The Fencing Academy of Philadelphia Blog

The Sword Guides: Sabre Fencing

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Sabre fencing has been present since at least 18th century Europe even though there are accounts of similar games during the Middle Ages. The sport became more well-known in the 1800s, with the first competitions taking place at about this time as well.

Today, sabre fencing is a sport that is practiced all over the world, especially since its introduction in the first Olympic games. As you might know, the sabre is one of three weapons used in fencing, with foil and épée being the other two forms. However, it is the only sword that scores points by hitting the opponent with the body of the blade.

Due to this, sabre uses different techniques than its counterparts and it relies more heavily on speed than other techniques. It’s also one of the reasons why sabre has received special attention from those who consider themselves sword enthusiasts. Sabre fencers rely on fast footwork to create openings for thrusts but they can also deliver dangerous cuts which require quick movements from their opponents to dodge and block.


Sabre Fencing Classes in Philadelphia

The history of the sabre

The sabre is a weapon that has been around for centuries. It’s thought to have its influences in the sickle swords of ancient Egypt and Sumer, but the modern sabre is believed to have originated in Persia, and was later adopted in the 1600’s by the light cavalries of various Central European armies, starting with the Hungarians.

The sabre quickly became known for its speed and agility, as well as its ability to inflict devastating wounds. In fact, it was often said that a sabre-wielding cavalryman could cut down an entire regiment of infantry before they had time to react.

A heavy 900g-1000g sabre blade with no taper, high mass and long handle was favoured by the Hungarians and Austrians for use on foot with large sweeping cuts and attacking very aggressively against an enemy army, but also as a duelling weapon where more control is needed than one would need when using it against multiple opponents or trying to disarm them quickly.

The hilt of the sabre was not very popular at first because it was heavy and it took time to use properly, but over many years, this design evolved into something that resembled the modern version of today.

What makes the sabre different to other fencing swords?

The sabre is a light and fast weapon, making it ideal for quick and athletic fencers. Sabre involves a lot of lunging and slashing motions. The target area for sabre fencing is above the waist, as historically, the sabre is not powerful enough to penetrate armour, making it safe(r!) to spar with. A sabre has a large bell guard to protect the hand from an errant hit and provide support and balance when hitting. The bell guard often contains a hand grip at the top, which allows the user to vary their hold on the weapon depending on what style they are using (Italian/French).

The sabre requires quick reflexes, good footwork skills, and accuracy when delivering touches with either the tip or blade of the sword. The sport also relies on feinting heavily so good concentration is important as well if you want to be successful with your plays.

The body serves as an important part during play because it allows fencers to score points without having to wait for their opponent to lunge – almost like kendo but with more finesse and accuracy due to the fact only strikes with the point or edge will be counted. This makes sabre fencing much faster than other types of fencing and it requires more agility and footwork to evade the opponent’s blade.

The sabre is a light sword (less than 500g) with a straight, pointed blade that is 105cm (~43 inches) long, with the blade measuring 88cm (35 inches). This profile makes them safer for beginners compared to pointed weapons. The handle is different from other swords because it has a clamp mechanism on the top which allows the fencer to use their hand or fingers as well as wrist action to move the sword back and forth. This technique makes parrying easier, leading to faster movement while still allowing for precise attacks. Many times, sabre players will attach knuckle-dusters (a piece of metal with sharp edges that fits around your index finger) before play that allow them even more leverage when striking.


What are the different types of sabre?

There are three types of fencing sabres: the French sabre, the Italian sabre, and the Spanish sabre. The French sabre is characterized by its thin, curved blade, while the Italian sabre is heavier and has a more pronounced curve. The Spanish sabre is similar to the Italian sabre, but has a less pronounced curve. The French sabre was designed for the light cavalry, who carried out fast attacks and needed to be able to defend themselves without much difficulty. This sword is very light and can deliver rapid, accurate blows. The Italian sabre was used by the heavy cavalry, who were armed with it when they charged enemy infantry. Although it is heavier than the French sabre, it can still deliver quick blows thanks to its curved shape. It is also easier to parry with an Italian sabre because of its weight; even if your opponent’s blade slides down, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to make a successful riposte. The Spanish sabre was given to all cavalrymen in order for them to fight against enemy infantry; its weight and the strength of its blows allowed for this.

The guard is perhaps the most distinctive feature on all fencing sabres. There are many types of guards, each with their own specific characteristics: French, Italian, or Spanish. The guard can also determine where to hit your opponent; it also has a direct influence on how you execute your actions. The handle must be grasped directly in the middle, at the level of the heart line (for right-handed fencers). This way, when you extend your arm during an attack – either straight forward or diagonally above your head – you will strike at exactly the same point as your opponent’s hand holding his sword.

The sabre is a type of sword that has been around for centuries. It’s also one of the most popular weapons in modern fencing, where it’s used to score points by making your opponent touch their target area with either your point or blade while simultaneously avoiding being touched yourself. If you’re interested in learning more about this particular weapon and how to use it properly, then we recommend checking out our blog regularly, where we’ll go into some more in-depth guides on technique with the sword! Otherwise, if this post has got you interested in the sword, why not sign up for one of our classes across Philadelphia?

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