Fencing is the latest sport in Guernsey to appoint a full-time Development Officer. 30 year old former Polish National fencer Kaja Klodawska, started in February and already has big plans for the sport.
‘I have been involved with fencing for 20 years,’ says Kaja. ‘I started when I was ten when my Dad took me to fencing practice in my home town of Lodz as I had a lot of energy to burn.’
She trained with the national squad and took part in various national and international competitions before winning a scholarship to Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.
‘I was there for six years and during my first four years I was competing at inter-college competitions. I completed my Bachelor of Science and stayed on to help with coaching,’ says Kaja.
She then moved on to become Assistant Coach at the Capital Fencing Academy in Maryland where she coached youngsters from age 7 to 17 before they went off to college.
‘I then decided to go back home to Poland and coached for my original club in my home town.’
It was a chance recommendation from a fencer at a FIE (Fédération Internationale d'Escrime) training camp that alerted Kaja to the opportunity in Guernsey.
‘I had never heard of Guernsey and I had to google it,’ says Kaja who is employed by the newly formed Guernsey En Garde Club.
‘Fencing can be seen as a bit of an exclusive sport but it is possible for anyone to try it. I want to reach out to all people regardless of disability, age or fitness level.’
Kaja describes fencing as ‘chess on a strip’ as the mental side of the sport is just as important as the physical side.
‘You have to change your decisions, you have a plan but so does your opponent and so you have to quickly adjust as you play. You don’t even know that you are exercising.’
Kaja is going to be working with the Sports Commission to try to get lunchtime or after-school fencing clubs established in as many schools as possible. She also wants to run some ‘have a go’ sessions for both adults and children to give as many people as possible a chance to try fencing for the first time.
Although there are three different weapons to choose from – sabre, foil and epee, each with different scoring methods and techniques –Kaja says it’s best to start with the foil.
‘The weapon chooses you. You can try all of them and then decide which suits you.’
She is particularly excited about working with children.
‘Fencing develops hand and eye co-ordination so kids are usually good at it. What makes fencing special is that it’s for introverts as well; not everyone wants to play as part of a team and some prefer to be by themselves.’
Although having only been in post for a matter of weeks, Kaja has lots of ideas for taster classes, adult sessions, fun social nights and even a business league. She is also keen to include Alderney.
‘We have plenty of equipment so you don’t need to spend any money buying expensive kit. You don’t have to be particularly athletic; you will learn quickly just as long as you have some understanding.’
And Kaja is not letting lockdown get in the way of realising some of her exciting plans. From creating videos on social media to offering free online classes through Guernsey En Garde she’s certainly keeping busy!