In standard four (1964) I was in Langkap, Perak. It was there that I was first introduced to the world of fighting spiders.
Fighting spiders, Thiania bhamoensis, are small, greenish arachnids (they are not insects for they have 4 pairs instead of three legs) commonly used by children to play with.
During my times my friends and I used to foray far from Langkap Police station to look for them.
They build their nest by binding two leaves (usually hibiscus, sugar cane, pandan and other plants) together with vertical strands of silk produced from special glands in their abdomen perpendicular to the leaf surface.
Normally I would gently separate the leaf-sandwich and peek nto them to see what was inside. I would look for two large white eyes of a fierce male. If it was a female, I would leave it be.
If it was a male, I would pluck the leaves and gently put them into a match box.
These fighting spiders were normally housed in regular empty match boxes that were lined with leaves of plant species from where they were caught.
Fighting arena was usually on the match box itself. Sometimes we used larger metal match box for more important matches.
The fight was usually very brief. The gladiators would normally test their strength by pushing each other using their first pair of legs.
The losers would autiomatically run away and the winner did not chase it that seriously.
So a fight rarely resulted in serious injuries to any of the fighters.
The opposite was true if different species of spiders were used. It happened to me once when my favourite spider went in to fight a neighbour's champion.
Only when I saw that it was a bigger species of spider I realized that it would be a doomsday for mine. It quickly jumped on it and gobbled my spider into its massive mouth parts.
Spiders collected from certain plants were said to be stronger than others. In my case I preferred spiders originating from sugar cane plants.
With the rampant use of insecticides and weedicides I wonder if there were still fighting spiders around our gardens.
I have not seen any as I search for them in my pandan leaves at the back of my house.
May be I will try to reintroduce this game to my nephews if they were not scared of them.