The Sabre Codex 5.1: Blade Trajectories

Competitive comprises weeks 41 to 50 of the Sydney Sabre syllabus and looks at the bleeding edge of competitive sabre research: the new start game, aka the Russian Box of Death, aka RBOD, aka the 3 metres of lacerations.*


One of the most effective tactics at the start of a sabre bout is to make an attack which is short and fast enough to get the simultaneous action, but also gives you enough time to extend the attack into a different target if they move back and/or parry. If you can pull this off your opponent is at a massive disadvantage: unable to attack, barely able to parry, and resigned to either grinding it out in the middle or taking their chances on the defence.

It is also one of the hardest tactics to pull off in the entire sport. You have to start fast to get at least the simultaneous attack, but not so fast that you have no time to see what the your opponent was doing. For the same reason, you have to hit early and direct but not so early that you can’t change lines to extend the hit range if they jump back. Or hold so much that you are vulnerable to their attack-on-preparation. And you have to do all this mid-lunge.

Back in the old 4 metre box it was possible – barely – to see what your opponent was doing and adjust your attack range mid-flight. It was right at the edge of human reflex speeds. At 3m this is much harder (if you can do it, we’d love to hear from you: please bring your blood test results). There just isn’t enough time to see.

So how do you do it? The trick, after weeks of extensive testing on Max Hartung, our A-grade guinea pig, is to use pre-determined, compound, blade trajectories that intersect the opponent at different targets at short and long measure.

Confused? In this week, we will cover what this means in 3 dimensions with lots of blade tracking exercises and maybe some fluorescent tape + a high def camera. We’ll cover adaptations of two classic examples on how this can be implemented from the old 4m game, and some cheapskate variations that we came up with in the last couple of weeks or stole shamelessly from other people. Then we will bring it all together in bouting conditions so you can feel how it all works when its being done to you. Wear a plastron. And breeches.

*Editor’s note: Obviously, this has been somewhat overtaken by events. The good news is that everything here was adapted originally from 4m game, and can be adapted right back again. Turns out that pre-determining your blade trajectories works great at either distance.