Right of Way.
When using a foil, Right of Way or “priority” determines who receives a point when the fencers have both landed hits during the same action. In other words, it’s a “tie breaker” in some instances.
The fencer who started to attack first will receive the point if they hit a valid target; they have Right of Way. However, if the fencer who is being attacked defends himself properly, he then receives Right of Way and may then score the point.
Unlike foil, epee bouts do not employ Right of Way. Fencers score a point by hitting their opponent first.
Right of Way is very important because you can establish this to score a point, but you can also lose it through your opponent’s skillful play, so it’s important to know which moves constitute Right of Way and what will cause you to lose it as well. And again, it differs between weapons, so be sure you understand Right of Way according to the weapon you are using.
Other scoring rules.
If the fencers hit each other within 1/25th of a second, both receive a point. This is commonly referred to as a double touch.
Individual games are called bouts, and a competitor wins a bout by being the first to score 15 points, or by having a higher score than their opponent when the time limit is up. The time limit for direct elimination matches is nine minutes – 3 three-minute periods with a one-minute break between each.
Fencers are penalized for crossing the lateral boundaries of the strip on which they compete, while retreating off the rear limit of their side results in a touch awarded to their opponent.
Team matches feature three fencers squaring off against another team of three in a “relay” format. Each team member fences every member of the opposing team in sequence over 9 rounds until one team reaches 45 touches or has the higher score when time expires in the final round.
Some of these rules may differ between competitions or for an event such as the Olympics. When looking to compete, be sure you have a full copy of the rules governing your bouts and read them carefully.
A combatant can incur penalties during the fencing bout. Here are a few tips to remember about penalties, taken from Wikipedia:
“Modern fencing also includes the addition of cards/flags (or penalties). A fencer penalized with a yellow card is warned, but no other action is taken. A fencer penalized with a red card is warned, and a touch is awarded to his opponent.
A fencer penalized with a black card is excluded from the competition, and may be excluded from the tournament, expelled from the venue, or suspended from future tournaments in the case of serious offences.
Offences are broken down into four groups, and penalties are assessed based upon the group of the offence:
Group 1 offences include actions such as making bodily contact with the opposing fencer (in foil or sabre), delaying the bout, or removing equipment. The first group 1 offence committed by a fencer in a bout is penalized with a yellow card. Subsequent group 1 offences committed by that fencer are penalized with a red card.
Other Group 1 offences may also include:
- Leaving the piste without permission
- Turning one’s back on the opponent
- Use of the non-sword arm/hand
- Touching or taking hold of the electrical equipment
- Leaving the side of the piste to avoid being hit
- Interrupting of bout without a valid reason
- Clothing/equipment not working or not conforming; absence of second regulation weapon or body wire
- At foil and epée bending, dragging weapon point on the conductive piste
- Bringing weapon into contact with conductive jacket
- Refusal to obey the Referee
- Jostling, disorderly fencing. irregular movements on the piste, hits made with violence or while falling
- Taking off the mask before the referee call ‘halt’; undressing on the piste
- Unjustified appeal
Group 2 offences include actions that are vindictive or violent in nature, or the failure to report to the strip with proper inspection marks on equipment. All group 2 offences are penalized with a red card.
Group 2 offences may include:
- Interruption of bout for claimed injury, not confirmed by Doctor
- Absence of weapon check marks
- Dangerous, violent or vindictive action, blow with the guard or pommel
- Deliberate hit not on opponent
- Inappropriate attire that is missing regulated name or other compulsory items
Group 3 offences include disturbing the order of a bout, or intentionally falsifying inspection marks. The first group 3 offence committed by a fencer is penalized with a red card, while any subsequent group 3 offence is penalized with a black card.
Group 3 offences may include:
- Faking control markings, intentional modification of equipment
- Fencer disturbing order when on the piste
- Dishonest fencing
- Offences against the code of the hosting organization
Group 4 offences include doping, manifest cheating, deliberate brutality, and other breaches of protocol, such as a refusal to salute. Group 4 offences are penalized with a black card.
Again, it’s important to review all the rules of any tournament or competition you are participating in, as they will have their own list of offenses and penalties, and may refer to them by different terms, such as “Category One” rather than “Group 1.” It is your responsibility to be familiar with all the rules of your competition.
A penalty where the action is moved a metre further back on the piste for the offending fencer before a bout is restarted.
There is also a specific penalty for putting one or both feet off the side edge of the piste: halt is called, and the opponent may then advance one metre towards the penalised fencer.
The penalised fencer must retreat to ‘normal’ distance before the bout can restart – that is, the distance where both fencers can stand on-guard, with their arms and swords extended directly at their opponent, and their blades do not cross. If this puts the fencer beyond the back edge of the piste, the fencer’s opponent receives a point.”
It’s very important to understand these penalties as it’s very easy to get caught up in the adrenaline of a good bout. One must respect the rules of fair play and the rules of the competition overall, so as to not risk losing points or even being expelled.