Fencing Federation of Cambodia president Te Lorin explained that even though the martial art has been practised in the Kingdom since the French introduced it in colonial times, it has yet to achieve widespread popularity.
Speaking at the July 25 closing ceremony of the 2022 National Fencing Championships, held at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), he explained the benefits of the sport and dispelled some of the myths that surround it.
Lorin, who is also the rector of Western University, said many parents would not allow their children to practise fencing because they feared they could be injured. This was irrational, he said, as fencing is one of the safest sports of all.
“This is a sport that most Cambodian parents do not understand. When their children ask if they can participate, they are refused permission. Their parents imagine fighting with sharp swords that can cause serious injuries. This is a misconception,” he said.
He explained that fencing was practised in developed countries and employed some of the most advanced safety equipment in the world. It was so safe that the most serious injuries sustained were usually minor sprains to the legs.
At the same time, he also described the benefits of the sport.
“Young people who have participated in fencing already understand its requirements. It requires very good eye-hand coordination and quick reflexes. If you cannot see something and react to it instantaneously, it is impossible to win. Your arms and legs must be strong, supple and ready to explode into movement. Finally, you need to think flexibly, so that you can respond to different challenges by your opponent.
“Fencing can actually improve your thought processes – we use our intellect to train. It makes us agile and smart, which are valuable when on the piste – or fencing area – and also in business and our daily lives,” he said.
Lorin added that fencing requires physical and mental strength and quick reactions, and that practising the art is great for improving all of these things.
In addition to the physical and mental benefits, he reminded the gathered fencers that they had a higher chance of competing abroad than most of the Kingdom’s athletes.
“In the past, Cambodia had just two or three fencing clubs, but now we have 11. This shows the growth of the sport. I believe we are on track and will see an increase in young people signing up.
“Despite this growth, however, there are few athletes to compete within Cambodia. This means even moderately skilled players have a good chance at competing abroad. We intend to attend tournaments from Asia to Europe soon, so now would be a great time for a young person to take up the sport,” he said.
He urged the athletes to focus on preparations for the 32nd SEA Games, which the Kingdom will host for the first time next year.
“Fencing has been included in next year’s games, so all of you should be working hard to achieve selection for the national team. If you can’t claim gold, then let it be silver,” he said.
Sok Ang, secretary-general of the fencing federation, said that because fencing is a martial art, it was difficult to predict how many medals would be won with any certainty.
“We are sticking to the goal of going for gold, but as the federation president said, if we do not win gold, we will accept silver. Our officials are all working towards preparing for our medal campaign,” he said.