scotland, so we can be innovative and fresh in our approach without being held back by the way things have always been done. Mind you, our impact has raised eyebrows around the Scottish fencing scene and we have taken a lead on developing coaches nationally.
What makes Salle Ossian unique amongst other fencing clubs?
We are unique in the sense that we are set up as a charity run by volunteers to cater for community groups and recreational fencers, as well as high performance athletes. Regardless of size, age, gender or background we encourage them all to train together. This has some interesting benefits, especially for girls who really enjoy training as equals with the boys. We get a lot of feedback from mums and dads about how nurturing and inclusive our club culture is.
What would you say to an absolute beginner, who is perhaps interested in fencing but unsure where to begin?
For anyone thinking of taking up the sport I will say that taking the first step on any new adventure can be daunting at first, but at Salle Ossian you’ll find a warm and relaxed atmosphere. After a one-hour introduction, you’ll be amazed that you will know all the rules, be kitted with the latest electronic scoring equipment, and be fencing with some of the best athletes in the country.
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