Classical Three Weapon Tournament Rules

Rules for the Conduct of Traditional Fencing Competitions
in the style of Franco Italiano Accademie

Sanctioned by Botta Secreta Productions (2009)

Originally posted at http://bottasecretaproductions.ning.com/profiles/blogs/bsps-rules-for-march-1-2009

Written By; Dr. John P. Sullins, Military Master at Arms (SJSU FMP), Provost David Charles (IAA,USFCA), and Mr. Thomas Badillo.

Section 1
Background and Rationale
The story is a complex one but suffice it to say that the Classical Fencing movement began to emerge in the late seventies through the efforts of various Maestri and fencing enthusiasts. Their goals, while very different individually are linked by a wish to return fencing to a more classically oriented style, from which they believe modern efforts in fencing have long since strayed. The movement’s dissention usually revolves around issues of contemporary interpretations of priority, simple actions that are intended to deny the opponent opportunities to parry, for example: the flick and bent arm attacks as well as bouncing footwork. This movement has grown to many hundreds of fencers around the world who share these ideas. Most of this movement has been working within the tradition French School of technique but concomitant to these efforts is the work of Maestro William Gaugler who worked tirelessly to preserve traditional Italian fencing through the creation of the Military Fencing Masters Program as San Jose State (1979 -2008), creating instructors, Provosts, and Maestri during that time. These fencers have gone on to found schools and programs of their own creating many hundreds of fencers trained in the traditional Italian style. These rules are the result of discussions and observations of Maestro John Sullins, Provost David Charles, and Mr. Thomas Badillo. It was determined that there was no venue available in their local area for people to compete and test their skills within the classical or traditional milieu. This is their attempt to provide that venue for them.
1.1 Goals and Historical Notes
The goal of these rules is to provide a framework for safe, exciting, and fun events that recall the grandeur and glory of the Franco Italiano Accademie as they were described by the authors that witnessed them in the traditional period such as; Rosaroll Scorza and Pietro Grisetti (1803), Blasco Florio (1844), Masaniello Parise (1884), as just a representative example.
1.2 Philosophy Behind the Rules
The fundamental philosophy guiding this rules set is to put aside doctrinal differences between schools of fencing and let the issue of which school is “best” settle itself fairly on the fencing piste. As such, the rules are fairly open to allow for any style of fencing that was practiced in the traditional period. This requires certain compromises to be made. It is not meant to eclipse rules sets that are idiosyncratic to a particular school of thought in fencing; they are just an attempt to bring this community together once in a while. The rules are meant to simulate, as much as possible, the affairs of honor that so consumed the minds of the early innovators in fencing. Not to glorify violence, but instead to gain a more visceral understanding of philosophical concepts such as honor romance and civil decorum and as an entrée into the practices of a lost world. In addition, the philosophic notion that sport is a valuable component to society is generally expressed herein. Finally, these rules rely on the personal honesty of the participants and without it the entire enterprise will fail. This rules set denies the cynical interpretation that individuals are incapable of honesty and instead assumes a more Aristotelian claim that virtue is found only in its practice. Thus, these rules are meant to hone the virtue of those young and old who participate in these competitions.
1.3 Common Terms and Nomenclature
(To be developed)

