Spider enthusiast group keep childhood hobby alive

The age-old tradition of catching and fighting spiders is still alive and kicking, with a group of enthusiasts meeting regularly to pit their pets against each other.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Before there were arcades, mobile phone games and PlayStations, catching spiders was a common past-time among children.

Mr Chan Chun Kwong, 43, hopes to revive this passion. In November, he and a few friends started the group, Fighting Spiders Singapore, online.

In just three months, the group has grown to over 20 members.

The 43-year-old yard planner said: "When we were young, many of us had this hobby. I was sure I was not the only one who missed catching and fighting spiders."

Most of the members are around 30 years old and, like Mr Chan, they grew up with this hobby.

They meet twice a week at about 8pm at community centres or parks.

The spider that the members catch is commonly known as the jumping spider. During meet-ups, members discuss their spiders and engage in friendly matches.

Mr Chan also organises monthly competitions. Although there are no prizes, he said the competitions are taken seriously because "(the competitors') pride is on the line".

TRAINING

Mr Alvin Pang, who is in his 30s and has been in the group since it started, said: "Different members train their spiders differently.

"Some send their spiders for a lot of fights, some feed their spiders more, some even put a female spider together with a male one."

During fights, two spiders are placed on a flat surface, facing each other. The spiders fight until one of them backs away or falls out of the ring.

"Many people think our spiders fight to the death, but that never happens. If a fight goes on for too long, we will blow on the spiders so that they will separate," said Mr Chan.

But there's more to the group than just spider fights.

Mr Chan said members regularly give each other spiders they have caught, new spider containers they have made and extra spider food.

A 25-year-old member who wanted to be known only as Terry said: "We have become more than just a fighting spiders group, I have made many new friends here."

The members also organise hunting sessions.

Terry said with a smile: "Everyone has their own special catching methods and areas that they go to and some are more secret than others."

Mr Chan said that during their hunts, there are two rules they do not break: No plucking leaves or disturbing the spiders' natural habitat, and no trespassing.

He goes spider hunting with his 12-year-old son Caleb at a park in their Sengkang neighbourhood. He wanted Caleb to get interested in his hobby, too.

"I'm just happy to keep this childhood game alive, be it among people who grew up playing (with spiders) like me or young people who are interested," he said.

Caleb now regularly accompanies his father to meet the Fighting Spiders Singapore members.

Caleb said: "I really enjoy it and I'm trying to get my friends interested in catching spiders too."

He added with a cheeky grin: "My favourite part is when my spider beats my father's."

harizbah@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on February 22, 2016.
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