West Devon Swords is setting up beginners classes in épée and sabre, which anyone can learn safely with the proper teaching. Would-be duellists and buccaneers start here…
Épée is descended from the duelling rapier. It is a stiffer, heavier blade than the foil, having a thicker cross-section and a larger guard to protect the hand. The épée is a thrusting weapon, so hits may only be scored using the point. The whole body is the target from head to toe and the forward part of the target, the arm and hand, is most vulnerable.
There are fewer rules in épée – with no priority or ‘right of way’, double hits can be scored. As such, épée is considered the most tactical weapon, fought at distance with many false attacks, feints and counter-attacks.
Sabre is derived from the cavalry sabre, the mounted horseman’s weapon. It differs from foil and épée in that it is a cutting weapon – hits may be scored with the edge. In reality, hits are laid on with the very tip of the blade, so the buccaneering spirit has to be tempered with keeping distance. The upper body from the waist up is the target, including the arm, but not the hand.
Sabre is a fast, attacking weapon, highly mobile and difficult to defend against. It is so fast at competitive level that it retains the priority, or ‘right of way rule’, so that continual double hits are avoided.