Brash 2019 Links and Info

Brash foilists

Raise your hand if you are ready for the next Brash!

It’s almost time for the 2019 Houston Sword Sports Brash Invitational! If you’re coming, here’s what you need to know. First, it’s February 16. Once again we are hoping for a cool February, and once again we are not holding our breath.

Get directions to the brewery: 508 W Crosstimbers, Houston TX

Info for non-fencers

Spectators are welcome! Fencing will probably start about 11. The amount of action will vary over time, but if you’re there between noon and three you will probably get to see the most action.

Info for fencers

Epee registration closes at 10:30; Foil registration closes at 12, and Saber registration closes at 1:30.

Preregister on

Then, pre-pay here

Stay tuned to see and preorder the all-new 2019 Brash shirts!


Brash 2018 Links and Info

Yeah! We’re doing it again!

It’s almost time for the 2018 Houston Sword Sports Brash Invitational! If you’re coming, here’s what you need to know. First, it’s February 17 – hopefully cooler than the unseasonably hot February we had last year, but no guarantees.

Get Directions to the brewery: 508 W Crosstimbers, Houston TX

Info for non-fencers

Fencing will probably start about 11. The amount of action will vary over time, but if you’re there between noon and three you will probably get to see the most action.

Info for fencers

Epee registration closes at 10:30; Foil registration closes at 12, and Saber registration closes at 1:30.

Preregister on

We’ll have shirts again!


New Rules for the Coming Season

Know the Rules

Hey all, Dan here. This season sees two new rules for saber and the return of an old rule for foil. Here’s a quick rundown with a little commentary by me.

First the foil change:

Once up on a time, foilists had to keep their front shoulder in front and their back shoulder in back, until, maybe 10-12 years ago, the powers that be decided to let foilists reverse their shoulders like the other two weapons. Now the powers that be have decreed a return to days of yore, and starting post-Olympics (Congrats Team USA on 4 medals!) foilists shall no longer reverse their shoulders.

There is some concern as to what this will be in relation to, either the strip or the opponent, but the rationale is that when fencers turn, they can obscure whether they’re covering target with the non-weapon arm. With this reasoning, I imagine the rule will essentially be enforced with respect to the referee – that is, if the fencer has turned in such a way that the back arm could be used to cover target, the referee will be expected to give this card. Otherwise, I expect the card to only given when the fencer turns in relation to the opponent and strip. Reality may vary.

The impact on foil will mostly be in the in-fighting. Reversing shoulders is a quick and easy way to give a fencer enough space to use the blade, while denying the opponent the same chance. Unless a fencer is allowed to turn to face the opponent, in-fighting will become more difficult with a switch to behind the back touches and prime (one) with a jump riposte.

Saber, Part I – the Lockout

In 2004, the saber lockout (the time from when the first fencer hits until the time the second fencer is locked out from registering a hit) was decreased to 120 milliseconds. This turned out to be a bit extreme, and made it hard for many fencers to finish attacks or ripostes. It also led to more fencing with the tip of the blade and is blamed for the end of the counter-riposte in saber. The last critique might not be entirely fair.

Starting from August 1, the lockout time has been increased to 170ms to try to encourage the riposte and discourage counterattacks and remises. According to Scientific American[1], consciousness lags about 80ms behind reality, so don’t plan to do a whole lot with your newfound .05 second. We’ve been playing with this at Houston Sword Sports for about a month now, and I haven’t noticed much change in what I can get away with.

Saber, Part II – the Box of Death

A little history, I started fencing in 1990. At that time the preferred tactic was to fleche as soon as the referee said fence. After 2 simultaneous actions, we entered this weird priority system that I’m not explaining here. A couple years later, they experimented with having simultaneous attacks be a double touch. That went poorly. Then they took out the fleche. They have experimented with hyper-technical interpretations of hand and/or foot preparations. All this in order to get rid of the simultaneous attack off the line in saber.

The newest idea is an experiment by the FIE to start saber fencers with the rear foot on the en garde line. USA Fencing has adopted this rule for the experimental period. The theory behind the rule is that the new en garde line will make it dangerous to attack on the command fence (off the line). Since there’s no room for a preparation and easier to make an attack fall short, the fencers will be less likely to both attack off the line. This will make saber more varied and interesting.