Section 2
General Rules Used in all Three Traditional Weapons
2.1 Terrain and The Fencing Piste
The tournament organizers will announce the terrain or dimensions of the piste before the tournament. Terrain may be indoors or out. If outdoors the field must be level dirt or short grass and placed so as to lessen the effects of the sun being in the eyes of one of the fencers. The piste must be a minimum of 1.5 meters by 10 and a maximum of 3 meters by 18.
2.2 Equipment used by Fencers
Fencers are responsible for their own equipment and must come to the competition with the appropriate weapons footwear and protective gear.
2.2.1 Responsibility for Adequate Equipment
Competitors and teams must have safe and adequate equipment. Failure to do so will result in the removal of the team or individual from the competition. Unsafe equipment can cause fatal injury so there can be zero tolerance for substandard and improperly maintained equipment.
2.2.2 General Clothing Requirements
No portion of the fencer’s body can be uncovered save the unarmed hand. At a minimum each fencer will have the following: appropriate footwear, pants or knickers and athletic socks, undershirt, underarm protector, plastic breastplate (optional for men required for women), fencing jacket, glove for weapon hand, and a 3 weapon mask.
2.2.3 General Weapon Requirements
Fencers will have well maintained fencing weapons appropriate for the bouts they will be competing in. The weapons will be free from rust and all burrs removed before the tournament. Weapons may be of any traditional style as long as they fit the min and max weight requirements for each weapon as listed in the appropriate sections of these rules. Any protective oil must be removed before the bout to prevent unnecessary marking of your opponents’ protective gear.
2.3 General Rules for Bouting
The following rules are to be followed regardless of the weapon being used.
2.3.1 Courtesy and Honor
One quality that distinguishes traditional fencing tournaments from other fencing events is a focus on maintaining an atmosphere of courtesy and honor. Competitors, officials and spectators are asked to uphold the highest standards in personal behavior during the competition.
2.3.1.1 Competitors
Will be courteous to all, including officials and spectators. Rude behavior or comments will be grounds for disqualification. Competitors will salute all present as instructed by the president of the jury at the beginning and end of the bout. At the end of the bout after the final salute the competitors will shake hands before leaving the strip. The winner of the bout is allowed to acknowledge any applause after the salute and handshake but excessive grandstanding should be avoided. Competitors must graciously accept the judgment of the officials even if that judgment is contrary to their views. Serious problems with the officiating must be brought to the attention of the bout committee or panel of Maestri. Competitors are honor bound to uphold not only the letter of these rules but their spirit as well. Competitors are honor bound to acknowledge hits received.
2.3.1.2 Officials
Will be courteous but firm in their rulings during the bout. Only the bout committee is allowed to question the rulings of the jury during and after a bout. The President of the jury is tasked with upholding the courtesy, honor and decorum of the bout. She/he will insure that the bout begins and ends with a salute and that the competitors do not lose their decorum during the heat of the bout by encouraging them to their best behavior followed by the appropriate warnings and finally resorting to the penalties allowed in these rules. Officials are honor bound to be fair and even handed in their calls and to uphold the sprit of the competition; advancing the aesthetic and entertainment value of the event as well as maintaining the highest competitive standards.
2.3.1.3 Spectators, and Team Mates
Will be courteous to both their favored competitor and her/his opponent. Applause will be held until the officials make their call and must not inhibit the ability of the officials to advance the bout and the competitors to compete on an even playing field. The officials and tournament organizers have the authority to ask an audience member to leave if they continue disrupting the competition after being warned once.
2.3.2 Method of Fencing
These rules are meant to foster the highest quality fencing possible. All competitors will maintain traditional French or Italian technique during the competition. The bout committee and or the panel of Maestri are the final arbiters in determining if a competitor is not meeting the requirements of this rule.
2.3.2.1 Form and Unorthodox Fencing
Maintaining good form is the responsibility of all competitors. Points will not be awarded for style or form but competitors not meeting a minimum level of competency; as determined by the bout committee or panel of Maestri, will be asked to withdraw from the competition. Competitions will be either amateur or professional in level and the requirements for form will be more stringent at the professional level. Use of unorthodox fencing will result in any touch scored by the unorthodox fencer being annulled and a warning given to the fencer. Further violations will result in the fencer losing the bout on decision of the officials.
2.3.2.1.1 Infighting
Proper form must be maintained during infighting. If the phrase is beginning to degenerate, then the official must call a halt and restart the fencers at proper distance.
2.3.2.1.2 Corp à Corp
This is to be avoided. Any contact between the fencer’s bodies will cause the bout to be halted by the officials and a warning given to the perpetrator of the contact. A second warning will result in a point being scored against the perpetrator. After a corps à corps the perpetrator will lose one meter of ground as designated by the president of the jury. If this causes the fencer to cross the boundaries of the strip, see section 2.3.2.7 to resolve this issue.
2.3.2.1.3 Covering Target
Covering the target with anything but one’s own weapon is not allowed. Fencers are to use the defense of steal or measure alone to protect him or herself. If the president of the jury rules that one of the fencers is covering the target with parts of the body that do not count as target area in the particular weapon being fenced, then this will result in the off target point being scored as if it were on target. Additionally, if during a counterattack the counterattacker displaces his or her valid target area to doge the incoming attack but in the process is hit off target, then this will be considered a case of covering the target and the attack will score. If both hits are valid, then see section 3.2.3.5, typically the counterattack will be wrong and the off target attack wil score thus annulling the counterattack.
2.3.2.1.4 Use of Unarmed Hand
The unarmed hand cannot be used to assist the fencer in any way other than maintaining balance during the bout. It must be place in the position appropriate for either the traditional French or Italian method of fencing. If the president of the jury rules that the unarmed hand was being used—intentionally or not, as an aid to the fencer, then a point will be scored against that fencer.
2.3.2.1.5 Use of Excessive Force
Fencers must use the minimum force necessary to facilitate their actions. It is not an infraction to use appropriate strength for actions on the blade or sabre cuts, but if the president of the jury deems that the force is more than what is needed, she/he will warn the fencer. If the behavior continues then any hits scored via excessive force will be annulled. If this does not cause the fencer to lessen her or his force, then the bout committee or panel of Maestri will remove the fencer from the competition.
2.3.2.2 Holding the Weapon
The fencers must maintain control of their weapon at all times. The weapon must be griped in the manner of either the French or Italian school of thought. Italian weapons may use the wrist strap and French weapons may employ the martingale. Other systems of binding the weapon to the fencer’s arm are not allowed. If a weapon is dropped or disarmed and the fencer that dropped the weapon is also hit, then a point will be scored against the fencer that lost her/his weapon only if the scoring hit occurs in the same tempo as the loss of the weapon. In other words, the dropped weapon will halt the action but dropping the weapon will not protect the fencer from a hit that would have scored otherwise. Intentionally dropping the weapon is considered a foul.
2.3.2.3 Beginning and stopping the Bout
Only the president of the jury may begin or stop a bout. She/he must speak “Fence” or “Halt” loudly for all to hear. Only after the command of “fence” may the fencers begin to bout and they must immediately stop and hold their ground upon hearing “halt.” The President of the Jury must insure that both fencers are ready to fence before beginning the bout. She/he will ask the fencers to go “on guard,” then ask “ready” and wait for a verbal affirmative reply from both fencers before saying “Fence!”
2.3.2.4 Assuming a Guard
Fencers will immediately assume a proper guard in either the Italian or French style as soon as asked to by the president of the jury. Failure to do so will be grounds for disqualification.
2.3.2.5 Materiality of Touch to Score
The officials of the bout must determine the materiality of the touch. The blade must hit with sufficient force to seat the tip and bend the blade in an arc. Due to the natural bend in the blade at rest, this is a difficult call and the officials must do their best to determine whether or not this hit would have resulted in a wound if the blades were sharp. If the blade already has an arc at repose, then the blade must flex beyond its arc at repose. This is a subjective call and the organizers of the tournament must insure that the officials used in the tournament are qualified to make these calls. The jury will use the term “insufficient” to describe a touch that is to light.
2.3.2.6 Acknowledging Touches
Fencers are encouraged to acknowledge when they are hit. It is often difficult for judges to see every hit and if the tournament is to maintain credibility, it requires that the competitors value their honor more than they do wining at any cost. The jury or the attacker may annul the acknowledged touch if they believe it was insufficient. To acknowledge the touch the fencer will retreat and hold his or her weapon vertical in salute and may vocalize “toccata”, “touché”, or “hit.”
2.3.2.7 Crossing the Boundaries of the Piste
Partially crossing the boundaries of the piste will halt the action and the perpetrator will lose one meter of ground as determined by the president of the jury. Crossing the bounds of the piste entirely, either due to ones own action or as the result of a penalty of lost ground will result in a point being scored against the perpetrator. If during an action the attack, the riposte, or the counter attack results in the fencer partially crossing the bounds of the piste, then the action will be able to score if it scores within one fencing tempo after the fencer has crossed the boundary, otherwise the point is annulled.
2.3.2.8 Accidents, Injuries, and Withdrawal of a Competitor
Fencing is inherently dangerous. If an actual injury is incurred then the president will halt the bout and allow the fencer to treat her or his injury. The bout committee, or panel of Maestri, will determine if the bout may continue or if the injured fencer must withdraw from the competition with a full refund for any fees paid and this may also result in his/her opponent being disqualified if the injury was caused by negligence or excessive violence.

