Longsword Tiers and Under-Represented Genders Longsword Tournament Rules
This page is a web rendition of the ruleset for ease of use, our web masters will try to keep it updated and accurate to the official rules, but in the event of discrepancy, the google doc of the rules are king. Rules are subject to change at any time.
Any touch that is awarded, regardless of target or method of scoring, is worth 1 point.
- Simultaneous Double
- Priority Double
- Indicated (non-contact) pommel strike
- Disarm with separation
- Out of bounds
- Opponent incurs a penalty
- Target area is the entire body, with the exception of the back of the head, spine, and groin.
- All worn equipment is considered part of the valid target area, whether it makes contact with the body or not (e.g. touches to the loose folds of poofy pants count).
“Lockout time” is defined as the amount of time after an initial touch is landed that the opponent’s touch will be considered valid. This is not a set period of time, but depends upon the action.
After the first touch lands, the opponent’s touch is considered “too late” if:
- The fencer needs to re-chamber the cut after the first touch is made.
- The fencer takes more than one step with their attacking action after the initial touch has landed.
- The fencer hesitates after the initial touch has landed before making their attacking action.
A “valid touch” is defined as a cut or thrust that meets the following quality requirements.
- The action lands normal to the opponent’s valid target…
i.e., it arrives at an angle other than mostly-parallel. A cut that is not normal could be said to “shave” the target. A thrust that is not normal could be said to “scrape” along the target (i.e. passé).
- The action is clear and intentional…
i.e., it is discrete, deliberate, and discernible – the judges can clearly see your action and that you did it on purpose. Incidental contact will not score.
⚠️ The strike does not need to touch hard, and excessively hard strikes will be penalized. “Excessive force” is defined broadly as ANY force above what was necessary to land the touch.
Notes on Cuts
- Cuts only need to make obvious, intentional, normal contact with the opponent.
- Cuts do NOT need to travel any particular number of degrees. Fencers are advised to make some small chambering action in order to make each cut discrete and clearly visible to the judges.
- Cuts need to land with the edge. Fencers are advised to make cuts that describe a discernible cutting plane; cuts that twist or scallop are likely to be seen as incidental or uncontrolled.
⚠️ Cuts MUST be made with the weak or middle of the blade. Cuts with the strong will be penalized (illegal contact).
⚠️ Cuts MUST be made with both hands, except when grappling. Cuts made with one hand (geyzlen, descending chop, etc.) will be penalized (unsafe action).
Notes on Thrusts
- Thrusts only need to make obvious, intentional, normal contact with the opponent.
- Thrusts do NOT need to bend the blade.
- Thrusts do NOT need to plant the point. A thrust that slides off protective equipment will be considered valid, provided it initially landed normal to the target. Fencers are advised to aim their thrusts; thrusts that hook or skid off the target are likely to be called incidental or not-normal.
Notes on Slices
- Slices score as cuts but are ONLY valid to the neck (bib of the fencing mask) and forearms (between the elbow and wrist).
- Slices ALWAYS count as a renewed attack.
- Missed thrusts may NOT be converted into push-slices. The thrust must be completed (attack ends), the edge placed on the target (chambering), and then the draw-slice executed (renewed attack).
Priority will be used to determine the score if both fencers score a valid hit within the lockout time.
🛠️ We believe many HEMAists have a negative opinion of tactical priority because they’ve observed a certain set of undesirable fencing behaviors borne out by the modern implementation.
Our goal is to present an implementation that is intuitive and in the spirit of the classical implementation. We want to incentivize hitting without being hit and defending when you are attacked. We want to discourage racing to claim the attack. And we want to avoid feel-bad moments where a call goes against the fencers and spectators intuition.
We believe this is achieved by
- Including point-in-line at the top of the hierarchy of priority actions, to discourage intentionally impaling oneself on the attack.
- Determining the start of the attack based on the forward commitment of the weapon, rather than the fencer’s body, to discourage racing to claim the attack.
- Scoring simultaneous doubles for both fencers, rather than re-fighting the pass, to further discourage racing to claim the attack.
