I’ve found a rather nifty set of rules for rapier tournaments by RedStar Fencing in Chicago. Of the many points of interest is that this rules set has come out of a modern fence club rather than an historical fencing school. Even more amazing is that all the cumbersome and artifical modern electronic scoring kit is not required.
The first thing I like about these rules is their simplicity. There are priority (head and sword arm) and non-priority (everywhere else) target areas. If each fencer hits the other in-tempo such that fencer A hits a priority target area and the fencer B hits a non-priority target area, fencer A wins the point. This differs from many of the points based tournament rules sets I’ve seen around the traps. The rationale for which areas are considered priority targets and which aren’t are pretty clear and make a lot of sense.
This schema is suitable for adaption to better handle cuts and cut-and-thrust styles of swordplay. For instance, the rapier rules consider any cut (as opposed to a thrust) to a priority target area to be a non-priority hit. It effect, this means that a thrust to the head beats a cut to the head with a rapier. Only a minor change is required to adapt the rules to a cut-and-thrust style: treat cuts in the same way as thrusts. This changes the dynamic of the rules while retaining their simplicity.
The second point of note is that the rules penalises simultaneous hits. Hit in the same tempo to non-priority targets are ignored wheras simultaneous hits to priority target areas incur a penalty to both fencers for failing the first rule of fencing, “don’t get hit”. Where the rules start to get a little complex is in the distinctions of tempo. Two hits may be simultaneous if they occur in the same tempo, subsequent if the second hit lands a fraction later or late if the second hit occurs out of tempo. It may seem a little complex but it’s not too tough for a competent bout referee to judge.
(There’s also an explanatory doc to assist bout referees.)
Scoring is a lot like tennis in that a bout consists of an odd number of sets, usually 5 or 7. It’s also scored like tennis in that each set is scored not with a tally of numeric points but as a see-saw of advantage. For instance, if fencer A scores a touch, he or she has “advantage” and with another touch, he or she wins the set. Fencer B, however, may score the next touch and even the score again.
This rule set has a lot going for it and everyone who’s serious about historical fencing should give it a try.