Unconventional Faith

November 1, 2019 · Print This Article

Could faith and fencing help prevent knife crime?

I remember my heart racing as I raised the sabre. Enclosed in my helmet, I felt uniquely closed off and alone. Staring at my opponent with sabre raised, we waited for the instruction to engage. With some thrusts, swipes and lunges later, the point of my sabre hit his torso – I had scored a point! With a smile, we saluted one another and took off our helmets to shake hands.

It was exhilarating! The buzz of combat. The rattle of the sabre on your helmet. The thrill of being stabbed but with little pain. Just a game. And respect for the opponent. Welcome to fencing.

But could this unconventional sport ever help those who would otherwise stab someone, this time for real?

This is what Steven thinks. He’s a fencing instructor for an inner London youth charity called XLP. He is a man dedicated to doing something for his community. He is also a Christian with an unconventional approach. He believes the experience of fencing may help prevent the knife crime epidemic.[1]

Wait a minute, isn’t this Christian business about turning the other cheek? Indeed, but before we give him short shrift, let’s ask the question, how can fencing help knife crime?

Steven believes that fencing teaches you self-control and respect. Two things missing on the streets and between gangs. It’s what I learnt in my fencing experience as a young boy (ironically, at a Christian camp). When you face an opponent in fencing, it gets the adrenaline going. The prospect of being hit, although you are protected, forces you to keep yourself calm, to challenge your fear and tame it. This ability to notice your emotions and then regulate them can be a game-changer in a real-world conflict. And regardless of who lost the point, you both have to salute one another before the beginning of the next round. Respect for the other in the face of defeat takes one-up-manship out of you and revenge is given no breeding ground.

But it is Steven’s faith that informs the most important value he believes can be instilled through fencing. To treat others as you would want them to treat you. This is the foundational principle that Jesus himself taught.

Maybe in a society where life and individuals are seen as cheap, this principle can help us rediscover a lost understanding of the unique value we possess and the value of life itself.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/stories-50101362/steven-a-christian-thinks-fencing-prevents-knife-crime

[Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash]

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