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MY DARTMOUTH Alan Payne


Founder of fencing club the Kingswear Swords


Who are you? Alan Payne, founder of fencing club the Kingswear Swords.


How long have you lived here? I’ve lived in Kingswear since 2002. I was born and brought up in Leicestershire and when I left college I worked for the family engineering firm. We sort of came here by accident. The company was struggling so we wound up the business at the end of the last century and I decided to have this century off! I was sitting at home in Leicestershire when my wife, Lucy, said: “Why don’t we pack up and go sailing?” I thought about it for a nano-second and said yes. We lived on a boat on the Dart for 14 months. Lucy is a teacher and got a job in Torbay. Now we have our house in Kingswear, overlooking the creek.


not to do. Women tend to be neater fighters, men come out with big bold sweeps, swinging the sword around, the sort of thing that looks great on films or the stage. You’re looking to take that down to small, deft moves – smaller is quicker and more efficient.


All the moves are real, and although we wear masks, the swords have tips and we have protective clothing, nothing is faked, it’s full on.


But yes we always welcome new members. I don’t just coach in Kingswear, I’ve worked with students at Paignton and the Dartmouth Academy, I teach fencing at Torquay Boys Grammar School, and best of all on the quarterdeck at Britannia Royal Naval College. To fight there, surrounded by all that history and architecture, with the swords crashing and the acoustics, watched by top brass dripping with ‘scrambled egg’ – that is really something.


Can you tell us about your family? I live with my wife Lucy, and we have two grown up children. Libby is


Why fencing? I first took up fencing when I was 15 and at college. I thought I was signing up for trampolining. When I turned up for the session I thought I may as well have a go at the fencing (there was no sign of a trampoline). By the end of the session I was hooked. I never did do trampolining. Fencing is exciting – it’s killing people with swords! All the moves are real, and although we wear masks, the swords have tips and we have protective clothing, nothing is faked, it’s full on. We fight and every fight is a competition. If you get hit it is your own fault.


There are three types of sword – foil, epee and sabre. At Kingswear we use the epee. This is a real weapon, whereas the others are training weapons. As soon as man started to stick flint in bits of wood and poke them at each other, that was the start of fencing. It is such a natural, inbuilt sport and a way to sort out disputes, and it has been around forever. It’s easy to imagine men duelling on the banks of the Dart at dawn in times gone by – much better when duelling was done with swords. The fight ended at first blood, so you could win by nicking your opponent’s cheek or arm. Once people started duelling with pistols it became a lot more dangerous.


Would Kingswear Swords welcome beginners? There are no beginners in fencing – only fencers without experience. It is a natural sport that anyone can do, and as coaches we are not teaching people what to do, but what


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