These pages have been created from material presented to a refereeing seminar given by Keith Smith at Bristol (and later at Kingston Fencing Club).   The pages have been photocopied, scanned then OCR'd (converted to text by charcter recognition).   There will inevitably be errors which were not present in the original.

Article from the Sword, part 1

Article from the Sword, part 2

Hand signals

Faults and penalties

(list for overview)

Fundamentals of fencing

General hints for better refereeing

Epee refereeing hints

Foil refereeing hints

Sabre refereeing hints

5. The salute at the beginning and end of the fight is mandatory. A fencer who does not salute at the end of the fight will lose the hit scored and will be fined $500, which if not paid will result in a ban. Referees should remind fencers at the start of a fight that they must salute and shake hands at the end of the fight or be penalised.

6. Referees are reminded that a fencer may lift up his mask once the referee has called halt. However, if a fencer refuses to obey the referee, for example not coming on guard immediately when told to, this is punished by the "refusal to obey" rule and results in a yellow card.

7. Unjustified complaints to the referee will be penalised by a yellow card. For example, if fencers ask about the phrasing of a hit in an aggressive manner, they could receive a yellow card. Only the fencer can speak to the referee during an individual competition. Coaches and team officials have no right to speak to the referee and should receive a red card the first time they try and a black card if they continue.

8. To help the smooth running of competitions, fencers must be ready to fence when called. This means with all fencing kit on and with the appropriate weapon in hand or be penalised by a yellow card. If fencers come on guard and then have to pull up their socks or adjust their hair so that it doesn't cover the target, a yellow card should be given.

Common Faults
The FIE believes the most common faults of referees are:

1. A lack of standardisation in fencing terminology and gestures (the FIE approved hand signals).

2. A lack of rigour in applying the penalties as prescribed in the rules.

3. A lack of knowledge of the rules.

4. Mistakes over defining the attack, especially at foil.

5. Not noticing that a fencer bends his arm during an attack and therefore loses the right of way.

6. Allowing attacks in which the attacker's arm is vertical and the point of the weapon pointing to the ceiling (foil).

7. Not separating attack, and counter-attack.

8. Failure to penalise corps-a-corps and other faults during the bout.

9. Allowing non-regulation kit to be used and failing to confiscate equipment that fails the tests at the start of a fight.

10. Not knowing all the rules by heart.

FIE sabre referees are considered to be the best at applying the conventions and rules correctly and in a standard way. Epee referees allow too much violence and foil is the worst refereed, because of confusion over the attack.

The Attack The seminar defined the attack as "the initial offensive action, with straightening of the arm and the point of the weapon continually menacing the valid target of the opponent. Any pause in the extending of the arm, or any bending of the arm once the attack has started, allows the right of attack to pass to the opponent". It was added that at sabre this can be with the point or the cutting edge of the weapon. It was stressed that the arm does not have to be straight, but does have to be continuously straightening and proceeding towards the valid target of the opponent.
  There was heated debate about how you could attack the back shoulder and it was agreed that the point would need to be raised a little to allow this, but that if it was pointing at the ceiling, with the arm in a vertical position, then this was not an attack. It was added that the attack could be delivered with no foot movements, or with a step forward, a lunge or a fleche (at foil).
  The FIE have asked foil referees to be as strict in their interpretation of the attack as sabre referees. In my opinion this continues to be a difficult area.
  The seminar also gave the FIE Referees Committee a definition of the point in line. It should be noted this is not the same wording as in the rule book, but is how they want referees to apply this rule. The point in line is when a fencer has a straight arm with the point of the weapon threatening the valid target of the opponent in the high line. The arm must not bend, otherwise the point in line loses the priority. At sabre the fencer must hit with the point and not the edge of the blade. The point in line is valid if the fencer is standing still, going backwards or going forwards. To stop the point in line having validity the opponent must deflect the opponent's blade (beat, parry, prise de fer).
  Overall this seminar was very useful and showed the direction that the FIE wants referees to go. To be selected by the FIE for world championships, referees will have to be active in at least two weapons and to referee regularly at World Cup competitions. It was felt important that referees should be known by fencers and coaches, as this would make the task of refereeing easier. In connection with this last point, the FIE intend to prune the list of referees severely.
  Refereeing is not an easy job and certainly is most difficult at foil at present. However, all referees must sup- port each other, must have a good understanding of the rules and above all must understand the conventions at the weapon they are refereeing. I do not feel that you can referee well unless you do it regularly. Fencers and coaches also have to realise that, if they make the task of refereeing so unpleasant that many referees do not wish to continue, they cannot complain when there are no referees at a competition. This is particularly true when we are trying to encourage new blood into refereeing. It is certainly true that we can all work to raise the level of refereeing, but it is equally true that many fencers and coaches are equally unaware of all the rules and indeed the conventions of their weapon.
  In conclusion, I feel the way to improve refereeing is to get fencers and referees to collaborate. I hope next season that we can hold seminars, possibly at squad training or at top fencing clubs, where there can be a genuine interaction between fencers and referees, so that each can explain to the other their particular problems. At present we do not have many carrots to offer referees. I hope weapon committees will consider seriously who they take to World Cup events so as to encourage active and good quality referees. The BFA Referees Committee intends to hold a seminar at the Bristol Open next September and I hope as many referees as possible will make the effort to attend. It would also be helpful if coaches and fencers could attend at least part of the seminar.