Section 3
Regulations for the Direction and Judging of Bouts
3.1 Officials
Each bout will be adjudicated by: the President of the Jury, and a jury of four judges. At professional matches and/or if personnel are available, two line judges and a timekeeper and a scorekeeper will serve as auxilia to the President and Jury.
3.1.1 President of the Jury
The President of the Jury is the primary official in the bout and holds authority over every aspect of the bout, including the competitors, other judges, auxilia, and even the audience.
2.3.2.3.1 Changing Sides on the Piste
Fencers take the field in this order: the first fencer called will take the field to the right of the President of the Jury, unless one of the fencers is left handed, if so he or she will take the field on the director’s left (note that two left handed fencers in a bout will not require special treatment). Fencers will keep these positions until the mid point of the bout, in which case they will change sides. E.G. when a five point bout reaches the third point, the fencers will change sides, shaking hands as they do so and turn as they pass each other so as to never turn their backs on their opponent, they move behind the new on-guard line and take first position. Then and the President of the Jury will ask the fencers to salute and then the bout begins again. The only exception is if there is one left-handed fencer, in this case the Judges move from left to right and vice versa so as to now judge for the opposite fencer they began the match with. While doing so the judges shake hands as they pass and try not to rudely turn their backs on the fencers or the President of the Jury.
In Épée, if the bout committee desires, the fencers may be required to change sides after each touch. This practice is highly recommended if the bout is held outdoors to minimize any advantageous environmental factors that are impacting the results of the bout.
During the bout in any weapon, of during the course of infighting or any other action that causes the fencers to switch places without leaving the strip, then the fencers will continue bouting on that side of the strip. Note: judges now are watching the target area of a new fencer so must be vigilant not to lose the action. If this happens with a bout including one left handed fencer, after the initial action that caused the swap is finished and judged, then the director may ask the fencers to retake their original positions, or the President, his or herself may move to the opposite side of the strip and from there begin the next action.
3.1.2 The Jury
The Jury will assist the President of the Jury in determining the materiality of the actions of the competitors.
3.1.2.1 Judges
There are to be four judges that will closely watch the bout, listen to the President’s recounting of the phrase and then adjudicate the materiality of the touch.
3.1.2.2 Line Judges
Line judges are charged with determining if the fencers cross the boundaries of the piste. They will raise their hand when and if the fencers cross the lines of the strip. The President of the Jury will halt the bout and poll the line judges before deciding on any penalties.
3.1.2.3 Panel of Maestri
A panel of Maestri may be seated if the tournament organizers wish. It is recommended that one be seated for final rounds and for professional level matches. The panel will consist of up to five of the Maestri or other eminent and knowledgeable fencers that are present at the competition and any senior Provost level professional fencers that the panel deems worthy of a seat, though this must not take the panel over five members. To qualify, the Maestri must hold a degree from a properly accredited degree granting institution or organization. The seats will be offered to the most senior Maestri present based on the date of their certification. If a Maestro or Maestra passes on the invitation it is given to the next junior Maestro or Maestra present. This panel will be charged with assisting directors in particularly difficult calls. The president of the jury may ask for their assistance at any time. The panel may not offer their opinion in any other case and may not challenge a call made by the President of the Jury. The panel will also be polled if the President of the Jury wishes to have any competitor removed for unorthodox fencing. The composition of the panel is to be determined entirely by the tournament organizers. Maestri not seated on the panel or filling some other capacity will have no official function in the tournament.
3.1.3 Auxilia
Assist the judges in running the bout.
3.1.3.1 Score Keepers
Are charged with accurately keeping the score as the President and the Jury determine it and presenting the results to the bout committee for record keeping.
3.1.3.2 Time Keepers
Will keep accurate time and start and stop the time as indicated by the President of the Jury. When the appropriate times arrive they will announce “time” After which the President will halt the bout.
3.1.3.3 Bout Committee
The tournament organizers form the bout committee and its membership is entirely up to them. The bout committee can consult with anyone they deem authoritative to help them in making a decision. For example: an armorer for technical issues or an experienced or accredited director, no pedagogy credentials are needed by these specialists or by the members of the bout committee. The bout committee’s function is to run the tournament, organizes officials for the bouts, inspect equipment, and arbitrate concerns of the competitors and judges, as well as providing for any other needs of the people in attendance at the tournament. Primarily the bout committee will be charged with organizing the bouts between competitors, posting results of those bouts and insuring that the competition precedes in a timely manner. The bout committee will also organize the awards ceremony at the conclusion of the tournament.
3.2 Judging
Judging is the method for determining the results of the fencers’ actions.
3.2.1 Duties of the President of the Jury
The duties of the President of the Jury are as follows: 1) Keep the bout safe. 2) Keep the bout moving as fast as possible, 3) Determine the fencing phrase and repeat it verbally after the action has been halted so that the jury, fencers and audience can hear it. 4) Poll the jury and assign the score. 5) Ensure decorum from the fencers, jury, and audience to the standards set by the tournament bout committee. 6) The President of the Jury will receive one and a half votes which he or she will make known to all present and it will be added to the poll of the judges when determining the hit (see sections 3.2.3.3.2.1, 2, & 3, for the allowed calls. In the final rounds and at professional bouts the President of the Jury will be presented with a ceremonial Smarra at the beginning of the bout by a representative of the Panel of Maestri or a representative of the bout committee, which signifies their trust in his or her direction. The Maestri or bout committee will defer to the President of the Jury all control of the proceedings until the smarra, has been returned to their table by the President of the Jury.
3.2.2 Positions of the Judges and Line Judges
The four judges will stand two to each side of the piste one on the left and one on the right of each fencer. Each will stand one and a half meters behind the fencer on their half of the strip and maintain that distance during the bout. The line judges will stand 2 meters behind the limit line of the piste and remain there throughout the bout.
3.2.3 Method of Judging
Judges will follow a strict set of procedures for calling the bout.
3.2.3.1 Procedures
Judges will face in the same direction as the fencer on their side of the strip. They will remain behind the fencer and follow the action with their bodies as well as their eyes, keeping up with the fencers as they move on the strip. Judges will watch for hits against the fencer directly opposite them. They will offer no opinion on any hits against the fencer on their side of the strip except on the rare occasion that this is called for by the President of the Jury. There are exceptional occasions where the director can actually ask the judges on the other side; an example would be:
Left attacks, Right parries with immediate riposte, left continues forward and passes behind Right which screens the director and because of the passing, both judges. They don’t see the riposte land on the back. They all three abstain and the director can poll the two left side judges to see if they saw riposte land.
. In essence they serve a purpose similar to the role of Seconds in a duel of honor and as such honestly advocate for the fencer on their side of the strip. If it is at all possible given the personnel available, then the tournament organizers will work to limit conflicts of interest by making sure teammates are not placed as judges for bouts containing their teammates.
3.2.3.2 Calls
Judges are allowed to make only a certain set of vocal calls during the bout. They are not allowed to call the fencing phrase nor offer their opinion on it and must call the action as described by the President of the Jury.
3.2.3.3.2.1 The call of “Yes”
Is given when the fencer’s weapon touches the valid target area of the opponent and the judge feels the hit is also of the proper materiality (see section 3.2.3.3). This will count as one vote for the hit. In foil and sabre, the judge may also call “yes but off target.” This call will count as one vote for an off target hit. An off target hit in foil or sabre will halt the action and the fencers will be placed back on guard where on the piste where the action ended.
3.2.3.3.2.2 The Call of “No”
Is given when the Judge believes the touch did not hit anywhere or was immaterial. This will count as one vote against the hit.
3.2.3.3.2.3 The Call of “Abstain”
Is given when the judge has lost the action, could not see the action, or cannot recall the hit and must abstain from the call. This will count as no vote.
In the event that both judges and the President of the Jury all abstain, then assessing of the fencing phrase stops.

