Sabre is professionalising.
The standard at the big A-grade tournaments – the World Cups and Grand Prix – is spiralling rapidly upwards. Full-time funded professionals are cut from poules. World champions don’t survive to the T64.
It’s getting increasingly scary out there.
And you should go.
I’m assuming for the purposes of this essay that you’re not going already. If you are, this is probably your job. Good hunting.
But if sabre isn’t your job, just a thing you love? You should go.
As a spectator.
Yeah, you heard me. You should go to sabre world cups as a spectator. It’s great.
If you’ve never been to an A-grade before:
If you’re a beginner or club or recreational fencer, don’t be shy. Just go.
You get to watch the best on Earth in the sport you love, with an immediacy that can’t be matched. Watching A-grade sabre from the sidelines is an astonishing and visceral experience. Think Oh Sanguk’s attack is terrifying on video? Wait til you can feel his landing make the ground shake.
What’s better is that you’ll be in way ahead of the crowd. Going to sabre comps to watch is not really a thing people do (yet) and you can get right in amongst it. You can be down on the rope shoulder to shoulder with the coaches and the team-mates. You can hear every word exchanged between the refs. You can smell the adrenaline and the heartbreak and the euphoria.
Best of all, it’s free, or cheap enough it might as well be.
If you have already dipped your toes in these waters:
Let’s say you’re a serious amateur fencer and you’ve done a few A-grade comps before. You’ve lugged your fencing bag through airports and onto trains, showed up at the hall and the break of dawn to warm up, spent hours or days in the horrible nausea of pre-comp fear.
Maybe you’ve won some fights.
Then you’ve drawn one of the big dogs, and they’ve eaten you.
It’s time to go back.
Travel like a normal human for a change. Leave your fencing bag at home. Stay somewhere better than the gross, overpriced official hotel. Save your €100 entry fee for something more fun. Show up at the venue 5 minutes before start time, possibly with a beer. And watch.
Watching a comp when you’re not desperately trying to scrape together an emotional recovery from whatever wreckage some monstrous pro-fencer has just wrought on you is a whole different deal. You can observe more clearly. You can use your proximity to get insights into sabre that just aren’t possible from video. You can talk to people. You can learn things that you’d miss if you were occupied with obsessing over your own post-mortem.
And it’s a lot easier to enjoy things when you’re not busy whimpering and licking your wounds.
Feel like a holiday? Got some leave? Want to go do something cool? Pick a tournament, book some flights, and go watch some sabre. Professional sport is fundamentally there for entertainment.
Let yourself be entertained.
A note on good comps:
Some comps are easier than others to get to. Some comps have better staging. Some are in sexier locations. For our money, Gyor is in the prettiest place, Padua has the best crowd, and Seoul is the most accessible. Your tastes may vary.
Have fun exploring!