The common issue raised with this is that a taller fencer will very nearly be able to hit an opponent without moving the feet on the command fence. My issue with this is that saber is an offensive weapon. In the short term, this will have the desired results, but I think as fencers figure out the game, it will return to the simultaneous actions off the line. It will still be easier to attack than to defend.

Anyway, those are our new rules for the season here in the US. Good luck to all of you, and let me know your thoughts on this.



The Benefits of Fencing

Epee, foil and saber at Houston Sword Sports

We all have a lot of things competing for our time. Work, family, friends, school, hobbies, pets… The list goes on. A common refrain from those who would like to try fencing is there is no time for it. While I can sympathize with that – my schedule is as maxed out as the rest – I’d like to make the case that some of your precious free time should be spent fencing.

An easy reason to try fencing is that it’s fun, although I’m sure many of the things you do are – why do workouts or hobbies that don’t bring joy after all, right? But more than that, let me make the case that fencing has so much more to offer than the occasional bruise or blister.

1. An individual sport with a team element.

Fencing is at its heart a positional game like chess that you play with swords. Learning the stance, movements, and actions needed to be an Olympian is easy. Honing them to become proficient enough to win some matches takes focus, self-discipline, and practice.

As an individual sport, you can set your own goals. How far you progress is up to you. You make the effort to learn and develop, you are the one who plays with new tactics, and you are the one who ultimately succeeds at your goals. The support network of your club mates forms a team that helps you through this. We all fence together and give one another feedback – if my teammates become stronger, so will I. There’s also great emotional support to help with plateaus and valleys as you learn to fence.

2. All the essential elements of physical exercise.

Fitness is divided into 4 broad components:

Muscular endurance – the ability to maintain a high level of performance over time. This includes aerobic (using oxygen) conditioning which fencing trains by getting on strip and fencing someone for an extended period, and anaerobic (not using oxygen) conditioning which is periods of intense activity followed by a recovery period in the flurry of activity leading to the touch. Both are important to your overall health and wellbeing.

Muscular strength/power – how much weight you can lift and how explosively you can push it. The rapid changes in direction of the anaerobic conditioning part of fencing leads to a stronger set of leg and core muscles. We are purported to have some of the best glutes in sports…

Balance – those rapid changes of direction also improve your balance. working for the touch forces us to learn new and interesting ways to move our bodies. Our pride gets us to develop the balance to not fall on our faces when we do it. This improves our coordination – the more balanced and grounded you feel, the easier it is to do fine motor tasks like scoring a point.

Flexibility – reaching that little bit more for the point or twisting to your utmost to avoid your opponent’s blade. Fencers become pretty flexible in more than just their mental abilities. Most people have done fencing lunges to stretch out for other sports. There’s a reason for that.

Fencing blends all these into one workout for the body and the mind, bringing us to…

3. Mental stimulation.

The brain is like a muscle in that the more it’s challenged, the stronger it becomes. Fencing is a puzzle – how do I hit and not be hit? Is my opponent laying a trap, or making a mistake? Am I really doing what I think I’m doing (it’s surprising how often this isn’t the case)?

Fencing is so great for mental stimulation that scientists have used fencers to study the way that “open-skill sports” (that is, sports where you react to an opponent) affect the brain’s ability to process information (source). We all get a little slower as we age, but one study found that fencers don’t get slower as fast – and middle-aged fencers have better accuracy, which is a pretty good tradeoff (source 1source 2 ). Fencing is a great two-fer, since it improves your health both physically and mentally.

4. Finesse, not strength.

Most martial arts will give you some version of the elements above, but the difference between fencing and most martial arts is that our sport is based on finesse rather than strength. You don’t have to hit very hard at all to score a touch in fencing. Most martial arts have you stand with your dominant foot in back, which grounds you and gives power to your attacks. In fencing we stand with the dominant foot in front, which makes us more nimble and allows for light, fast attacks.

What this means is that fencing appeals to people who’ve tried a lot of sports and not yet found their niche. Emphasizing quick, light touches instead of power means that kids who weren’t the biggest or the strongest can compete on an equal footing. You don’t even have to be very fast, if you’re sneaky and have good timing.


Have all these benefits made you think you should carve some time into your schedule and give fencing a try? Great, now’s your chance! We are holding free introduction to fencing classes on September 2 and 3. If you can’t make those, your first class at the Bellaire rec is always free. Sign up for a free class or email for more information.