When does the attack end in foil?

This post comes by way of the Fencing.Net forums.  In a discussion of foil right-of-way interpretations, the subject of the ending of the attack in foil came up.  [relevant post here].

User Erik Blank emailed the USFA for rules clarification:

From: Erik Blank

I have recently been getting some rather confusing information about a ‘new’ (to me) interpretation regarding the end of a foil attack. The information is being relayed to me by someone that I generally trust, but itseems quite counter intuitive to me, so I am hoping that you can either confirm, deny, or (better yet) explain what is going on.

A friend and accomplished competitive fencer took the referee exam and passed quite well, under thewatchful eye of a member of the FOC. She then went on to earn a 6 rating. As part of this training and study this person was informed that there is now an interpretation saying that the foil attack is now being judged to have ended with the full extension of the arm.

I know that the attack in Saber is to be considered over with the landing of the front foot, but search as I may, I cannot find this rule regarding the foil attack anywhere in the rule book. This referees statement is that while this may not be in the rule book,this is how things are being called at top rated competitions, and it is how things should be called everywhere.

Can you please provide me with some direction on where I might find supporting evidence for this new interpretation, or a heads up on when this may be actually added into the USFA rule book?
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

The response came via Bill Oliver, member of the FOC:

Mr Blank,

The end of the attack in foil is not definitively defined in the USFA rules, as is the case with many conventions of fencing. Coaches, athletes and referees, at the highest level in the USFA, have determined that there is a logical end to the attack in foil, which occurs with or just after the landing of the front foot. After this time, the opponent has the opportunity to initiate a new action that can have priority. No hesitation can be tolerated in this responsive action.

I hope this sheds some light on this situation.

Sincerely,

Bill Oliver
Chair, Rules Committee
Fencing Officials Commssion

Key points to note:

  • There is no formal definition codified in the 2009-2010 rules as to the end of the attack in foil, as there is in sabre.
  • Many referees are beginning to apply the sabre convention, rightly or wrongly, to foil
  • The FOC statement above moves foil towards sabre with the foil attack ending “with or just after the landing of the front foot”

There are rumors of a coming adjustment to the foil rules to add in wording either identical to or similar to the wording in the sabre rules on the end of the attack.  As of this date (June 2010), that has not happened.  Keep up to date on the current fencing rules interpretations by making sure to check out the Fencing Officials Commission site on a regular basis.

When does the attack end in foil? by

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18 Responses to “When does the attack end in foil?”
  1. Dave McEldery says:

    This seems an odd discussion, but probably because I’m not conversant with all the details. However, an attack can end with a bent arm in any number of ways under new rules or old rules. Let’s say Mr. Blank launches a well-timed and properly executed attack and his opponent unwisely tries to counter-attack, or Mr. Blank lured him into moving forward into his attack, and the opponent just keeps moving forward. Mr. Blank’s point may land before he can fully extend his arm and before his front foot hits the ground, because his opponent threw himself onto Mr. Blank’s point. Even if the opponent lands too, Mr. blank is still awarded the hit for a successful attack. In the old days (pre-2000?), under ideal circumstances, an attacker’s point should land a micro section before his foot did. The attack ended when his point scored the hit – assuming he hadn’t lost the right-of-way. The point landing before the foot showed that he had started with extension of the hand and point before moving his foot. If you start with your foot and it it lands on the floor before you have extension (provided your opponent is still in proper distance), there’s a good chance you’ll be walking into a counter attack in tempo if the opponent can get extension before you do, and even though you started the action, the other guy finishes it, and is awarded the hit. The origins of this were in practice for using real and heavier weapons, where landing with the point first was critical to your well-being. Back in the 1980s when we used to have all the arguments about bent-arm attacks and marching in, many times they were the result of an opponent mistiming his attack (often mistakenly called “simultaneous”), or launching poorly timed counter-attacks.

