This is a light weight sword used for cutting or thrusting attacks. You score points by either lightly striking with the edge of the blade or pushing the tip of the weapon against the target. There is no minimum force requirement for a ‘touche’ to be valid. The target is the body above the waist except the hands, but including the head.
Sabre is also a ‘conventional weapon’, the convention being that only one fencer has the right to score at any one time. This simple rule together with the cutting and thrusting nature of the weapon gives Sabre fencing it’s unique character. This right or priority to attack is gained by being the first to initiate their attack, i.e. starting to straighten the sword arm and threaten the opponents target. The other, defending fencer can’t start a valid attack and score until either the attack has been stopped by blocking it with a parry, evading it with a dodge or esquive, it may just plain miss the target, alternatively the attacker may voluntarily ceases the attack. The defender then has the possibility to immediately become the attacker and have the right or priority for making a valid scoring hit. The other fencer must then take up the role of defender…
The ebb and flow of the bout can be described in what is referred to as phrasing. Bouts are controlled by a referee and it’s their duty to decide:
- who the attacker was
- the sequence of moves in the phrase
- allocate the hit/point depending on the success or otherwise of the attacks delivered in the phrase
The fate of an attacks is judged to be:
- On target (above waist except hands)
- Off target isn’t material in sabre so these hits counts as a miss
- Missed altogether
- Withdrawn (arm bent during attack)
Many club bouts and all competition bouts are judged by electronic scoring apparatus. The light on the ‘box’ show hits that land ‘on target’ (coloured lights) only. ‘Off target’ aren’t registered. Other practice bouts are sometimes judged by a jury of 4 people plus the referee. In either event the points are awarded by the referee after applying the priority rule.