Fencing on the Frozen Tundra

Rapier/Dueling Sword Rules

These are the rules we will be using for the tournament.  Please ask questions in the comments below, or by emailing milwaukeetourney@gmail.com

We are happy to discuss the rules, but it should be understood that it is unlikely they will be changed at this time.

Tourney Rules for

Milwaukee Classical Fencing Society’s

Open Fencing Rapier/Smallsword Tournament


Priority: Priority is a way of defining who has the more legitimate threat.  It is the sum of the advantages that a fencer establishes over their opponent in order to effectively use offensive and defensive actions to the pursuit of hitting without being hit.  It requires that the point be threatening (in line), and that the fencer has the time, and measure to launch an attack.  For example, a fencer can have the time and line to launch an attack, but if he is too far away, he is not a threat.  Likewise, if he closes measure and has the time of the attack, but his point is not threatening the opponent, he does not have priority. Finally, if a fencer attempts to take his opponent’s blade, and the opponent disengages in time to an attack, while the fencer simultaneously extends to make his own attack, he is out of time, and does not have priority.

Sword: For the purposes of this tournament, the sword is defined as any sword with a blade length of between 28 and 40 inches used in a thrusting manner.  Modern Epee’s are not allowed in this context.  Excessively flexible weapons are dis-allowed, subject to the organizer’s discretion.  Orthopedic grips are likewise disqualified.  Cuts will not be considered valid touches.

Target: The target will be the whole body, with the exception of the back of the head as this is not covered by most fencing safety equipment.

Required Equipment:

Safety equipment will include a mask, a white fencing jacket, athletic pants (this can include fencing knickers, gi pants, sweat pants, and similar.  Jeans and shorts are not acceptable), a fencing glove for both hands, gender appropriate protective equipment, a gorget, and extra protection at fencer’s discretion.  Also required will be a sword as defined for this tournament.  Weapons cannot have points d’arret on them, and should be clean and free of rust.  All equipment will be checked when the fencer checks in for safety.  The organizers reserve the right to exclude any weapons that they deem unsafe.

Scoring and Bout Length:

Touches will be scored against fencers, and the fencer with fewest touches wins the bout.  A palpable hit is required for a touch.  This can generally be determined by some degree of bend in the blade.  However, some blades are stiffer and won’t bend in the same way.  Bouts will be fought to 3 against touches or to 5 minutes, whichever occurs first.

General Rules for Fencing:

We will use Eugenio Pini’s rules for the incontro (double touch):

1. when an attack is performed correctly in or out of measure, and is opposed with an arrest, time thrust, or body evasion in which the counterattacker neither covers himself with opposition of the hand, nor selects the propitious moment to initiate his action, the counterattacker is at fault;

2. when, following a riposte with feints, the counterattacker effects the replacement in time, the counterattacker is in error;

3. when the simple replacement or second thrust is accomplished against an adversary who ripostes rapidly, and without a retreat, there is a double hit, the fencer who repeats the thrust is at fault;

4. when a fencer has parried an attack and rests on the parry, and then ripostes late and is touched by a simple replacement or second thrust, the defender is responsible for the double hit and error;

5. when during the execution of an attack the opposing steel is not sufficiently deviated from the line and therefore causes a double hit, the attacker is at fault;

6. when, during an attack with an advance, the attacker stops or hesitates after the first step, and then invites or feints, thus provoking a counterattack, he is in error;

7. when two fencers launch an assault at the same moment, both are at fault.

In the first six cases, one person is at fault, and will receive the touch.  In the last case, both fencers are at fault, and both receive the touch.   (Taken from M. William Gaugler’s The History of Fencing, p. 313)

Any physical contact between the fencers is a corps a corps, and results in a halt.  Also, if the blade of one fencer is caught in the furniture of the other, this is also a corps a corps and results in a halt.  Deliberate corps a corps, or attempts to grapple will result in a warning or disqualification.

Fencers may use their off hand to parry and check the opponent’s blade.  However, grabbing of the blade is not allowed and will result in a halt.  This includes ‘wrapping,’ of the fingers without actually grabbing.

Fencers must stay within the piste.  Leaving the piste will result in the first instance in a halt, and in the second and thereafter a point against.  A fencer will be considered on the piste as long as one foot is on the piste.