Possible calls, including hierarchy of priority actions:
- Clean hit
- Simultaneous Double
- Priority Double
- Point in Line > Attack
- Attack > Counterattack
- Parry-Riposte > Renewed Attack
- Attack into prep
Summary of Conventions
In the event of a double, the following actions do NOT score:
- Attacking by impaling yourself on an opponent’s sword when they’re in longpoint.
- Reacting to the opponent’s attack with a failed single-time counter, counter-snipe, etc.
- Attacking again and again despite your opponent’s ripostes.
- “Feinting” with a big re-chambering at the last moment… you can feint as long as your sword moves progressively forward; if you pull back it counts as attacking again, as above.
- Committing your body while simultaneously chambering your sword, and then hitting the opponent with the after-blow because you think racing forward gives you right of way… the initial attack begins with commitment forward movement of the sword; so if you move your body first, they can react to you but still be considered the initial attacker.
The vast majority of cases will be easily resolved with these metrics. You can also keep in mind: (1) If a double occurs from the onset, the fencer who is moving forward almost always has priority. (2) If an attack is parried, the action of the fencer who last parried almost always has priority.
- Point in Line – position with the tip of the sword naturally extended at the opponent. The arms must be at least almost-fully extended – longpoint is point-in-line; ochs and pflug are not point-in-line unless extended considerably in front of the body. The position must be assumed from out of distance and noticeably before any attack from the opponent. The position is lost if you retract your arms or remove your point from threatening the opponent’s deep target more than momentarily.
- Attack – offensive blade action, begins with committed movement of SWORD towards the opponent. Except in certain special cases, the attacker must carry the attack forward with a step (i.e. attacking while retreating or standing still is a dead giveaway that you’re actually counterattacking).
- Counterattack – offensive blade action into opponent’s attack, reactive
- Parry – a blade action that prevents the defender from being hit by the initial attack (blade contact that does not deviate the hostile sword from it’s threatening position does not constitute a parry)
- Riposte – offensive blade action immediately following a defensive blade action (i.e. parry)
- Renewed Attack – another offensive blade action after a finished attack
- Chambering – blade action that moves away from the opponent in order to prepare an attack
- Attack into prep – a special case where the reactive fencer’s action is considered the initial attack (rather than a counterattack, even if they do not step forward) because the other fencer’s movement failed to establish an attack (i.e. they moved forward into distance while still chambering their blade)
- Simultaneous – at approximately the same time; with regards to attacks, neither is a reaction to the other, so priority cannot be determined
Explanation of Possible Calls
This occurs when Fencer A hits fencer B without being hit back.
This occurs when both fencers launch initial attacks at roughly the same time, such that the judges cannot determine priority. Both fencers are at fault, so both hits score (which is bad for both fencers’ indicators). This is necessary to disincentivize behaviors such as rushing to claim the attack.
- Note that the window for “simultaneous” will be large. That is, if neither attack is obviously a reaction to the other, the pass will be scored as simultaneous. Additionally, after an initial warning, repeated messy exchanges will also be scored as simultaneous double hits.
Point-in-line > Attack
This occurs when Fencer A has previously established the point-in-line position* and Fencer B “impales” themself in the process of delivering their attack. In the event of a double, Fencer B is at fault; they are expected to move Fencer A’s weapon offline, either by moving it or their own body, before or during their attack.
Attack > Counterattack
This occurs when Fencer A makes an initial attack* and Fencer B reacts with their own attack. Fencer B’s reaction is considered a counterattack whether or not it includes any additional defensive movement (e.g. blade opposition or body void). In the event of a double, Fencer B is at fault; they are expected to stop Fencer A’s attack with a dedicated defensive action.
Parry-Riposte > Renewed Attacks
This occurs when Fencer A attacks, is parried by Fencer B, then makes a second attack immediately before, during, or after Fencer B’s riposte. In the event of a double, Fencer A is at fault; they are expected to stop Fencer B’s riposte with a dedicated defensive action before making another attack.
- Note that a riposte must be immediate; if Fencer B hesitates after their parry, Fencer A may make a renewed attack. Fencer B’s delayed riposte would then be considered a counterattack.
Attack into Prep
The following scenarios are redundant; each should be properly called “Attack > Counterattack.” This call is included separately to emphasize the intended result of some particular corner cases.
