The following document contains the rules for the tournament held during the International Rapier Seminar 2016.

The idea is to create a simple, easy to administer ruleset, which encourages artful and technical fencing as described in the treatises, and the art pf hitting without being hit. The rules are not meant to represent a “Real Fight”.

As in previous editions of the IRS the tournament will follow a “king of the hill” format. We do not believe that the following ruleset should be used in all rapier tournaments worldwide. We do believe that a diversity of rulesets can help to explore the historical material, by forcing fencers to fight under different conditions.

We hope that the participants of the tournament will play in the spirit of the rules, and will emphasise technical creativity over competitiveness.

While we will be awarding 1st, 2nd and 3rd place to the most efficient fighters in each division, the main prize will be a custom rapier donated by our sponsor Danelli Armouries, awarded by the judges to the best technical fencer from across both divisions, irrespective of whether or not they advance from the pools.

The winner of this technical prize will also have their name engraved on the IRS Trophy, sponsored by Sacramento Sword Guild, underneath those of the previous years’ winners: Massimiliano Moscatelli of A.R.A. in 2014, and Oliver Barker of School of the Sword in 2015.

The tournament is to be fought in two divisions: with single rapiers, and with rapiers and daggers.  Since these divisions will be run concurrently, it will not be possible to participate in both.

Assuming that sign-ups are evenly balanced between single rapier and rapier and dagger, the provisional cap on each division will be set at 24 fencers, although this may be modified if there is a large disparity in the sign-ups between divisions.

Please note that these rules may be changed at any time before the tournament at the discretion of the organisers. Such changes will be communicated verbally to the participants before the tournament.

Tournament Structure

Each participant will be assigned a number, and be grouped by random selection into pools of no more than eight fencers. Two fencers in each pool, selected at random, will fence the first bout.

All fencers sit in a waiting line on the bench. After a bout, the losing fencer(s) sits down at the end of the line, and the first fencer in line becomes the new Challenger.

If there is a simultaneous hit, resulting in a double loss (see below), the bout will be recorded as a loss for both fencers, and the next two fencers in line will take their place.

It is anticipated that there will be time for approximately 40 bouts, but this may vary, depending on timings on the day.

At the conclusion of all pool bouts, the fencer with the highest win ratio (wins/bouts fought) from each pool will progress to the semi-finals/final.

The semi-finals and final will be fought to the same rules as the pools, except to the first of three clean hits.

At the conclusion 1st, 2nd and 3rd place for both single rapier and rapier and dagger will be announced, along with the overall technical champion as determined by the judges – independently of whether or not they progressed from the pools.

The rules in short

If one fencer lands a clean hit, they will win the bout, and remain on-piste as the “Champion”.

After being struck, the wounded fencer will have one foot movement in which to attempt an afterblow.

An after-blow will also result in a double loss for both fencers.

However the only valid after-blow against a thrust (with the rapier) to the body or head, is another thrust to the head or body. This is a concession to promote manual technique, and attacks to deep targets over sniping.

In other words:

  • Any clean blow (cut or thrust) by Fencer A = Win for Fencer A
  • Any simultaneous blow (cut or thrust) = Double loss for Fencers A & B
  • Thrust to the body or head by Fencer A, followed by an after-blow thrust to the body or head by Fencer B = Double loss for Fencers A & B
  • Thrust to the body or head by Fencer A, followed by an after-blow cut, or thrust to the limbs by Fencer B = Win for Fencer A
  • Thrust to the limbs or cut by Fencer A, followed by any after-blow by Fencer B = Double loss for Fencers A & B.

Both cuts and thrusts must demonstrate “good character” to score. In other words an attack which would have caused a material wound if the blade were sharp.

In general this means a thrust with visible flex on the blade, or a cut with a definite slice and/or at least 90° rotation.

A clean disarm, throw, ring-out (both feet out of the area), pommel-strike to the front of the mask, or dagger strike will also earn one point. Punching is allowed but will not score.

Parrying or putting aside the blade of the opponent with the free hand is allowed, so long as it is done with an open hand. Taking hold of the opponent’s sword is not allowed, except at the hilt or forte.

Weapons and safety equipment

The tournament is to be split into two divisions: single rapier and rapier and dagger.