3.2.3.3 Materiality of the Touch
Every touch must hit in such a way that if the weapon were sharp it would have been a damaging wound. This is difficult to adjudicate but every attempt must be made to do so honestly and with accuracy. As a general rule, a solid hit by the point with a bend in the blade with an approximate radius of about 80 cm is generally sufficient, however fencing weapons typically have slight bends in the blade due to use and for safety reasons, which makes determining the hit more difficult. As this can only serve as a guideline, it is up to the judges to make the final determination as to the materiality of the touch. A cut with the Sabre that is vigorous and pushed or pulled will also be sufficient. Details will be given in the rules sections for each specific weapon.
3.2.3.4 Priority of Hits
Foil and Sabre are conventional weapons, which means that only one fencer has the priority to hit at any given time. If both fencers attack at the same time and both hit (Double touch or Tempo Comune), the priority of hit must be determined.
3.2.3.4.1 The Attack
The attacker is defined as the fencer that has established the preconditions for delivering a material hit. These preconditions include: 1) a straight arm with no reserve in the elbow. 2) The scoring edge or point of the weapon directed at some portion of the opposing fencer’s body. Both requirements must obtain for a proper attack and any attempt to score that is lacking both, or has only one of the above requirements is susceptible to counterattacks. Any attack that has both of the above criteria must be fully defended before any riposte is delivered.
3.2.3.4.2 The Riposte
The riposte is similar to an attack but is distinguished by the fact that it is a returned action to one’s opponent after the fencer has successfully defending against an opponent’s attack. The opponent may defend with their weapon or by increasing the distance through a retreat or jump back. If the defender succeeds in breaking the opponents attack by causing them to lose one or both of the preconditions for the attack, then the riposte may be delivered and it now has priority. If not, or if the defender hesitates and does not take his or her opportunity within a fencing tempo, then the attacker may renew or remise his or her attack.
3.2.3.4.3 The Renewed attack or the Remise
The renewed attack or remise is a second attack launched against a defender that fails to obtain the preconditions for a riposte or who has hesitated to long and lost his or her opportunity to riposte. In all ways, priority of this action is the same as with the attack (See 3.2.3.4.1)
3.2.3.4.4 The Counterattack
An attack into an attack is called a counterattack. The counter attack is an attempt to interrupt a compound attack or an attempted simple attack that never gains priority due to some mistake of the attacker. The rules in section 3.2.3.5 help determine what happens if two hits result during an attempted counterattack.
3.2.3.4.5 Countertime
These are actions used to attempt to defeat a counterattack with a parry riposte or a counterattack into the counterattack. Again, the rules in section 3.2.3.5 help determine what happens if two hits result during an attempted countertime.
3.2.3.4.6 Feint in Time
Is the name for the action that is used against actions in countertime. As the feint in time will be either a disengagement or deceive in time which attempts to defeat the opponent’s action ion countertime, the rules in section 3.2.3.5 will help determine what happens if two hits result during an attempted Feint in time.
3.2.3.4.7 Arrest in Countertime
Is used to defeat a single or double feint in time and except for the fact that the action is arresting an action that is a feint in time, it is employed in a manner similar to an arrest against a compound attack, as such, the rules in section 3.2.3.5 will help determine what happens if two hits result during an attempted arrest in countertime.
3.2.3.5 Adjudicating a Double Touches-Tempo Comune
The purposes of these rules are to encourage smarter fencing that is more complex and pleasurable to watch. It also has the effect of teaching fencers not to settle for double hits, which in reality would leave both fencers wounded, violating the primary dictum in western fencing, “to touch and not be touched.”
As a fencer can score either in the attack, riposte after a defense, or during a counter attack, we have to have a means of adjudicating double hits as an attacker, a defender, or a counterattacker, commits them. The following rules will suffice for all possible combinations of double hits.
1) The attacker is wrong in a double touch if, in the development of a compound action, (feint, action on the blade, etc.) his attack is properly deflected off the target area (point or cutting edge no longer threatening valid target area) by a parry from the defender but the attacker continues anyway and the riposte and the replacement result in a double touch. Justification—if the weapons were real then it is likely that the lethal force of the initial attack would have been successfully negated by the parry so that if the attacker blindly continued, his weapon would only do slight damage where as the proper parry riposte would do considerable damage to him or her thus the parry riposte should be awarded the point if we are to remain true to the duel.
2) The attacker is also in error if his action on the blade (Beat etc.), whether or not that blade was in line, fails to strike the opponents blade but he continues with the action ignoring the counterattack thus resulting in a double hit. Example, fencer B has his point in line threatening valid target area and fencer A attempts to beat the weapon out of the way. Fencer B executes a disengagement-in-time avoiding the beat and continues to maintain his point in line against a target area, fencer A ignores this fact and lunges right onto the opponents point while delivering a blow. Correctly called, the counter attacker (fencer B) should be awarded. Justification–If the weapons were real the attacker would be mortally wounded and the counter attacker would be slightly wounded so he should be awarded if we are to remain true to the duel.
3) The defender is wrong if, while attempting to defeat a compound attack from his or her opponent, he or she attempts a parry that does not find the incoming attack but continues with the riposte anyway resulting in a double hit. Justification—The attack is more lethal in this instance so that if the weapons were real then the defender would be mortally wounded but the attacker would only be slightly wounded.
4) The counterattacker is at fault when the attack and the counter attack terminate in a double hit unless it is as described in #2. For instance the counter attacker tries a body evasion of some sort but does it improperly and is still hit while he or she also hits the opponent. Justification—the well-developed attack has the impetus and is thus the more likely to be the most lethal of the two, the counterattacker would be mortally wounded but the attacker would likely be only slightly wounded.
5) Tempo Comune occurs if none of the above conditions apply. In the rare event that this happens then in foil and sabre, neither fencer scores a point and the action is reset at the point on the piste that the tempo comune occurred. In Épée there is no right of way so both fencers actions may score. If this occurs more than once the President of the Jury should warn the fencers then penalize them both by awarding one point to each fencer every time the action occurs again in the bout. This might lead to a double defeat.

