1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sabre-fencing
SABRE-FENCING, the art of attack and defence with. the sabre, or broad-sword. Besides the heavy German basket sabre and the Schläger (see below) there are two varieties of sabre used for fencing, the military sword and the so-called light sabre. These are nearly identical in shape, being composed of a slightly curved blade about 34 in. in length and a handle furnished with a guard to protect the hand; but the military sword, or broad-sword proper, the blade of which is about ⅝ in. wide near the guard, tapering to ½ in. near the point, is considerably heavier than the light sabre and is generally preferred by military instructors, being almost identical with the regulation army sabre in size and weight. Until 1900 it was the common fencing sabre in Great Britain, the United States, and most European countries, although its use was practically confined to military circles. About 1000 the light Italian sabre was introduced anfl became the recognized cut-and-thrust weapon among fencers throughout the world. In Austria-Hungary it became popular as early as 1885, while in Italy, the country of its origin, it has been in use since the middle of the 19th century. Its blade is about 7⁄16 in. wide a little below the guard, tapering to 5⁄16 in. just under the point. For practice this is truncated and the edge blunt, but in scoring both edge and point are assumed to be sharp, while in countries on the continent of Europe (though not in Great Britain or the United States) the back-edge (false-edge) is also supposed to be sharpened for some 8 in. from the point. In Italy when used for duelling the point and both edges are actually sharpened.
The modern sabre is a descendant of the curved light cavalry sword of the late 18th century, which was introduced into Europe from the Orient by the Hungarians.
The old-time European swords used for cutting were nearly all straight, like the Ital. schiavona and spadroon, the English and German two-handers and the Scotch claymore (see Sword). There was indeed a heavy curved fencing weapon called dussack, very popular in the German fencing schools of the 16th and 17th centuries, which was of wood, very broad and as long as the fencer's arm, with an elliptical hole for the hand in place of a guard. But the dussack was introduced from Bohemia, where, as in Hungary, swords were oriental in shape, and as it completely disappeared in the last half of the 17th century it can hardly be considered in any way as the ancestor of the modern sabre. The old English back-sword, the traditional English weapon, though the curved form was not quite unknown, was almost invariably straight. The ancient English sword-and-buckler play (see Fencing) was, to the disgust of its devotees, driven out as a method of serious combat by the introduction at the beginning of the Elizabethan-era of the Italian thrusting rapier. Nevertheless it survived as a sport up to the first half of the 18th century, being practised, together with the back sword or broad-sword play, cudgelling or single-stick fencing, foiling and boxing, by the fencing masters of that period, whose exhibitions, given for the most part in the popular bear-gardens, were described by Pepys, Steele and others. The masters who figured in these “ stage-fights ” were called “ prize-fighters ”; and at that period they regarded boxing only as an unimportant part of their art. The most famous of them was Figg, the “ Atlas of the Sword ” (see Fencing). The back-sword of Figg's time was essentially the military sword then in use, having a single straight edge. The blows were aimed at the head, body or legs. Towards the close of the 18th century sticks began to be used for back-swording, the play at first being aimed at any part of the person; but the head soon came to be the sole object of attack, blows on the body and arms being used only to gain an opening. The usual defence was from a high hanging guard. No lunging was allowed. Fencing with the broad-sword did not, however, at any period entirely disappear in England, and was taught by all the regular masters, especially by the celebrated Angelo. The earlier play, of the time of Figg and later, was simple and safe. The prevailing defensive position was the hanging guard, high or medium, with the arm extended and the point downwards. There were also high inside and outside, tierce, quarte, low prime, seconde, and the head or “ St George,” parries; the last, a guard with the blade nearly horizontal above the head, being the supposed position of England's patron saint from which he dealt his fatal blow at the dragon. Owing to the great weight of the old back sword wrist play was almost impossible, the cuts being delivered with a chopping stroke. Later in the 18th century a nimbler style, called the Austrian, came into fashion, owing to the introduction of a lighter, curved sabre, the principal guards being the medium, with extended hand and sword held perpendicularly with the point up; the hanging, with the point down, both outside and inside; the half-circle; the “ St George ”; and the spadroon, with horizontal arm and sword pointing downwards. The spadroon (Ital. spadrone), a light, straight, fiat-bladed and two-edged sword, was also a popular 18th-century weapon, and was used both for cutting and thrusting. The thrusting attacks and parries were generally similar to those of the small-sword (see Foil-Fencing), but few or no circular parries were used. The cuts were like those of the broad-sword. The Germans, like the British, were once masters of the edge in fencing, but the art declined with the introduction of the point, and sabre-playing survived only in the army and in academic circles with the heavy basket-sabre (see below).
