Smallsword Tournament Rules



The intent of this ruleset is to create a basis for competitive smallsword bouting that is, overall, historically authentic and respectful of both the weapon and its historical context. We would like to encourage fencers to make considered actions ‘as if fighting with sharps’ in a formal ‘salle’ style setting rather than ‘street’/self defence.


We wish to minimise expedient techniques such as deliberately forced doubles, overcommitted all-or-nothing attacks, or other undesirable techniques such as a ‘one attack then grapple’ style of fighting. Seizures, commanding and disarms are perfectly acceptable.


We reserve the right to change the rules at any time.


Permitted Weapons


  • Smallswords. These may be foil, epee, ‘muskateer’ or schlaeger bladed between 30” and 35” long. They must have reasonable flex, be blunt and have the tip buttoned. They must have a simple hilt, but need not have a knucklebow.
  • Foils and epees may be used – Pistol grips are not allowed.


Swords will be inspected to make sure they are in good order.


Tournament Structure

Stages in the tournament

The structure of the tournaments depends on the number of participants in the tournament:

Tournaments with 7 or less participants will be fought in one single pool stage, with every competitor fencing every other competitor once. 1st, 2nd and 3rd place will be determined based on their ranking after all fights.

Tournaments with more than 7 participants 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 4, 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 (4 participants). Winners of semifinals fence for the gold medal, and losers of semifinals fence for bronze medal.

Bout result – pools

During the pool stage a fencer will gain their overall ranking result based on number of victories plus a total number of hits scored against them.

Eg if two fencers have the same number of victories, then the one with the lower number of hits scored against them will be placed higher in the rankings.

Bout result – elimination

  • The fencer who has no ‘hits’ remaining in the elimination bout loses the fight. If the score is equal, the fight continues until one of the fencers gains a score advantage (sudden death).

Bout outline

  • Hits are awarded against fencers, meaning that the fencer with 10 hits scored against them is declared to have lost the bout.
  • After this the ‘scorer’ will announce the score to the referee, who will officially announce the winner of the bout and the final score.

Exchange Outline

  • Fencers begin each exchange by coming up to the indicated starting mark
  • Fencers will salute the referees and each other
  • The referee will confirm that they are ready to begin by calling ‘en-guard’ then ‘ready’, then a final call of “Allez” 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.

[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 briefly describe ​the scoring exchange, and the score ​resulting.
  • At the end of the bout fencers will be expected to shake hands


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 mark 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

Upon the delivery of what appears to be a telling stroke, the referee will call halt and decide if points are to be awarded. Points are awarded against the fencer. A fencer who has the agreed number of points against them (usually 10) is declared to have lost the bout. At the end of the bout, the fencer with the most points against them has lost, or both if scores are equal. If both fencers simultaneously receive enough points to lose the bout, both have lost regardless of the actual score.


Striking and Other Actions

A thrust must be delivered along the axis of the blade (angulated thrusts are acceptable but must be pushed into the target rather than laid on flat) and should hit in a manner that would penetrate and cause injury. To score, actions must also be valid and not subject to annulment by the officials. All hits must be executed with control. Scoring hits do not need to be hard but must demonstrate quality:

  • Only clear thrust attacks with the point of the weapon score hits (Cutting actions will not count).
  • The referee may disregard hits they consider mechanically insufficient: Incidental strikes, very light touches with the point, and light flicks with the tip.
  • Thrusts must fix the point​ onto the target with positive pressure.



Blade hits against a fencer will score:

  • 3 points for positive thrust made with smallsword to the head or torso. This needs to demonstrate significant character of penetration.
  • 1 point for other valid hits (valid strike to a limb, or a valid lighter thrust to the torso or head​)

Other ways to score hits against a fencer:

  • 3 points for disarm. Disarming ​an opponent will only score if the opponent’s control of the weapon is removed and control of one weapon (either fencer’s) is kept, and grappling distance is broken.


  • 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.
  • Strikes made once both feet have left the mat will be discounted.

Note on grappling

Commanding is allowed but must be controlled, whilst grappling is not. Throws, joint locks and kicks are NOT allowed. This is a safety consideration.

If fencers end up ‘corps-a-corps’ for a long time without any scoring hit, or if any fencer is on the ground, referee will call “Halt” and reset the exchange. The referee may also interrupt the bout at any time if they judge it is becoming dangerous.


A Double is scored when both fencers attack and hit in the same time. Doubles will be scored in the same way as normal thrusts against each fencer.

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 hit 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
  • Throws, kicks and grappling
  • Actions that are obviously far outside the context of historical swordplay such as ballistic footwork or techniques geared to electric fencing, even if these somehow result in a clean hit.
  • Blade grabs, other than a clear attempt to command or disarm
  • Expedience (continuation following an off balance or overcommitted attack) and ‘deliberate suicide’ (deliberately forcing a double) are to be penalised
  • Landing a pommel strike – these should be ‘demonstrated’ rather than delivered with force
  • 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.