Foil Fencing Rules

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Whether you’re well acquainted with foil fencing or you’ve never held a sword in your life, there are always those “what just happened?” moments when playing, or watching a fencing bout.

Have no fear, because with a little bit of studying, practice, and Fencing Prodigy pizazz, you’ll be a fencing wiz in no time.

The rules of foil fencing are generally simple. There are some differentiations between the rules of foil, and the rules of sabre fencing, and of course epee fencing. But generally they share the same concepts and rules.

Once you understand the general rules of fencing, being able to understand the differences between each style will come easy.

The main objective is always going to be the same; stay on the piste, stab your opponent (in their target area of course).

Where Does Fencing Take Place

General Fencing Rules

Learning a new sport is challenging, so we’ll keep these general rules fairly simple.

General Rules

There are a few things to remember when fencing that you may not think are important, but are. Any of these rules breaking could result in, restarting the bout, being given a card, or losing space on the piste.

  1. Saluting with your sword before a bout, with your mask off
  2. Standing within the piste at all times
  3. Involving your off-sword hand in any way
  4. Unsportsman behavior
  5. Walking past your opponent, or turning around 
  6. Dropping a sword


Like every other sport, there are referees who decide the outcome of each bout. These refs are usually called directors.

These directors, with the help of a light that dings whenever the tip of your sword is pressed down determine who scores a point, and when.

Let’s get into the perspective of a foil fencer:

The match has started and you want to score a point. So what do you do? You thrust your sword into your opponent’s target area. 

If you miss the target area, or land with the side of your blade, no point will be scored.

If you land a hit, your light will ding and one point will be added to your score. Once you reach fifteen points, you’ll win the match.


The fencing uniform is relatively strict. You don’t see much differences between each fencer by just looking at them. You might see a flag or two on their mask and lamè, different color shoes, but that’s about it.

So let’s start on the equipment fencers are allowed to wear, from head to toe:


Every fencer needs a mask, obviously. And this piece of equipment is mandatory. Many fencers have subtle designs on their mask including the flag of the country they’re coming from. 


Another mandatory piece of equipment is the lamè, or the jacket. The white jacket every fencer needs in their wardrobe, is a heavy jacket that usually zips on the side or the back. This jacket allows the wire to run from the sword handle, through the sleeve,body, and out the bottom into the buzzer.


Or if you speak modern english, pants. These white pants are mandatory but there aren’t so many restrictions with them. Some pants go all the way down and some stop at the knee. They come with overalls so they don’t slip off during those huge lunge recoveries.

Rules for foil fencing

Aside from the general rules of fencing, there are a few foil-specific rules you need to keep in mind the next time you find yourself in a bout.

The target area 

In foil fencing, the target area is where you’re aiming to hit on your opponent’s body. The target area in foil fencing specifically is the upper body.


Foil Fencing
  • The neck
  • The head
  • Arms


  • The shoulders
  • Crotch 
  • Back

Basically, anywhere on a fencer’s jacket is a target.

The right of way (priority) 

In foil fencing, the right of way rule is applied. Unfortunately. But on the bright side, it’s easier to understand than most people make it out to be.

What does it mean to have right of way or priority?

To have priority or right of way in fencing, it means that the judges have decided that you are the aggressor. You’re fencing with proper form and aggression in order to score points. 

When is the right of way rule needed during fencing?

The right of way rule is applied to a couple different situations.

  1. When both players touch at the same time.
  2. When the time has expired and neither player has more points than the other

When both players land an on target hit at the same time, it’s up to the judges to decide who gets the point. This is usually depending on who initiated the attack.

Also, at the end of a fencing match, if it ends in a tie, there’s sudden death. One player is given right of way during the entirety of a one minute bout. And if that one minute ends and no player has scored, the fencer with priority is considered the winner.

How do I get right of way?

There are several ways to get right of way and they all include things you should already be doing.

  1. Extend your arm before lunging, or stepping into an attack. Always attack sword first!
  2. Parry and riposte.
  3. Flinch your opponent.
  4. Step towards your opponent, not away.
  5. Basically any kind of movement that shows your intent to attack!

Attacking in foil fencing

If you do happen to be new to fencing, you might think it’s just swinging and hitting your sword on your opponent to gain points. 

In a way, yeah you’re kind of right. But let’s not forget, aside from hitting the target area you need to make sure the tip of your blade is thrust into your opponent.

There’s a button at the end of each blade in fencing, and in foil fencing, that button needs to be pressed in order for a hit to be registered. Hitting your opponent with the side of your blade will not register a point.

The foil, like the epee, is a thrusting weapon. Unlike the sabre, which can be thrust or cut  into the opponent.

How is foil fencing different from epee and sabre?

There are only a few rules that set these forms of fencing apart. Aside from different fighting styles and movement, there are only a few main differences.

Right of way
Target areaTorso, arms, neck, backEverything from head to waistAnywhere on the body

Pretty simple right? After paying some attention to other fencers, and practising yourself. It’ll take no time at all for you to be a foil fencing master, and be able to differ the rules between each of the types of fencing.

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