Fencing Safety Rules and Guidelines


Protective Equipment

In modern fencing, the protective equipment for each weapon is the same for all three weapons:

  • Foil
  • Epee
  • Sabre
  • Padded, long-sleeved white jacket: The jacket is tight-fitting, padded in the chest area with a high collar, and fastens on the side opposite the weapon hand. It usually extends below the groin.
  • Padded underarm protector: This is under the jacket on the weapon arm.
  • Round, padded breast protectors: Women's jackets have these in pockets inside the jackets.
  • White glove: The glove covers about half the forearm with extra padding on the backhand to protect the weapon hand; the opposing hand is bare.
  • Wire mesh mask: The mask protects the head and face. It has a padded bib, which covers the neck. The mask must be able to withstand about 25 pounds of force.
  • White knickers: The knickers are pants designed for fencing worn with above-the-calf, white socks.
  • Fencing shoes: The shoes offer extra support to the inside of the sole (optional).


The fencers compete (bout) on a rectangular strip of floor that is 5.9 to 6.6 ft (1.79 to 2.01 m) wide and 46 ft (14.02 m) long. In electric fencing, each fencer has a cord attached to the jacket, which is then connected to a reel on each short side of the strip. Each cord is spooled on a reel and each reel is connected to the scoring machine. The scoring machine is just off the middle of one long side of the strip. The machine has four lights (one white light and one colored light for each fencer).

On the other long side of the strip is the director. The director ensures that all equipment is safe, supervises the bout, starts and stops the action, observes and recounts the action, awards points and penalizes faults. A fencing bout lasts six minutes of actual fencing time, and is played until one player scores five points or until time runs out. In the case of a tie, play continues regardless of time until the tie-breaking point is scored.

Safety Rules

1. Mask, jacket, long pants, and glove must always be worn when fencing.

2. The weapons are to be treated with respect and awareness at all times. Weapons must be carried point down at all times. They are not toys. A weapon is only pointed at another person when that person is fully masked and ready to fence or drill.

3. Fencers must always be masked when weapons are raised, point forward. This means on all occasions, including discussion of actions and during drills.

4. Violent fencing actions are not permitted. Fencers must control parries and attacks so that the opponent is not injured by whipping or hard stabbing actions of the blade. If you cannot execute a flick properly, don't do it. Do not cause body contact nor use the unarmed hand against your opponent. Do not turn your back on your opponent.

5. Stop fencing instantly if you think something is wrong or if your opponent retreats and waves the unarmed hand or gives any sign of wanting to stop.

6. If you think a weapon is broken, stop fencing instantly.

7. If you counterattack, you are responsible for preventing body contact, injury, and weapons breakage.

8. If you feel a fencer is behaving in a dangerous or uncontrolled fashion, report it to an instructor immediately. They will speak to the fencer without disclosing your identity.

9. Inspect your weapons and mask each time you use them. If you are using club gear and find any problem please report it to an instructor. Do not put the item in question back into club storage without reporting it. Club fees cover routine breakage and maintenance. You will not be penalized for reporting broken gear.

10. Wear proper shoes for fencing (court or fencing shoes). Please be sure that shoes are clean when entering the fencing floor to avoid dust and moisture buildup which make the floor slippery.

11. Fencers on the floor have right of way. Persons not fencing are obligated to keep themselves and their gear clear of fencers on the floor.

12. Report injuries immediately to an instructor.  

Guidelines for Students

The goal is to teach the art and science of fencing in a safe environment of mutual respect and self discipline. Just as in a martial arts dojo, the traditions governing behavior in a fencing club have developed over the centuries.

These traditions promote respect for yourself, your opponent, the instructors, the weapons, and the tradition itself, as well as promoting safety. Repeated or egregious violations of protocols, safety or sportsmanship will not be tolerated. Violators may be dismissed from class or the venue at the coaches' or instructor’s discretion.

  •  It is expected that each student enter and exit the venue respectfully.
  • Students should respond to a coach's request or direction promptly and respectfully.
  • Each fencer will salute their opponent, the referee, and the audience before every bout, and salute their opponent and shake hands after every bout.
  • Club-owned masks, clothing and weapons should be returned to their bags/containers when class is over. During class equipment should be placed (not dropped!) on the floor during breaks. Jackets should be placed neatly in the bags/containers after each use, along with gloves and other club equipment.
  • Cheering for other fencers is encouraged, but name calling and displays of poor sportsmanship are not acceptable.
  • Food and beverages are discouraged near the fencing floor. Fencers are expected to clean up after themselves on the fencing floor and in the bathrooms. In the club, each fencer is responsible for maintaining a clean, safe environment for learning. We depend upon each another for the maintenance of the club venue.

The sport of fencing is, by its very nature, competitive. In any given encounter, one person will be victorious, and one will be defeated. Learning to accept victory gracefully is at least as important as learning that defeat can be a lesson. Thus fencing by its very nature teaches sportsmanship, resilience, and mental toughness.

The heart of a fencing club is its students. Following these guidelines, students and instructors can create a safe, fun learning environment.