What is Sabre Fencing?
When it comes to a sport that has been featured in the Olympics since 1896, you may be surprised to learn that only about 700,000 people worldwide know how to fence — with 16,000 USA-registered fencers. Here at Morehouse, we are passionate about keeping this sport alive and competing well both nationally and internationally. We love to discuss speed, energy, torque, and precision — and how our students can get to top-level competitions. We love fencing as a hobby and a career, and today, we’re tackling the question, “What is sabre fencing?” to inspire another generation of fencing competitors!
What is Sabre Fencing?
Sabre fencing is one of the three competitive disciplines — foil, sabre, and épeé. While there are many similarities between the three styles of fencing, they were historically created to serve different purposes. Foil was used in training for military use; épeé hails back to swordsmanship and dueling; and sabre was established with the cavalry.
Sabre fencing is when two opponents are both trying to gain the upper hand through their sabres and attack methods. The basic rules include the following:
- A sabreur is a male fencer, while sabreuse refers to a female competitor
- A competitor scores by thrusting and cutting with the edge and back of the blade
- The target zone is the waist and up, not including the hands
- Special rule: If fencers hit each other simultaneously, the fencer who is moving forward OR connects with the opponent’s blade wins the touch
Each competitor is expected to aim for the target area above the waist, including the head and armpits, eliminating the hands. This weapon and the rules of the game demand that the fencer has excellent footwork and ready responses as part of their strategy.
Rules and Equipment Used in Sabre Fencing
When you look at the strategy, speed, and skill needed in what is sabre fencing, you can see why it’s both a mentally and physically challenging activity! If you’re a fencing beginner, you’ll want to have a great trainer and support system in place. Starting on the right foot with good habits will help you establish the proper foundation and advance more quickly in your level of competition. Here are some rules and sabre fencing equipment you will need to compete in sabre fencing.
Sabre Competition Clothing and Equipment
Fencing sabres and the clothing and equipment that go along with it provide an arsenal for the competitor to engage in hand-to-hand combat techniques.
The Sabre Weapon
The sabre is a light sword, perfect for athletic and quick fencers. This type of sword encourages lots of lunging, large movements, and slashing. While fencing sabres are similar to other fencing weapons, they do have some key differences. When you are competing, all of your equipment is regulated by the FIE or the internal governing board for fencing. For competition purposes, a sabre is about as heavy as a foil weapon, running 17.5 ounces in weight. This blade, featuring a curve and a hand guard, equips the competitor with the quickest-moving and most aggressive fencing style. From top to bottom, it includes a —
- Steel blade
- Bell guard
- Electrical socket (for electrical scoring only)
- The handle or grip (the bell guard protects the hand from hits while supporting balance)
- Insulating pommel (rounded knob)
Sabre was the last of the three types of fencing to join the electric scoring method, doing so in 1988. In competition, there’s not much difference between the electric and the dry (non-electric) competition. The blade stays the same — simply adding a 2-prong or bayonet socket. The pommel or the curved handle base has insulation to avoid making any blade contact a valid touch.
MaskThe mask protects the face but is also conductive, connected to the lamé, which covers the torso and arms.
LaméThe lamé, as mentioned above, protects the rest of the target area, ensuring the torso and arms are well-protected while having a conductive point scoring system with the wire and crocodile clip.
GlovesGloves are essential to keep the hands safe as well as provide a conductive manchette (cuff). The hand is not conducive as it is not part of the target area.
Fencing pants, socks, and shoesAll other pieces of equipment (fencing pants, fencing socks, and fencing shoes) serve to keep the player comfortable, distraction-free, and as agile as possible for the length of play. One of the easiest ways to get the equipment that you need for Saber fencing is by getting a quality Saber fencing starter set.
Technique, Strategy, and Tactics in Sabre
When you are training as a fencer, you will learn both offensive and defensive moves and techniques.
Basic techniques of Sabre Fencing
Offensive techniques include the riposte, feint, lunge, attack, compound attack, beat attack, disengage, continuation or renewal of attack, and flick. Defensive techniques include parry, circle parry, counterattack, and point-in-line.
Here is a description of a few of these offensive or defensive moves.
- Lunge — En-garde to extending the weapon arm fully, stepping one pace ahead, leading with the front foot to strike quickly.
- Extension — Extending your arm and the blade lets you claim right-of-way or score a touch.
- Parry — Parries are fast reflexive blocking of your opponent’s weapon. The eight parries are named Prime, Seconde, Tierce, Quartre, Quinte, Sixte, Septime, and Octave.
- Riposte — After parrying an attack, you can riposte or counterattack by directly attacking before the opponent bounces back.
- Feint Attack — A false attack that gives you an opportunity to come at the opponent from a different angle.
- Beat Attack — Use a small sideways motion to hit your opponent's sword with your own. Don’t overuse this, as it can create an opening in your defense that your opponent can use against you.
Having a good group instructor or personal coach will help you hone in on the footwork, mental acuity, and swordsmanship needed with each of these moves.
Advanced Techniques of Sabre Fencing
When you’re a beginner or intermediate fencer, you be wondering how to advance your level of competition. In sabre fencing, you must have incredible focus, outstanding conditioning from other sources, and heightened agility. The following are some ways to improve in these areas.
Focus — When competing in more advanced sabre competition, you must grow your strategy and tactics. Being able to read your opponent and anticipating how they will move will give you more opportunities to take the upper hand. You will then be able to make decisions more quickly, creating space for attacks.
Conditioning — Many coaches will encourage you to do weekly conditioning or practice other endurance sports like swimming, running, or tennis, which can help you keep competing at a higher level even after you’ve played all day.
Agility — Focusing on perfecting footwork and agility by practicing steps repeatedly is the most effective way to become a competitive sabre fencer. Once a competitor is past the beginning stages, he may opt to practice 2-3 times a week and hire a private trainer.
We hope we’ve given you a good preview of one of our favorite sports! When considering what is sabre fencing and how a child, student, or an adult can benefit — many people come to realize how intriguing and special this game truly is. If you're interested in any of our Morehouse fencing gear or Morehouse fencing training and coaching, contact us today to learn more about the process of becoming one of our students!