The school of sabre still taught in most armies, and up to the end of the 19th century by fencing-masters of all countries except Italy and Austria-Hungary, shows little advance from that in vogue in Angelo's time. Two fundamental guards are usual, one (taught at the French army school at Joinville-le-Pont) corresponding to the guard of tierce in foil-fencing, except that the left forearm rests in the small of the back; and the other a high hanging guard, with crooked' arm and the point of the sabre directed slightly forwards. The methods of coming on guard differ considerably, but have nothing to do with fencing proper. In 1896 the Florentine (Radaelli) system of sabre was introduced into the British army, the cavalier F. Masiello spending some time at Aldershot for the purpose of training the army sword-masters; but since the year 1901 regular instruction in swordsmanship has practically been abandoned.
Fencing on horseback for cavalry is simple in comparison with light sabre-play. The cavalry sword is of two patterns, one the heavy, straight cuirassier's sword, and the other somewhat lighter with a slightly curved blade. On the attack straight point thrusts, and wide sweeping cuts are used. The *three principal parries are the "head ” (or “ high .prime ”) with horizontally held blade; -the 'fwtierce/' on the right, parrying cuts at the left side of the head and body; and the “ quarte, ” on the opposite side.
The modern style of fencing with the lightfsabre was perfected in Italy during the last quarter of the 19th century, the most important pioneer in its development having been G. Radaelli, a Milanese master, who 'became chief 'instructor of the sabre in the Royal' Italian Military Fencingullcademy, in 1874, when it was transferred to Milan from Parmaf Radael1i's system was described by F. Masiello, an army officer whose works remain the chief authority on the light sabre. An old-time rivalry between the Neapolitan and the northern 'Italian fencing methods came to a crisis when M. Parise, an expert of the southern school, secured first placefor foil-fencing in a tournament instituted by the military authorities, the result being the transfer of the Military Fencing Academy- to Rorneunder the title of Scuola M agistrale di Roma. There was, however, less difference between the two schools in sabre'than in foil play, and the Radaelli system for the former was so generally esteemed that a master of that method was established at the Roman Academy. The light fencing-sabre is made up of two principal parts, the blade and the handle. The blade, from '3'3% to 34 in. long and slightly and gradually curved from hilt to point (which is truncated), has the tongue, or tang, which 'runs through the handle; the heel, or thick uppermost part of the blade fitting on to the guard; the edge, running from heel- to lpoint; the back-edge or false-edge (sometimes not allowed), frunning from the point along the back for about 8 in.; and the back, running from point to heel (unless there is a back-edge). 2The»blade is fluted on both sides from the heel where the back-edge begins! The handle consists of the guardyof thin metal, extending from the pummel to the heel of the "blade, 'to protect the hand;fthe grip (of wood, fish-skin, or leather, often bacltedwith metal), shaped to tit the hand, through which the tongue of the =blade passes; and the pummel, or knob, a button which' finishes offthe handle and holds the tongue in place. ' '-The
recognition of the light fencing-sabre as a practice weapon only, related to the heavier-military sword 'as 'the foil is to the duelling»sword, at once. makes apparent thefdifference between the play of the two cut- and thrust-weapons.' As a light cut with the military sabre willbe of little advantage in battle, however prettily delivered, it is evident that irrordertto produce a-'shock of impact sufficient-to put an adversary out of action, a'~wide sweeping movement with the sword (mvulinet; Ital. molinelli) is necessary. With-the 'fencing-sabre a hit is a~ hit if properly delivered with the edge or point, however light it may be; ' For hits of this kind less force is necessary, and wide moulinets are not only useless but dangerous, sincetin 'making them the point must .for a moment be directed away from the opponent, and momentary openings are:thus left of which the opponent may take advantage by attacks on the preparation. For this