All posts by Frances Chow

The Sabre Codex 2.5: Circle Parries

Previously in Novice, we introduced the low-line attacks – cuts that originate from below the waist which Attackers use to evade the common parries and counterattacks. Despite being slower and more difficult to execute than ‘regular’ cuts from the high-line, low-line cuts dramatically reduce your vulnerability to defensive blade actions like beats and their angle of approach makes it harder for your opponent to even pick the correct parry position, let alone get there.

This week we introduce the counter to low-line attacks, circle parries. Circle parries are variations of linear parries in that they ‘sweep’ the Defender’s entire target area before ending in the final parry position. The ‘sweep’ makes circle parries slower to execute than linear parries but allows the Defender to catch any slower cuts which enter their defence zone. This makes them effective against low line cuts, which have long slow arcs to a target which is hard to identify. On the flip side, circle parries are not very effective against direct cuts from high line.

parry seconde

In this first of two weeks devoted to circle parries, we go over the techniques for executing the most common examples used in sabre today: circle parry 5 (quinte) and the parry 2 (seconde). Parry 5 is used to stop low-line attacks to the head, upper chest, and shoulders; because of this versatility, it used to be one of the first parries taught to beginners. Parry 2 is used to stop low-line attacks to the belly, flank and underarm with additional applications against point hits. That should cover us for the day, but the instructors are happy to do sneak previews of the flashy variations if folks catch on quickly. Bonus points if you can guess what they are.

The Sabre Codex 1.5: Counterattacks

Welcome to Beginner Week 5! Last week, we focused on timing, and how the acting at the perfect moment vastly adds to the effectiveness of both cuts and parries. This week, we’re going to use the same focus on timing to expand your repertoire to the dark side: hits without priority, or counterattacks.


The defense we’ve covered so far has been based on defeating the attack once it has actually been launched. But what about an opponent with priority who just gets way too close? The good news is that you don’t have to just politely wait for them to do their thing. Always remember that a lack of priority is not going to get in the way of you scoring a sweet point if your opponent doesn’t hit you.

In this week’s class, we’ll be showing you how to make counterattacks to two major targets, and then use your blade to “lock out” the attacker’s panicked attempt to finish and hit you. You’ll have to pick your moment carefully and be quick, sharp and precise with your bladework, but the payoff is oh-so-satisfying.

The Sabre Codex 0.5: Counterparries

Welcome to Footwork and Bladework Week 5! This week, we start transitioning from the basic attack actions that made up the previous 4 weeks to defensive actions. We start with the offensive-defensive counterparry and timing of check parry-riposte in the new defence distance brought on by the timing change to 180ms.

counterparry deep

Previously in Footwork and Bladework, we covered the cut drills to the main direct cut targets of head, flank and chest. The key skills that we have been practicing for the last four weeks have centred around safely entering the distance for the direct attack (aka the point-of-no-escape, or PONE) and finishing with a fast lunge/step/flunge with the cut hitting before the front foot lands for maximum impact speed. Last week we expanded on these skills with the bind and beat to clear the opponent’s blade so that we could enter the distance. We ended the basic attack series with the last variant of the ‘Rumanian Drills’ – shamelessly copied and adapted from the German sabre team – to practice entering distance safely and finishing to the open target vs. attempted (stationary) parry or counterattack.

This week, we start moving through the basic defence series. We start with preliminary tips and tricks for the coaches to successfully take parry against direct cuts by subtly moving in and out of defence distance, and retreating just as the student launches their direct cut. Feedback so far has ranged from “this is insanely close” to “I can’t believe that just worked”. Once the coaches are comfortable with executing parries at will, we will cover the common counter-parries to 4 and 3, with distance, and vs. the parry, the ‘null’ response, and the counterattack.

The Sabre Codex 5.4: Forward Parries

Previously on Competitive, we looked at how you could position your blade such that you could efficiently cover multiple potential attack arcs for theparry riposte. The crux of the class was to observe where your opponent would launch attacks from, aka their attack ‘origin’, and how their attack arcs would radiate from that origin. Once you had a mental image of where all these arcs were, you could place your blade during the ‘check’ part of the check parry-riposte to cut across these arcs and be in an optimal position to parry.

