How should we deal with the problem of double hits in historical fencing bouts? A double hit is when two fencers strike each other at the same time and generally means that they have both forgotten the first rule of fencing, “don’t get hit.” They’ve also forgotten the basic techniques of whatever tradition they study. If they were using sharp blades instead of blunts, the result would be what is known in the trade as “two dead idiots.”
(I know lots of folks are against competition in historical swordplay. That’s beside the point. The scoring system serves here only to make the issues involved obvious.)
For the sake of argument, let’s assume a competition with a point scored for each hit. How then to score a double hit? As far as I can see there are three basic methods of handling the situation.
No Points Scored: In effect, the double hit is ignored and the play continues. This has the advantage of not rewarding this unwanted behaviour. The disadvantage of this method is that it has no downside for the players. There is no consequence, as there would be with sharp weapons. I don’t find this an acceptable solution.
Score the Point: Each fencer has hit the other, therefore, each fencer gets a point. There’s nothing simpler than one hit, one point. Smart fencers will soon realise that they need to protect their attacks to ensure that they don’t give away free points to the other guy. To me, however, this option is unattractive because it rewards dumb behaviour.
Penalise the Players: This is, to my mind, the only possible alternative and the best. It punishes dumb behaviour in the only way that one can with blunted weapons. The simplest way of penalising the players is to subtract a point from each fencer.
Personally, I’d be much harsher on fencers who commit double hits. If using a points system like that above, I’d rule that a double hit wipes each fencers slate clean and back to zero points. If using a system of eliminations, I’d eliminate bother players. Double hits are a pox on historical fencing which must be stamped out.