Imaan and Aaliyah Cassim are ready to bring home the gold in fencing Photo Supplied
South Africa – Fencing is an uncommon sport in South Africa but two sisters have taken it up and are excelling in it. Imaan and Aaliyah Cassim who are 15 and 17 years old respectively, qualified for the Junior Commonwealth Games last year and will participate in the Cadet Junior African Championship which will be held from February 15 to 21 in Accra, Ghana.
Their love for fencing started at a very young age when Imaan and Aaliyah were just 11 and 13 years old respectively. They were looking for a unique hobby and fencing seemed like the right one for various reasons, explained Aaliyah.
“Our mom, who is a fencer by the way as well, discovered that fencing has similarities to sword fighting. It being related to a Sunnah of Nabi (SAW) and when we decided to take it up just as a hobby, we immediately fell in love. It became a lifestyle.”
Fencing and its categories
Fencing is one of those sports that require a strong mind and a strong body to excel in it. A strong mind and a strong body helps to make quick decisions and fast attacks. There are three different fencing blades used and each comes with its own compositions, techniques and scoring targets, explained Imaan.
“Our gear consists of multiple layers which prevent us from getting hurt. It consists of the mask, the jacket that protects us and our swords. There are three different categories to fencing. We have our epee, our foil and our sabre. Epee is the whole body target. Foil is just the torso and then sabre is of course the slashing motion and it consists of the arms and head.”
Even with all this protective equipment, it is not uncommon for one to get injured. Especially if the opponent is one who hits very hard.
Keeping fit to fence
While having a strong body and mind is great for any fencer, having perfect footwork is vital. Almost 90% of being a great fencer comes down to how good your footwork is, explained Aaliyah.
“You do have to have to do a lot of footwork because I would say 90% of fencing consists of footwork and a lot of hand and eye coordination. It’s not just about hitting someone with the sword. You have to know where to hit and when to hit. It’s all about timing and it’s all about precision. A lot of footwork and a lot of hand and eye coordination training.”
The future is bright for these two champions who wish to make it to the World Championship to be held in Bulgaria this year. While they both wish to pursue other interests after school, they also want to ensure the fencing becomes alive in South Africa.
To hear what Imaan and Aaliyah Cassim said about what it takes to be a champion fencer and the benefits of fencing listen to the podcast here