1.13 What is right-of-way?
Right-of-way is the set of rules used to determine who is awarded the
point when there is a double touch in foil or sabre (ie. both fencers
hit each other in the same fencing time). It is detailed in the
FIE Rules of Competition, Articles 232-237 (foil) and 416-423
The core assumption behind right-of-way is that a fencing bout is
always in one of three states:
-- nothing significant is happening
-- the fencers are conceiving and executing their actions
-- one fencer is controlling the action and tempo and the other
is trying to gain control.
Since no points will be scored in the first situation, we can ignore
it. In the second situation, the fencers' actions have equal
significance, and it is impossible to award a touch. Both touches
will be annulled and the bout will be resumed where it was
The third situation is the tricky one. The controlling fencer has
the right-of-way, and his hit has precedence over any hit from the
other fencer. The job of the director is to decide which
fencer was NOT controlling the action, and annul his touch. If he
cannot decide, the director should abstain, annul BOTH hits, and
resume the action where it left off.
Control (and right-of-way) is taken whenever one fencer threatens
the other with his blade. A threat can be either an attack (see
question 1.14), or a "point in line" that is established before
the opponent attacks.
Control (and right-of-way) is lost when an attack misses, falls
short, is broken off, or is deflected away from the target by a
parry or other engagement from the defender. The defender has a
split-second window of opportunity to return the attack
(ie. riposte) before the attacker recovers; if he does so, he
takes over right-of-way and the tables have turned. Otherwise it
is a toss-up; the first fencer to initiate an attack will sieze
the right-of-way anew.
The right-of-way relationships between common fencing actions are as
- derobement has right-of-way over attacks on the blade
- attacks on the blade have right-of-way over the point in line
- point in line has right-of-way over the attack
- the simple attack has right-of-way over the stop-hit
- the stop-hit has right-of-way over the renewal of the attack
- the stop-hit in time has right-of-way over the compound attack
- the riposte has right-of-way over the renewal of the attack
- the counter-riposte has right-of-way over the renewal of the riposte
- the remise of the attack has right-of-way over the delayed riposte
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