The success of this tactic depends on a couple of assumptions. One is that the opponent is making a direct attack. The second is that they don’t recognise what you are doing and keep the same origin. Some of you may have discovered that this works great at the beginning of a bout and/or against unsophisticated opponents, but smart opponents quickly switch to feint attacks and change where they launch their attacks from.

It is in these situations that fortune favours the brave. You see, feint attacks and origin changes depend on you giving your opponent enough time to execute those moves, which typically occurs because you stop and retreat as part of the parry riposte. But you don’t have to do that if you parry while going forwards.


Forward parries are incredibly risky because they give you virtually no time to adjust if you pick the wrong position for the parry. The flip side is that they also give your opponent no time to evade your blade. You have an edge though. You know their attack arcs and you can predict how to cut across them. And should your opponent run away, you are in a great position to give chase. This contrasts with the opposition arcs which we covered back in week 2.

This week, we will cover the application of forward parries in the 4m box. We will start by revising the work we did last week on parry ripostes while moving backwards, then go over the modifications to convert these into forward parries. In particular, we will spend some time on how to do ‘soft checks’ which put your blade in the position to forward parry while also being convertible into attacks should your opponent decide to do a feint attack after all. Then we finish with the backup plan: doing ‘soft parries’ which you can convert into guard positions for the March if your opponent flees the 4m box.

The Sabre Codex 4.4: Stop Cuts from Line

Previously on Advanced, we’ve covered the use of checks and sweeps to set up stop cuts. The downside to these maneuvers is that an experienced attacker will usually wise up quite quickly, and will exploit the fact that these actions only pose a threat for a brief moment in time to either dance out of the way or finish into it before it has the chance to conclude in a strong defensive position.

This week, we are introducing a new set up for stop cuts: the point-in-line. Unlike check and sweep, point-in-line is both a potential precursor to a counterattack or parry and also an immediate and present threat which the attacker has no choice but to deal with before proceeding. This ability to force a response from the attacker can be used to create an opening as they extend their arm in an attempt to take the blade.

stop cut from line

In tonight’s class, we’ll be tuning up your point-in-line and using it as a preliminary to stop cuts to the attacker’s wrist, either with opposition or with evasion (also known as running away, or the legendary Won Woo Young Special).

The Sabre Codex 3.4: Disengage

Welcome to week 4 of Intermediate! This course is all about the attack, and so far we’ve focused on feints: making a fake attack to one target to draw a defensive response, before finishing with a real attack to another target.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve looked primarily at a class of large, powerful feint attacks known as cutovers, which evade the opponent’s point to get around parries. Good feint attacks, as discussed previously, are able to handle any combination of the opponent staying still, being fooled into parrying the feint, or counterattacking.

However, not all feint attacks are equally good at dealing with each of the three possible defensive responses. Cutovers are effective against parries, because they go over the tip of the opponent’s blade in a relatively wide slow arc, but this same attribute makes them┬áless effective against counterattacks. This was demonstrated last week in our comparison of two feint attacks in which both feints were initially to head. Most of you would have found the through cut (a cutover) more effective against the parry than the counterattack, and vice versa for the underarm cut.
disengage 2

This week, we’re going to continue our exploration of feint attacks with disengages. Disengages are comparatively fast, small actions which evade our opponent’s anticipated parry by going under their guard. They take a fair bit of dexterity to pull off, but they’re a potent weapon against an opponent who likes to counterattack. They aren’t bad at getting around parries either. We’ll start with some point control exercise to help with the finger movements required to pull off disengages consistently, and go into some detail around point attacks vs. angulated attacks and their relative merits. Wear breeches for this one.