Section 4
Rules for the Conduct of Traditional Foil Bouts
4.1 Historical Notes
The foil is the most academic of the three weapons and allows for a very complex game to develop. The foil was developed as a training and sporting weapon and is therefore much lighter than any dueling weapons.
4.2 The Foil Piste
4.3 Equipment
The fencer shall have the following equipment, which shall be properly maintained and clean: At least two fencing foils of either traditional French or traditional Italian design, Protective clothing consisting of a glove for at least the weapon hand, a fencing jacket, knickers-high socks, or long fencing pants, shoes, underarm protectors, and a mask rated for a 12 Kilogram punch test, athletic protectors for gentlemen and chest protectors for ladies. Optional, men may wear chest protectors if they wish and men and women may fence in traditional costume from the eighteenth through the twentieth century, if they wish and do not mind the disadvantage that might place them in. Finally, in the traditional period, fencers wore either white or black and occasionally gray. Since that time, the tradition has moved to black being reserved for Maestri. We will maintain this later tradition and reserve black for Maestri only, at this time refrain from competing in a black fencing jacket unless you have a master at arms degree from an accredited institution or organization.
4.3.1 Specifications for French Foil
Any French foil designed in the manner of eighteenth through twentieth century fencing foils will be allowed. Please bring textual or pictorial evidence of use in the traditional period if your weapon is particularly uncommon in size weight length or shape. Martingales may be employed if the fencer wishes.
4.3.2 Specifications for Italian Foil
Any Italian foil designed in the manner of eighteenth through twentieth century fencing the light Fiorretto, the normal weight spada or the heavier smarra will be allowed, (Note the Spada and Smarra begin to cross the boundary into the specifications of an Épée so their use may legitimately be limited by the tournament organizers). Please bring textual or pictorial evidence of use in the traditional period if your weapon is particularly uncommon in size weight length or shape. Wrist straps may be employed if the fencer wishes, and the crossbars of the weapon may extend beyond the bell guard as appropriate for the period. Note: weapons form the mixed Franco Italian school are also allowed if the fencer is trained in that technique.
4.3.3 Specifications for Protective Clothing
Safety is of primary concern. The tournament organizers have the right to restrict any equipment they deem unsafe. Since these rules are meant to encourage traditional fencing and an appreciation for the time and cultures that produced it, it is important to allow fencers leeway in dress and fashion. However certain minimums must be maintained. Fully modern underarm protectors are required that conform to the standards set by the USFA. Chest protectors must also conform to the most recent rulings by the USFA. This is a helpful site for beginners (http://shop.fencing.net/Articles.asp?ID=131) to help determine what those standards are at the present time The glove must be puncture resistant and allow for safe handling of the weapon, and gloves may be worn on both hands if the fencer whishes. Protective jackets and leg protection must also be puncture resistant up to the most recent USFA standards. This may require fencers to use materials in the construction of their gear that were not available traditionally. This is an unfortunate reality. There were deadly accidents in the period we are interested in and much progress has been made in fencing safety in the intervening years. Shoes may be of any style the fencer wishes but must be non-marking if the event is held indoors, there are no restrictions if the event is held outdoors.
4.4 Scoring a Hit
A hit is scored when a material blow is delivered to the target area of the opposing fencer and this is accomplished in a tempo ahead of one’s competitor or the fencer is the correct fencer in a double touch (see section 3.2.3.5).
4.4.1 Target Area
In foil the default target area is the torso of the fencer excluding arms from the seam of the jacket on, neck form the seam of the collar up, in the back, bellow the belt and across the front from the groin down the legs. Tournament organizers may alter this as they wish, perhaps including the upper weapon arm or removing the groin as a target.
4.4.2 Wining a Bout and the Duration of the Bout
The typical bout will be to five points with one-minute actual fencing time allotted to each point (five minutes typically). A bout of 10, 15, 20, or more where fought in the traditional period but it is suggested that this be limited to professional encounters or final rounds only. In such cases, one minute should be allowed for each point fenced. It is also suggested that any bout over 15 points should leave the clock running, so a 30 point bout would have 30 minutes to complete with either the first fencer to reach 30 or the highest score at the end of the time limit being declared the winner. Fencers will be told the time remaining at the end of each halt in the action.

