Tournament Rules

The following rules represent the standard ruleset for Tournaments being held by Royal Arts fencing academy. This includes: Ascalon, Blue Box, Looking Sharpe, and Hemmageddon

General Operating Rules

1.1 - Pool Seeding and Size

1. Fencers will be seeded into round-robin pools based on available rankings to weigh the relative strength of the fencers in the event. Pools will be optimized for seven (7) fencers as much as possible. Where possible club conflicts will be minimized in pools. This is only realistic in large events.

2. Number of Rounds - The default number of pool rounds is 1. This is the standard format followed by single direct elimination.

There is also an option for 2 rounds of pools followed by single direct elimination, aka Brazilian. The cumulative pools results are totaled for seeding into the elimination round.

3. *** USA HEMA Sanctioning **** - In order for an event to be USA HEMA sanctioned, the pools and eliminations must be set up by the system without intervention or re-seeding based on non-data criteria. Modification of seeding methods invalidates a tournament from earning classifications and points.

1.2 - Pool Match Duration

1. Pool Matches - Pool matches or bouts will be two (2) minutes or until the first fighter to achieves the maximum points. By default the maximum points is 5. Each event may be different. In the event of a tie at the end of time, a sudden death exchange will be held. The first clean hit (e.g. no after-blow), will result in the win.

2. Time Management - There are two options for time management:

A.) By default the clock will start and stop after a hit, safety issue, or any other situation at the discretion of the director. The clock starts when the direct calls "Fence" or "Begin" or "Start." When "point" or "halt" is called by the director, the clock will be stopped.

The clock will only run while the fencers are actively fencing.

When is the halt? The halt is defined by when the director has determined the action or issue terminated in their head, not by the actual stoppage of the clock. Defining afterblows, etc is defined the by the directors determination of the halt.

B.) The second time management option is 3 continuous minutes with stoppage for safety considerations and/or judge deliberation.

3. Final Exchange - If at the end of an exchange, there are ten or less seconds remaining in the bout, the director will call final exchange. This final exchange will not be timed and will go until halt is called by the director. The result need not be a scoring action to end the final exchange.

1.3 - Direct Elimination & Seeding

All fencers are promoted out of the pool round into a single direct elimination round. The precedence of seeding is determined in the following order:

  • Number of pool victories
  • Indicator (Touches Scored minus Touches Received)
  • The highest number of touches
  • Tied competitors

1.4 - Direct Elimination Match Duration

Direct Elimination (DE) matches or bouts will function identically to pools bouts with the exception of the total possible points being raised to twelve (12) points. In the event of a tie at the end of time, a sudden death exchange will be held. The first clean hit (i.e. no after-blow), will result in the win.

1.5 - Clock Stoppage

The Director can stop the clock as necessary.  Such reasons include but are not limited to:

  • Needing a conference with the judges,
  • equipment or safety concerns, or
  • issues with the table.

1.6 - Actions that Stop a Bout

The following circumstances will stop a fencing bout:

  • A fencer makes a hit
  • A safety concern, which could be due to equipment, safety gear, unsafe conduct, spectator interference, etc.
  • Weapons with broken or missing pieces
  • Anything of reasonable concern to a referee
  • Anyone other than combatants and judges entering the ring.

1.7 - Field of Play

Rings may be adjustable in size based on available space, however, the minimum ring size is fifteen (15) feet square with a minimum of three (3) feet of runoff to allow for judges and space for ring-outs.

The same rings are used for all weapons.

1.8 - Side Judges

The two judges will each be assigned a color, red or gold. Those colors are used to maximize contrast with the majority of fencer jackets. The judge will be wearing an armband of their color with three (3) color strips. The judge will switch out the patches with each combatant.

1.9 - Athlete Marking

Clubs may choose their own method to identify athletes.

The preferred method follows and is efficient and organized.

At the start of the pool, each athlete will be given a black armband. They will retain this armband throughout the competition until eliminated. Prior to each bout, the designated color will be added to the armband. At the conclusion of the bout, the fencer will return the armband to the appropriate color judge.

