View Full Version : John Harding

-13th August 2014, 02:33
On Friday I received the very sad news of John Hardings passing which I gather was peaceful. I have waited until now to post about it, as I feel that I am less well equipped to do so than many others who have known him for longer or who had spent time with him more recently.

John was an enormous influence on my life, on fencing in my home county of Hereford and Worcestershire, and through his students he will continue to influence the lives and careers of young fencers across the world for a long time to come.

I first knew John as the fencing coach of Malvern Classic Foil Club which was his labour of love for many years. We changed venue many times from church hall to school to sports centre and back again over my time there. John kept the club running, almost certainly at a loss, and through it taught his own special ideology of fencing and in fact sport in general.

It was at Malvern Classic Foil Club (where electric scoring apparatus was not allowed) that I learned to fence, to referee and in no small way how to coach. John had a contagious enthusiasm, and was a perfectionist who relished the journey far more than the destination.

I am told that long before my time John was a very successful competitive coach by intention. He continued to be so as a side effect for many more years after his attention shifted to the artistry and skills of fencing above the medals. His last competitively successful fencer being Alexander Lloyd who started fencing in Worcester after John had had to stopped coaching in Malvern when he stopped driving.

During my time I remember bringing in a small number of medals at local events, but the picture of me in the newspaper 'wasn't a very good lunge' and that was what John cared about. Unfortunately despite his best efforts it still isn't that great, but I do take extra care to ensure my students learn it the way John taught it and not the way I performed it!

I did not realise it at the time, but John had nailed down the ideas made famous by Gladwell (10,000 hours of practice) and by Coyle (deliberate practice) and in many respects was therefore the best coach any young fencer could ever wish for. The qualities of a true master coach are defined as specific knowledge, the ability to convey that knowledge effectively, and an ability to ignite (inspire or enthuse) athletes. John certainly possessed all of these along with a wicked sense of humour and a penchant for stopping mid training session so everyone could have tea and biscuits and a chat.

Malvern Classic Foil Club was where I first developed my passion for the sport, it was where my father first started fencing and where I met many of the people who are still coaching fencing in Malvern today, including John Rees and Simon Webb. The modern Malvern Hills Fencing Club owes a great deal to the era when we all first met and were inspired by John and his love for the sport.

John's legacy is greater than the sum of his achievements, in that it is the ideas and enthusiasm that he passed on to myself and to so many others over the years. It was a real pleasure to introduce John (at the Birmingham international) to Amy Radford as GB's first fencing Youth Olympian knowing what a huge part he played in my development and therefore hers (lucky for me he did not look to closely at her lunge!!).

More recently one of my students here in China has been training with Ziemek in London where he met and was greatly inspired by John's last great student Alexander Lloyd. I am confident that John and his wonderful approach to the sport of fencing will continue to has influence all across the world and for many more years, I will certainly treasure both my memories of him as a person and the many lessons that he taught me more than two decades ago that still impact my life today.

I am one of a great many people in fencing you will have fond memories of John, I would encourage others to share there experiences and memories of this wonderful man.

Alexander Lloyd
-13th August 2014, 11:28
Following from Mattís fantastic post, John Harding has greatly influenced my fencing journey given that he was my first coach. Aged seven I attended my first fencing class at Lyppard Grange, and it was not until after six months of attending every Saturday afternoon that I was allowed to hold a proper foil during the class. Another three months passed before I was ready to actually hit someone! Keeping a seven year old boy entertained for this long while only learning body and hand positions, plus the importance of using your fingers to control the point, is to Johnís credit. I doubt many other coaches would be daring enough to use these techniques to teach the next generations of fencers.

This foundation of fundamental technique has helped me, and Iím sure many of Johnís other pupils, enormously over the years. Although John never did forgive me for moving from his distinctive handles (Harding Handles as I call them!) to pistol grip, he ensured that I continued to feel my point through my fingers. Very often he would give me lessons in the front room of his house (between the sofas, cat and the television) and if he was not happy with how I performed an action, I would have to repeat it again and again until it was to a satisfactory standard (i.e. perfect!). I am sure that Matt, among the many other coaches and fencers that crossed blades with John, will be passing on what they were taught to their pupils, whether that be in the UK or even China!

In 2010, John received a Bronze Medal from British Fencing. He was very proud that he and his fencing achievements had been acknowledged. I believe that John was well connected in the fencing community, even playing host to Ziemek Wojciechowski when he first arrived in the UK. When I told John that Ziemek had taken me on as his pupil, he was ecstatic and knew that his work in me was now in very safe hands.

John was a gentleman, and it is a great loss to fencing in this country.

My sincerest condolences are with his family.

-13th August 2014, 14:18
On 7th August 2014 Malcolm Fare received sad news from John Hardingís daughter Alison to say that he had passed away peacefully in the night. He had gone into full-time care some time ago.
John Harding's funeral will be on Friday 22nd August 2014 at Worcester Crematorium, 2.30pm, followed by a gathering at Severn Stoke Village Hall. His daughter Alison will welcome anyone who knew him.