Video: Breaking the march

Marching attacks have become more powerful this year, as updates to the FIE rule interpretations have given more flexibility to the attacker. We ran a workshop recently on how to take them down.

To illustrate, we made a video, using a compilation of successful defensive actions from the 2014 Coupe Acropolis in Athens. Starring Nikolai Kovalev (RUS), Daryl Homer (USA), Aron Szilagyi (HUN), Won Wooyoung (KOR), Veniamin Reshetnikov (RUS), Oh Eunseok (KOR) and Maximilian Kindler (GER).

Hope it’s useful!

Errhm? Impossible Ref Call of the week: Limbach (GER) v Szilagyi (HUN)

Just to keep the flamewars lively, I’m going to throw in an epic hit every so often where all of the awesome fencing leads to a totally ambiguous outcome. This lovely exchange is from the round of 16 at the 2014 World Championships between Nicolas Limbach and Aron Szilagyi, and suffice to say it goes to video.
Work it out amongst yourselves.


HTML5 version with slow-mo option is here.


Reflexes of a rattlesnake: Tokunan (JPN) v Reshetnikov (RUS)

So I was looking for counterparries for a little side-project I’ve got going on, and I stumble onto the bout between Kenta Tokunan and Veniamin Reshetnikov in the L16 team match between Japan and Russia at the 2014 World Champs. And damn, if almost every hit in that bout isn’t worth its own post. There’s an incredible 6-hit sequence which kicks off with this little beauty:

Tokunan v Reshetnikov counterparry 9 WigglyRashFrogmouth

I’ll link the original HTML5 with speed controls, because you need it.
I think I have a new fencer to watch.


Successful troll is successful: Occhiuzzi (ITA) v Kim (KOR)

OK, I know I said no more Koreans, but this is Occhiuzzi’s hit. I also know he was putting on a spectacular display of poor sportsmanship through the entire bout, but this hit almost redeems it.  Extra points come from the fact that Kim tried (and got away with) the exact same move at 14/14 against Montano in the previous round, but this time around he clearly neglected to correct for the age-and-guile factor. That counterparry:  oh man.

2014-09-25 Occhiuzzi v Kim counterparry RepulsiveGlassAgouti

Let me sing you the song of my people.


Warning: Tropes may….or may not be, exactly what they seem.

Guest post from the team at Hot Fencer Of The Day

The trope of the chameleon character is as old as the oldest oldness in Old-onia. The idea that one begins as an ugly duckling, goes through a series of character building experiences and/or makeovers (usually established with a visual montage), and is then revealed at the end as a god or goddess of hotness upon the earth.
It’s a standard trope, a much used one; perhaps because it rings true with teen experience, or desire.
Either way, the subject is irrevocably changed, and can no longer exist as its former self if it wants to take advantage of its “new hotness” as Agent J would say.

And then…..then there are those who possess the ability to not only exist as their former selves, but also as their “new hotness”, and vacillate between the two as circumstance and desire dictate. Those who possess a facultative quality, a hotness that is capable of, but not restricted to existing within a single set of circumstances; or occurs optionally in response to circumstances rather than by nature. Who can walk like super-models, yet fight like thugs.

To that End:

Gu Bon Gil, 25, World #1
Kim Jung Hwan, 31, World #2
Men’s Sabre, Korea.

Mr Gu Bon-Gil, shy and reserved.
Mr Gu Bon Gil, shy and reserved.

Mr Kim Jung-Hwan, the debonair swordsman and charismatic charmer.
Mr Kim Jung Hwan, the debonair swordsman and charismatic charmer.

Team mates...
Team mates…

and best buds.
and best buds.

Always ok to take photos with fans
Always ok to take photos with fans

Don’t mind looking a bit dorky from time to time
Don’t mind looking a bit dorky from time to time

Happy to dance with all the ladies….
Happy to dance with all the ladies….

and hang with the guys.
and hang with the guys.

They enjoy dressing well…
They enjoy dressing well…

… looking dapper.
… looking dapper.

But then the kit comes out…..
But then the kit comes out…..

and all bets are off
and all bets are off

They strike with impunity….
They strike with impunity….

Make their enemies weep.
Make their enemies weep.

Until they clash with each other in a Battle Royale
Until they clash with each other in a Battle Royale

Every point counts….
Every point counts….

Every point is a victory…
Every point is a victory…

Every victory a perfect moment…
Every victory a perfect moment…

Every moment worth it’s weight.
Every moment worth it’s weight.

When it’s all over….
When it’s all over….

They’re best buds again.
They’re best buds again.

Still, shy and reserved….
Still, shy and reserved….

…..always the debonair swordsman and charismatic charmer.
…..always the debonair swordsman and charismatic charmer.

Welcome to a new series: Epic sabre hit of the day

An idle thought came to me the other day: sabre is a sport almost uniquely suited to GIFs. Exchanges almost universally take 5-15 seconds and frequently require multiple views to appreciate. I’ve been spamming people with time-specific YouTube links for a while, but GIFs are a much more elegant solution.

