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Local fights for a good cause

Feb 6, 2019 | Features

By Matt Norman

Jess Rand is a self-described ‘gamer girl’ who grew up, went to school and works as a coffee roaster in the hinterland town of Montville.

While 27-year-old Jess remembers a childhood filled with imaginary quests, adventures and sword fights, it was certainly something she never expected to go any further.

“A few years ago I had a friend introduce me to classical re-enactment fencing, and it showed me this whole community I never imagined,” Jess said.

“It made me realise that whatever you’re interested in, you can always find someone to explore it with you. It’s the people who keep me coming to our Friday night training sessions each week.”

Jess went on to detail how her fencing school approached Cancer Council with an ambitious plan to join the Relay for Life and take an approach from another age entirely.

“We skipped the traditional form of running laps to raise funds. Instead, we fenced, fought or drilled with weapons for 18 hours straight.

“We were able to put our love of swords to a good cause and thanks to our supporters we raised over $10,000 for cancer research.”

“The team had a whole armoury on the day with weapons ranging from rapiers to longswords and even a couple of combat-ready lightsabers, which looked amazing in the dark.

“We had a schedule for each shift of who would be fencing. The minute we got there it was out the window,” Jess said with a laugh.

“The fencing community is hardly made up of the most serious people, so we always have fun with it.”

When I asked Jess about who she admired in the sport, she was quick to name Emma Fowler and Christopher Godwin, two of Australia’s top historical fencers.

“They display so much of the skill that drew me to historical fencing and the ability to make something that can be quite dangerous look amazing.

“There’s always a higher benchmark to aspire to, whether it’s a faster twitch reflex or better muscle memory. Fencing is very physical, it’s a test of endurance a lot of the time, and it can wear you down.”

While focusing on re-enactment fencing, Jess said she had been lucky to avoid any notable injuries. “I’ve just started to explore the world of Historical European Martial Arts, which is more full contact. When someone swings a longsword at you, you should try to block.”

As I left, Jess was stepping through the basic sword and buckler drills. It’s easy to see the passion that led to her fight for cancer research, through fencing.

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