We reserve the right to change the rules at any time.
- Bout lasts three minutes, or until 15 point cap.
- Wins and net point difference matter for pool progression.
- Longsword, Sabre and Sword & Buckler: 3 points for hits to head and thrusts to torso. 2 points for other hits.
- Rapier and dagger: 3 points for thrusts to head or torso with the sword. 1 point for other hits.
- Afterblows and doubles: both scores are counted in full
- Clean disarms score maximum points.
- Grappling does not score but can be used to control the other fencer to gain a touch with a scoring weapon. Throws, joint locks, and kicks are prohibited.
The following rules apply only for longsword :
- One-handed longsword techniques can only score one point less than equivalent strike, performed with two hands (i.e. 2 points for strike to head or thrust to body, 1 point everything else), except in a grappling situation when they can score fully as above.
- Strike with the longsword pommel score 2 points.
To provide every fighter with good, closely matched fights across every stage of the tournament, while still ensuring the best performing fighters reach the elimination round.
Stages in the tournament
The tournaments will be run on a Swiss-style pairing system running for 4 rounds, followed by an elimination round. During the swiss phase, fighters will be matched each round in a way that means that with each subsequent round they should be fighting someone more closely matched to their ability. After the swiss rounds, the top fighters will go through to an elimination round, which will end in a final and third-place playoff.
Each round will see the fighters paired based upon their past performance. Round 1 will be seeded by fighter-ranking/prior knowledge of the fencers. All subsequent rounds will ignore this seed ranking, and use overall performance in the previous tournament rounds.
In round 1, fencers will be split into a top half and bottom half group, and then paired top to bottom (e.g. Fighter 1 fights fighter 16, fighter 17 fights fighter 32). Round 2 will be the same format but split into 4 groups (1 fights 8, 24 fights 32), and rounds 3 and 4 into 8 groups (1 fights 4, 28 fights 32).
In case of an uneven number of fencers, the lowest ranked fighters will fight in a pool of 3.
After the swiss rounds, the top fighters will engage in an elimination round. The winners of the semi-final will fight in a final for gold/silver, and the losers will fight in a bronze match play-off. The size of the elimination round will be set so that:
- Any fighter who wins all their swiss-round fights will go through
- Most of the fighters with no more than 1 loss will go through to the eliminations
- Net Score (i.e. points difference) matters as well as wins, as some of the lowest scoring fencers with only 1 loss will not go through
The change to scoring full points for doubles and afterblows means every time you get hit you have lost potential points for the purposes of passing to the eliminations, even if you get a net positive score – so don’t get hit. This means that every point matters in every fight for your chances to pass through to the eliminations, and every time you get hit your chances decrease.
Bout result – pools
During the pool stage a fencer will get 1 match point for a win. Draws are not possible, and in the event of a draw the fencers will move to “sudden death”: the match will continue until there is an exchange where one fencer scores higher than the other.
- A bout is fought for 3 minutes or until one fencer has reached the score cap of 15 points. Timekeeping is not paused during simple scoring but may be stopped in case of protest, discussion, equipment failure or safety issues.
- Ten seconds before the time limit is reached the table will call “last exchange”. That exchange will be allowed to be run to its end, as long as the fencers are actively trying to fence.
- After this the table will announce the score to the referee, who will officially announce the winner of the match and the final score.
- Fencers begin each exchange in their corners.
- The referee will confirm that they are ready to begin, then call “Fence!/Fight!” to begin the exchange.
- Upon observing a scoring action, or other reason to halt the match, the referee will call “Halt!” or “Break!”. Both fencers must then cease offensive actions immediately. Parrying late attacks from the opponent is permitted but continuing to attack the opponent after halt is called is a foul.
- As well as scoring actions and safety reasons, the referee may call “Halt!” if one fencer steps out of the ring or a grappling action lasts for a long period with no clear dominance by either fencer.
[NB- A fencer or their coach may also call “Halt!” if there is equipment failure, injury, or other immediate safety concern. These are the only reasons for calling “Halt!” by someone who is not a referee.]
- The referee will consider the exchange. If unclear, they may consult the assistant referee. If still unclear they may consult the fencers for their recollection. They will then describe the scoring exchange, and the score resulting. Examples:
“Cut to hand, no return. 2 points red.”
“Attacked with thrust, fell short, hit to head, parry failed, afterblow late. 3 points red.”
“Attack to hand, parried with thrust to mask, afterblow cut to leg. 3 points red to 2 points blue”
Protests and Discussions
Fencers are encouraged to demonstrate awareness, honesty and sportsmanship in assisting the judges.
If a fencer wishes to concede a hit against themself they can indicate this to the referee, however they are also welcome to challenge a verdict, offer information on a hit they believe they have made, or seek clarification on a referee’s decision using the following procedure:
- If a referee has given their verdict after an exchange and a fencer disagrees with it materially, they may protest by returning to their corner and raising a hand.
- The referee will give an opportunity for the fencer to briefly explain their position.
- They are not bound to accept this but will take into account the information offered by fencers and judges and arrive at an appropriate synthesis.
- They may also decide that the exchange is insufficiently clear and award no points.
Note that repeatedly protesting to raise spurious or irrelevant points will be frowned upon and may attract a warning.
Scoring in the exchange
All strikes must be executed with control. Scoring strikes do not need to be hard but must demonstrate quality:
- Only attacks with the edge, point or pommel score points.
- The referee may disregard hits they consider mechanically insufficient: Incidental strikes, cuts with questionable edge alignment, very light cuts with the point, light flicks with the tip, and cuts made with a very small arc.