reason the cuts of the Radaelli school are delivered with moulinets of very narrow radius, made a.sfmuch-as possible fby' a movement of the elbow only, keeping the point directed inenacinglytowards the opponent.” Again, whereas in battle a' wound on any part of the person may be effective and the school of the heavy sabre has to reckon with this-fact, in fencing with=the light- sabre- no hit lower than the hips counts, although hits<upon'any part 'of the person above the hips are good-; in' England dufts on the outside of the thigh are allowed. This' somewhat narrows the scope of the fencing-sabre, just as the scope of the foil is narrower than that of the duellinl§ 'sword. A 4 » " ' ' i ~ 1" »
The military swordis, on account of its weight; lusually held firmly in the hand with the thumb overlapping the iingers; butiin holding the light sabre the thumb 1st placed on the flat of the grip, giving a perfect command over the3movements' of the blade, called by the Italians pasleggfiap Bothiattacks and parries are executed 'as narrowly as possible, avoiding the wide movements common in heavy- sabre-play, and the moulinets (which airezellipses described 'by thepoint as it is drawn back for a cut) are made, not 'by smnging the 'sword round the head, but by drawing back the hand held in front of the body, and with the point directed forward;-l The thrusts with the light sabre are madewith the thumb toithe left; whereas in the French school it is turned down, so that the blade curves upward. The modern school allows no such parries as the“- St George, ” in executing which the blade is held at right angles to the body, but teaches that the point should always be directed towards the adversary asmuch as possible. The attacks are/ either “ simple, ” “ complex ” or “ secondary, ” and bear a general resemblance to those in foil-fencing (q.1v.); simple attacks being- such as are not 'preceded by other movements, as* feirits; complex attacks those preceded by feints, advances, ' or some other preliminary manoeuvre; and secondary attacks those carried out while the adversary is himself attacking or preparing to attack. The parries also correspond in nomenclature, and generally in nature, to those used in foiliplay, but no circular'or counter-parries are taught, though 'sometimes empioyeedy-Terms
used in Sabre-Fencifig.—"' Absence of theblade ”: aiguard so wide as apparently to 'leave the- body uncovered, so as to entice the adversary to attack. .“ Appuntata ” -(Fr. remiss): a supplementary cut or thrust after the failure of an; attack, when the adversary replies slowly or with a feint. " Assault ” (Ital. assalto), a regular bout. “ Attacks on the blade " (see below under “ beat, ” “ disarmament, " “ graze ” and “ press ”). “ Beat " '(Ital; battuta): a hard dry strokeon the adversary's blade, -in order to drive it aside and pushhome an attack; a “ re-beat ” isimade by beating lightly on one side, then dropping the point quickly 'under the adversary's blade and beating violently on the other side. Cavazione (see below under- 'f disengage -”). “ Completion "' (see 'belowvlunder riposte). “ Controtempo ': to parry an attack in such, a manner that the adversary is hit at the same time. “ Deceive the blade ": when the adversary attempts an “attack on the blade ” to avoid contact by a narrow circular movement of the point and hand; this i's gener4 ally followed-by a straight thrust or cut, as the force fof his 'blow will carry his blade .wide and leave opening. “ Development " (attacks on the): attacks made while the adversary is making a complex attack, 'i.e. one consisting of at least two movements (felnt and real attack). Deviamento (see below under” press ”). ~' Disarmament " (Ital. sfofzo): striking the adversary's weapon from his hand by means of a sweeping stroke along hisblade from the point downwards.. “ Disengage" (ltal. Cavazione): being on guard (engaged) in one line, to draw one's point under the adversary's sword and lunge on the other side: to avoid a cut by retiring the right foot behind the left; a time-cut -at the adversary's 'arm is usually made at the same time. “ Graze " (ltal. filo): to run one's bladed along that of the adversary and push home the attack suddenly. " Invitation guard ": a guard in any line with the blade intentionally so wide that the adversary lunges into the apparent opening, ony to meet prepared counter. Incontro'(Ital. 