Attack into Big Chambering Action”
This occurs when Fencer A chambers an attack, is hit during that action by Fencer B, then reacts with their own attack.
The key point is that the attack is established by committed movement of the weapon, not the fencer’s body. Fencer A does not establish their attack by chambering their weapon, no matter how big, even if the chambering is contemporaneous with forward body movement.
Note, however, that Fencer B’s attack must occur early during Fencer A’s chambering. If the attack occurs at the tail-end of the chambering action, the correct call would be either “Simultaneous Double” or “X’s Attack” depending on circumstances.
“Attack into Broken Time”
This occurs when Fencer A steps markedly into distance without having already developed their attack, (or re-chambers their weapon as they do so), is hit by Fencer B, then reacts with their own attack.
The key point is that the attack does not require a step if the fencers are already in distance. Fencer A does not establish their attack merely by committing their body forward, they need to move their weapon forward. Since the fencers are in distance, Fencer B does not need to step forward to establish their own attack – in fact, doing so may constitute excessive force – as a result, Fencer B’s attack into prep may look very much like a counterattack in this instance.
Note, however, that Fencer B’s attack must occur during Fencer A’s broken time movement. If Fencer B hesitates, they may allow Fencer A to establish their attack (by moving their weapon forward). Fencer B’s delayed attack into prep would then be considered a counterattack. In other words, you are absolutely permitted to attack in broken time, it just doesn’t establish the attack until the weapon moves, e.g.:
Coordinated attack: Weapon moves forward → attack established → body moves.
Broken time attack: Body moves forward → weapon moves forward → attack established.
- Only limited grappling is allowed. No joint manipulation. No throws, takedowns, etc.
- There is no hard time limit. But you must be making obvious progress or the judge will halt the action.
- You can score during grappling with an indicated pommel strike, cut, thrust, or disarm with separation.
- Grabbing the opponent’s blade is allowed only when it is still. If the blade slides or twists in the hand at all, it counts as a valid touch against the grabber.
⚠️ “Crashing” violently into wrestling will incur a penalty (excessive force).
⚠️ Grappling in order to avoid a valid touch will incur a penalty (target substitution, i.e. grabbing the torso and dropping your head, exposing back of head).
⚠️ Intentionally pushing your opponent out of bounds will incur a penalty (sumo).
🛑 Throws, takedowns, etc. – as well as joint manipulation – are all strictly banned. Intentional wrestling of this kind will result in an ejection.
- If a fencer falls down, and the fencers are separated (i.e. not grappling), the fencer who remains standing will score a clean touch.
- If a fencer falls down during grappling, as long as the fencer tripped over their own feet, it will be scored no exchange.
- If a fencer indicates an unimpeded pommel strike to the center of the opponent’s mask, that fencer will score a clean touch.
- A fencer must have complete control of their opponent’s weapon or sword arm in order to receive a score for any action while in the grapple.
⚠️ Deliberate contact with the opponent’s mask (even lightly) with the pommel, crossguard, or strong of the blade will incur a penalty (illegal contact).
- If a fencer is disarmed or drops their weapon, and the fencers are separated (i.e. not grappling), the fencer who retained their weapon will score a clean touch.
Out of Bounds
- If a fencer steps out of the fencing area (1 foot over the line), and the fencers are separated (i.e. not grappling) the fencer who remains in bounds will score a clean touch.
- If either fencer steps out of the fencing area during a grapple the pass shall be re-fought with no score.*
- A fencer may step out of bounds after they score a valid touch (e.g. as part of their recovery or after a running attack), as long as the touch is noticeably before the ring-out.**
⚠️ * Intentionally pushing a fencer out of bounds will incur a penalty (sumo).
⚠️ ** Except in the case where the fencer exposes the back of their head, which will incur the usual penalty.
Understand that a card is not a slight or moral judgment; correct your behavior and move on. Failure to do so will result in further penalty and eventual ejection.
As the persons responsible for giving cards, remember that fencers have put trust in you to look out for their safety and adjudicate the match fairly. Carding someone is not about trying to tell someone they’re bad, it is about checking inappropriate behavior. Ideally, the card corrects the behavior so that both fencers can get back to having a safe and fun time. That said, go with your gut – if you have to think about whether something was worth a card, it most likely was.
