14 May

Had a light crowd at practice the other night, so with our coach’s encouragement our small group of curious minds decided to try something different, and fence sabre for the evening.

Coach started us with a quick 101. The grip is unusual, awkward even — instead of grasping the handle in the palm, the fingertips press the handle against the lower part of the fingers, with the thumb resting against the handle for balancing the blade. It felt like I was holding the weapon with my knuckles all evening.

She taught us three basic attacks (head cut, slash right, slash left), with the parry for each, then set us up for a practice tournament. Soon into my first bout I found that attacking my opponent’s weapon arm worked best for me (any area above the waist is on target, and you score a touch with any part of your blade). Why lunge for the body when there’s a perfectly good target a few feet closer?

There’s a few rule differences from foil (off target hits don’t stop the action, and you’re not allowed to cross your back leg over your front), but the same right of way rules apply. Big difference between foil and sabre is the speed. Sabre is all about attacking quickly, without feinting or pausing, where instinct and muscle memory are more important than strategy. “Fencing sabre will make you a better foilist,” my coach says, and I think she’s right. But I also like her philosophy of only studying one weapon at a time, so until I get more proficient in foil I think I’ll just play with sabre, maybe even epee, from time to time.

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