A very simple post today to answer a very simple, trivial question: When a referee makes his/her “En Garde! Ready? Fence!” calls, should s/he very the cadence?
For many of you, this is a “duh” answer, but for others, it might not be. Never hurts to clarify.
I’ve heard multiple opinions from multiple referees, so I thought I’d turn to our very best, who provided a definitive “YES!” answer to this question. Younger referees, take note.
“Referees have to vary cadence otherwise the fencers will start jumping the command. I put the en guard, ready as close together as possible even before they are actually at the line and then I will delay from 1-3 seconds before the fence command. Saber fencers are trigger happy. They’re like horses before a race you have to corral them and only let them go when you say it’s okay.” – Patrick Reardon
“I don’t think it is a matter of “should” so much as it is a matter of discipline on the behalf of the fencers. A referee must maintain order on the strip and ensure that both fencers engage in an honest encounter in which all of the rules are followed. Having said that, if the ref notices that the fencers are timing the cadences and leaning into the “fence!” or are failing to be completely still at the beginning of the cadence, then he or she has the RIGHT to vary the cadence to keep the fencers honest. It, to me, is effective and keeps the bout controlled.” -Ivan Lee
“Vary them. Always. It’s a thing every (good) saber referee does. You don’t want to have to card someone for a false start, so why put yourself in a situation where you’re gearing the fencers up to jump the gun by keeping the cadence the same?” – Kevin “Shanabro” Shanahan
“Always change the cadence. Otherwise the fencers can time it.” – Kate Thomas
“There’s no question: the cadence should vary. Even if athletes aren’t intentionally trying to jump the fence command, they’ll start to do so subconsciously. Note that the answer doesn’t apply only to sabre, although that’s where it tends to be most relevant.” – Bradley Baker
Great answers. Thanks to Bradley, Kate, Kevin, Ivan, and Patrick for their input. Young referees, practice changing your cadence!