The Sabre Codex 5.3: 4m Blockouts

Previously on Competitive, we covered the concept of using pre-determined blade trajectories or arcs in the classic ‘short/long’ tactic. These arcs reduce the complexity of winning the 4m box at the start of the bout. We expanded the concept last week with the addition of opposition arcs to the ‘short measure’ component to win the simultaneous situation with single light. We worked through some of the possible attack arcs including the infamous Hartung special.

In week 3 we explore the other side of the situation: using the same concepts for defence. See, most people launch most of their attacks from only one or two hand positions regardless of the target. This means that their blade arcs tend radiate out from visible origin points. The arcs are clustered together near the origin, so it is possible to a) predict where in space most of the possible arcs will go through and b) intercept most arcs with a single action like a parry or a stop cut.

parry 3

If you’ve ever wondered how to defend against a strong attacker, this is the equalizer.

We start with a review of good blade positions for different parries in the 4m, and how late to parry after the initial check (answer: as late as possible). We then cover the pros and cons of common parries for intercepting multiple potential attack arcs, and why parry 5 and parry 2 are used so much more often in the 4m than outside it. Then onto the fun stuff, two variants of the classic draw cut from opposite sides of the world: K-style, which tends to leave a mark; and the Teutonic version. The latter hurts less, physically, but is more emotionally damaging. You’ll see why.

The Sabre Codex 4.3: Stop Cut

Previously in Advanced, we introduced the technique of ‘sweep’ as a defensive action used to clear an Attacker’s blade. Sweeps clear an entire plane in space of the Attacker’s blade, terminate in a parry position for safety, and can be chained together to trick the attacker into placing their blade in a position where you can hit it. Last week, we also introduced fake sweeps to efficiently fool the attacker into being vulnerable to beats and attacks-on-preparation. This combination of real and fake sweeps forms a potent defensive ‘wall’ which can be used to blunt most attackers.

The efficacy of sweeps is highly dependent on the threat of the attack-on-preparation to make the attacker present their blade (for the beat) or finish their attack (for the parry). With the new 180ms timing this threat has been greatly reduced. Attackers are now more able to launch attacks from close-range with wide arcs which are difficult to parry or avoid. Defenders must be able to combine both the threat of the attack-on-preparation and the protective parry to defeat such Attackers.

stop cut

This week, we introduce stop cuts to wrist with opposition as an additional defensive finish to the check or sweep. We cover stop cuts to each of the main wrist targets, the recommended opposition positions to block the attack, and how to safely absorb the impact of large/aggressive/heavy Attackers. As a bonus we will also over two flashy variants which are massively overused at the A-grade: “fade-away” under-wrist cuts, and “draw” or “skyhook” cuts.

The Sabre Codex 3.3: Disengage

This week, we’ll continuing our exploration of feint cuts with a new, more brutal cutover and an introduction to disengages.


Previously on Intermediate, we introduced feint attacks as a class of actions used to deceive a Defender into becoming more vulnerable to the cut by fooling them into parrying into the wrong line, freezing in place, or counterattacking out of distance. Good feint attacks are able to deal with any one of these three options.

In Week 2, we introduced the cutover as a sub-class of feint attacks where you avoid the anticipated parry over the tip of their blade. We covered the cutovers against parry 3 and 4 with emphasis on getting the right distance and arcs to handle parries and counterattacks in the same action – though many of you would have noticed that cutovers work better against parries than counterattacks.

In Week 3, we continue with feint attacks by moving onto head cut feints. There are two common variants: a feint head cutover to chest with a through cut (aka the barrel-roll, aka the bunderoll, aka the pain train); and the less painful feint disengage to underarm. On the surface these moves appear to be big slow actions, but we will go over the subtle details of what makes these moves work, particularly how they deal with counterattacks via either disengagement or bind, respectively.

There also some nasty angulation stuff we will cover on special request for disarming people who counter-attack too much. I dislike counter-attackers.

