Fencing rules for 2011- Fencing Update

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The Federation Internationale d’Escrime (FIE), fencing’s head body, passed several changes in the fencing rules in December 2010. The changes were subject to the few past occurring mishaps in the international events. The FIE, being the international fencing federation, is responsible for the rules of the international level competitions.

These changes include the elimination of Visor masks in the Sabre style of fencing. Another change of rule is the way a non-combativity (formerly known as passivity) will be entitled at FIE level.

The FIE had formerly attempted to enforce the Lexan mask in all the three weapons of fencing namely foil, sabre and epee for enabling the fencers a more visible sight while fencing. There were many fencers who defied the new enforcement, making a question for safety. Afterwards, at the 2009 European Junior Championship in November, an accident took place and the FIE made the mask optional for foil weapon. After research studies made on the safety issues of the masks manufactured, the FIE put a ban on Visor masks for foil and epee.

Considering the fact that the masks are not being used in two out of three fencing weapon disciplines, it was advised that the requirement should be lifted up for the sabre competitions too. The proposal got accepted, and now Visor masks are not to be used in any fencing discipline. Unfortunately, many fencers will still have to continue using the old ones until the manufacturers of new Lexan shields resume their supply in the market.

Another revision in the rules is regarding the non-combativity call in a fencing bout. Non-combativity is basically the call for unwillingness to play an opponent. It takes place either for a minute to rest or due to other reason stated by the fencer. This act is penalised to avoid unreasonable delays in a bout. The previously implemented rule stated that if a non-combativity was called, both the fencers receive a yellow card. If anyone had already been given a yellow card, then a red card is given, which awarded a point to the opponent.

An international fencer, Seth Kelsey was victimised by this rule against Boisse of France in a world competition. Kelsey, who has already been given yellow card, was allowed a rest to Boisse towards the end of a period and a non-combativity was called by the referee. The additional point awarded made a tie between the two and then a hit made Boisse win the bout.

According to the new law, there will be no penalty assessment for a non-combativity call. The match is shortened instead, for removing the one minute break called in by the fencers.

Under the new rule, a non-combativity shall occur if no hit for approximately one minute, no blade contact or too much distance between the two fencers for at least 15 seconds takes place. This means that if the two fencers are called for non-combativity, then the bout finishes and the next bout begins. If this happens in case of the final (9th) bout, then an overtime minute shall be called.

These two new rules are in effect from January 1, 2011 onwards.

About the author


Fencer for 25 years, Chairman of NYAC Fencing Team; Head Coach Men's and Women's Fencing at Columbia University; 2012 USA Modern Pentathlon Olympic Fencing Coach.

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