Fencing a physical and mental game | Sunday Observer
Sports - not a barrier to education

Fencing a physical and mental game

In ancient times sword fighting was a form of defence as well as a sport. A country’s army included sword fighters. Kings, employed skilled sword fighters in their armies. Gladiators were special warriors skilled in this art in the Roman period. In the legendary King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table there were skillful sword fighters.

In Sri Lanka, we also had very famous sword fighters such as King Rajasinghe II, Veediya Bandara, King Vimaladharmasuriya I and King Dutugemunu. Queroz, the famous Portuguese historian had written that King Rajasinghe II’s sword fighting skill was similar to that of Alexsander the Great. The invention of gunpowder revolutionised society and sword fighting was relegated to a backseat but from this ancient art was born fencing, another form of fighting with a sword.

Fencing is an organised sport using a sword.

The epees, soil or sabre is used for attack and defence. There are rules and set movements. It began at the end of the 19th century.

Fencing is still a comparativle new sport in Sri Lanka having been introduced to the island less than a decade ago. However, we have won several South Asian medals in a short period.

Twin sisters, Chathuni Karunarathne and Chamodi Karunarathne are doing great at fencing. The Youth Observer met them to discuss about their life and sports.

Q: Chathuni and Chamodi, without practice or specific work in the recent past both of you had plenty of leisure time. How do you feel about this?

A: In the Covid-19 period has been gave us a lot of leisure time. But it has changed a little now. Thus, Our community tries to live a normal life now inspite of Covid-19. Both of us also have to start practices again.

But we want to say that as youngsters we regret this situation. Covid-19 has been a great threat to our lives and has also affected the whole world badly.

We feel that hate is not a good thing but we hate this situation The whole the world must hate this pandemic. This kind of situation should not be allowed to happen again.

Q: It is good to know that both of you have matured. During that bad period both of you had success. Shall we talk about it?

A: (With laughter) Of course. Last year, we sat the GCE Ordinary Level Examination (O/L). We passed it. Our family members, relatives and friends were proud of our results. It was a very happy moment in our lives.

Q: You can share your results with our readers so that they can also rejoice with you. Do you like to share that happiness with others?

A: Why not? I am Chathuni and I passed the O/L examination with nine ‘A’s. I am Chamodi. I passed with Eight ‘A’s and one ‘B’. I have applied for re-correction for my ‘B’ pass.

Q: Both of you did the O/L examination while in Nepal. That was a special chance you had. What do you think about that experience now?

A: Yes, it was a challenge in the beginning and also a very strange experience in our lives. Both of us and another four players sat the O/L examination in Nepal.

The Department of Education had given us special permission for it. However, all who sat the O/L in Nepal passed very well.

Q: Chathuni, you did the best in that exam. What do you feel about it?

A: Yes. I passed all subjects with distinctions. I am very happy about it.

Q: Both of you won bronze medals at the South Asian Games. Let’s talk about that achievement.

A: In the team category events both of us accomplished it. We were very happy that we could win twice in one attempt. (Examination and Medal) It is was remarkable moment in our lives as young girls.

Q: I believe that both of you were named as ‘Karate Kids’ at the beginning of of your sports career. Am I correct?

A: Yes, we started our sports with Karate because, we saw it could strengthen us physically as well. We started karate sports when we were nine-years-old. We were influenced and motivated by our brother.

Suddenly, we heard about a new game called fencing in 2014. Then we participated in the induction program at MAS Unichela in Panadura.

There, we were got a basic insight about fencing. It also included what the sport is and how one can be involved in it. In the early days it was not easy for us. But we tried to play the game day by day and started to follow it.

Q: But fencing is an expensive game. How did you bear the expenses in the beginning?

A: Basically, we had the problem of our kit. The fencing kits are not made in our country or in most Asian countries either. So, we had to import it from European countries and the cost was around one hundred thousand rupees.

If we can import a graded dress, we have a chance to use it for practice and competitions. The MAS Group has been bearing most of our expenses. During the South Asian Games the Sports Ministry too helped us. Other expenses had to be borne by us.

Q: You have to be very quick and mentally alert for fencing. What have you got to say about the sport.

A: I think it is basically your mindfulness and physical strength that is needed for fencing. The foot work, reaction speed, defensive and attack techniques have to be mastered to be clever fencers.

Actually, it is not an easy task in the beginning but not an unachievable goal.

In 2014, when we began the game we really practised our foot work. Then, we learnt to use our foils.

Combining footwork and foil fighting is mixed with new techniques in the next step. Thus, we can find and develop our skills correspondingly.

Q: Both of you are powerful examples of finding success in education and sports. Chess is known to be a game which exercises the mental faculties. Likewise, what can you say about about fencing and its relation to mental and physical faculties?

A: Yes, chess is a game which exercises the mind. But fencing is holding a physical and mental game with in twelve minutes.

We use a foil to combat each other and that blade weighs around one kilogram. Without proper fitness you cannot fence with that kind of weight. It is not an easy task for anyone. However, previously we said that this game needs an excellent brain. So, fencing has improved our awareness and concentration greatly. It helps us to build our mental faculties as well.

Q: We would like to discuss about your personal life again. Now you are going to start your secondary education as well. How will you manage with your sports activities or will you postpone your fencing practices?

A: We will never give up or postpone actitivies in life. We know that success is the sum of small efforts. While doing studies we will be involved in sports too. We have decided to follow the commerce stream in our secondary education. We believe that it may be easy for us to find success in it than in other streams.

Q: You two are role models for youth. What do you have to say to them?

A: We have seen some progressive players stop their sports activities before any important examinations. We think that is not correct. We know that the most valuable players in the world would never give up sports before any examination. We also follow it. So, during last the SAG we faced the O/L exam and both of us were successful. As students we must be involved with extracurricular activities. Thus, both of us are involved with music, drama and the school media unit. Extracurricular activities will expand your mental capacity and skills as well.?

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