Assessing the 2012-2013 Rule Changes


Today the USFA released an 11 page rules digest on changes to effect competition in the 2012-2013 season. I shuffled through all 40 new approved rules and dumbed them down to “What you need to know,” “Other key takeaways,” and the “Why the hell didn’t the USFA address this rule” category. Read on.

 What you need to know

 T.15.2- Requiring fencers to wear full fencing gear while warming up or practicing at nationals.

This is pretty non-controversial. We are a low-risk sport, and I often see fencers taking lessons with their coaches with nothing more than a mask, a glove, and a weapon. This is a good step in continuing the tradition of keeping fencing safe.

t.45- Uniform letters must be 8-10 cm


M.30.2- Only sabre masks can be used in sabre, only epee masks can be used in epee, only foil masks can be used in foil

Makes sense. I have had situations where I fence folks wearing a foil bib and had my weapon ground out. Solution? Buy yourself a Leon Paul Mask with an interchangeable bib and you cover 2/3 weapons.

M.28.1/4, M.34.2- Tabs must be on the back of foil/sabre lames

Moms and dads, pull out your checkbooks for a new lame! Just kidding, it’s probably an easy retrofit. The tabs keep the alligator chords on better and will minimize the chance of a chord popping out mid-action.

Other key takeaways

  1. Zip Tips are legal for use in USA Fencing competition
  2. You can still put your name on your rear leg

Why the hell didn’t the USFA address this rule?

No rule sparks more debate and controversy among referees and epeeists than the 15 second/1 minute non-combativity rule (We actually had a veterans tournament in our club recently where we had to call non-combativity on sabrists. We should have murdered them both). I happen to be a big supporter of the rule in terms of the ability to use it tactically in a bout, as well as forcing fencers to engage.

Unfortunately, this is the single most subjectively enforced rule in fencing.

The text reads as follows:

“T.87.4 When both fencers make clear their unwillingness to fence, the Referee will immediately call “Halt!”

If one of the two criteria below is present, there is unwillingness to fight.

a) Criterion of time: approximately one minute of fencing without a touch.

b) Absence of blade contact or excessive distance (greater than the distance of an advance-lunge) for at least 15 seconds.”

Some referees have enforced this rule like a shotclock (me, others)

Other referees don’t track the time passed and do it based on gut feeling

Some referees nullify the rule altogether out of protest

The USFA needed to step in and provide clarification and failed to do so.  Thus, for the next year (and presumably longer) the non-combativity rules will continue to be a source of confusion for fencers.

So, that’s all you need to know about the 2012-2013 rules. Don’t panic. None of them are game changers.


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