The Sydney Sabre Course (with article index)

When we started Sydney Sabre there were few guides for teaching adults how to fence sabre. The manuals we found focused on children and the foil: the standard training weapon of civilian duelists for centuries. Rarely did people pick up the sword for the first time as adults; rarer still to do so for fun.

The sabre, of course, was a military sword and taught to soldiers through drills and manuals. But these are minimally applicable to the modern sport.

So we developed our own guide.

The Sydney Sabre Course (hereafter, “the Course”) has gone through about a dozen revisions in the last decade, occasionally snapshotted in print, but more often ephemeral in the minds of the instructors.

Please note that these Course articles are written for the instructor. It assumes the reader knows how to fence sabre and is teaching students who have never fenced before. It is not designed to be read by people new to fencing. Those topics are covered in the book.

The Course follows three principles.

The first is that sabre is meant to be fun.

No one should be training for a swordfight, college entry, or Olympic glory. Sabre is a game, like tennis or chess or Streetfighter Turbo Edition. We teach the most important parts of the game first: how to play and how to referee. We teach the full range of moves and tactics and technical details to the end, if we teach them at all. Those of you who have learned fencing before will recognise that this is the reverse of the traditional approach.

The second is that sabre is a combat sport.

Both combat and sport can only be learned by doing. Underpinning but unmentioned in the notes for each class β€” the contents of the Course β€” are the many hours of bouts and mentoring that we thrust students into from their first exposure to sabre. Not for the us the old dictums that a student should only train with the master, perhaps even without a sword, for their first weeks or months or years and only then permitted to bout in the fear that the student would adopt bad habits from too early an exposure to combat.

We disagree.

Better to fight ugly than get thrashed prettily. We can always make an ugly fighter prettier. We can’t always make a pretty poser a fighter.

The third principle is that sabre is diverse and ever changing.

There are many ways to win, and new ways are developed every year. The idea that sabre somehow crystallised into a platonic ideal ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred years ago, is wrong. Sabre is combat, and combat is alive.

The sabre is an equaliser. You can always win, no matter how tall or strong or fast you are. You can always do something that will work for you, against this opponent, now. You just have to figure what that is, in time.

Thus the purpose of the Course is to teach how sabre fencing works. It is not a definitive way of teaching sabre, or fencing sabre, or even doing a particular style of sabre.

Each Level focuses on a theme, divided into 10 classes. Each class introduces a new concept or move. A class about a move is typically followed by a class about the countermove. Every class should start from the 4-metre (4m) situation – the start of each exchange in sabre – even if the class is about a different situation.

As long as you can move, you can fence, regardless of age or form. You just have to fence your way.


Series index:

Level 0: Introduction

Week 0: Intro to Sabre

Level 1: Basics

Week 1: The 4m Zone

Week 2: The March

Week 3: The Defence

Week 4: Disengage Attack

Week 5: Defensive Sweeps

Week 6: Skitter

Week 7: Counterattack

Week 8: Preparatory Beat Attack

Week 9: Point-in-Line

Week 10: The Tactical Wheel

Level 2: Timing

Week 11: Watching in the 4m zone

Week 12: Accordion – prep steps, fakes, and finishes

Week 13: Jump-back parry-riposte

Week 14: Advance and Double-Advance Lunge

Week 15: Counterattack Timing

Week 16: Flying Lunge (“Flunge”)

Week 17: Back-stomp Feint Crossover-retreat

Week 18: Back-stomp Accordion

Week 19: Punch Parry-Riposte

Week 20: Footwork Variations

Level 3: Trajectories

Week 21: Attack-in-Preparation

Week 22: Low-line Attacks

Week 23: Guard Parry 2 (Seconde) and low 4 (Quarte)

Week 24: Through-cut/Bunderoll attack

Week 25: Guard Parry 1 (Prime)

Week 26: Feint-Disengage Attack

Week 27: Circle Parries

Week 28: Feint-Cutover Attack

Week 29: Counterattack by Stop-Cut

Week 30: The Point-of-no-Escape

Level 4: Tactics

Week 31: Feints and Traps

Week 32: Defence by feint-opening / feint-sweeps / ‘fishing’, counterattack with opposition