The Sabre Codex 2.3: Double Advance Lunge

Over the first two weeks of Novice, we’ve been working on building a fast lunge and accelerated advance lunge to allow you to quickly close distance and finish your attacks against an opponent at relatively close range. Tonight, we’re going to build some more range with an additional advance, allowing you to catch an opponent who is trying to flee.

advance lunge

Double advance lunge comes into play when the defender is trying so hard to get away that they’ve ended up off-balance. This represents both a bit of a challenge and a wonderful opportunity for the attacker. Your target is outside the range of your standard attack, but your opponent is also in a compromised position where they will struggle to mount an effective defense.

The good news is that this vulnerability allows you to luxury of an extra step without being at much risk of being hit with a counterattack. We’ll be working on how to make a relatively slow preparation step, allowing you to gauge the distance, then launch an accelerated finish with a direct hit to any of the main targets. Hunt them down.

The Sabre Codex 1.3: Hits and Parries

Welcome back to Beginner week 3! Beginner comprises weeks 1 to 10 of the Sydney Sabre syllabus and about learning the fundamental rules and movements in sabre. You’ve now learned most of the basic footwork in sabre and how to use rhythm in your actions. This week we are going to start your training in the fundamental bladework actions, or simply, how to hit and parry.

Hits in sabre are made with the edge, and more specifically, the edge of the blade tip or top 2-3 inches of the blade. (As an aside, you can also hit with the back edge, but that is a topic for another day). As a result, it is vitally important that the you maintain full control of where their blade tip is at any given point in the cut – otherwise you risk overshooting or missing your opponent. Good control enables you to trace the most efficient arc between whether your blade starts in the on-guard position to the nearest open target. Good control also enables you to block the arc of an anticipated cut (or if you are lucky, to block the visible arc of a poor cut) with the strong part of your blade. This latter action is what we call a parry, and more specifically a static parry.

5 parry

This week, we’re going to show you how to hit straight to the three main targets. Once you’ve got that down, we’re going to show you how to block straight hits to the three main targets. Then comes the best bit: we’re going to show you that a good straight hit at the right distance should already be at its target before the defender can block, even if they already know where you are going to hit. If that isn’t motivation to control your blade well, we don’t know what is.

The Sabre Codex 5.2: Opposition trajectories

Previously on Competitive, we covered the concept of using pre-determined blade trajectories to reduce the complexity of winning the ‘box of death’ at the start of the bout. We focused on the application of a classic ‘short/long’ tactic to win the immediate attack *and* the long attack against the opponent’s fall short. In a nutshell, we pre-determined blade trajectories that would hit the opponent at both short and long measure, and avoid an intervening parry. All a sabreur had to do was to track the distance to the opponent during the initial part of the bout and make minor adjustments to their flight path and impact speed, instead of making a more difficult ‘A/B’ choice on whether to attack short or long.

Confused? It’s easier said than done, but when it works it’s devastating.

But it gets better. See, it you can also pre-determine blade trajectories that act as attacks with opposition while also fulfilling all of the conditions above for the ‘short/long’ tactic. This means that you’re not stuck with a ‘draw’ with your opponent if you both attack short. You can also win. With single light.

This week, we expand on the use of pre-determined blade trajectories with the addition of opposition arcs. We revisit the cheeky cutovers from the last class, but now we’ll make them less cheeky and closer to outright cruelty. We will (carefully!) go over the modifications to the initial arcs to cause an opposition clash with your opponent’s blade if they select your desired line for the short attack while still enabling you to finish with simultaneous attacks if they pick a different line or disengage. We will also introduce Max Hartung’s totally-not-cool special and its sinister variant (aka, the left hand version) on special request. No cameras though: it’s top secret until after the Tokyo Olympics.

Pictured: Not The Real Hartung Special
Pictured: Not The Real Hartung Special

Students will be required to wear breeches in this class.

