Education Matters

The sport of fencing: why the sabre is mightier than the sword

Posted by Trinity Grammar School on Nov 26, 2018 6:00:00 AM

The sport of fencingTrinity students are encouraged to hit others first, run with sharp objects, always start the fight and generally do everything their parents have told them not to do … but only if they are on the fencing team, and only when they are in training or competing in a bout of fencing!

While the sport of fencing may seem unusual, it is actually only one of four sports that have appeared in every modern summer Olympics Games since they began in 1896, along with Athletics, Swimming and Artistic Gymnastics. It is far from being a simple physical sport of speed and agility. “It is a battle of wits, but at the same time works all parts of the body” says Sabine Wieczorek and Master in Charge of Fencing (Summer) at Trinity Grammar School.

There are three types of fencing depending on the blade and how points are scored – and yes, it is called a ‘blade’ and not a ‘sword!’ – they are foil, sabre and epee. While a bout of fencing may only last for four minutes, players must be light on their feet, quick-thinking and have the ability to strategise the next move, think ahead and execute the plan at speed. In that time, players must achieve five touches to win, so speed of attack is key.

The moves of fencing include the Lunge, which is a basic attacking move where the sword arm is extended fully, while the back leg remains stationary as the front leg moves forward. The Parry is a defensive action where the fencer blocks the opponent’s lunge. When parrying, only the blade should move, while the arm is kept as straight as possible. The Riposte is a counterattack by the fencer who has blocked the opponent with a parry.

There are four types of attack. ‘High outside’ is an attack to the top of the opponent, going to the outside of the blade between the opponent’s weapon and shoulder. The ‘low outside’ is in the same area as the high outside but made closer to the waist. The ‘high inside’ goes inside of the blade, in the middle of the chest to the shoulder, and the ‘low inside’ is the same as high inside but lower.

“Fencing is a lot more energetic than people might realise – it is highly physical. There are many elements to the sport, including its own technical terms and etiquette. The rules are very specific and require a steep learning curve. Fencing uses a lot of equipment so organisational skills are also a must,” commented David Latimer, Master in Charge of Fencing (Winter) at Trinity.

Offered at Trinity since 2001, this year the School switched from foil to sabre fencing. A sabre bout takes place one-on-one on a piste, that is, the long mat that forms the boundary of movement. Kitted up opponents greet each other before commencing the battle of wits. Points are scored when contact is made with the blade on the opponent in appropriate areas including the chest and mask. Scoring is recorded electronically.

While the sport may appear brutal in terms of opponents jabbing each other with a blade, it is in fact one of the safest that boys can play, with the lowest rate of injury – the most serious being an occasional minor bruise.

“At Trinity we have between 12 and 20 boys in both summer and winter seasons competing in fencing. While most are in Years 11 and 12 we do allow younger boys who are members of fencing clubs to join. Our youngest at present is in Year 7,” said David.

Trinity boys train three days per week for up to four hours. Training consists of fitness, practising footwork, fencing drills and practice bouts.

“Boys get a lot out of fencing that they can apply outside of the sport such as the ability to think quickly, planning, organisations skills and teamwork,” commented Sabine.

This year, Trinity’s Ethan Wang, Year 11 lunged, parried and riposted his way to victory taking out Gold at the 2018 Australian Schools Championship Senior Boys Sabre Individuals event. The Trinity As were foiled by Newington As, in the Senior Boys Sabre Team event, but performed exceptionally well, walking away with Silver. The Trinity Bs achieved a praiseworthy Bronze, and all teams did Trinity proud.

For over a hundred years Trinity Grammar School has educated boys in mind, body and spirit. Our mission is to provide a thoroughly Christian education for boys from Pre-Kindergarten to Year 12, imparting knowledge and understanding of the world we live in, and recognising the importance of spiritual qualities in every sphere of learning.

At Trinity, we believe that sport and co-curricular activities are vital in supporting your son’s academic education and allowing him to pursue his passions, realise his potential and discover his life’s purpose. If you would like to learn more about the Trinity difference and our full range of co-curricular activities, download our Co-Curricular ebook.

Trinity's Co-curricular booklet download


Topics: Sport and boys, Co-curricular activities