Inquire with USA HEMA staff if you need to know the best sources for arm bands.

1.10 - Bout/Match Process

Each match will be comprised of a number of exchanges.

The Director will call the fencers to en garde. Fencers who fail to appear at their starting position in a reasonable amount of time may be penalized with a verbal warning followed by a yellow card in further instances.

Bouts begin when the Director calls “Fencers ready?” A fighter may acknowledge or remain silent. Both will assume consent. The director will continue with “fight” or “fence” or “begin” and ends when the director calls “halt” or “stop.” After the call to halt, each fighter will return to their respective starting position aligned with their color judge.

1.11 - Talking or Communicating During the Bout

Talking is not permitted during the bout except for when a referee needs to be addressed.

Fencers may ask the Director to explain or clarify his call but may not argue the decision.

1.12 - Control of Blows/Strikes

Blows must be controlled and properly delivered. Safety is always the first priority. Strikes that fail to meet the minimum criteria of control may be penalized.

Failure to comply with safety procedures can result in red card penalties and/or a black card expulsion.

1.13 - After-blows or "Revenge Strikes"

A fencer in the process of completing an action within one tempo when a halt is called for is allowed to complete their action. For example, one fencer attacks, “halt” is called but the other fencer was already in the midst of riposting. This is permitted. Likewise, if a fencer finished his attack as a fencer goes out of bounds, he is still permitted to score in that single tempo.

1.14 - Scoring

All valid strikes that occur within a single beat (tempo) of the first touch are valid and will be counted with the lower scoring strike subtracted from the higher scoring blow.

This means that after-blows and doubles are essentially identical. This allows judging to be streamlined and encourages maintaining a defense while attacking.

Example: Combatant A lands a strike to Combatant B worth two points. Within the same tempo, Combatant B lands a strike worth one point. In this instance, Combatant A will be awarded one point (2-1=1).

Points can be earned for successful strikes, thrusts, and slices. For a strike to be valid, it must be made with proper technique and intent. For instance, a blow with the flat is worth no points, regardless of the target. The Director can call a contact incidental without stopping the bout and having the fencers return to their start positions.

1.15 - Interposition or Target Subsitution

If a fighter moves a target to receive a blow on a lower scoring target or an invalid target when the hit would have otherwise struck a higher value or valid target, the fencer making the imposition will be warned and the higher value target will be awarded.

Example: Fighter A is making a clean cut at Fighter B’s head. Fighter B raises his hand to intercept the blade and is struck only on the hand. B will be warned and A will receive two points as she otherwise would have struck B’s head. (And assuming sharp weapons would likely have struck both.)

1.16 - Stepping Out of Bounds aka Ring-outs

If a fencer steps out of bounds, the fight will be halted and fighters will return to their starting positions.

A fighter is considered out of bounds when both feet are completely past the line denoting the ring.

A fighter may score and then step out of bounds. A fighter may not score as they are stepping out of bounds.

Additionally, a fighter stepping out of bounds is still considered a valid target and may be struck even as they are stepping out up until the halt is called provided the attack is already in progress within a single tempo.

1.17 - Grappling

Because of the lack of wrestling mats, throws will not be scored; this is a safety issue. If a host club is able to provide appropriate matts, grappling may be allowed provided that the action is safe.

Otherwise, when fencers enter into a grapple, the Director will begin a five-second count. If no fighter scores within that time, the director will call “halt,” and the fighters will return to their starting positions.

1.18 - Falling

If a fighter falls through their own fault or through intentional action, the maximum points possible for the exchange will be assessed against the falling fighter.

A fighter is considered “fallen” if any part of his body other than his feet, or more than one hand or knee (or one hand and one knee), touches the ground in an uncontrolled manner.

If a fighter is tripped, or otherwise thrown, the throwing fighter will be given a yellow card and no points will be assessed.

If it is unclear who is at fault, both fencers will receive a verbal warning on the first instance and yellow cards for each subsequent instance.