⬜ Warning — non-safety violations ONLY; no warnings will be given for safety violations
🟨 Yellow card: 1 point against
🟥 Red card: Loss of match (max points against)
⬛ Black card: disqualification from the tournament
- Cards do not escalate automatically.
- If a fencer repeatedly commits safety violations, then the referees will use their discretion to escalate the card from yellow to red to black. That said, fencers should expect referees to escalate for each additional offense.
- If a fencer repeatedly commits non-safety violations, such as self-calling, then yellow cards can be issued indefinitely.
- Referees do not need to wait to escalate, they can jump straight to whatever card they feel is appropriate.
🛠️ Black cards will only be issued in the event of malicious intent, repeated offense, or blatant disregard for the rules. You don’t need to walk on eggshells worrying about whether or not you will accidentally do something to get black carded.
- Penalties incurred for safety violations may begin with 🟨 yellow card, or the refs may jump straight to a 🟥 red or ⬛ black card according to their discretion.
- Subsequent violations will (almost certainly, but per the refs discretion) incur an escalated penalty.
Cardable Actions (Safety)
- Exposing the back of the head
- Striking off-target (back of head, spine, or groin)
- Deliberate contact with pommel, hilt, strong of the blade
- Excessive force (ANY force above what is necessary to land the touch)
- The strike doesn’t have to land to be considered excessive
- Including, but not limited to: striking the floor, crashing into wrestling, striking with erratic, wild or over-committed swings
- Dangerous action
- Including, but not limited to: diving attacks, flying attacks, sumo wrestling, intentionally removing safety gear, throwing (intentional or accidental) your weapon, etc.
- Failure to halt (aka fencing after the hold)
- Intentional revenge strike after the hold — ⬛
- Anger management issues (aka excessive tilt)
- Including, but not limited to: verbal insults, throwing gear, etc
- Intentional, illegal action — ⬛
- Including, but not limited to: throws, take-downs, etc; joint manipulation, kicking, punching, elbowing, headbutting, etc.
- Penalties incurred for NON-safety violations may begin with a ⬜ warning, or the refs may jump straight to a 🟨 yellow card according to their discretion.
- Only ONE warning will be given per violation. Subsequent violations WILL escalate.
- However, 🟥 red or ⬛ black card cards will only be given for non-safety violations in extreme circumstances, such as cheating.
Cardable Actions (Non-Safety)
- Excessive circling
- Excessive passivity (judges discretion)
- Repeated equipment failure
- Target substitution
- Including, but not limited to: grappling to avoid an otherwise valid touch, stepping out of bounds to avoid an otherwise valid touch, shielding your head with your hand (even though this doesn’t matter for scoring, it is still a safety issue), etc.
- Influencing the judges (aka self-calling, see below)
- Including, but not limited to: early point denial, arguing with the judges, excessive celebration, full-volume yelling, etc.
- Any attempt to manipulate the event or meta-game the rules, such as intentionally trying to draw fouls, etc.
Self-calling & Fencers Rights
- Fencers may have 1 strip coach with them.
- Fencers and coaches may talk to the judges (to ask questions, not to argue). But they MUST get the judges attention by shouting, “Excuse me, ref, question!” These are magic words – anything else may incur a penalty.
- Fencers may ask why a point was annulled… Judges should be able to respond with one of: “it was late + [explanation],” “it was not-normal,” “it was incidental,” “it incurred a penalty,” “opponent’s action had priority + [explanation].”
- Fencers have the right to refuse a point that they have received. Fencers must wait until after a call is made to refuse their point, otherwise this is cardable. Note the judges can overrule the fencer and insist on awarding the point.
Cardable Actions (Self-calling)
- Directly addressing the ref with a correction (regardless of which fencer the correction benefits) other than a point denial.
- Verbally declaring that you landed a specific hit (e.g. yelling “pommel”) will be considered self-calling.
- Excessive celebration will be considered self-calling.
- Minor self-calling, such as saying “nice hit,” will not be considered self-calling, but the ref is encouraged not to take this information into account.