Week 33: Preparatory feints on attack

Week 34: Defence by feint-counterattack, parry-riposte

Week 35: Beat-attacks

Week 36: Disengage stop-cut, parry-riposte

Week 37: Bind-attacks

Week 38: Point-in-Line Traps

Week 39: Counterparries

Week 40: Vorschlag, Nachschlag

Level 5: Strategies

Week 41: Archetypes

Week 42: Archetype – Watcher with step-bounce preparation

Week 43: Watcher with slide preparation

Week 44: Archetype – Grinder (Intimidation)

Week 45: Grinder with lunge-extension

Week 46: Grinder with opposition-attack

Week 47: Archetype – Tank (Interception)

Week 48: Tank with double-advance preparation

Week 49: Tank as Reaper

Week 50: Developing your unique style

12 thoughts on “The Sydney Sabre Course (with article index)

  1. Big thanks for the very interesting articles. But where are they now? Links seems broken at the current moment.

    1. Hello Igor. I took them down because I re-read them while writing up the book and the articles just weren’t up to standard. I’ve just finished the first draft of the book and it’s in editing now, so give me a few weeks to get the final version out and I’ll start putting up excerpts as articles on the blog again. Glad to hear you found them interesting!

  2. Hello John. As recently started (at age of 35) fencer I found your articles very interesting, especially judging and tactics on the piste. Glad to hear you are writing book. (Hope it will be available as ebook for purchase since for several parts of the world buying paper books overseas is not as easy as it should be)

    1. Hi Igor,
      Glad to hear they were useful! I’ll post some excerpts as articles on the blog again when I’m done β€” probably in the next couple of weeks. I don’t know whether I’ll make it available as an ebook; let’s see if I can get a publisher and what they think. If push comes to shove, I’ll mail you a copy πŸ˜€

  3. Oh my goodness, I love your site and your philosophy! I fenced sabre at University of Maine USA 1976-1980. Then I fenced electric sabre in the 90s and had my heart broken, because it had changed into something I no longer recognized, due to the new rules and electrics that lacked todays’ sophistication.

    My interest has been rekindled in no small part because of the rise of K-Sabre; I saw the merit in this approach instantly and was smitten. Thank you for sharing this blog with the rest of the world.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. Gives me motivation to keep posting on the blog! I haven’t written much recently due to the lockdown in Sydney and dispatching copies of my book, but I’ll get back to the blog in the next few weeks – probably starting with reposting the new-and-improved course articles.

    1. Hi AJ,

      Book is done – mostly sold out of the initial print run (got some paperbacks left). Will probably update and put out the print-on-demand and ebook editions after Christmas when I have some time – and when JungHwan Kim finally retires and lifts the embargo on me spilling his secrets πŸ˜€ Old man just refuses to quit.

      Articles: I’m re-writing them from the perspective of training new instructors. I was unhappy with their quality after writing the book. This has taken longer than expected.

      Sadly, my time these days is very limited. My coaching load is crippling – I usually do 8am-6pm back-to-back lessons on Saturday, no breaks – and my alter ego career is at its 60 hour/week peak phase. Oh, and family, of course. *ducks*

      We’re also rebuilding Sydney Sabre. Negotiating with the landlord for two sites now. We’ve come up with a 24/7 model to cater for changed post-COVID work patterns – the old model was built around school and work commutes, which aren’t a thing anymore here. As far as I know, it’s never been attempted before. But that’s never stopped us before. I’ll let you know how it goes.

      Please keep bugging me about the articles and I’ll carve out time to do them πŸ˜€



  4. Hello Jhon,
    Your blog is wonderful and informative!
    Thanks for it!
    I would like to buy the electronic edition. I hope this can be done someday. Looking forward to new articles!

  5. Hello, John
    Your blog is wonderful and informative!
    Thanks for it!
    I would like to buy the electronic edition. I hope this can be done someday. Looking forward to new articles!

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