x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

After chemistry and maths, classes in sword throwing

The upcoming Al Saif Traditional Sword Competition will have mountain tribes prepping for performances.

FUJAIRAH // In addition to algebra and chemistry, Fujairah's secondary school pupils may have a new subject on their timetable this autumn: sword throwing.

Sword slingers have been asked to ready their blades for the 2011 Al Saif Traditional Sword competition and organisers will offer Fujairah students extra-curricular classes in the northern art.

The competition is an initiative of Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad, Crown Prince of Fujairah, to preserve the traditional sword dance performed at weddings by mountain tribes in Fujairah, RAK and Oman.

The sport was popularised by last year's Al Saif Sword competition, which featured swordsmen competing for viewers' votes on television for the title of the best sword dancer and Dh100,000 for first place.

After recruiters make their final selections, semi-finals will begin on November 11 and will be shown on television.

In addition to touring villages in the Northern Emirates, recruiters will extend their search to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. There will be three training workshops in Fujairah city, Dibba Fujairah and Masafi.

"We will bring the competition to all of the people," said Mosabbah Al Mesmari, a member of the organising committee.

"We have two objectives, one is to bring the sport to the students and the other is that we may find students who will be eligible for the competition. We want them to at least participate in the sport and see how the sport is done."

Swords must measure at least 70 centimetres in length. The zafin, or warrior, is awarded extra points based on style and his ability to make the steel blade quiver, but most importantly, he must never drop the sword in the quest for height and showmanship.

Though young boys participate in sword dances at weddings, participants in the Al Saif competition must be more than 16 years old. This means that sword classes will only be on offer to college students and senior high school pupils.

More than a dozen schools are expected to take part in sword dance practice with veterans training students weekly.

Last year's finale saw Hazza Sulaiman, 18, set a Guinness World Record for the highest sword throw with a height of 21.275 metres.

This year competitors are looking to break that record. To ensure a high level of competition, first-round qualifiers will receive a week of training to adjust to a new song.

"We are shooting for a new record," said Mr Al Mesmari. "We need to make sure that they understand the basics of the sport itself."

"Every tribe has a different rhythm so we want to make sure that to some extent, that people are going through certain steps."

Organisers have pledged to expand the heritage village, a site of handicrafts and traditional cooking outside the competition at Fujairah Fort. Sword fans can get regular updates via Twitter and Facebook.

azacharias@thenational.ae