Rapiers must have reproduction type blades, such as Danelli rapiers, Darkwood practice blades and bated rapier blades, etc. All blades must have a safe, blunt tip – arrow blunts or Darkwood plastic blunts are recommended. Sports fencing foil or epées blades, double wide epée blades, Schlager and similar blades, and blades with a sharp tip are disallowed.

Rapier blades should fall between a range of 38 and 45 inches.

Daggers must be no longer than 18 inches, with a safe, flexible blade. Hanwei sail-hilt daggers are disallowed.

The following safety equipment is mandatory:

  • All bare skin must be covered
  • Fencing mask in good order, a 1600 N bib rating is recommended
  • A fencing jacket. A gambeson can also be allowed if it closes properly with good overlap. A jacket with a 350 N or better rating is recommended
  • Protective gloves. Leather gloves or fencing gloves are recommended
  • Groin protection
  • Hard chest protection
  • Gorget
  • Non-marking indoor shoes.

The following safety equipment is recommended:

  • Mask cover/back of the head protection
  • Hard knee/shin protection
  • 350 N fencing breeches
  • 800 N fabric underplastron.


The head judge’s job is to coordinate the fight. Depending upon the available staff there may or may not be an assistant judge. The judge will watch the fight and call “Hit!” when they see a valid hit. The bout begins when the judge calls “Fence!” and ends when the judge calls “Halt!”. An exchange will only be ended for safety reasons, when a valid hit has been called, when a fencer grapples his opponent, or when one of the fencers has stepped out of the ring with both feet.

Before the start of each exchange, the fencers retreat into their own corner of the ring.

When a possible valid hit has come to the attention of the judge they end the exchange by calling “Halt!”.

Once the action has stopped, the judge may consult with the assistant judge, and may reserve the right to ask the fencers’ what they believe happened. As a friendly tournament emphasising artfulness and technique, the fencers are expected to operate on an honour-system if asked.

A fencer may indicate they feel they have received a valid hit, although the judge may overrule this if they feel the hit did not have sufficient character.

The judge will then briefly explain the fencing passage they have observed, and declare the outcome of the bout.

Once made, the judge’s decision is final. If the action was inconclusive and no clear hit is awarded, the judge may declare no exchange.

The judges will rotate between pools, in order to better assess the best technical fencer for the main prize.


Verbally or otherwise abusing the judge and/or judges and tournament officials can result in immediate disqualification. Causing injury to your opponent through unsafe behaviour will result in disqualification. Whether an injury was caused through unsafe behaviour is decided at the discretion of the judge. Receiving several warnings can result in a penalty, such as loss of the bout or disqualification. – The judge can give warnings and penalties at their discretion.

If a fencer is disqualified, they are removed from the tournament. They lose all points, and cannot win any prizes. The outcomes of any bouts they fought before being disqualified however still count for the fencer’s opponents.

Technical Prize

As stated above, the overall tournament prize, across both divisions, will be awarded to the best technical fencer as decided by the judging team.

This is necessarily a subjective decision, however in reaching it the judges will be considering the following factors:

  • Use of manual technique: recognisable guards, movements and actions. Simply looking pretty in guard is not sufficient, the judges will be looking for effective application of manual technique
  • Clean fighting: a minimum of double hits and after-blows
  • Technical fighting: using technique to safely complete attacks, not merely speed, power and/or athleticism
  • Thrusts to deep targets: although any valid cut or thrust will score, the judges are looking to reward thrusts to deep targets, the body and mask. Constraining the opponent’s blade while attacking a deep target will be recognised ahead of staying safe through sniping, aiming for shallow targets, disproportionate use of the cut, or striking then simply using speed to get out
  • Variety of technique: successfully applying a variety of actions to score and impress the judges, not repeatedly relying on an “A-game” strategy
  • Difficult/less common actions: the successful application of more difficult and/or less frequently seen actions and strategies. For example (but not limited to) the inquartata, passata sotto, “proceeding with resolution”, disarms/movements of conclusion. Also throws performed safely, cleanly and with control
  • Control of the area: a good fencer should able to control the space, and dictate the tempo of the bout on their terms
  • Good sportsmanship and courteous conduct.

The judging team reserve the right to request a special play-off between two or more fencers if their initial deliberations are not conclusive.