BENGALURU: Fencing, which began as a military training programme in the mid-18th century, has become the second most expensive sport after golf today. The sport developed from the swordsmanship for duels and self defense. One of the oldest sports to be played at the Olympics, it includes a blade, protective gear, and training equipment that costs between Rs 7,000 and 15,000 for a Chinese make and can go up to `1 lakh for professional equipment. The costume is a one-time investment, however, the blade will need to be replaced as it tends to break.
The European-originated sport has been gaining popularity in Bengaluru with two academies conducting coaching classes for youngsters under the age of 20. Over 35 students have joined the classes in the last two months. Lakshmeesh Manjunath, former coach at the Bengaluru Fencing Academy (BFA), says, “Five years ago, coaching classes were available only at Kanteerava stadium, which was not easily accessible to many people in the city.” Which is why he was part of the group that was expanding the academy to different locations, Indiranagar and Koramangala.
The 32-year-old coach adds, “The sport has been gaining popularity over time since we started hosting competitions.” According to him, schools have also begun introducing the sport as a subject, which is usually otherwise only promoted by the army and the navy academies. Al Basher International school happens to be the only school in India to have adopted fencing in their curriculum. Three other schools in Bengaluru have it as an extra-curricular activity for all interested students.
Lakshmeesh got into the sport in 2008 while watching the Olympics on television. He decided to give the sport a try and has since never looked back. He has coached around 200 students in Bengaluru and 60 of them have represented Karnataka at the nationals, seven at the international level and one of the fencers is currently the England Champion in the under 14 category.
Yadhu Nandan, 20, has been training at the BFA for the last eight years. An engineering student and an assistant to Lakshmeesh, he receives at least two enquiries from interested applicants about the sport. “I train about 40 to 50 students on a daily basis and this year in January, Karnataka hosted the national-level competition. So people are becoming aware of the sport,” says Yadhu who was inspired by a senior fencer during his school days.
Srinidhi SP learned about the sport while she was filling up her admission form for Army Public School two years ago and had to enroll for a sport. “That’s when I came across fencing and decided to take it up,” says the 17-year-old. “It’s an interesting sport that manages your stress and anger levels,” she says, adding, “The key to the game is poke without getting poked.” Lohith N, founder of The Fencing Club Bengaluru, says the sport requires more mental strength than physical. He trains 120 students in Bengaluru. “It is a techno-tactical sport where you need to understand and focus on the opponent’s moves,” says Lohith is the first South-Indian to have received a license of an international referee.
The costume is a one-time investment, however, the blade will need to be replaced as it tends to break.
According to Lohith, juniors are given more priority in the sport due to less job openings for seniors.
Currently, coaches are hired on contract basis
The sport is still not very popular in India
Fencing vs swordfight
In fencing, which is a martial game, the objective is to score points by striking target areas on the opponent’s body. It has restricted movements whereas swordfighting is basically any fight using a sword. The emphasis is on protecting yourself first, and only then on striking your opponent. There is no restriction of movements.