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Sabre Fencing Is Fast And Exciting

Nov 21, 2007
Sabre fencing is the fast-paced member of the sport of fencing most like old fashioned sword fighting in battlefield conditions. The saber is the "big daddy" in fencing equipment and the largest and heaviest weapon. It is a true sword with sides with an edge, unlike the epee and foil.

Sabre fencing has a different strategy since side touches are scored and nearly the entire body is fair game for strikes, except the back of the head, the hands and wrists, and below the waist. Double touching is also not permitted. This makes the opportunity for points greater and the defensive strategies more complicated.

Fencing comes from the real use of swords as weapons of warfare, and these swords had functional points and edges, so that they could both pierce and slash. The sabre blade is most like the fighting sword in appearance and function. It is a bit stiffer than the other swords.

Fencing is an unusual sport in that it depends far less on brute strength than on agility and strategy making it accessible to many athletes both large and small. Women often compete with men because size alone is not much of an advantage, although arm length can be an asset.

The main difference in fencing equipment for men and women is an option for a special chest protector to shield the breasts, but the weapons are the same and the strategies don't depend much on gender. Women are more likely to compete with epee and foil, though, possibly because they are seen as less aggressive.

Like all fencing, sabre fencing is very formal in rules and etiquette. There are rules of "right of way" determined by who first initiates a move, and much of the terminology is still in French. Attacking motions are called thrusts and slashes and defensive moves are called parries. A score is called a touch. Sabre work depends even more on footwork than epee and foil.

Sabre fencing is popular as a high school and college sport as are epee and foil. It is an Olympic event. As a team sport, teams are usually three people with an alternate available but only able to fence if one of the three is injured or otherwise must withdraw. There are time limits to matches, with a common one being three minutes or eight touches for sabre.

The United States has realized great success in sabre fencing in the past few years, with US women winning the gold and bronze medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics, which were the first in which women's sabre was contested. The US women's sabre team won the team world championship in 2006 and featured the gold and silver medalists for 2006 and were ranked as 3 of the top 4 at the end of the 2007 World Cup season. The US men are on track to qualify for the Beijing Olympic Games and were only one point away from earning a medal in the 2004 Men's Team Sabre event. The team for 2007-2008 features several experienced fencers from that 2004 squad.
About the Author
Craig Harkins has been an active fencer for over 20 years and has been credentialed to report at the Beijing Olympic Fencing competitions. For more fencing news and fencing gear, go to http://www.fencing.net/forums/.
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