Holding the Sabre

from The Art of the Sabre and the Epee by Luigi Barbasetti

It is of the utmost importance to hold the sabre properly, in order to insure absolute precision in handling the weapon.

Experience has shown that it is impossible to deliver a blow with accuracy unless the fencer opssesses the most delicate sense of each position.

The muscular efforts must coincide absolutely with the “fingering,” which is of great assistance in the success of these movements; but this result is not obtained unless the sabre is held in such a way that the handle rests on three points of the hand.

A special study of the movements of the hand will soon give the fencer - if the sabre is properly held - the delicacy of touch and the assurance, which the Italian school describes with the word “pasteggio.” This word, which could be translated into English as “fingering,” expresses the possibility of giving the sabre at each moment the desired position, with full control and mastery of the blade.

The sabre must be held in the following manner; place the second phalanx of the four fingers opposing the thumb, directly against the interior of the grip, your index finger close to the guard; let the lower part of the back of the grip rest against the palm of your hand and apply the thumb against the flat part of the back of the grip near the guard.

Having these two opposite points of contact, the point of the blade can be smoothly directed in a circular line, the pivotal point being located on the palm of the hand.

The three points controlling the direction of the blade in the space are; the one against which the index finger acts, the one under the thumb, and the surface of contact between the grip and the palm of the hand.

This manner of holding the sabre is indeed a little difficult for the uninitiated, but you will soon discover that there is no other which will offer the same advantages. Thanks to this grip, you will be able to develop the greatest resistance against the blows of our adversary, and a formidable authority in your own attacks.

This position gives the sabre a free and easy balance, which becomes very powerful, while the elbow is used as a pivotal point for a circular movement.

In order to direct the weapon properly, all the muscles of the arm must come into play, but the center of each movement must be your elbow,1 the hand and the shoulder playing secondary roles. The different movements of the shoulder have, howerver, their own usefulness. The hand serves only for the direction of the weapon, that is, of the blade.

1 The Italian method absolutely rests upon this principle: the elbow is the center of all motion. This principle is also established at the Master’s School of Rome. In actual practice, however, the joint of the wrist becomes rather important.