Counter attack

11 Jun 2015 / 09:38 H.

NATIONAL fencer Joshua Koh I Jie was only 13 years old when he first fooled around with a fencing sword, which belonged to his second brother Joseph.
"My brother Timothy and I were always playing with Joseph's equipment at home. One day he brought us along for a fencing class which was at the state training centre. Within a few weeks, the coaches invited us to train in the state team and the rest is history," Joshua recalled.
Although Timothy is no longer competing – he's managing his own fencing centre – Joshua has been participating in regional and global championships throughout the years, even bagged a gold medal at the 2011 SEA Games in the Individual Épée category. The 25-year-old recently participated in the 28th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore but like most athletes, Joshua aspires to qualify for the Olympics.
"Fencing pushes my limit because when you train, you have to work hard and focus. It's exciting and fun," said Joshua. The Petaling Jaya local trains for three to six hours a day and when he isn't "poking people for a living", Koh attends to university lectures and assignments. On weekends, the soft-spoken lad spends time with friends and in church or visits his parents who are now based in Pahang.
You specialise in épée fencing. How is it different from foil and sabre fencing?
One of the main differences is there's no rule regarding priority and right of way. In foil and sabre, the player who starts the attack gets the point. In épée, whoever hits gets a point and it applies if both players hit simultaneously.
What is required of a fencer?
Physical strength and mental vigour – as some would say fencing is like a physical game of chess. You have to strategise and think of a few moves ahead of your opponent. With experience you'll be able to read how the opponent fences. Coaches help a lot because they analyse the game from outside the arena, and instruct us on how to fence against the opponent.
What about money; is it really a rich man's sport?
Actually it's not that expensive. Some fencing centres and clubs take advantage of people who don't know better and overcharge. The equipment can be pricey but beginners can get cheaper alternatives – a weapon can cost less than RM100 while the entire kit, about RM500. High quality equipment is required for international competitions for safety reasons, and they can cost over RM2,000 for the whole kit.
How did you decide to pursue agricultural management?
I'm not really interested in business or accounting. Agriculture appeals to me because I get to learn how to plant my own food, fruits and organic stuff. I guess the interest comes mostly from my mum who used to do a lot of gardening last time and now she has a whole plot of land in Bentong to do it!
Who do you look up to?
My mum because she's passionate about the things that God has called her to do. She helps the orang asli in Bentong by teaching them how to earn a living and educating their children. As for local athletes, I would say Nicol David and Datuk Lee Chong Wei. They work hard to be on top and stay on top.
Best gift that you've received and given.
The only one I could think of is the guitar my sister bought me – we don't give a lot of stuff in my family. But I think the best gift you can give someone is to care for and love them, to be interested in their lives and to invest your time in them.

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