Learning to love the Russian Box Of Death

Welcome to the new order!

We’ve had our first major events in the New Russian Box of Death*, with start lines at 3 meters. The first was a mess in almost every respect, unless you’re a fan of fencers crashing into each other repeatedly at high speed. It was pretty much exactly what all the nay-sayers, including us, had feared.

The second was an unexpected joy.

One of the clearest explanations for the new distance was given last year by Stanislav Pozdnyakov, who argued that it would reduce the importance of “growth and special physical condition”.  It was highly amusing, then, when the World Cup in Gyor was won by a 195cm Korean with the physique of a comic-book superhero.

If you asked us to find an illustration of the phrase “growth and special physical condition”, it would pretty much be this.

After trying to wing it in Dakar, with predictably miserable results, the Korean squad had a much happier outing in Hungary, having rapidly adapted their signature idiosyncratic style to the new conditions.

The comp as whole was a fantastic display of fast, powerful, athletic sabre, thus demonstrating an important principle we’d kind of suspected, but not been able to prove:

The speed genie is out of the bottle: sabre won’t be slowed down.

Reducing the distance limits the usefulness of the lazy momentum hacks we’ve all been using for years to gain range in the 4 meters. Just as planned, it’s broken the Gu Bon Gil Special. But it hasn’t broken Gu Bon Gil, and it really hasn’t broken his younger and larger colleague.

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It turns out that if you remove the lazy momentum hacks, the athletes are just going to compensate with more raw power. The energy efficiency drops, but the speed remains the same.

And this is excellent news. Slow sabre is boring sabre. The New Russian Box of Death has indeed brought us more spectacularity, if possibly not as its creators originally intended.

The main downside is that the Russian Box Of Death has been quite frequently living up to its name:

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We’ll be following up with some preliminary notes on the refereeing trends we’ve seen (and liked) tomorrow!

*Author’s note: All articles from November 2016 onwards referring the “Russian Box of Death” are referring to the newer “clarified” version, with start lines market at 3m instead of 4m. The original rule referred to by the term in our older articles involved a start distance of approximately 2m, and remains a vile and absurd abomination which thankfully never saw the light of day. Our position on that remains unchanged.