'for 'double-hit): both fencers attacking, at the same instant. “ Lines ” (of engagement): the four quarters into which the trunk is divided, attacks and parries op osite them being called after them. These are, with the and he ci) in “ supination " (thumb on top of sabre-grip): upper right, “ sixte ”; upper left hand, “ quarte 7'; 'lower right “ octave ” (not used in sabre); lower left “ half-circle, ” (not used in sabre). When the hand is held in “pro nation ” (thumb down) the lines are: upper right, “ tierce '; upper left, “ prime "; lower' right, “ seconde "; lower left, “low prime " (“ seconde " generally used). 'Quinta and septfime are also linesof theltalian school. . “ Lunge ": the advance of the bod by step i rig forward with the right foot inorder to deliver a cut pr tlirust. “ (apposition T': pressing the hand and' blade in attack towards the side the adversary's blade is on; the object being to occupy his 'blade and'cover'orie's person from a “ riposte." “ Press"': forcing the, adversary's blade aside byia Sudden push in order-to create an opening foran attack, either directly or on the same side after he has recovered his blade and partied too wide on his supposed threatened side. “ Preparation ” (attacks on the): mostly made'by"' deceiving " when the adversary attempts a beat, graze or press., “~Re-beat" (see " beat ”); "' Remise " (see “appuntata”)., “ Riposte'?: a quick cut or thrust made after partying an attack, without lunging. When the riposte in its turn is parried and replied to with another riposte, the French call this second riposte the tae-au-tac. Sfdrzo (see “ disarmament ”). Scandaglio: studying an opponent's style at the beginning of a bout. “ Stop-thrust ”»; a direct thrust made as the adversary beginsa complex attack, i.e. one of= more than one movement. Thestopthrust must get home pal bly before the adversary's attack or the attack* alone is countecliatherule of scoring beingcthat he who is attacked must take the party. “ Time-cutt": a quick slash at the adversary's arm as he begins a. complex attack. ' Toccato/: ltal. for “ hit!'?, Touchélz French for “, hitl",
Manchette-Fencing (Fr. Fanchette, a cun) is a variety of sabre# play popular in Germany, in which the iencers stand at such it distance from each other that only hand .and fore-arm can be reached with the last few inches of the sword nearest the point, both edges being supposed to be sharp. No thrusts are allowed; and both feet must remain stationary where they are planted when the bout begins., Narrow parries1are necessary, though many cuts are avoided by withdrawing the hand., Manohettefencing is not considered good practice for the light sabre and is therefore losing ground.
The German Basket-Sabre (Krummer Säbel, or Krummsäbel) is a descendant of the cavalry sabre once in use in some branches of the German horse., It is now used almost exclusively by students. It has a strongly curved blade about 32 in. long and r in. broad, tapering' slightly towards the end, which is truncated, no thrusts being allowed. ' The 'hand is protected by a large guard of heavy steel basket-work, and the handle isishaped to fit the hand, the forefmger being run through a leathern loop. On account of the great weight of the weapon~~(about 2½ lb, , more than half of which is in the guard) blows delivered with a full swing are impracticable, and all cuts are made from the elbow and wrist, -the hand being generally kept as high as possible. The Mensur is the distance at which the combatants stand from one another. There are three recognized distances, that in general use being the middle, from which two sabres can be crossed at about 1 5 in. from, the points. Neither combatant may move his left foot (the right in the case of a left-handed fencer) from the position in which it is placed at the beginning of the bout, all advances and retreats being made by the movements of the right foot and the body. The position of the engagement is in high tierce, the arm being held straight out towards the adversary. The feet are planted about 24 in. apart, 'the right in advance. The right shoulder is bent forward and the stomach drawn back, imparting a slight stoop to the fencer. .There are eight cuts and as many parries. The basket-sabre is used in the more serious students' duels; the neck, wrist, armpits and body below the, nipples being heavily bandaged. . ' 1 Rapier-fencing amongthe students of the German