If a fighter continuously falls to such a degree that they are unable to safely fence and defend themself, they may be removed from the tournament at the director’s discretion.

Striking a fallen opponent will result in a yellow card.

These rules are geared toward safety and not for the sake of penalizing fencers. When determining the source of the fall, the director should consider potential injuries in previous passes that may presenting limited movement before assessing a falling penalty.

1.19 - Grabbing a Weapon

A weapon may be grabbed only while it is at rest or the momentum has been primarily stopped due to contact with another weapon.

Grabbing a blade that has sufficient velocity to score will result in a single point being awarded to the fighter whose blade was grabbed.

A blade may be grabbed and held for any length of time at the strong or forte of the blade without penalty but will begin the grapple clock.

A blade may be grabbed at the weak or foible for only a single beat and must then either lead to a completed technique, be released, or result in a point to the opponent. Further, if a blade visibly slides against the hand of the individual grabbing it will also lead to a point for the opposing fighter.

1.20 - Permitted, Non-scoring Techniques

Punches, kicks, elbow, open hand strikes, etc. all require proper control and are intended only as set-ups for follow-up techniques. Any fighters wearing either heavy or metal gauntlets are not permitted to use closed fist punches, but open-handed strikes are permitted.

1.21 - Forbidden Techniques

Any technique which aims to bend or turn a limb against its natural direction.

Grapples where only the neck or head is manipulated.

Strikes to the back of the head or the spine.

Strikes to any unprotected area due to equipment failure, such as a mask falling off.

Offenses deemed highly unsafe or unethical may result in a black card by the Director or Tournament Technical Director.

1.22 - Sportsmanship

We are all part of the same HEMA community, and to make that community stronger, we encourage honesty and good sportsmanship. Further, judges are not perfect and there will be things that are missed. To mitigate these issues, we ask that you respect the following:

If a fighter is awarded points which they feel un-entitled to, such as a poor strike being awarded points, the fighter may refuse the points. A fighter may only refuse points that are awarded to them, never to refuse points awarded to the opponent.

A fighter may acknowledge a valid strike against them or acknowledge a higher scoring target than was awarded by the judges. However, a fighter may not protest a lower scoring target.

A fighter may also be penalized for dishonest fencing when it is clear to the Director.

1.23 - Refusing to Fence

No fencer may participate if they refuse to fence against any fencer whatsoever. Should this rule be broken, the fencer may be black-carded from the event.

1.24 - Injuries

In the event of an injury or obvious probable injury the Director will halt the bout. An injured fencer will be allowed a reasonable amount of time to deal with the situation and decide whether they are able to continue.

Hits that result in incidental “shake it off” types of injuries will not halt the clock.

Declaring a false injury, cramp, or other complaints can be penalized starting with a yellow card.

1.25 - Warnings & Penalties

Warnings are issued for violations of the rules as a Yellow Card. No points can be awarded for a yellow card violation.

Two yellow cards equal 1 red card.

A Red Card awards two (2) points against the fencer for egregious actions and cumulation of yellow cards. Therefore, each red card is the equivalent of a body strike.

A Black Card is an expulsion from the tournament. It can be for the day or the entire event. Black cards are generally due to extraordinarily bad behavior, sportsmanship, or safety violation. Failure to comply with the rules can also result in a black card.

Black Card offenses include throwing your mask or weapon, assaulting others not in the bout, and severe safety issues.

Black carded fencers will be listed as FENCER EXCLUDED.

Penalties are discussed in each section of the rules. For a chart summarizing the penalties, see the appendix.

1.26 - Event Classification and Right to Fence

Unless designated otherwise, all events are open mixed gender. Intention to fence in a Division III/novice or women’s event is accepted under affirmation that you qualify. We do not police or validate your qualification for any event.

However, an entry in all tournaments for any event is subject to the approval of the Technical Tournament Director and the Bout Committee. A fencer can be removed from an event, penalized appropriately, or excluded based on the unanimous consent of the committee that the athlete does not belong in the event and/or tournament.