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Insights into the world of fencing and thoughts on life

  • Writer's pictureKate

Fencing Newbie: What are the parts of a sabre?

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

It’s hard being a new person in a fencing class and not knowing all the correct terminology. If you give your coach a blank stare when he talks about “turning your bellguard” or “using your forte to parry”, then read this post to learn the parts of your weapon!

Sabre with parts labeled

This is a sabre. It’s the best of the three fencing weapons.

Tip/point and foible

The top end of your sabre is called the tip or point. If you look closely at it, you’ll see that it’s the folded over part of the blade. This is to keep you from getting impaled during practice. Epeeists and foilists only get to hit with this part. Their weapons have a little button on the tip that presses down when they push it against their opponent’s target area. Sabrists can hit with the tip/point (like with a Point-in-Line) AND any other part of the blade but should make an effort to hit with the foible, or the top part of the blade. Doing that ensures that you’re not too close to your opponent and keeps them (hopefully) from being able to hit you before you can hit them. It’s also the flexible part of the blade and will hurt less if you hit with it. This is the area that is vulnerable to a beat.

Middle and forte

The middle of the blade bears the least creative name of any piece of fencing gear. It’s the middle of the blade. It’s the part that muddles up referee calls and makes it hard for them to see actions.

The forte is the strong part of the blade. (Forte = strong in Italian.) It protects you from attacks; it’s used to parry. Think of it like a fort that keeps the marauders’ attacks at bay.

Bellguard, grip/handle, and pommel

The bellguard, like the forte, is used to protect you from attacks. It helps the forte to parry. It also protects your hand and fingers from accidentally getting hit. When you are attacking your opponent, having a good bellguard position is crucial. It can mean the difference between successfully finishing an attack or getting hit on the arm before you can complete it.

You hold on to your weapon via the grip/handle. Do not crush the grip; a light hold on your weapon will allow for faster finger work. See my previous post to learn how to hold it: Fencing Newbie: How do I hold a sabre?

The pommel holds your sabre together. It screws in to the bottom of your blade (which has passed through your bellguard and grip). Make sure that the bottom part of your blade does not extend outside the pommel. This will ground your weapon on your cuff and will set off your opponent’s scoring light when they touch your blade with theirs.

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