  2. Dave McEldery says:

    This seems an odd discussion, but probably because I’m not conversant with all the details. However, an attack can end with a bent arm in any number of ways under new rules or old rules. Let’s say Mr. Blank launches a well-timed and properly executed attack and his opponent unwisely tries to counter-attack, or Mr. Blank lured him into moving forward into his attack, and the opponent just keeps moving forward. Mr. Blank’s point may land before he can fully extend his arm and before his front foot hits the ground, because his opponent threw himself onto Mr. Blank’s point. Even if the opponent lands too, Mr. blank is still awarded the hit for a successful attack. In the old days (pre-2000?), under ideal circumstances, an attacker’s point should land a micro section before his foot did. The attack ended when his point scored the hit – assuming he hadn’t lost the right-of-way. The point landing before the foot showed that he had started with extension of the hand and point before moving his foot. If you start with your foot and it it lands on the floor before you have extension (provided your opponent is still in proper distance), there’s a good chance you’ll be walking into a counter attack in tempo if the opponent can get extension before you do, and even though you started the action, the other guy finishes it, and is awarded the hit. The origins of this were in practice for using real and heavier weapons, where landing with the point first was critical to your well-being. Back in the 1980s when we used to have all the arguments about bent-arm attacks and marching in, many times they were the result of an opponent mistiming his attack (often mistakenly called “simultaneous”), or launching poorly timed counter-attacks.

  3. @Dave – The question asked here isn’t really about when the extension happens, as that marks the beginning of the attack, but rather just what exactly constitutes the end of the attack in foil.

    In sabre, the FIE came back around to the rules and added that the attack ends when the front foot lands, so you get the tactic of getting the cut to fall short, then take over the attack. In foil, there is no such hard definition of the end of the attack – it’s a bit more fuzzy. At least that’s what I read from the FOC comments.

    As a practical matter, I’ll always pay attention to how a referee is calling the actions and fine-tune my bout tactics accordingly.

  4. @Dave – The question asked here isn’t really about when the extension happens, as that marks the beginning of the attack, but rather just what exactly constitutes the end of the attack in foil.

    In sabre, the FIE came back around to the rules and added that the attack ends when the front foot lands, so you get the tactic of getting the cut to fall short, then take over the attack. In foil, there is no such hard definition of the end of the attack – it’s a bit more fuzzy. At least that’s what I read from the FOC comments.

    As a practical matter, I’ll always pay attention to how a referee is calling the actions and fine-tune my bout tactics accordingly.

  5. Landon Watt says:

    As Bill says, whenever the attack ends, the attack certainly does not end when the arm is fully extended – a fencer may have their arm fully extended shortly after beginning their lunge! My question is whether, after the attacking fencer (Fencer A) finishes their lunge with a fully extended arm, but falls short, their extended arm immediately becomes a line? That is, any counter-attack begun by Fencer B during Fencer A’s attack would have priority over A’s line, but A’s line would have priority over any offensive action from Fencer B begun after Fencer A’s attack ends.

  6. Landon Watt says:

    As Bill says, whenever the attack ends, the attack certainly does not end when the arm is fully extended – a fencer may have their arm fully extended shortly after beginning their lunge! My question is whether, after the attacking fencer (Fencer A) finishes their lunge with a fully extended arm, but falls short, their extended arm immediately becomes a line? That is, any counter-attack begun by Fencer B during Fencer A’s attack would have priority over A’s line, but A’s line would have priority over any offensive action from Fencer B begun after Fencer A’s attack ends.

  7. Rudy Volkmann says:

    The way I have seen most high-level referees call the end of the foil attack is when the forward progress of the point stops in the case of straightforward attacks; a lunge which has the arm well back (but extending) until the foot lands and then continues forward to hit is always called correct against a counterattack in my experience (fifteen years of working NACs, Nationals, and International events).

  8. Kyle Mezzi says:

    My understanding of this “live after failed attack” situation is that a failed attack is a failed attack, and should in no way be considered Point-In-Line.  The main reason for this is that a Point-In-Line trumps an attack, because by definition, attacking distance is no longer than Advance + Lunge, and the first requirement for line is that it be established outside of Advance + Lunge distance.