Section 5
Rules for the Conduct of Traditional Épée or Spada Bouts
5.1 Historical Notes
In the nineteenth century, foil fencing had moved far from the reality of the duel and as a result Épée fencing was developed. This weapon was originally disliked by the fencing establishment but eventually gained acceptance overtime. In this rules set, Épée will be fenced with an eye towards more fully simulating a duel than is practical in the more academic weapons.
5.2 The Épée or Spada Piste
The piste in Épée will be the same as in foil.
5.2.1 Spada de Terreno (outdoor fencing)
This weapon was often fenced outdoors, in which case the piste is replaced by the terrain on the ground. Flat low cut grass or well-packed dirt should be chosen. The tournament organizers must ensure that the ground is safe and must mark the bounds of the playing area.
5.3 Equipment
The fencer shall have the following equipment, which shall be properly maintained and clean: At least two fencing Épée or Spada of either traditional French or traditional Italian design, Protective clothing consisting of a thick glove for at least the weapon hand, a fencing jacket, knickers-high socks, or long fencing pants, shoes, underarm protectors, and a mask rated for a 12 Kilogram punch test, athletic protectors for gentlemen and chest protectors for ladies. Optional; men may wear chest protectors if they wish and men and women may fence in traditional costume from the eighteenth through the twentieth century, if they wish and do not mind the disadvantage that might place them in. Finally, in the traditional period, fencers wore either white or black and occasionally gray. Since that time, the tradition has moved to black being reserved for Maestri. We will maintain this later tradition and reserve black for Maestri only, at this time refrain from competing in a black fencing jacket unless you have a master at arms degree from an accredited institution or organization. For now we will be limiting the tips of these weapons to rubber safety tips or dummy electric. In the future we will consider other options.