The Sabre Codex 4.2: Fake Sweeps

Previously in Advanced, we introduced the technique of ‘sweep’ as a defensive action used to clear an Attacker’s blade. If you recall, sweeps clear an entire plane in space of the Attacker’s blade and can be chained together to trick the Attacker into placing their blade in a position where you can hit it, and regain priority. Yet Attackers with superior bladework skills can still avoid multiple ‘real’ sweeps during a bout.But why use real sweeps when a fake one will do?

low sweep editThis week, we cover the use of fake sweeps to draw the Attacker into a predetermined line for either a real sweep or a counter-attack. We go through the setup for the situation with real sweeps which give the Attacker your rhythm so they get used to avoiding your blade and coincidentally reveal how they tend to react to your sweeps. We then explore the use of truncated, fake sweeps which are much faster than your real ones to break up your rhythm and get the Attacker’s blade into a predicted location. Then, depending the line, we either make a real sweep to regain priority or use attacks-on-preparation with opposition to win the point.

The Sabre Codex 3.2: Feint Hits

This week on Intermediate, we’ll be looking at feint hits, and how you can use them to trick a defender into making themselves more vulnerable.

feint 1 edit

To do this, you need to make a feint cut to one target but an actual cut to another target. In between, the feint attack traces an arc which evades the anticipated motion of the defender’s blade. Done right, this can induce vulnerabilities in the defender by 1. fooling them into parrying against the wrong cut arc, or 2.inducing sufficient uncertainty to make them ‘freeze’ their blade in position, or 3. drawing them into counterattacking at the wrong time and/or distance.

People are unpredictable though, so a good feint attack has to be able to deal with any one of the three possibilities above – though not to the same degree of effectiveness.

There are broadly two types of feint attacks: cutovers, which evade by going over the tip of the defender’s blade; and disengages, which evade under the guard. In Week 2, we start with basic cutovers to deceive parry 3 and parry 4. We cover why it is important that both the feint and true targets for a feint attack are open at the time of the attack, and how to work out the unique cutover arcs for different opponents.

Then we’ll move on to execution, starting with the basic feint attacks at the end of an attack sequence, then adding tempo variations to deceive defenders who have cottoned onto your basic version. We may even cover the ‘back-line bitch slap’ on special request, but please be warned the defender won’t be your friend afterwards.

The Sabre Codex 2.2: Advance Lunge

Welcome to week 2 of Novice! Novice comprises weeks 11 to 20 of the Sydney Sabre syllabus and covers the basic techniques in sabre with an emphasis on distance and blade control.

Last week week, we revised the lunge, a simple short-range attack which lets you hit your opponent quickly. In practice, though, it’s rare that you can hit with lunge alone. On most attacks, you will be starting outside your lunge range. You’ll need to get in to the correct distance to launch, and you’ll need to do it without getting hit by a sneaky counterattack. The fastest way to do this is with the most common attack action in sabre: the advance lunge.

advance lunge 2

In this class, we’re going to be building an advance lunge with powerful acceleration. Advance lunge is a compound action which should start relatively slow, allowing you to recognise the correct time and range to launch a high-speed finish. Once you’re comfortable with the basics, we’ll show you how to adjust the speed and range of your attack, starting with short fast actions which will let you successfully hit against a counterattack, and then extending to longer but higher-risk extended lunges which will allow you to catch an opponent who bolts at the last moment.

The Sabre Codex 1.2: Rhythm and Tempo

Welcome to week 2! Beginner comprises weeks 1 to 10 of the Sydney Sabre syllabus and about learning the fundamental rules and movements in sabre. This week, we’re going to introduce rhythm and faking: the power of subtle timing tricks to manipulate your opponent’s decisions.

attack on prep

In week 1, we covered the “basic combo”, a set of tactical options you can use on the start line which fit together like a game of rock-paper-scissors. We also showed you how to deploy these options based on educated guesses about what your opponent was likely to do. But you shouldn’t be limited to making a guess: you can also work the situation to your advantage.

To do this, you need to be able to control and vary the rhythm of your actions. We’ll show you how to start slow, you can see what your opponent is doing, then accelerate to finish your action in time. From this, we will build a set of rhythmic patterns you can use to encourage your opponent to choose a particular action, while also setting yourself up in the right distance and timing to be able to beat it. We’ll also give you some tips on how to use subtle changes in your rhythm to confuse and disrupt your opponent.

Sound dirty? We did warn you in your intro class that sabre isn’t a very nice game.

Modern sabre is not your granddaddy's sport