The sabre is the modern version of the slashing cavalry sword, and is similar in length and weight to the foil. It has a flexible Y- or I-shaped blade and a wrap-around guard The major difference is that the sabre is a cutting weapon as well as a thrusting weapon (use of the blade). The target area is from the bend of the hips (both front and back), to the top of the head, simulating the cavalry rider on a horse. Touches may be delivered in any of three ways: with a thrust utilizing the point, with a cut utilizing the leading edge of the blade, or with a counter-cut utilizing the last one-third of the back edge of the blade.
Sabre fencing, like foil, is “conventional”, meaning that it is subject to strict rules as to when one may attack and when one should defend. The combination of conventionality and three different modes of attack make sabre a fast and complex activity.
The goal of sabre fencing is, as in foil fencing, to score touches on the opponent’s valid target area within the context of the right of way.
The sabre fencer’s uniform includes a metallic jacket (lamé), which covers the target area to register a valid touch on the scoring machine. The mask is different from foil and épée, with a metallic covering since the head is valid target area. When an opponent’s blade hits the jacket, with either the point or the edge, an electrical circuit sets off a light and a buzzer on the scoring machine against the one who is hit. The colored light signifies that a valid target (the jacket or mask) was hit. Unlike the foil, there is no “off-target.” Anytime a light comes on, the referee halts the bout and awards, if appropriate, a point. If the colored lights go on for both fencers, the referee must decide which fencer will receive the point based on “right of way.”
What sabre fencing looks like:
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