4.3.1 Specifications for French Épée
The Épée will be no more than 750 grams. The weapons should have a traditional French grip and may be fitted with a martingale if the fencer wishes.
4.3.2 Specifications for Italian Spada
The Spada must be of traditional design. It must be fitted with a traditional Italian grip and may be used with a wrist strap.
4.3.3 Specifications for Protective Clothing
Safety is of primary concern, especially with the heavier blade found on these weapons. The tournament organizers have the right to restrict any equipment they deem unsafe. Since these rules are meant to encourage traditional fencing and an appreciation for the time and cultures that produced it, it is important to allow fencers leeway in dress and fashion. However certain minimums must be maintained. Fully modern underarm protectors are required that conform to the standards set by the USFA. Chest protectors must also conform to the most recent rulings by the USFA. This is a helpful site for beginners (http://shop.fencing.net/Articles.asp?ID=131) to help determine what those standards are at the present time. The glove must be puncture resistant and allow for safe handling of the weapon, and gloves may be worn on both hands if the fencer whishes. Protective jackets and leg protection must also be puncture resistant up to the most recent USFA standards. This may require fencers to use materials in the construction of their gear that were not available traditionally. This is an unfortunate reality. There were deadly accidents in the period we are interested in and much progress has been made in fencing safety in the intervening years. Shoes may be of any style the fencer wishes but must be non-marking if the event is held indoors, there are no restrictions if the event is held outdoors.
5.4 Scoring a Hit
A hit is scored when a material blow is delivered to the target area of the opposing fencer.
5.4.1 Target Area
In Épée the target area is not restricted. The entire body is considered valid target and any material hit to it will be considered valid.
5.4.2 Wining a Bout and the Duration of the Bout
The typical bout will be to a single point with five minutes actual fencing time allotted to the match. A bout of 5 points or more where fought in the traditional period but it is suggested that this be limited to professional encounters or final rounds only. In such cases, one minute should be allowed for each point fenced. Fencers will be told the time remaining at the end of each halt in the action.
5.4.3 Jostling and Corp à Corp
Épée is a more vigorous game than the other weapons and corps à corps will be tolerated beyond what is typically found ion the other weapons. Minor jostling will not halt a match but serious pushing or striking will not be tolerated.
5.4.4 Tempo and Priority of Hits
There is no priority to hits in Épée for double touches, if both fencers hit at the same time than both fencers score. If one fencer hits with one fencing tempo ahead of the other than that fencer will receive priority and any touches scored afterwards will be annulled.

Section 6
Rules for the conduct of Traditional Sabre of Sciabola Bouts
6.1 Historical Notes
We are attempting to simulate the sabre bouts of the later classical period. In the future we may try to return to the earlier heavier weapons.
6.2 The Sabre Piste
The sabre piste will be identical to foil.
6.3 Equipment
The fencer shall have the following equipment, which shall be properly maintained and clean: At least two fencing Sabres with a bell guard of any style used traditionally by French or Italian fencers. Protective clothing consisting of a thick glove for at least the weapon hand, an elbow protector, a fencing jacket, knickers-high socks, or long fencing pants, shoes, underarm protectors, and a mask rated for a 12 Kilogram punch test, athletic protectors for gentlemen and chest protectors for ladies. Optional; men may wear chest protectors if they wish and men and women may fence in traditional costume from the eighteenth through the twentieth century, if they wish and do not mind the disadvantage that might place them in. Finally, in the traditional period, fencers wore either white or black and occasionally gray. Since that time, the tradition has moved to black being reserved for Maestri. We will maintain this later tradition and reserve black for Maestri only, at this time refrain from competing in a black fencing jacket unless you have a master at arms degree from an accredited institution or organization. Tips of the weapons will remain uncovered but must be rounded off.
6.3.1 Specifications for Sabre
For now we will be using the light sport sabre that evolved near the end of the period we are interested in. In the future we may allow the heavier sabres, but since these are not readily available we are forced to make do with what people can easily attain. Sabres that meet the current USFA standards will be allowed but we are not as restrictive on the bell guard as the USFA. Any style that was used in the period will be allowed. The bell must be capable of withstanding normal fencing wear so avoid thin aluminum bells. The nut at the back of the grip must not be oversized and no sharp protrusions or sharp unfinished metalwork of any sort will be allowed. The inside of the guard can become nicked and chipped until it is like a hacksaw. If the tournament organizes feel this is too sharp and dangerous the weapon will not be allowed. The bout committee must pass for use any loops and martingales and textual evidence must be presented to prove that they were used with your style of grip and guard. The weapon must weigh no less than 500 grams and be less than 750 grams. So what is needed to fence is a USFA legal blade, plus a guard of the fencer’s choice all with a combined weight of less than 750 grams.

6.3.2 Specifications for Protective Clothing
Safety is of primary concern, especially since this is a cutting weapon. The tournament organizers have the right to restrict any equipment they deem unsafe. Since these rules are meant to encourage traditional fencing and an appreciation for the time and cultures that produced it, it is important to allow fencers leeway in dress and fashion. However certain minimums must be maintained. Fully modern underarm protectors are required that conform to the standards set by the USFA. Chest protectors must also conform to the most recent rulings by the USFA. This is a helpful site for beginners (http://shop.fencing.net/Articles.asp?ID=131) to help determine what those standards are at the present time. The glove must be puncture resistant and since the wrist is a popular target in sabre, these gloves must be thicker than in the other two weapons while still allowing for safe handling of the weapon, also gloves may be worn on both hands if the fencer whishes. Protective jackets and leg protection must also be puncture resistant up to the most recent USFA standards. This may require fencers to use materials in the construction of their gear that were not available traditionally. This is an unfortunate reality. There were deadly accidents in the period we are interested in and much progress has been made in fencing safety in the intervening years. Shoes may be of any style the fencer wishes but must be non-marking if the event is held indoors, there are no restrictions if the event is held outdoors. Elbow protectors or cups must be worn. A simple pad available for use in martial arts and easily obtainable at any sporting goods store will suffice. Since the top of the front leg is deemed a target, then a kneepad for the front leg should also be worn. Again, these are easily available at any sporting goods store.