The Sabre Codex 2.4: Low Line

low line

Previously on Novice, it’s been all about the lunge. Over the last three weeks, we’ve built your ability to make fast, powerful attacks from medium- to long-range, allowing you to close the gap and finish your attack with a direct hit even if your opponent makes a run for it. In week 4, we’re going to teach you a completely new trick: how to hit from low-line.

Low-line hits can be defined as anything starting from a position where your blade is below waist height. This leaves them with the obvious weakness of being slower and more difficult to execute: the path to target is longer, and getting there directly takes a fair bit of skill. Pull it off, though, and you dramatically reduce your vulnerability to defensive blade actions like beats and lockouts by essentially hiding your blade from your opponent. Coming from underneath also makes your hits more difficult to parry.

In tonight’s class, we’ll show you how to hit fast from low-line to the three main targets, and how to build low-line attacks in to the lunge sequences you’ve learned over the last three weeks. You’ll essentially double your attack repertoire in one session, and enter the wonderful realm of the sneaky trick-shots, and counterattacking you will get a whole lot harder.

The Sabre Codex 1.4: Timing for Hits and Parries

Previously on Beginner, we introduced the basic cuts and parries. In week 4, we’re going to show you that there’s optimal time and place for both cuts and parries, and it is always while you’re in motion.

parry 5 raw

On the attack, direct cuts should always be made so that they hit the target while your front foot is still in the air on your final step or lunge forward. When your foot is still in the air, you’ve got the energy of your acceleration behind the hit; once you land, you start to slow down. A direct cut timed right to land while you’re in the air is powerful and extremely difficult to block, but a cut that lands after the foot is liable to bounce off even a pretty average parry.

On the defense, the situation is broadly similar. Parries don’t work very well if you’re standing still: they should be made while you’re moving, whether it’s forwards or backwards, to allow you to absorb the impact of the hit. They should also be kept as small and as late as possible. You need to make a static “wall” to intersect the trajectory of the incoming hit, and that shouldn’t be a huge production. Giant flashy bladework ain’t the best idea here. Keep it sharp, and keep it clean.

The Sabre Codex 0.4: Bind Attacks


We’ve spent the last few weeks refining the ability to hit deep and close targets, but that’s been largely predicated on the assumption that the target is open. This week, we’re going to look at how to deal with situations where the defender’s blade is in the way.
If your opponent is trying to disrupt your attack with a persistent blade in your face, you’re going to need to deal with that before you can make the final cut. A good approach to a relatively static and obvious presentation of the blade is the bind attack, also known as pris-de-fer. The objective with a bind is not to swat at the defender’s blade, but to remove it in a much more controlled way by quite literally pushing it aside.

countertime 2

We’ll be starting with the basic static actions to find and engage the defender’s blade, then building in movement to get you used to using it in the right distance. We’ll also be showing you how to convert a bind into a direct finish in the event that the defender successfully evades it and counterattacks, then building all of this into regular “Romanian” attack drill we stole from Max Hartung.

The Sabre Codex 0.3: Hand Attacks

Welcome to week 3 of footwork and bladework! This week, we’re working on something that sounds obvious, but all too often isn’t: hitting the closest target you can get. We want to develop your ability to smoothly pick off a forward target on the attack should a suitable window present itself, which is both a sweet trick to pull off in a fight and an excellent way to work on your accuracy and point control.
About that parry you were trying there...
About that parry you were trying there…
We’ll be building on last week’s sneaky opportunistic wrist shots with some more calculated hits to the forearm from a range of angles. Your opponent’s guard is going to put up a bit of a fight here, but it’s not usually going to get in the way of all possible angles, so your objective is to learn to find the open line. As with last week’s exercises, though, going for such a small target is still a fairly high-risk maneuver, so we’ll then be practicing developing these into a nice smooth attack to deep target. If you do it right, nobody will notice. We’ll also be building these into feint attacks to deep target if you’re feeling ambitious. As always, you can tweak the level of difficulty by staying static (good for starting out) or closing distance (somewhat trickier).

This stuff isn’t going to work if you’re flinging your blade around with your whole arm, so keep your grip light and your fingers nimble. A sabre is a precision instrument.