- Slicing cuts require the edge of the sword to move across the target area (pushed or pulled), with positive pressure onto the target- a missed thrust that simply glides past, or a weapon held against the body in a grapple would be insufficient.
- 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
- Back of the knee
Fencers should avoid presenting their back to their opponent and may receive a warning for doing so and point penalties after the second infraction.
Blade hits will score:
For longsword, Sabre and Sword & Buckler:
- 3 points for a cut, slice or thrust made to the head.
- 3 points for a thrust to torso.
- 2 points for other valid hits (valid strike to a limb or cut/slice to torso)
- 1 point for buckler strike (only strike to mask mesh, with boss of the buckler)
- For Longsword: One handed strikes- outside a grapple can only score one point less than equivalent strike, performed with two hands (i.e. 2 points for strike to head or thrust to body, 1 point everything else) (longsword only). During a grapple (ie. while using the other hand to control the opponent) strikes score fully as above.
For rapier and dagger :
- 3 points for thrust made with rapier to the head or torso.
- 1 point for other valid hits (valid strike to a limb or cut/slice to torso or head or any dagger strike).
- Grappling is not allowed, nor is striking with the hilt.
Other ways to score points:
- Longsword only: 2 points for pommel strikes. These can only be made with the end of the pommel (not by swinging sideways! I.e. mordschlag) and only to the mesh of the mask. Pommel hits should be executed in a controlled manner. Hits with the crossguard of the longsword or any part of the hilt of the sabre are prohibited.
- 3 points for disarm. Disarming an opponent will score if the opponent’s control of their weapons is removed and control of one weapon (either fencer’s) is kept, and grappling distance is broken. (please notice, that for rapier & dagger and sword & buckler, both weapons should be disarmed, and for rapier & dagger grappling is not allowed)
- Throwing or shoving the opponent, without control, such that they fly backwards, or are knocked over out of the ring, presents an unacceptable risk given proximity of spectators and lack of matting beyond the fighting area. This will be penalised.
- Ring-outs do not score, but repeatedly stepping out of the ring on your own accord will incur a warning, which can be followed by loss of points. Purposely leaving the ring to avoid being scored on or to run the clock out will incur a loss of points. Physically forcing your opponent out of the ring is not allowed.
- Strikes made once both feet have left the ring will be discounted.
Note on grappling
Grappling is allowed but must be controlled. Throws, joint locks and kicks are NOT allowed. This is a safety consideration. To score in a grapple, fencers must either strike with the weapon or achieve a clean disarm.
If grappling lasts for a long time without any scoring hit, or if any fencer is on the ground, the referee will call “Halt” and reset the exchange. The referee may also interrupt grappling at any time if they judge it is becoming dangerous.
Afterblows and Doubles
After a scoring hit 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.
- Double is scored when both fencers attack and hit in the same time.
Doubles and afterblows will both score full points for each fencer. Note that because advancement to eliminations is partially based on net score, this situation will lower your potential maximum net-score for the match, which means matches with a lot of doubles are likely to be worth less for advancement purposes than cleaner fights.
You cannot “afterblow” a disarm, nor may they be used to “afterblow” a hit. Pommel strikes are also not valid as afterblows.
Fouls and Penalties
In general the guiding principles are:
- CONTROL (do not use excessive force, prohibited techniques and targets etc.)
- GOOD CONDUCT (respecting the boundaries of the fight, showing respect to fencers and staff)
Referees are given wide powers of discretion in both deciding what is a foul, and what penalty is appropriate.
- As a rough guide: most infractions will initially incur a verbal warning from the referee.
- A warning is a notice to fencers to adjust their behaviour. If fencers are unclear on the reason for a warning, or how to respect it, they should seek clarification.
- Penalties will be applied where fencers do not respond appropriately, and may include point deductions or disqualification.
- Where a fencer has been warned previously in the tournament, a penalty may be applied without warning for repetition of the same behaviour.
- Severe or malicious infractions: may lead to application of penalty without warning.
Examples of fouls:
- 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.
- Striking the floor.
- Repeatedly leaving the ring
- Throws and kicks.
- Turning the back to the opponent.
- 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…
Women’s Tournament Gender Policy
The women’s category in HEMA tournaments was originally created to provide meaningful challenges for women. The ultimate aim of providing them has been to: allow fencers to test their skills in a situation without routine physical disadvantages; understand their progress relative to their peers year on year; give greater access to tournaments to an under-represented gender in our sport; ensure people realise that their gender does not prevent them from participating in HEMA (see Eliisa Keskinen’s article on Esfinges for a more detailed discussion of this topic). Essentially, we want to remove some of the barriers that prevent people participating in HEMA because of their gender.
While the primary intent in the past has been to support women, we recognise that many of considerations above apply equally to many non-binary fencers as well. Therefore, this tournament is open to:
a) Women (for the avoidance of doubt: cis or trans)
b) Any non-binary fencers who feel the issues above also apply to them, and that their presence in the tournament wouldn’t detract from the aims in regards to women
We recognise that there are a wide range of non-binary genders, and not all of them will feel comfortable participating in the women’s tournament. We do not mean to imply that non-binary folk are really women, but we do wish to preserve the benefits of the women’s tournament while opening access to others who need it. We believe that fencers are best placed to consider their own gender identity and if it is line with the aims of this event, and would prefer to leave the decision about which event is most suitable for them to the fencer themself.
As a reminder, our other gender category is “Open” and will always be open to any gender. If you feel that neither of our tournaments is suitable to you, please contact us to let you know so that we can consider other options in future years, as we are always willing to learn and adapt.