6.4 Scoring a Hit
In sabre we are simulating the dueling sabre that was sharp along the front of the blade, had a very sharp tip, and had a “counter cut” that was also sharp down the back one third of the blade. Any material hit in tempo with the corresponding areas of our practice blade will count as a hit. Priority is a part of sabre fencing. As in foil a fully extended arm with point threatening the target area will establish priority as long as the point was placed inline prior to that of his or her opponent. Additionally, the cut or counter cut can also establish priority the moment it is directed at the target with an extended arm. In this case the point may be directed well off the target area but as long as a cutting edge is threatening target this will be enough to establish right of way. Double touches are dealt with as in section 3.2.3.5, note that stop cuts, which are popular in this weapon, count as counterattacks and must be properly employed to take the tempo from the attacker, if not the attacker retains priority.
6.4.1 Target Area
In sabre the target area is everything above the waist, including the arms and head, and the top part of the front leg above the knee. For safety’s sake, the groin is not considered a valid target.
6.4.2 Wining a Bout and the Duration of the Bout
The typical bout will be to five points with one-minute actual fencing time allotted to each point (five minutes typically). A bout of 10, 15, 20, or more where fought in the traditional period but it is suggested that this be limited to professional encounters or final rounds only. In such cases, one minute should be allowed for each point fenced. It is also suggested that any bout over 15 points should leave the clock running, so a 30 point bout would have 30 minutes to complete with either the first fencer to reach 30 or the highest score at the end of the time limit being declared the winner. Fencers will be told the time remaining at the end of each halt in the action.
6.4.3 Materiality of Cuts and Thrusts
Cuts must simulate a wounding blow in order to count as a touch. The bout is not stopped for immaterial hits. To be considered material the blow must hit with a solid blow and be pulled or drawn slightly across the target area to simulate cutting the target. This must be accomplished without resorting to excess force. Intentional, slapping or swatting with sides of the blade will result in a foul. The materiality of any thrust is dealt with in every way just as they are in foil.

Select Bibliography

AFLA, Fencing Rules, 1891, 1893, 1924, 1964
Barbasetti, Luigi, The Art of the Foil, E.P. Dutton & co., inc (1998)
Barbasetti, Luigi, The Art of the Sabre and the Epee, E.P. Dutton and Co., Inc., (1936)
Crosnier, Riger, Fencing with The Sabre, London, 1954
Enrichetti, Cesare, Trattato Elementare Teorico-Pratico di Scherma, Opera Originale di Cesare Enrichetti, Maestro Capo e Direttore di Scherma alla Scuola Centrale di Parma, Tipografia Editrice di Pietro Grazioli, St. S. Lucia,( Parma 1871)
Marchionni, Alberto, Trattato di Scherma: Sopra un Nuovo Sistema di Giuoco Misto di Scuola Italiana e Francese, Tipografia di Federigo Bengini, (Firenze 1847)
Nadi, Aldo, On Fencing, Laureate Press (1994)
Gaugler, William M., The Science of Fencing: A Comprehensive Training Manual for Master and Student; Including Lesson Plans for Foil, Sabre, Laureate Press (1997)
Gaugler, William M., The History of Fencing : Foundations of Modern European Swordplay, Laureate Press, (1997)
Gillet, Jean-Jacques, Foil Technique & Terminology, Ithaca NY, 1977
Hutton, Alfred, Cold Steel: The Art of Fencing with the Sabre, Dover Books on History, Political and Social Science, (2006)
Hutton, Alfred, The Sword and the Centuries, Greenhill Military Manuals, (2006)
Masiello, Ferdinando, La Scherma Italiana di Spada e Sciabola, Stabilimento Tipografico G. Civelli, Firenze, (1887)
Parise, Masaniello, Scherma da Terreno, Casa Editrice Nazionale, (Torino-Roma 1904)
Parise, Masaniello, Teorico-Pratico Della Scherma Spada e Sciabola, Tipografia Nazionale, Roma, (1884)
Pecoraro, Salvatore and Pessina, Carlo, La Scherma di Sciabola, (Roma, 1910)
Prévost, Camille and G. Jollivet, l’Escrime et le Duel, (Paris, 1891)
Radaelli, Giuseppe, Cav. Settimo Del Frate, Istruzione per la Scherma di Sciabola e di Spada del Prof. Giuseppe Radaelli
Scorza, Rosaroll, and Grisetti, Pietro, La Scienza della Scherma, Nella Stamperia del Giornale Italico, (Milano 1803, co-authored with)
Rondelle, Louis, Foil & Sabre: a Fencing Grammar, (Boston, 1892)
Rossi, Giordano, Scherma di Spada e Sciabola – Manuale Teorico-Pratico con Cenni Storici sulle Armi e sulla Scherma e Principali Norme pel Duello, Fratelli Dumolard, Milano, (1885)

About this Site

I am a fencing coach at Davis Fencing Academy, the Epee coach for the UC Davis Fencing Club, and an historical fencer. I hold a Provost at Arms certificate from the San Jose State Fencing Masters Program.

This blog contains my musings on historical fencing, and a record of private lessons given to my students.

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