A disarm results in a halt.  Dropping of the weapon to avoid a touch will result in a touch against.

Fencers will not speak unless asked a question by the director.  Complaining or disputing a call with the Director is not allowed and can result in a disqualification.

Directors have the final say in all cases.  There is no recourse to their ruling.

Fencers are encouraged to call out when they believe they are hit, ‘touched!’ or ‘touche,’ or, ‘toccatto.’  However, the bout is halted only when there is a ‘Halt!’

Anyone may call a halt in the case of a safety issue.

Fencers may be disqualified by the organizers if they are fencing unsafely, or if they are behaving disruptively.  Misbehavior or distractions perpetrated by spectators will be similarly sanctioned.  No foul language or flash photography.



  1. I think the rules look great! I wish you were closer so that I could make it to the tournament 😦 However, you may want to clarify your rule about “any sword between 28 and 40 inches.” Presumably this means blade length, because all my Italian foils and epees are longer than 40 inches overall…

    Comment by Eric Myers — November 28, 2009 @ 10:46 am | Reply

  2. So, any blade between 28 and 40 inches is kosher? Quillions or no? Huge cup or not? Quadrangular or triangular or diamond-shaped blade?

    Comment by KM — January 11, 2010 @ 10:43 pm | Reply

    • As long as it is safe to fence with, we are allowing it. It is something of an experiment, with the idea in general being that ‘dueling sword’ can mean a couple different things. These ideas are not necessarily incompatible with each other, and that good fencing is able to deal with a variety of situations. This is something like the smallsword-rapier tournaments that have been put on elsewhere, but we are also including the later Italian stuff (which is something our group is interested in anyway), as well as classical ‘epee’ approaches to the duel.

      Comment by milwaukeetourney — January 11, 2010 @ 11:20 pm | Reply

  3. With all due respect, attribution of the English rendition of Pini’s Incontro to Maestro William M. Gaugler’s History of Fencing would be appropriate. As I have offered in another post, I will be delighted to send you the relevant passage in Pini’s 1903 Trattato in pdf, scanned from the original by a source that should remain private.

    Comment by Leckie — February 3, 2010 @ 1:24 am | Reply

  4. Oh! Lest anyone assume–I must be frank here, it would be stupid for anyone to do so–that I question Maestro Gaugler’s rendition of Pini, it is impeccable. The issue is giving credit to an authority for exactly that good translation–I immediately recognized Maestro Gaugler’s English, and I would be amazed if others did not. I also want to support you in your endeavor, since our group in Germany has from the start penalized the double, but agreeing with the 17th century Francesco Marcelli that simultaneous hits constitute false tempo–this is not the place to get into the complications, though! I am delighted, in fact, that you have dropped tempo comune. This persistent nonsense of figuring out who has the touch has been the bane of good fencing. As Marcelli said, two fencers should understand each other. You should learn how your opponent fences. Maestro Gaugler has written that fencing is based on dueling practice. To hit and NOT be hit. Imagine the absurdity–you are lying on the ground with a punctured lung because your opponent did something incorrectly, but a guy in a black suit and tophat awards you the hit?

    Comment by Leckie — February 3, 2010 @ 2:05 am | Reply

    • Thank you for the proper reference. The attribution will be up shortly.
      That is actually something we’ve been interested in seeing. As Pini is the one who formulated the concepts, I’m sure he has some interesting things to say on the subject.
      To clarify the idea behind these rules, which perhaps I have not really done elsewhere, it is that applying the seven incontri as rules allows for us to have cases where we assign a touch against one fencer, and also a case where both fencers receive a touch against.
      I agree that in terms of a duel, it is absurd to say, “I have priority, you should not have stabbed me.” I do think however that, as we no longer have the sharp point in front of our face to keep us honest, we have to jump through the hoops of having impartial rules to do that particular job for us. I agree that the FIE rules tend to cause some problems, for a variety of reasons. The whole idea of these is to experiment a little with our understanding in order to come up with a better understanding, and maybe, some better rules.
      Again, thank you for the Pini. I shall be perusing it avidly.
      Sean Newton, Co-Instructor Milwaukee CFS

      Comment by milwaukeetourney — February 5, 2010 @ 10:54 pm | Reply

  5. Uhhh…that means, when you cite Pini, not below.

    Comment by Leckie — February 3, 2010 @ 9:17 am | Reply

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