What an experience this has all been! I am approaching the last couple of weeks of my Sabre lessons with Sydney Sabre Centre, and I can say without a doubt it has been an incredible experience. And, I’d love to share with you some of the things I have learnt about this sport and what challenges I have faced along the way, forcing me to revise my combat prowess and re-learn what I have practised for so long.
I am a little embarrassed to let you all know that I misunderstood the rules of how to gain points in a match for the first few weeks. But I now have a clearer understanding and want to share this with you in the simplest way I can. So let’s see how this goes.
When a match starts, the referee will call “On guard….Ready….FENCE!”. Then, you must MOVE. Photo on the right shows everyone “on guard”.
During a match, it is important to know who has “priority”. As soon as the match starts, “priority” is given to whoever is more aggressive, moves towards their opponent and goes for the attack.
If you stand still, and let your opponent attack you and you end up hitting each other simultaneous, since you did not move, you have NO priority. Meaning your opponent gets the point. The photo below shows our class practising our lunge technique without a sabre or mask, working on having a LONG stance and straightening our sabre arm. Better to get your opponent while advancing and maintaining PRIORITY.
So, you must move in at the start, if you can move FASTER than your opponent and gain more ground than them from the word “FENCE”, then YOU will have priority. However, you can lose this priority. You will lose it if you MISS or if the opponent PARRIES you. If either of these things happen, you lose priority no matter how aggressive you are, so even if you hit them simultaneously, your opponent will get the point.
So if you miss or are parried, you MUST retreat. This massive loss of power is something I don’t experience in Taekwondo often, as a common strategy I enjoy during a sparring match is to push through, regain control and regain dominance over an opponent. Until I grasped this concept, my matches more often than not went in the opponent’s favour.
You can regain priority again, if the opponent misses or if you parry their attack right back, these are unlikely against an experienced fencer, but they are your only hope in most cases.
Your last hope is also, if your opponent has priority but you manage to hit them without being touched at ALL, then you get the point despite them having priority. From there it is a race to 15 points to determine the victor of the match.
(Above Photo shows me post match, feeling pretty tired and being VERY sweaty)
Recently learnt Techniques
Attack Flank or Chest
The original attack learnt is a LUNGE, moving straight forward and striking your opponent on the mask, maybe even the body in random circumstances. Two other strikes we have learnt recently is the equivalent of our side of neck and reverse side of neck attacks. Aiming slightly lower to your opponents body, rotating your wrist and cutting them across their body rather than straight down.
The basic tactic with this is also similar to our round house kick, in that you can begin with a lunge and as they may move to parry (block) your strike, you change the trajectory of your strike and come in from the side instead.
Those that know my fondness for being deceptive with my kicks will no doubt agree that I thoroughly enjoyed learning and using these techniques 😉
Another simpler term for this could be “disarm” although you won’t actually make the person drop their sabre. The objective is to “beat” or “smack” the opponents blade, and to hit it hard enough that they temporarily (only a couple of seconds) lose their ability to parry or strike, and during those precious seconds, you need to strike them, FAST.
A beat will also give whoever performed the beat priority, making it very useful if you can use it while on the defensive or if you and your opponent has their sabre pointed out in your face.
A great example in the video below!
Attacking Mid Air
This technique has definitely been one of the trickier ones to incorporate into matches. In my first post about fencing, I explained advancing, retreating and lunging. On a recent lesson we learnt to not allow our feet to finish before attacking. This, step one, step two approach of moving and THEN attacking is not as fast as a fencer could potentially be.
We could see a major difference in our striking abilities once we utilised this technique and felt the sting if we landed before striking as the opponent would be too far out of range, especially since all those in my class have been getting faster and faster.
This is, without a doubt, my favourite technique. It is not the most practical to win a match which is a shame, but my inner Star Wars fanatic can’t help but enjoy the feeling of blocking someone’s strike and replying in earnest. Using the base of the blade (that closest to your guard/hand) and moving the blade in an upright position left or right or up above your head are parries 3, 4 and 5.
These are best related to our mid blocks and our high section block. You need to use the base of the sabre to block, if you use the tip your opponent will most likely break through your parry and still strike you. The positioning needs to be very precise and, similar in Taekwondo, you can not over extended your defense or it will not be effective.
If you successfully parry your opponent, you will gain priority, and, if they have committed to their attack, you will have a great opportunity to Riposte (meaning to attack after performing a parry).
Sydney Sabre Centre’s “World” Birthday Tournament
Sydney Sabre Centre had celebrated their 4th Birthday a few weeks ago. To have some fun on the day, they held a “World” tournament for their club. With teams of 3-4 getting little flags to represent their country’s, some creative control for the students to come up with their national chants and a challenge to see you can successfully taunt their opposing countries. There was even a PIRATE team, complete with “ARRRS” and “AHOY MATEYS!”.
I was lucky enough to participate for a small amount of time and joined up with team Romania. My team mates were very helpful and helped me with some strategies. I needed all the help I could get as my first opponent on the day was the very owner of the Centre, John Chow (can any of you define “pressure”?). John is a fantastic fencer and also a great teacher as you can really see he that while he is definitely trying to win, he is also just having a lot of fun along the way.
I did not get to stay for the conclusion of the tournament but I heard that team Italy took victory over Russia.
I have two weeks left until my 10 week beginners course comes to an end. While I don’t think I will be pursuing another 10 week course anytime soon, I will be attending on a regular basis and heading down to the centre to move around for a couple of matches. If anyone ever wants to try a lesson, either check out the Syndey Sabre Centre’s website or ask me directly and I can help you set up a lesson! They hold intro classes and even classes for kids ages 7-12 or another class for kids ages 13-17.
(The video and photos above/below show John and one of his student having a match, boy they are FAST)
Take care everybody! Hope to see you all at the upcoming grading!