So you want to fence like a pro, but also go to uni… here’s a German national team training schedule.

We recently published a little piece on the type of training schedule followed by Korean pro and wannabe-pro sabre fencers.

This was considered by many to be mildly demotivating. Yes, doing amazing stuff on the piste is fun and winning is cool. But what hope is there for the enormous majority who can’t dedicate 16 hours a day to intensive physical training (plus naps)?

Behold, there is hope.
Behold, there is hope.

We decided to get out and talk to some other successful teams.

german sabre team suits up
These guys just came to mind for some reason. No idea why.

Let’s start with the guys who beat Korea in the 2014 World Champs. They seem like a good data set.

We had a chat about training schedules with Max Hartung, who’s about to finish a politics and economy degree, has been interning in the European parliament and won bronze in both individual and team at Moscow.

His coach must be so proud.
His coach must be so proud.

FC: When did you start fencing? When did you start taking it seriously?

MH:  Age 8. My coach was very serious about it from the start and I won my first competition as a kid. Very serious 9-year-old business after that.

FC: How much did you train when you were in school?

MH:  I practised 5 times a week for ca. 2 hours when I was 13. Practice and training camps on weekends more and more until I graduated high school.

FC: Did you play any other sports seriously at any time?

MH: No. There was not time from the start.

Aw, not true. I played in the varsity soccer high school team in Minneapolis and got second in the state championship.

FC: What sort of cross training do you do?

MH: Running, athletics, jumps. Stability, core, power exercises. Short exercises, no marathons.

FC: What age did you turn pro? What exactly did that entail?

MH: I turned pro after I became junior world champion in 2009 and was in an army sports program. After 2012 I decided that I wanted to pursue my professional career as well, so I dropped from the army and started uni.

 This year I took my fencing more seriously and my preparation for worlds started in April.

FC: What was your training like in the lead up to worlds? What’s your normal schedule? 

MH: 2-3 times a week athletics. 5-6 times a week fencing and fencing related exercises. Each session is 2 – 2.5 hours.

A regular fencing practice is warm up, often soccer, and footwork, exercises from easy to complicated and fencing after. I get three lessons 30-45 minutes a week.

FC: What’s your rest and recovery program like?

MH:  I try not to have too many gin and tonics.

There you have it, boys and girls.

Of course, it helps if you’re 190cm tall, a champion athlete, train at a dedicated facility with a professional squad and a full coaching and support crew, and started your competitive career at the age of 9.

In our next instalment, we’ll be looking at options for those of us who maybe are more than 25 years old and don’t physically resemble something out of a comic book.

Sometimes quite literally.
Sometimes literally.

Saw that coming: A World Champs recap

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2015 World Champion:

(Photo credit: FIE)
No, not the giant heroic-looking German guy. The one next to him in the white, who looks like he’s flipping off the photographer behind his flowers. Yeah, that guy. (Photo credit: FIE)

I’m going to allow myself a little smugness here. I totally called it.

I gotta start putting money on these things.

In fact, I called it at around about an hour after Kovalev summarily dispatched a hapless Gu in the final of the 2014 world champs in Kazan. Slouched among the empty wine bottles at about 4am (watching live sabre in Australia is strictly an exercise for the hardcore), we started looking at the host venue for the next year: Moscow.

Well that’s easy, I said. Yakimenko will win. Calling it right now.

All hail our new Russian overlord.
All hail our new Russian overlord.

We’ll be going through things in  detail over the next few days as the videos go up. There were a few surprises and a few notable omissions at the top of the table:

2015 wch top 10

Moscow, it seems, does not agree with Gu Bongil. The world #1 crashed out in a shock upset loss in the quarterfinals for the second time in two months. This was his first defeat by Daryl Homer, delivered by a crushing string of parries. Homer was having a killer day, and continued the insane parry theme through to the semifinals:

He was generally in classic trick-shot form:

daryl homer does the thing
Cool! (Photo credit: FIE)

Yakimenko, meanwhile, was busy making people very sad. First came Kim, who was the only one to pose a serious threat to the eventual champion, with an aggressive start to the bout:

Intense. (Photo credit: FIE)

Then things went less well for the Korean:

Photo credit: FIE
Kim is not happy. (Photo credit: FIE)

In fairness, though, wasn’t all Yakimenko’s fault. I’d probably cry too at this call.

With that out of the way, it was Hartung’s turn:

Hartung is not happy
Hartung is also not happy. (Photo credit: FIE)

And then finally Homer:

Photo credit: FIE
Daryl Homer isn’t too happy either. (Photo credit: FIE)


It was very nice to see Homer and Hartung get so far. Both displayed career-best form and produced some spectacular fencing. In the end, though, the result was profoundly conclusive.

Yakimenko smash
Hail Russian overlords, etc. (Photo credit: FIE)

Our prediction for teams, meanwhile, is clear: The Koreans are going to murder everyone.

Always ok to take photos with fans
Yup. These guys. Murder.

They were by far the most consistent squad on the day. Oh Eunseok returned to form with a furious vengeance, demolishing Limbach and Kovalev in the coolest bouts of the tournament. His trademark upper body work was letting him pull off extraordinary sneak hits in the 4m, which we’ll have a look at later in the week as soon as the videos go up.

Anyway, after the outcome of the quarterfinals, I suspect Team Korea is going to be out for some redemption. Or at least blood. Stay tuned for Friday!

In other news, Gu got the last laugh in the end: his 5th place finish was enough to keep him in the world #1 spot he’s occupied the entire season, and seal his second consecutive overall World Cup title.

That doesn't warrant a smile though. Sabre is serious business, Mr Szilagyi.
That doesn’t warrant a smile though. Sabre is serious business, Mr Szilagyi.


There’s no neat videos of individual bouts yet, but the full streams are available on YouTube.



So you want to fence like a pro…here’s the Korean cadet training schedule

“Mom, I want to be like these guys!”

Every week, we get another hopeful kid sidling up to one of our instructors (sometimes accompanied by mom or dad) to shyly ask:

“How do I get really good at fencing?”

In the words of the venerable Mr. Lee Hyo Kun, head coach of the Korean Mens Sabre Team and childhood coach of world #1 Gu Bon Gil (and our very own Australian Champ Kim Dong Hwan):

“Practice. More Practice. No fun”.

But when it's all over...
But when it’s all over…

Here’s a translated summary of the typical schedule for a young Korean aspiring pro fencer:

6am: Wake up.
6am-8am: Go for a run, preferably with hills and sprints.
8am-10am: Eat breakfast and have a nap.
10am-12:00pm: Footwork and bladework drills.
12:00pm-2pm: Lunch and another nap.
2pm-5pm: More drills and bouting.
5pm-8:00pm: Dinner and another nap.
8:00pm-10pm: In off-season, weight training alternating with rest days. In competition season, more bouting.
10pm: Bed. No video games.

That’s the schedule Monday to Saturday. Apparently they get Sundays off.

Coach has high standards
Coach has high standards. And little sympathy.

In later weeks we’ll cover the finer points of what the practice entails, and what more seasoned competitors like us  with less time/youth/self-discipline can do to maximise their training outcomes.

Typical post-training nap
Typical scene at Sydney Sabre after youth (under-15) training. Not shown: older fencers relaxing in the attached cafe.
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