The rules are applicable for all events in the League, but we reserve the right to change them at any time.


  • Bout lasts three minutes, or until 10 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 weighted against each other.
  • Clean disarms score maximum points.  
  • Grappling otherwise 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.

Tournament structure

Tournaments will be fought in pools, followed by eliminations:

  • Everyone has one bout with everyone else in their pool.
  • After all pools, an overall ranking will be constructed across all pools. The top 8 or 16 in this ranking (depending on overall number of participants) will progress to eliminations.
  • Winner of an elimination fight proceeds to the next round, until semifinal. Winners of semifinals fence for the gold medal, and losers of semifinals fence for bronze medal.

For tournaments with low numbers of entrants format will be adjusted to maximise fights for all entrants.

Bout result – pools

  • During the pool stage a fencer will get 1 point for a win. Draws are not possible.
  • Wins are the main ranking criteria, with net score (points for minus points against) as the secondary criteria.

Bout outline

  • A bout is fought for 3 minutes or until one fencer has reached the score cap of 10 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.
  • If scores are tied after 3 minutes sudden death is played – the first scoring hit will win the bout. 

Exchange rules

Exchange Outline

  • 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!”​. 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, 2 points blue. 1 point red”

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.
  • Fencers should not address their protest or query directly to the other fencer.

During the pools stage, fencers may make a maximum of three protests in their favour. This does not apply in the eliminations, but note that repeatedly protesting to raise spurious or irrelevant points will be frowned upon and may attract a warning. 

Scoring in the exchange

Hit quality:

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.

Illegal targets:

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

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

Fencers should avoid presenting their back to their opponent and may receive a warning for doing so and point penalties after the second infraction.

Strikes will score as follows:

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 (cut or thrust to a limb,​ or cut to torso)
  • Longsword: One handed strikes- outside a grapple 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). During a grapple (ie. while using the other hand to control the opponent) one handed strikes score fully.
  • Longsword only: 2 points for pommel strikes.​ These can only be made with the end of the pommel (not by swinging sideways) and only to the mesh of the mask. Pommel hits should be executed in a controlled manner. Hits with the crossguard of the longsword are prohibited.
  • Buckler strikes and strikes with the sabre guard are prohibited and will be warned for control
  • Sabre cuts must be with the true edge. False edge cuts will not be scored, but will not result in a warning

For rapier and dagger :

  • 3 points for a thrust made with the rapier to the head or torso.
  • 1 point for a thrust to limbs, or cut to torso or head 
  • 1 point for a thrust with the dagger to any target.  Cuts with the dagger are not scored.
  • Grappling is prohibited. Striking with the hilt is prohibited.

Other ways to score points:

  • 3 points for disarm. Disarming ​an opponent will score if the opponent’s control of their weapon is removed, control of one weapon (either fencer’s) is kept, and grappling distance is broken, or control of the grapple is clearly established. Dropping a primary weapon or losing it in contact will usually be scored as a disarm.


  • 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 for any reason, for example to avoid being scored on, to deny your opponent a positional advantage, or to run out the clock, will incur a loss of points.
  • Accidentally stepping out of the ring while maneuvering out of measure will not incur a loss of points, unless repeated or abused, at the referee’s discretion.
  • If a fencer unintentionally leaves the ring in a way that denies their opponent a gained advantage (eg. Red fencer unintentionally steps out of the ring because they repeatedly retreated from Blue fencer without attempting to regain ground) a loss of points may be incurred at the referee’s discretion.
  • Physically pushing or forcing your opponent out of the ring is not allowed and will never score. Throwing or shoving the opponent, 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. 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 be weighted against each other eg. 2 – 2 = 0  Red 3 – Blue 2 = Red 1. Note that because advancement to eliminations is partially based on net score, clean hits are worth more than repeated doubles. 

Disarm may not be used to “afterblow” a hit. Pommel strikes are also not valid as afterblows.

There is no distinction for competitors between doubles and afterblow, however recording doubles is part of the data gathering process when using the HEMA Scorecard tournament management system.

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…
  • Unsporting 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:

  1. a) Women (for the avoidance of doubt: cis or trans)
  2. 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.

Updated: 10/10/22