What is the difference between sabre and the other weapons?
Actually, there are a lot of differences. The primary differences include the target area and the way hits are made.
In sabre (for those Americans who find this page, yes, that is the correct spelling), the target is everything above the waist. It includes the body above the hips, the head and arms. The hands are no longer target but the interpretation of what is “hand” varies somewhat from tournament to tournament and location to location.
In foil, the target is only the torso of the body; arms, legs and the head are excluded. In epee, the target is the entire body from the feet to the top of the head.
In sabre, the hits are made with a cutting or slashing motion. This makes sense, considering that this weapon is loosely based on the cavalry sabre. So, as you rode by on your horse you would be hacking away at your opponents. It also makes sense from the target point of view.
Foil and epee are point weapons. You must hit your opponent with the tip of your sword to register a hit. In a competition sword, both have a button at the end of the sword that must be pressed to score your hit. The pointy end (with a button in this case) goes in the other guy.
From a competitive point of view, sabre is the fastest of the three weapons. Bouts tend to be over a lot sooner than in the other weapons. Consequently, it is also a little more direct. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a strong tactical side to the weapon; it just means we get down to business a little sooner.
Personally speaking, I have fenced all three weapons and I find sabre more suited to my personality. After you have viewed our web site, and if you like what you see, then, maybe sabre and the Beaches Sabre Club are for you, too.
What should I wear?
Nothing too complicated. You should be dressed comfortably, ready for a workout. You should wear a pair of sweat pants, a T-shirt (preferably white) and a good pair of running shoes.
For those so inclined, we recommend indoor court shoes (such as squash / tennis / volleyball / soccer / aerobics shoes).
Does your club encourage rank amateurs?
Yes, we welcome beginners. We’re used to people walking in with zero previous experience (or for that matter, any realistic idea how the sport of fencing actually works). It’s kind of our job to acquaint you with the sport and teach you how to fence.
Do I need to buy my own equipment?
Can equipment be loaned or rented?
The club maintains a pool of equipment that’s “free” for use of the beginners. The cost of the equipment is part of the cost of the beginner lessons. So, no, you don’t have to get anything until you decide that you like the sport.
There is a local supplier, Fleche Fencing Supplies, which is offering some really good prices on kits of startup equipment. You can try the other suppliers listed on our web site (read the disclaimer). Or you can always order through the club.
However, I’d suggest mooching shamelessly off the club until you can afford to buy your own. Remember a couple of things about the club gear – beginners always get first pick of the equipment and it only gets washed periodically (that’s to encourage people to buy their own stuff).
Is there a membership fee?
Yes, once you’re past the beginner level and have decided that you’re interested enough in fencing to continue with the sport. Then you come back and apply for membership. You will be expected to pay a Club Membership fee, a Class / Lesson fee for group lessons and eventually a Salle fee for use of the space. Novices, Intermediate and Advanced fencers pay the same amount and come as many times a week as they want. Most members come about once a month.
Membership in the Ontario Fencing Association is also mandatory (to be covered by their insurance) – however, you can join the OFA for as little as $2.00 per year. Most members will pay $75.00 per year for a “competitive” membership.
There is a certain amount of strength and control required to wield a sabre effectively. If you have a young person or are one, if you visit the club, we can do some simple tests to see if you have the required strength.
The other concern is that there are few people the same age when younger person starts to learn the sport. It can be very difficult for them when training and competing against older people. Of course, the way around this is to get a lot more young fencers. We now have a youth program for fencers younger that 10 years old. It is only foil (easier on the wrist) but is a good starting point. Please ask about this new program.
The other side of the coin is that since it takes a very long time to get to the Olympic level, the younger you start the better.
Is age a barrier to beginning fencing? (I’m going on 30.. yikes! or 40..YIKES!!!)
Not unless you’ve got advanced arthritis, cataracts, or significant heart disease. (If arthritis is the problem, there’s always wheelchair fencing..) >grin<
Seriously, though, all that’s required is the desire to try, a modicum of flexibility and a half decent sense of balance. The reflexes and timing will come with practice. One nice thing about fencing is that you can pursue it at whatever level you choose: be it as a recreational fencer or Olympic champion. We have had at least one beginner who started at age 60.
Start out slow and have fun.
Another nice thing is that, in large part because of its emphasis on adequate protective equipment, it’s the second safest sport around (see note below).
I’m interested in learning a new sport and its fitness aspect, not necessarily “competing”.
Is that an acceptable mind set?
Sure. You can approach fencing roughly the same way one can approach tennis: If you’re there just to have fun or a darn good workout, you are still going to have to go against other fencers. It’s a one-on-one sport. Part of your training is trying your moves on other people. That doesn’t necessarily make you “competitive”.
We consider competitive fencers as the ones who go to lots of tournaments. Some of them are really trying to excel at the sport – maybe even make the National Team.
Everybody else is a “recreational” fencer. They do make up the bulk of our membership. They may even go to some tournaments, but it’s just part of the fun of learning a new sport. One has to consider going to some tournaments just to test your skills. It really helps to try out your skills on different fencers. Then, you get some idea of what you really know. However, whether one is “practicing” or “attempting to excel” is mostly a matter of where your head’s at.
Why are you called the Beaches Sabre Club when you aren’t in the Beaches?
When we founded the club, we were actually in the Beaches. As we have expanded, it became increasingly more difficult to find space. So we are now located at 45 Densley Ave (near Keele and Lawrence).
So now, Beaches is more a state of mind. After all, anywhere you can place some sand and water could be considered a beach. Well maybe not, but it is a nice thought.
We’ve now got a full gym on Monday and Wednesday evenings (so, that is the best time to come). There’s plenty of room for spectators. We share space with a foil only club so you can see that also. If you do come, come prepared just in case you get shanghaied into one of our impromptu “rudiments of fencing” sessions. You should wear a pair of sweat pants (or other loose slacks), a T-shirt and a pair of indoor court shoes (squash / tennis / volleyball / soccer / aerobics are all acceptable types of shoes).
Just one other word of advice, applicable to most fencing salles (clubs) I’ve been to. While beginners are encouraged, and while most folks will be happy to work with you and give you pointers / lessons / etc., it helps to be a bit aggressive about asking for people to work with you.
I’ve seen lots of cases of beginners sitting on the sidelines, waiting forever for someone to come over and invite them to get up and do some work. If you just sit there on the sidelines, the club regulars will find ways to amuse themselves rather than asking.
In general, it’s difficult to tell whether someone who’s sitting on the sidelines is doing so ‘cuz they’re tired and resting between bouts, or because they’re waiting for someone else, or because they’re ready to call it quits for the night. If you’re new at the club and others don’t know your name, it’s that much more of a barrier than you might think. In any case, the point is that the way to get someone to work with you is to ask.
Please remember if you’re new at the club, it is a good idea to introduce yourself to someone. Ask to speak to Perry Stevens or one of the instructors so they can help get you started. It’s a good idea to do this at the start of the evening before everyone get busy.