“Equipment works perfectly in all situations”

Disclaimer: This isn’t intended as a dig at any particular recent policy decisions by the FIE. I have always used 2-pin, as does most of my club.

I'm sorry, what?
I’m sorry, what?

But the phrasing of the announcement was hilarious, and reminded me of one of the greatest moments of the 2015 Madrid world cup.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Equipment Working Perfectly in All Situations, such as 14/14 in a World Cup DE.

This got a spectacular reaction from Hyokun Lee:

After that little interlude, the last hit of the bout was also a complete debacle. The French were not impressed:

My favourite part is Gu Bongil, unable to watch, hiding his face in his hands: on the left of the Korean team, sitting against the wall. Such concern.

There’s only partial video of the bout, but what we’ve got is here. Highly amusing.



Mild trolling: Kim (KOR) v Szilagyi (HUN)

Kim v Szilagyi: If that billing doesn’t get your attention, you’re not doing sabre fandom right. The last match of the Moscow quarterfinals was the kind of lineup that forces foolish Australians like myself to stay up to 4am to watch the live stream.

Szilagyi had apparently recovered his equilibrium after his epic thrashing by Kim in New York and controlled this one pretty nicely, with a lot of elegant compound attacks. But regular readers should be aware that nice pretty Hungarian sabre is not really the sort of thing I watch for fun, so, because it’s my birthday, we’re instead going to see Junghwan Kim doing crazy things:

I get that the point of that maneuver is to draw counterattack, but in this case what it drew was more stunned incredulity. Hey, whatever works.

On an unrelated note, this is still my favourite parry:

After that, though, the ref decided he really didn’t like Kim’s attacks, and things went rapidly downhill for Team Korea. Then came the 8 point break, and with it, one of the greatest moments in sabre coaching I’ve ever seen:

Did… Did he just go up to Junghwan Kim in the 1-minute break at a Grand Prix quarterfinal, and pat him on the head like a puppy? Is this going to help? Or is it like the kiss of death in the mafia?

Shockingly enough, it didn’t help, as you can see in the full match below. Nice pretty Hungarian fencing etc etc.

Probably lucky it turned out like it did, or I would have been up until 5:30am for the final.

The Pain Train: Decsi (HUN) v Ibragimov (RUS)

We’re back! This time I’d like to just spend a few quiet minutes appreciating the force of nature that is Tamas Decsi’s long attack. Based on post-match interviews with people who’ve fenced him, I understand that in terms of sheer lethal inevitability, it’s somewhere between a pouncing Siberian tiger and an oncoming avalanche.

What a way to close a bout.

Let’s look at some more in slow motion, just because we can:

Ibragimov was not happy.

No escape.

Goodness me, what is he doing with his feet here. He’s a good Hungarian boy, he can’t possibly be crossing.

Not that it matters: That attack is as terrifying as the irreversible passage of time.

The full match is here. Bout of the tournament.

What do you want from us: A calibration tool for 4m refereeing in the 2014/15 season

We’ve made a new video:

Our philosophy is simple: Refereeing is an exercise in pattern recognition. The written rules tell you nothing, and you can’t learn refereeing from theory. Watch what’s actually happening on the current FIE circuit, learn to see the patterns, and apply them in your own practice.

We’ve put together a compilation of tough calls from the 2014/15 season, grouped by type, to help our refs keep their eye in. Hope it’s helpful!

As always, big thanks to CyrusofChaos for footage.

The background:

  1. You need to understand what both fencers are trying to do. The difference between Attack/Counterattack and Preparation/Attack cannot be reduced to “x did y with their hand”. You must be able to see and recognise what both fencers are attempting, and whether they succeed.
  2. Attempts to classify or explain priority involving specific elements such as “foot takes priority over hand” (or whatever) are doomed to fail, as they will rapidly be gamed by fencers trying to play the rules rather than the spirit of the sport.
  3. To prevent this, the interpretation of the rules changes frequently. This is a considered policy decision from the FIE, not random fads. To ignore or reject changes in interpretation means you are no longer playing the same sport.

Actual concrete training advice:

  1. Watch current FIE matches. Watch them often. Make the calls before the ref does, and compare your accuracy. Assume that what the FIE ref calls is correct unless you have very, very good reason to think otherwise.
  2. To get the feel for the patterns in the first place, follow these steps:
    • Watch close points several times. Watch once at full speed, looking in the middle. Call it. See if you agree with the ref. Watch again, focusing on left and what they’re trying to do. Watch again, focusing on right and what they’re trying to do. Watch again from the centre.
    • A couple of hours of this should give you a decent eye.
    • Take this new eye to your next training session and apply it rigorously to the bouts you see. Do not let fencers push you around.
    • For training purposes, video bouts you ref and review them later, once any emotions have cooled.
    • Repeat step 1 every tournament, with at least a couple of bouts by different refs. Make any adjustments necessary to your calls.

This assumes you already know the basic decision-making process for deciding calls in the 4m. Our guide to that is below. The steps above are for those nasty bits in blue, like “Does one person attack first?”

Basic sabre refereeing by Sydney Sabre

Why does any of this matter? Why can’t I just be cautious and call “simultaneous actions” whenever it’s close?

If refs don’t see and reward attacks over preparations, the entire tactical dynamic of the game is broken. Attack can defined in the most elemental terms as taking a risk. If that risk is not rewarded over the inherently more adaptable position that is preparation, none of the tactics of sabre will work. The game will degenerate into a couple of dudes just running at each other and screaming a lot. This will be incredibly familiar to anyone from anywhere with bad sabre referees.

For sabre to be the beautiful, dynamic and fluid sport it should rightly be, the referees must see and reward the attack. Good refereeing is essential for good sabre.

Sudden Death: Montano (ITA) v Wagner (GER)

The Moscow Grand Prix was on the weekend, and boy, was it something.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many extraordinarily tight 14-14 matches in one tournament before. We’ll be taking a look at some of the best bits over the next week, but I only have time today for one hit. This little beauty was the first one of the night to leave my jaw on the floor:

The most exciting thing to come out of this whole event is that OMG, the FIE have actually done their job and posted every single match, edited and searchable, on the FIE Video YouTube channel, which means I don’t have to spend 12 hours doing it for them. Hooray!

More of this, please!