How a Korean series sparked Philippine fencing interest

Waylon Galvez

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How a Korean series sparked Philippine fencing interest

MENTORS. Fencing coaches Clichelleyn del Rosario (left) and Dolly Mae Curiba pose after their training session at Canlas Fencing in Pittsburg, Quezon City.


Thanks to the Korean series ‘Twenty Five Twenty One,’ fencing interest spikes among aspiring Gen Z athletes

MANILA, Philippines – The popular Korean sports-romance series Twenty-Five Twenty-One recently aired its final episode, wrapping up the story of a young fencer’s struggles in her journey as a student-athlete to become the best in her chosen field.

It’s a 16-part series on Netflix that turned out to be a smash hit among Filipinos, and also surprisingly generated an offshoot – a growing interest on the Olympic sport of fencing.

Since March, there’s an increased number of enrollees at the Canlas Fencing (CF) of national team mentor Rolando “Amat” Canlas Jr. Inquiries on lessons also picked up the week the series aired its final episode.

“Many are asking about the schedule, on how, and when their kids can start training. But it’s not just kids, there were some adults who also inquired about fencing,” said Dolly Mae Curiba, one of the coaches at CF.

“They say they’re interested after they watched the series,” she added after training at the CF school at Fass Building in Pittsburg, Quezon City.

Kim Tae-ri played the character of Na Hee-do, a teenager who aspired to become a member of a high school’s fencing team in the popular Korean TV series.

Korean singer Bona played the role of Ko Yu-rim, the rival who eventually became best friend and teammate of Hee-do, while Na Joo-hyuk played the love interest of Hee-do, Baek Yi-jin.

Hee-do and Ko Yu-rim fenced with sabre as their weapon.

In fencing, sabre is one of three weapons. The other weapons are foil and epee.

According to Clichelleyn del Rosario, also a coach at CF, it feels good that the TV series is helping fuel interest on the sport.

“We’re just happy seeing 5- to 6-year-olds are trying the sport now… maybe because of the series. This is good for fencing because the more, the merrier for the sport,” said Del Rosario.

The young fencers of CF are also hooked on the TV series, and the likes of sisters Yuna and Yuri Canlas, Shy Catantan, and Willa Galvez even watch an episode prior to their training.

Peter So of Vicious Brainiac Fencing said almost all other clubs have actually gained new members because of the series.

“Not only that, what I noticed is that the new followers and likes on the fencing pages like Vicious Brainiac, majority are K-Pop fans, the Gen Z and millennials,” said So.

“The series is a big help and we hope we get to see people who’ll take the sport as a hobby.”

FANS. Canlas Fencing members (from left) Willa Galvez, Shy Catantan, and Yuna Canlas watch an episode of ‘Twenty Five Twenty One’ before their training.

Aside from CF, other fencing clubs like Republic Fencing (RF) in San Juan, Ezkrima in Alabang, the QC Sep in Quezon City, Forge Pioneer in Valle Verde and Pasig Fencing Club, the Manila East Sabre Fencing Club in Taytay, Rizal, the Cebu Fencing League, and the Davao Fencing Club also got inquiries.

Just a few years back, fencing also generated interest among young athletes following the successful campaign of the Philippine team during the 30th Southeast Asian Games here.

The national team bagged two gold medals in that SEA Games as Jylyn Nicanor dominated the women’s individual sabre, while the women’s team of Hanniel Abella, Mickyle Bustos, Anna Estimida, and Harlene Raguin ruled the team epee women’s category.

The popularity of fencing also got a boost when Samantha Catantan inspired many aspiring athletes when she became the first homegrown Filipino to play for Penn State University, a US NCAA Division 1 school.

The 20-year-old Catantan, formerly of the University of the East, is now on her sophomore season at Penn State and has competed in back-to-back seasons in the US NCAA Fencing Championship.

“The important thing is that many people are interested,” said Canlas. “That’s why we are excited… We hope to see more kids try the sport. Actually even adults, it’s not too late to learn something new.” – Rappler.com

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