- Minor celebration, such as fist bumping your coach, will not be considered influencing judges or self calling.
- Asking the ref a question is allowed. Be respectful.
- Fencing mask…
- No dents or holes in mesh, no tears in lining.
- Back of head protection
- Purpose built puncture (min 350N) resistant HEMA jacket
- Hard elbow guards
- Hard knee guards
- Hard shin guards
- Hard forearm guards
- Hard neck protector
- Purpose-built longsword fencing gloves…
- No lacrosse gloves or red dragons. Thokk only allowed with longsword peripheral attached.
- Groin protector (if necessary, will not be checked)
- Chest protector (if necessary, will not be checked)
No exposed skin is allowed. Wear long socks to protect your calves.
- Must be a purpose built longsword feder…
- Blunt longswords are not allowed; sword-shaped feders are acceptable.
- Must flex at or below 40 lbs (measured via Sword STEM method)
- Must have an enlarged tip with at least 80mm2 surface area…
- Use of a metal or leather button to enlarge the tip is acceptable. Use of a rubber button is not allowed.
- Must be within 33-42 inches in blade length and 2.5-4 lbs in weight.
- Must be reasonably straight
- Must have a crossguard
- Must be free of rust, burrs, spikes, etc
Protective equipment will be inspected before each pool. Longsword feders will be inspected upon check-in at the event; they’ll be compared against a benchmark feder set aside for the purpose (to account for variance in whatever bathroom scale we use for the flex test that day).
Logistics & Staff
- Lanes will be rectangular, with a length of approximately 20 feet, and a width of approximately 12 feet. They will be marked by cones.
- The back of the lane will double as the starting line. Fencers will start each pass straddling this line at its approximate center.
- Bouts will be first to 3 points.
- There is no time limit.
🛠️ A time limit won’t be necessary because almost every pass will conclude with a scoring action. The bout is always moving towards a conclusion.
- The tournament will take place over 2 rounds of pools. Fencers will be divided into pools of 5 or 6. After each round, fencers will be re-seeded into the next round of pools. It is our intention to run two full rounds of pools; but if time is against us we may have to eliminate some fighters between rounds 1 and 2.
- Standing will be determined by the following formula:
- [standing = touches made – touches against]
🛠️ Standing is based on indicators rather than wins. This has 2 major implications:
- Every pass matters. Winning 3-0 is better than winning 3-2.
- Bouts are non-zero-sum. Remember, simultaneous doubles both score and are therefore bad for your indicators.
Finals for each tournament tier will be the top 6 fighters in one final pool.
Referee (aka Senior Judge)
- Officiates the match
- Looks for touches
- Determines priority and scoring
- Stands on the opposite side of the fencers from the Referee and looks for touches that the referee might otherwise miss
- May help determine priority
Judging Style Guide
Referee (aka Senior Judge)
- Please refer to each competitor as “fencer” rather than “fighter.”
- Please say “ready, fence” instead of “fight” to indicate when action should begin.
- Do not ask the fencers or assistant judge if they are ready. The “ready” is a command. It is the prerogative of all involved to indicate if they are not ready.
- Please say “hoooooold” nice and loud to indicate when action should stop. Say it only once, repeat only if the fencers do not stop after the first time.
- Please make calls as quickly as possible. If you are sure about a call (i.e., the situation was very clear), make it right away; no need to wait for the assistant judge.
- When throwing out a touch, state the reason. The only valid reasons are: “it was late,” “it was not-normal,” “it was incidental,” “it incurred a penalty,” “opponent’s action had priority”.
- When giving penalties, state the reason in a calm and neutral tone.
- If you stop the action by mistake, say “no exchange” and refight the pass. But if the exchange was too messy to call, give only 1 warning, then count it as a simultaneous double.
- Indicate which side you saw land a valid touch. No need to offer any other information unless it is necessary (senior judge about to make an incorrect call), or you are asked a question.
- Only halt the action if you’re sure there was a valid touch, otherwise wait for the senior judge.
- Please say “hoooooold” nice and loud to indicate when action should stop. Say it only once, repeat only if the fencers do not stop after the first time.