The series was in part inspired by Hot Fencer Of The Day, and in part by Andrew Fischl’s yearly Best Touches compilation.  Unlike Andrew’s video, I’m putting a great deal of technical or tactical sophistication into my selections. Criteria are simple: the hit must either make me go WHOOOOAAAAAA, or laugh, or better yet both.

The series is running on Facebook under the tag #EpicSabreHit and on Twitter under @EpicSabre. Daily posts will be going up here, but we’ve got a bit of a backlog to start with. Here we go:

WOW: Apithy(FRA) v Chung (KOR)

Let’s get this thing started off with a bang. Here’s an incredible, amazing, ridiculous hit from Apithy at the 2014 Moscow World Cup. Astonishing athleticism  from both fencers.  It’s got almost every flashy move in the sabre repertoire in one 5-second exchange. Wow.

Hangon, what?: Ibragimov (RUS) v Berre’ (ITA)

Not all great sabre hits are flashy and athletic. Some are surprising, vicious trick shots, and they’re just as much fun to watch. Here’s a beauty from the 2014 Budapest Grand Prix:

No points for effort: Montano (ITA) v Kovalev (RUS)

In a nailbiting quarterfinal at the 2014 World Championships in Kazan, Kovalev’s balance and composure prompt a truly heroic display of athleticism from Montano. But is it enough to save him?

For the lulz: Gu (KOR) v Zalomir (ROU)

Not technically a hit at all, but one of my favourite points of all time. What good is sport if it can’t sometimes make you laugh?

BOOM HEADSHOT: Kim (KOR) in Korea v Japan

This one’s from Junghwan Kim during the slightly one-sided team final at the 2014 Asian Championships. God I love this point. My entire goal as a sabreur now is to pull this one off.

A thing of beauty: Homer (USA) v Iliasz (HUN)

Lest I get typecast as only being into vicious one-light trick shots and Gu Bongil falling over, here’s a legitimately beautiful hit from Daryl Homer at the 2014 Coupe Acropolis in Athens. Watch and learn, kids, this is how marching attack is done.

Wait, where’d he go? Kim (AUS) v Konovalov (UZB)

This one stars Sydney Sabre’s very own Donghwan Kim in the final at the 2014 Singapore International. I’m not sure even Donghwan expected to get away with this one, and that’s what makes it so great.

Oh snap: Gu (KOR) v Yakimenko (RUS)

For today’s epic sabre hit, I set a crack team of researchers a daunting task: Find footage of the current world #1, Gu Bon Gil, scoring a point with something other than advance-lunge or counterattack. What they brought back was beautiful.

From the business end of the brutal semifinal between Gu and Yakimenko at the 2014 World Championships:

A creature of extraordinary grace: Gu (KOR) v Yakimenko (RUS)

I just couldn’t resist this one. This is how you become world #1, apparently. Hey, whatever works.

Beauty v The Beast: Kim (KOR) v Kovalev (RUS)

Spoiler: the beast wins. Here’s two of my favourite fencers in the world, with Junghwan Kim doing what he does best. Crazy stuff.

Off tempo: Oh (KOR) v Apithy (FRA)

Continuing the Korean theme ahead of sabre teams at Asian Games, here’s an incredible point from one of my favourite matches of all time. Starring Bolade Apithy and Eunseok Oh at the 2013 Chicago World Cup.

The whole match is here:

How ’bout that attack, huh? Gu (KOR) v Szilagyi (HUN)

This one’s just here for the response from Gu. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2014 Asian Games Champion.

Birth of a new era: Won (KOR) v Limbach (GER)

To complete our Korean series before men’s sabre teams at Asian Games, here’s Won Wooyoung and the hit that made him 2010 World Champion. It’s got all his trademarks, right down to the sprint to the back when he wins. I’ll always have a soft spot for Won, who was the fencer who first made me pay attention to sabre.

Watch this space

From tomorrow, these will be daily. I promise, hand on heart, to not post another one of the Korean team for at least a week.

Or at least until I get video of the Gu v Kim final at Asian Games.


Brutal and effective: The 4m tactics of the Korean men’s sabre team (Part 1)

Sabreurs have a choice at the start line.

  • Prepare: Commonly an advance (medium prep) but can take a wide variety of forms including skitter and advance steps (fast prep), skips, steps and ballestras (slow preps) and more exotic actions (point-in-line, retreats, etc). Preparations give the fencer an opportunity to see what their opponent is doing and react accordingly, but sacrifice the ability to win priority immediately in the 4m zone.
  • Attack: Almost always an advance lunge, though a handful of fencers also flunge (e.g. Szilagyi) or double advance lunge (e.g. Kovalev). Attacks are enable a fencer to get the priority immediately in the 4m zone or a simultaneous action if their opponent also attacks, but is vulnerable to defensive actions such as check-fall short and stop/draw cuts. They also run the risk of trapping the fencer in long rallies of simultaneous actions in which both fencers are afraid of doing anything other than attack.