    Now, it is also my understanding that while you have established line, (while still outside Advance + Lunge distance) you can make a lunge, recover from a lunge, etc…without losing line.  That does not however mean that the lunge you made after you established line is an attack, because in order for it to be considered line, it would have been established outside Advance + Lunge distance, and anything after that would not be considered an attack, but rather, continued point in line.

    Hence, having your attack fail (short) and turning it into point-in-line is impossible…

  9. Kyle Mezzi says:

    My understanding of this “live after failed attack” situation is that a failed attack is a failed attack, and should in no way be considered Point-In-Line.  The main reason for this is that a Point-In-Line trumps an attack, because by definition, attacking distance is no longer than Advance + Lunge, and the first requirement for line is that it be established outside of Advance + Lunge distance.

    Now, it is also my understanding that while you have established line, (while still outside Advance + Lunge distance) you can make a lunge, recover from a lunge, etc…without losing line.  That does not however mean that the lunge you made after you established line is an attack, because in order for it to be considered line, it would have been established outside Advance + Lunge distance, and anything after that would not be considered an attack, but rather, continued point in line.

    Hence, having your attack fail (short) and turning it into point-in-line is impossible…

  10. Craig says:

    Kyle,

    A couple of things that you have wrong here:
    1. Line must occur outside of the distance of advance+lunge.  This is false.  Establishment of point in line is about the tempo, not the distance. 

    Example: We can be at lunge distance, you establish a line, I sit there and look at it for 3 seconds then lunge direct for two lights.  By all convention that should be your point in line, but you would call it my attack because we were within distance when you established the line?

    2. The whole “you established a line, then lunge” paragraph is pretty convoluted.  I’m not at all sure what point you are trying to make there.

    3. “having your attack fail (short) and turning it into point-in-line is impossible” is false.  This was the subject of at least one referee meeting during the Pan Am Zonal Championships held in conjunction with Nationals.  Needless to say there is debate about the actual timing in foil of calling an action “Attack, No; Attack, Touch” and “Attack, No; Line; Counter-attack – touch for line”.  (In other words, calling the failed attack like sabre vs. allowing a line to be established).

    There is this article on Point in Line after the attack: http://www.fencing.net/422/point-in-line-after-an-attack/.  It was written in 2003 but the principles are still the same today.  The actual tempo window has changed over time, but the idea of point in line after an attack, or “residual point in line” still persists.

  11. FOC_Get_ur_Head_outta_UR_BUTT says:

    I’d love to take BIll Oliver and “the powers that be” behind the wood shed and beat them with a big stick.  How can the FOC, who are there to enforce the rules of a sport, then make up a new rule about when the attack ends in foil???!!!???  There is nothing in the rule book about foot work ending anything in foil.  Give me a break, the attack in foil is ended when it is parried.  That’s it nothing more. 
    Fencer A extends, threatening a valid target (the ceiling is not a valid target), lunges without breaking his/her elbow, fencer B retreats, fencer A, now has point in line, and still has right of way.

  12. FOC_Get_ur_Head_outta_UR_BUTT says:

    I’d love to take BIll Oliver and “the powers that be” behind the wood shed and beat them with a big stick.  How can the FOC, who are there to enforce the rules of a sport, then make up a new rule about when the attack ends in foil???!!!???  There is nothing in the rule book about foot work ending anything in foil.  Give me a break, the attack in foil is ended when it is parried.  That’s it nothing more. 
    Fencer A extends, threatening a valid target (the ceiling is not a valid target), lunges without breaking his/her elbow, fencer B retreats, fencer A, now has point in line, and still has right of way.

  13. FOC_Get_ur_Head_outta_UR_BUTT says:

    I’d love to take BIll Oliver and “the powers that be” behind the wood shed and beat them with a big stick.  How can the FOC, who are there to enforce the rules of a sport, then make up a new rule about when the attack ends in foil???!!!???  There is nothing in the rule book about foot work ending anything in foil.  Give me a break, the attack in foil is ended when it is parried.  That’s it nothing more. 
    Fencer A extends, threatening a valid target (the ceiling is not a valid target), lunges without breaking his/her elbow, fencer B retreats, fencer A, now has point in line, and still has right of way.

  14. Kyle Mezzi says:

    Craig…

    With regard to the first situation, I certainly wouldn’t your attack, considering your attepts to search for my blade fail, which constitutes a preparation of an attack…I would call it my attack, in your preparation, not my PIL…

    Second, as for the “you establish line then lunge” paragraph, the interpretation with which I am familiar (and we seem to disagree on this) is that, in order for PIL to have a “higher value” than an attack, it must be established before the opponent makes a valid attack (inside attacking distance)…therefore anything done after you have established PIL, without losing PIL (by flinching, dropping your line, etc.) does not affect the fact that you still have PIL established

    Finally, I wasn’t familiar with the situation at Pan Ams, but it seems clear they need to put it in the rule book, whichever interpretation they settle on…

    Also, thanks for the article, I’ll read it now

  15. Kyle Mezzi says:

    Craig…

    After reading the article, I think we are talking a out he same thing. I thought the question was whether merely keeping your arm extended after a failed attack IMMEDIATELY give you line regardless of what your opponent does. As explained in the article, the continued extension of the arm only becomes line if there is some pause or fault from the opponent (failing to take over the attack in tempo)…the question I then have, is if the tempo in foil is much longer than in saber, given the same action?

  16. Craig says:

    Kyle – When I wrote “look at it” I did not mean “execute a search for your blade with my blade”, I literally meant “look at it” – In other words I am doing nothing, I see the blade, I see you’re extended, then I lunge.  Even then, it could not be your “attack in preparation” since you make no actual attack, you stick out your arm into a point-in-line.

    Thanks for clarifying what you mean with your second paragraph above.  I think we’re actually in agreement there.  If there is an attack and at the end of the attack the arm is correctly left in a point in line position (the word “correctly” is the rub), then the line is established.

    What this gets into is a minute discussion over what kind of leeway one fencer is given to their opponent’s failed attack, what constitutes a failed attack and what constitutes the end of the attack.  In sabre it’s a lot easier since (1) the end of the attack is explicitly defined and (2) the attack in sabre is primarily a cut, so you’re not typically going to have a residual line.

  17. Landon says:

    Hi Craig,
     
    You say that there’s debate about the timing in foil of calling an action “Attack, No; Attack, Touch” and “Attack, No; Line; Counter-attack – touch for line” – and the “tempo window” for calling fencer B’s attack over fencer A’s line. If there is a window of opportunity for fencer B to begin an attack after A’s attack with extended arm fails (and get the phrasing “Attack, No; Attack, Touch), then I reason that the window of opportunity must last for one period of fencing time from the moment the attack fails.It makes no sense for a window of opportunity to be less than one period of fencing time (nothing is meant to take less than one period of fencing time), or more than one period of fencing time (phrase ends after one period of fencing time elapses without action). Do you agree?

  18. Landon says:

    An attack in foil that isn’t parried has to end sometime – attacks that fall short can’t remain “the attack” for as long as the attacking fencer remains on the lunge – that could lead to an attack lasting as long as the patience of both fencers and the passivity rule allows. The FOC ruling makes sense – as it tends to promote “good fencing” – as hitting with attacks that finish shortly after the lunge finishes or with point in line rewards dynamism and good timing. The FOC rule doesn’t allow attacks with lunges where the front foot lands while the attacking fencer’s arm is still considerably bent (more than 90 degrees at the elbow) where arm only fully extends afterwards – which is a good thing imo.
    And it’s well established that you can threaten while holding the point above your head – as long as your arm’s extending and the point is moving towards the target. The direction the point is moving is the important thing, not the direction it’s “pointing”.

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