The rules of fencing can be a little tricky for beginners to understand and aren’t very friendly to get started. In this quick reference article, we provide a recap of the core resources for fencing rules and referees. We hope to consolidate several sources to provide a single beginner-friendly place for useful information.
For the Non-Fencer
If you’ve landed on this page as a non-fencer looking for more information on the basics of the sport, this quick primer video from the Olympic Channel is a great starting point:
The Rules of Fencing
Let’s begin with the rulebook. It is the most accessible source for fencing rules. If you’re unsure where to start, cracking open the rulebook is certainly the easiest place.
Many of our readers are based in the USA, so begin with US Fencing’s copy of the rulebook, found here.
For international fencers, the FIE Rulebook is your best starting point, found here. The US Rulebook is very similar to the FIE Rulebook, but there are some slight divergences; they aren’t identical or direct translations.
For Wheelchair fencers, the IWASF rulebook can be found here.
There are lots of other supplementary documents, but these are all the starting points for people looking to get their feet wet.
What comes after reading the rulebook? Understanding the process of refereeing fencing. Maybe you don’t want to become a rated referee yourself, but as a competitor, you should probably have a basic understanding of how your bouts are being officiated.
In the US, the best place to start is the Referees’ Commission website. The Referees’ Commission (RC) handles all things rules and referees. Things such as updating the rulebook, training new referees, hiring referees at events, etc all fall under their purview in one way or another. The RC website has a nice primer on what you need to do in order to become a certified US Fencing referee here and is the best place to start the process.
For other countries, the referee training and accreditation process differs greatly from country to country. Your best bet would be to reach out to your country’s fencing National Governing Body (NGB) to find out more.
Staying Up To Date
So now you’re a referee. All done, right? Of course not! There are many levels to refereeing that take many years (decades, really) to progress through. The rulebook isn’t static, so changes happen on a yearly basis that you must stay on top of as a referee and also as a competitive fencer.
A community favorite is Badgermille, a crowdsourced place to practice making right of way calls. And an up-and-coming alternative is Quarte Riposte’s Database, which is still a work in progress but allows for a less curated but more populated alternative to Badgermille.
Fencing.net itself reports on news updates, so staying up to date with our fencing rules news section is always a good idea. Similarly, if you’re a US-based fencer or referee, the RC blog itself is also a vital resource. The main difference between the two is that we tend to report on things upcoming or potential changes, while the RC will only report on the things that have immediate impact.