universities and technical high-schools of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Russia may be considered under the sabre, as the rapier, although originally used for thrusting as well as cutting, is now employed by students only to cut. According to the association of German fencing-masters the modern weapon when blunt and used only for practice is. called Rapier or H aurapier, but when sharpened for duelling, Schliiger (striker). It is derived from the long straight sword of the German, Reiters, or light cavalry, who were famous in the 16th century and later. Its use, , however, was only occasional before the middle of the 19th century, when it gradually, took the place of the dangerous Pariser, or long French small-sword, for the semi-serious duels (M ensuren) of the students. .There are two varieties of rapier, each having a thin flat blade about 33% in. long and -fl; in. Wide and truncated at the point, but distinguished by the shape, of the handle. The bell-rapier (Glockenrapier), used cnly at the north German universities of Leipzig, -Berlin, Halle, Breslau, Konigsberg and Greifswald, is. furnished with a guard consisting of a cup or bell of iron about 4% in. in diameter and 2 in. deep, joined to the pummel by a steel shaft protecting the hand., Its total weight is about 1% lb. The basket-rapier (Korbrapier), used at all universities except those named above, has a handle protected by a sort of basket of heavy steel wire. Its total weight is 2 lb. The balance is just below the guard. The blade of the rapieris divided conventionally into, the forte, the half nextfthe hilt, and the foible. These are1.again. divided into, full and¢, half. forte and full and half foible, 'the half foible being the weakest quarter of the blade, nearest, the point. Every bcut, whether with sharp or blunt weapons, is preceded by the command- Auf die M ensur/ (on the mark, literally distance). The two fencers take position with feet apart and the iightslightly in advance just far enough from one another to allow, their heads to be reached by the-sword without moving the feet, which remain htm during the entire bout. During the first half of the 19th century the objective points of the rapier included the upper arm and breast; but later the head, including the face, became the sole target.” In practice a heavy mask»o£ wire with felt: top, a glove with padded arm-piece (Slulp) and a padded apron to protect body and legs are worn. There is one defensive-posi.tion, which is' with the arm stretched upward bringing the handand hilt about'-6 in. in front of and above thejforehead, and the point of the rapier directed diagonally downward across the body and to the outside of the 'adversary's knees. The fencers having 'at the command Bindet die' Klingenf/ *(Ioin blades !) placed their hilts 'together', with the points of ' the rapiers directed' upwards, attack simultaneously at the 'command Los! (Gol). 'blows are delivered from” the"wrist, slightly helped by the forearm, the hand never beingtdropped below, the level of the eyes.) *No movement 'of' the head or body 'is allowed except such as is unavoidably connected with that of the sword-arm. 5 ' ' T " ' 'e A
Bibliography.—For the light sabre see La Scherma italiaini di spada e di sciabola, by 'Ferdinando Masiello (Florence, 1887); Infantry Sword Exercise (British War Office, London, 1896, practically the system of Masiello; Istruzionie per la scherma, &c, , by S. de Frate (Milan, 1885); La Scherma per la sciabola, by L. Barbasetti (Vienna, 1898); a German translation of the foregoing, Das Säbelfechten (Vienna, 1899); Die Fechtkünst, by Gustav Hergsell (Vienna, 1892); For the old-style sabre see Cold Steel, by Alfred Hutton (London, 1889); Broadsword and Singlestick by R. G. Allanson Winn and C. Phillips Wolley, “ All England " series (London, 1898); Foil and Sabre, by L. Rondelle (Boston, 1892), an exposition of the French military system. For sabre-fencing for cavalry see The Cavalry Swordsman, by Alfred Hutton (London, 1867); L'Escrime du sabre à cheval, by A. Alessandri and Émile André (Paris, 1895). For German basket-sabre and schläger, Die deutsche Hiebgechtschule für Korb- und Glockenrapier (Leipzig, 1887), published by the association of German academic fencing-masters; L'Escrime dans les universités allemandes, &c., by L. C. Roux (Paris, 1885), a French exposition of the German student fencing. (E. B.)