“Remember the old principle. You must hold the grip as if you had a bird in your hand: gently enough not to crush it, but firmly enough not to let it escape.” The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte
The basic action of holding a sabre will dictate the kind of fencing you will be able to do. Holding it too tightly will sap the energy you need to perform crisp, clear actions on the fencing strip. Hold it too loosely and it will “fly away” out of your fingers, leaving you defenseless just long enough for an opponent to get a touch before you can regain your grip.
We tell our beginners to give their sabres a “thumbs-up”. Not too hard since it IS the best weapon! Here’s a picture that shows you what we mean:
As you can see, the pad of your thumb is flat on the grip. DO NOT move it from there. Until you build up your hand and finger muscles, the position shown above will help you get used to keeping your thumb on the grip. Eventually your other fingers will release and re-grip the weapon as you fence but your thumb should hold fast.
Here is a short video from Jason Sheridan, founder and Head Coach of Sheridan Fencing in New York City that will show you more: