BRITAIN'S Olympic team had one of its most successful years for fencing at this summer's Rio 2016, success which has inspired people of all ages to try fencing at Skipton Fencing Club, writes Mason Boycott-Owen. The club, based at St Andrew's Church, Newmarket Street, sees both children and adults fence all the way up to an international level, or just for fun and as a way of getting fit.

Some may also have been inspired after watching Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, others may have gone along with their children - but all are finding, its not just a sport for the super-rich.

Jim Lockyer, who doubles up as club chairman and head coach, said: “We’ve seen an increase in membership since the Olympics, as we did with London 2012, and obviously at the end of summer it’s a great time to get involved in something new."

The club provides coaching for much of the Craven area and beyond, and Jim also goes into school to teach during the day or after school.

“Some of these kids end up coming to the club as well, we've got children coming from schools in Sutton, Skipton and Cowling," he said.

And he added it was wrong to think fencing was an elite sport, traditionally for the upper classes.

“Some people think fencing is a sport only for posh people – it really isn’t. Nearly everyone at the club has come through the state schools in the area such as South Craven or Ermysted’s.”

At the beginning of last month, five new students were at their first session with the club. After being shown a few of the essential skills, 11-year-old Lewis Hanson said: “Today we learned all the basics like lunges and parries. There’s a lot to remember but I had a lot of fun.”

Henry Askew, also 11, said: “I saw Olympic fencing on the television and some of it was really fast so I thought I’d give it a go – but I’m not that fast yet.”

Ethan Pye, 12, had tried his hand at fencing before but it was a film that inspired him to pick up a sword again. “I’ve fenced twice before in scouts but seeing things like Pirates of the Caribbean really made me want to try it again” he said.

Richard Kruze, Britain’s top fencer at the Rio Olympics, was beaten to the bronze medal in a very tense fight. His defeat extended the 50 year wait since the last British fencing medal.

Jim said “Britain hasn’t won a medal at the Olympics for a very long time. We’ve come very close this year. Getting more people involved means that hopefully in a few years we can go that step further.”

Despite being a small club, Skipton has consistently turned out top-quality national and international standard fencers. Among those climbing the rankings recently have been Billy Shepherd, Ellie Jackson, and Nathan Foster.

Billy, 16, said: “I’ve been fencing since I was nine year old, so that’s seven years now and I’ve been going to competitions since I was about 10. I do under-17 Cadet and under-20 Junior national competitions as well as a few international ones. "

Billy travelled with the England team to compete in Poland and was placed a very impressive tenth out of more than a hundred competitors. His dream is to one day be selected to compete in a future Olympics Games.

"Back in the UK I’ve won two senior open competitions and come second in the British and English Youth Championships. Being selected for the Olympics one day would be amazing.”

Jim said: “We help people go to competitions if that’s something they want to do. It usually takes around six months to a year after someone starts before they go to competitions. The Yorkshire Youth League is a good entry point for this.”

Although the club’s fencers have achieved a lot of success over the last ten years, for many it’s somewhere to have fun as well.

Nathan, 15, who also competes in Cadet competitions, said “The club has a great atmosphere, it’s very relaxed and you’re not forced into competitions.”

I’ve been fencing since 2010 but I’ve had a couple of years off before coming back. Coming back was no problem, it’s a really friendly atmosphere and there’s no pressure to come every week.”

Though many of the club members are young boys and girls - there is a lower age limit of six years old - adult fencers are regulars down at the club. Some have even learned completely from scratch after bringing their children.

Jim said “Adults are definitely welcome, it doesn’t matter what age you start at. The oldest fencer in the world was over a hundred years old, and she only started when she was 85 or something like that. Age really isn’t a barrier. We’ve often had parents and children start at the same time which gives the club a really nice family atmosphere.”

Sessions at the club run throughout the year and takes place on Thursdays from 6pm to 7.30pm.

It costs £3.00 for children or £4.00 for adults. All the equipment is provided along with volunteer and BFA qualified coaches with years of experience. To find out more, go to the website, or email