• The tournament uses a “king of the hill” format: every competitor has a fixed number of fights where  they can lose a bout (“lives”).
  • Bout consists of a single exchange.
  • Exchange winner stays in the ring and fences the next opponent in the queue, fencer who lost the exchange leaves the ring, and joins the queue with one less “life” remaining. In case of a double and most afterblows both opponents lose a “life” and leave the ring.
  • Ways to win a bout: clear hit; hit to a deep target that is answered with an afterblow to a limb; disarm; ring out
  • Throws and kicks are prohibited, other grappling doesn’t score

Tournament structure

Stages in the tournament

  • Swords and bucklers are provided by organisers.
  • The gear check at the beginning of the tournament is mandatory for all competitors.
  • The remainder of the tournament is held on a “drop in” basis. There is no schedule of bouts and the competitors form a live queue. The competitors are free to join the queue at any time (as long as they have “lives” remaining). It is up to the competitor if they want to spend all their “lives”, however fencing more increases their chance of victory. The timings of the tournament are designed so that the vast majority of competitors, who have no more than one tournament in addition to Sidesword & Buckler, will have a chance to use all their “lives”.
  • All other tournaments have timing priority over Sidesword & Buckler: if you are scheduled to take part in any  pools or elimination stages of another tournament, you must be there ready, even if there are Sidesword and Buckler matches happening at the same time.
  • If a fencer takes part in other competitions between Sidesword & Buckler matches, it is their responsibility to ensure they always turn up using the same protective gear that was approved at the  Sidesword & Buckler gear check.
  • The main stage of the tournament is held using “king of the hill” format
  • To start the exchange, the judge calls the next two fencers in the queue to fence each other, or, if there is a winner of the previous bout in the ring, the judge calls the next fencer to face the winner.
  • Exchange winner stays in the ring and fences the next opponent in the queue ( the winner also gets one win point), fencer who lost the exchange leaves the ring, and joins the queue with one less “life” remaining. In case of a double and most afterblows both opponents lose a “life” and leave the ring without gaining win points for that bout.
  • In case the judge can’t achieve a conclusion about what happened in the exchange, the bout is reset without any of the opponents losing a “life”
  • It is possible that a competitor will face the same opponent more than once. It is however allowed and encouraged for competitors to avoid this by giving their place in the queue to the fencer after them.
  • When a competitor has used all of their “lives” they cannot join the queue any more, and must wait until the finalists are announced.
  •  Two competitors with the highest number of win points will fence in the final match. Competitors ranking 3rd and 4th after the end of the “King of the hill” phase will fence in the bronze match. In case there is a tie (several competitors with the same number of points ) the ranking is decided based on the  results of the match between the competitors in question. If they haven’t faced each other in the “King of the hill” stage, an additional single exchange match is held to determine the finalist(s).
  • Finals and bronze matches consist of 5 exchanges.

Bout outline

A bout consists of a single exchange in the “king of the hill” round and of 5 exchanges in the finals.If the exchange becomes too passive, the referee will ask the fencers to demonstrate more initiative. If after that the fencers continue staying out of distance and/or use breaking distance as the only response to the opponent’s attack, the referee might issue a warning to one or both of the fencers for interfering with the conduct of the bout.

Exchange rules

Exchange Outline

Each exchange will begin with the fencers in their corners and the referee and assistant referee in the other two corners. The referee will confirm that they are ready to begin, then call “Fence!”​to begin the exchange. Upon observing a scoring hit, other scoring technique, or other reason to halt the match, the referee will call “Halt!”​or “Hit!”​. Both fencers must then cease offensive actions.­ Parrying late attacks from the opponent is permitted but continuing to attack the opponent after halt is called is a foul.

A fencer or their coach may also call “Halt!”​ if there is equipment failure or injury. These are the only reasons for calling “Halt!”​ by someone who is not a referee.

The referee will then consider the exchange. If unclear, he will consult the assistant referee, if still unclear he may consult the fencers for their recollection. He will then describe ​the scoring exchange, and the score ​resulting.  Examples:

  • “Cut to hand, no return. 1 point.”
  • “Attacked with a thrust, fell short, hit to head, parry failed, afterblow to the leg. 1 points for hit in the head, afterblow  to leg doesn’t count.”
  • “Attack to hand, afterblow cut to head. Both lose the exchange”


In order to score in a grappling situation, a fencer needs to perform a strike with a blade, disarm or ring out. Throws and kicks are not allowed. Joint attacks and other submissions are forbidden. Punches and other unarmed attacks will not score. Referees are free to decide if such an attack constitutes an unsporting attempt at injury or not.

If grappling lasts for a long time without any of the opponents scoring a blow, or if either  of the opponents is on the ground, the referee will call “Halt” and reset the exchange. The referee may also interrupt grappling at any time if they deem that it became dangerous.

Scoring in the exchange

Only attacks with the edge or point will score. Attacks with the guard (including pommel) or with the edge of the buckler are not allowed. Controlled pushing with the boss of the  buckler is permitted, but won’t score points by itself. All strikes must be executed in a controlled fashion. Incidental strikes, cuts with questionable edge alignment, very light cuts with the point and cuts made with a very small arc do not score. It is up to the fencers to demonstrate “quality” strikes. Slicing cuts​ require the edge of the sword to move across the target area (pushed or pulled), with positive pressure onto the target. Thrusts must fix the point​ onto the target with positive pressure.

The following targets are illegal, and are worth no points:

  • Back of the head
  • Spine
  • Groin
  • Back of the knee
  • Toes

The referee may disallow strikes he considers too minor to have any significant effect even with a sharp, but the goal of the rules is to discourage harder (and therefore more dangerous) hits as unnecessary. Blade strikes will score one point regardless of target (however the target might matter in the case of afterblows).

Other ways to score points

  • Disarming ​an opponent will score if the opponent’s control of the weapon is removed and control of one’s own weapon is kept, and grappling distance is broken. If the opponent loses the buckler, no points are given and the fight might be stopped for safety reasons
  • Ring out. It ​will be scored when one fencer leaves the ring with both feet, and the other remains within the ring. If both fencers get out of the ring, the exchange is reset.

After­blows and Doubles

After a scoring blow with the weapon, there is an opportunity for the struck fencer to attack back. Afterblows must be made within one tempo after the initial attack. A Double is scored when attacks by both fencers are made and arrive at the same time. Most doubles and afterblows will result in a double loss.

There is one case when an afterblow will result in the fencer winning the exchange. A thrust to body or head, or a cut to the head, can only be afterblowed by another thrust to the body or head, or a cut to the head. For example, if fencer A performs a thrust to the body, and fencer B makes a successful attack to the hand after receiving this thrust, fencer A wins the exchange. If in the previous example both attacks were initiated at the same time, or if attacks to the hand happened fist, both lose.

If a fencer performs several strikes in one tempo, only the first one scores.

As these rules apply to other means of scoring: ​you cannot “afterblow” a disarm or ringout, nor may they be used to “afterblow” a hit.


Fouls may be incurred by:

  • Failing to obey ​or ignoring a referee’s instructions, including continuing to attack after a halt is called.
  • Deliberately or negligently injuring an opponent (or dangerous actions ​likely to do so) ­ This covers not just banned techniques such as joint locks, but also uncontrolled strikes with the weapon.
  • Deliberately hitting illegal targets.
  • Throws and kicks.
  • Striking with the guard of the sword or the rim of the buckler
  • Interfering with the conduct of the bout​­, calling halts without reason, repeated protests against referee’s calls without reason etc.
  • Unsportsmanlike conduct,​­ verbal abuse of opponent or officials, displays of disrespect etc.