Jonathan Collins, who’s 29, is a wheelchair fencer who has won medals at the point of his sword but feels his sport is unknown and overlooked by the public in general. He is trying to further the cause of his wheelchair sport with an informative book on the subject. Able recently interviewed Jonathan regarding his latest book ‘Into The Frame’ and how he got into wheelchair fencing.
Your new book, Into the Frame, gives an insight into the sport of wheelchair fencing. Can you talk about your experiences of the sport and how you got into fencing?
Throughout my school and college life I was never encouraged to do any form of sport so a weekly family swim was my main form of exercise. I attended a few “Taster Sessions” of various sports but I didn’t feel they were for me. Over the years I began to put weight on and one day it clicked, I had to watch my diet and get fit. Finding a sport was now a priority.
I met up with a friend and she told me that she did Wheelchair Fencing at a club about 10 miles from where I live. I didn’t know the sport was available so close to home.
I went to the club and met Viv Mills who is well known in the world of Wheelchair Fencing. She told me a bit about the sport and showed me the weapons. Next, I knew I was” kitted out” and having a go. The feeling was amazing, I was hooked, I just couldn’t wait for the next session. Viv became my trainer and I have loved the sport with a passion ever since.
With the extra exercise and cutting “naughties” from my diet, I lost three stone. I feel so much healthier and happier which is all due to finding something I enjoy so much.
Fencing has had it’s most successful period in its history in Great Britain over the last few years – do you feel more people are becoming aware of the sport?
If you were to ask people to name a disability sport I don’t think many would say Wheelchair Fencing despite it being an Olympic sport since 1960.
In 2012 the London Paralympics did a lot to promote sport for people with disabilities. At the 2016 Paralympics in Rio Britain won an Individual silver medal for Wheelchair fencing, the first in the sport since 1988.
At the present time Britain has a very strong team of wheelchair Fencers. They are winning gold, silver and bronze medals at Major international and world Championships against world class opposition. Despite this the sport still remains little known. I want to promote the sport so our wheelchair Fencers get the recognition they deserve.
I posted a video of myself and my trainer on social media, our weapons had been changed to light sabres. The video attracted attention from all over the world a lady who had written a book about cycling for Amputees named Sonia Sanghani contacted me. She said she would support me if I decided to write a book on Wheelchair Fencing. At the time it was the last thing I intended to do but it would be a way to promote the sport!
Not being an authority on the sport I wasn’t sure how to approach writing a book about it. I decided that an easy to read insight into the sport would be the best way to go. The book contains a short history of the sport. It outlines the basic equipment, clothing and weapons used along with some rules and etiquette of the sport and what to expect if you enter competitions. Wheelchair Fencers, from club members to world champions have provided their life stories that are included in the book.
What’s in the future for you concerning fencing? Do you have any upcoming competitions?
My plan for the future is to continue with the sport I enjoy so much. I want to attend as many British Fencing training Camps as possible. I want to improve my skills and fitness. Hopefully, I will be able to continue to promote the sport so it becomes better well known.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into fencing? Is it a suitable sport for most disabilities?
Wheelchair Fencing is suitable for most disabilities and many fencers are amputees. There are different categories for different disabilities. As the name suggests Wheelchair Fencing involves using a wheelchair even if the Fencer doesn’t use a wheelchair for daily living. For competitions, a specially adapted wheelchair is used and it is bolted to a frame that prevents the chair from moving. Wheelchair fencing promotes physical activity in an exciting way. It uses many muscles and builds general strength and it improves hand to eye coordination. The sport improves concentration and mental agility as you try to outwit your opponent.
If you have any questions about the sport contact British Disability Fencing and they can advise on local clubs.
TRY IT…….ENJOY IT.
Into The Frame by Jonathan David Collins, is available from Amazon or by contacting him on Facebook at Wheelchair fencer Jonathan Collins.
You can purchase the book via Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1718141122