Two members of the Korean men’s sabre team, Gu Bon Gil and Kim Jung Hwan, use combos of unusual techniques to attack in the 4m without completely sacrificing the tactical flexibility of preparations.

Here’s a video:

The overall idea of these combos is to use a very direct long-range attack to beat (or match) the opponent’s preparation and defensive actions, then occasionally abort the attack with an aggressive check fall-short based on the cross-over. We’ll look at the attack in this post, and follow up on the fall short at a later date.

Part 1: The Attack (aka the Gu Bon Gil Special)

gu lunge 2

Gu Bon Gil regularly employs an attack which enables him to hit an opponent anywhere from the middle line to their start line during a single advance lunge, without requiring Gu to pick an attack distance prior to launch or make adjustments mid-air. The attack is composed of:

  1. A composed advance which is relatively short (back foot lands near the start line) which gives the fencer momentum to launch the lunge.
  2. A long and direct lunge that covers around 2.5m – 3.0m in mid-air, with another 0.5m to 1.0m remise range.
  3. A series of blade actions which continuously threaten different targets at different stages of the lunge. The most common combo starts with: a) flat hit to flank during the early part of the lunge; b) disengage to flat hit to belly in the middle of the lunge; c) remise to feint head then hit chest (rarely belly) after the lunge lands.

In case you didn’t watch the video, it looks something like this:

Gu bon gil special small


We’ll look at each component in turn.

The Advance

The primary role of the advance is to give the fencer sufficient momentum to launch the lunge. The advance thus needs to be fast enough to impart momentum to the fencer but not so fast that it causes the fencer to lock up or hesitate prior to the lunge. We figure it’s probably around 80% power for most people.

The fencer needs to keep their weight and focus on driving through the back foot, minimalise weight on the front foot, stay upright and not lean forward. When done correctly, the advance looks like it ‘skims’ the ground with the front foot releasing for the lunge just as the back foot touches the ground at the end of the advance.

Should the fencer detect a hesitation or a retreat in their opponent during the advance, the fencer can extend their attack range by bringing their back foot all the way forward to their front foot before launching the lunge. This action can extend the attack range by another 1.0m -which will hit an opponent well behind their start line.

Alternatively, the fencer can ‘soft abort’ their attack by driving their back foot softly into the ground at the end of the advance to convert their lunge into an advance lunge. We recommend this option over the long lunge because it gives the fencer more control during the attack, more opportunities for feints and other preceding actions, and greater range. However, conversion from lunge to advance lunge may not be possible if the opponent’s action is well-disguised or late.

The Lunge

The lunge is long and direct. Its range is around 50% more than a lunge from standing position. This extra power comes from the momentum of the preceding advance. The fencer must therefore avoid any deceleration of their attack during the transition from advance to lunge. As noted earlier, Gu efficiently transitions from advance to lunge by keeping his weight off the front foot and releasing it as soon as his back foot touches the ground.

A good advance lunge has a characteristic tempo signature of 1-2…pause…3, or “bada…boom”, from the advance…lunge.

Gu’s blade actions are direct but have flexibility to disengage to different targets during the lunge to deceive the opponent’s parries without being called as preparations.

The first attack is a flat cut to the opponent’s flank (assuming same handed opponent). This flank cut is designed to hit an opponent that advance-lunges, in their arm or flank, early in the lunge. The cut is flat to whipover the opponent’s guard if it comes in the same line of the attack.

The Disengage

If the opponent hesitates, usually because they are preparing and/or looking for the parry, Gu disengages his flank cut to hit flat on the belly. He sometimes replaces this with a cutover to chest. Either way, the chest/belly cut hits during the mid to late phase of the lunge and is highly angulated and flat to hit through the opponent’s parry.

All of the actions described above are done while Gu is still in mid-air. If the opponent manages to retreat out of range of these attacks, Gu remises his disengage-belly-hit to the high line. This remise looks like an attack to head…but it’s only a feint. The real hit occurs as Gu lands his front foot for the lunge and is either a belly or flank cut, depending on opponent’s hand position.

The Result

Gu’s attack combo is very effective at hitting the opponent while maintaining priority across most situations in the 4m. The only way for an opponent to win is to either take parry in the 4m – risky – or retreat both late and so quickly that Gu misses the attack. In the latter case, the opponent will almost always be so off-balance and distant that Gu can mount an effective defense.

wagner parries gu

Work on your parries.

Gu Counterparry

Although there’s always the chance this will happen.

The net effect is that the opponent is left with very few options other than to attack every time in the hope that they get a lucky attack or the simultaneous.

This sets up the next part of the attack combo: aborting the attack for the fall-short with crossover, which we’ll discuss in the next post.
Kim crossover fallshort
In the mean time, enjoy this hit.