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Subject: Fencing's rules make no damn sense. rss

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Erik D
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Watched the men's foil competition. More often than not, if you get stabbed, then stab the other guy, you get the point. There's also some dumb right-of-way rule where you don't get the point if it's not your turn to get stabby. This is why fencing is only heard from every four years.
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erak wrote:
Watched the men's foil competition. More often than not, if you get stabbed, then stab the other guy, you get the point. There's also some dumb right-of-way rule where you don't get the point if it's not your turn to get stabby. This is why fencing is only heard from every four years.


I don't know a thing about fencing.

Off the cuff it seems like if you are in a sword fight with someone and you kill them, but they kill you, have you really succeeded?

As for the right of way rules, I don't really understand offsides in hockey. It's like the referees are saying can do better than the opposing defense oh wait but not that much better!

I have no idea if that is relevant, I just wanted to bring it up.
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Chapel
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I love fencing. It's the one sport where 18th century knickers is mandatory.
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Christopher Dearlove
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Like most sports, fencing starts with a basic concept, but then has to layer complications on board to make it work. Sports that have to layer so much on that the basic concept appears to get lost are generally a sign of failure.
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John Breckenridge
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The rules in my development are no taller than 5 feet and not in the front yard.
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Johnny O aka Johnny Soul
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I did take one semester of fencing in college. It was a 7:30 AM class. I was slightly injured by a 5 foot tall Asian girl who struck me on the ankle, drawing blood, with the tip of her foil while standing next to me. We were practicing the salute.

The protective tips were missing from all the foils and a couple up to several layers of adhesive tape were crossed over the blunted tips. Many of us looked like we were preparing to roast marshmallows rather than simulate highly structured mortal combat.

But yes, foil fencing has rigid rules. IIRC, the epee' is closer to real sword fighting and even then I don't think you are allowed to punch your opponent in the face with your hand guard.

I saw a demonstration of 15th Century sword fighting techniques comparing English style with Italian techniques. This was set in the context of the fight scenes of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo, of course, used an English style and Tybalt Italian style.
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Jeff
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(disclaimer: I know nothing about fencing for reals...)

But, in one of the Phule's Company (author: Robert Asprin) books, there's a section where a fencing match is important to the plot and they discuss some of the rules for fencing. They mention the right-of-way rules exist because, if you know you can't really be hurt by an attack, the tendency for a trained fencer would be to ignore the attack if they could get their own attack in faster and steal a point. In a real fight, you'd never ignore an attack (as you might get stabbed, even after you score on your opponent) so the book said the right of way rules were made to simulate this - that a fencer must first respond to an attack made by the opponent before launching his own (and if you fail to do so, the original attack would count as the scored point, even if the response technically scored first).

...or, at least, that's the way I remember it. So, based on flimsy memory of a humorous sci-fi novel explanation of fencing rules, it makes perfect sense...

Also, they mentioned Epee has no rules. So, there ya go!
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StevenE Smooth Sailing...
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My 10yo daughter is in her 3rd month of sabre having started with foil for two months prior to that (foil was the intro, sabre is the hook, definitely more aggressive)... I sort of understand the rules but can only see and apply them watching the video in slow motion.
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John James
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erak wrote:
Watched the men's foil competition. More often than not, if you get stabbed, then stab the other guy, you get the point. There's also some dumb right-of-way rule where you don't get the point if it's not your turn to get stabby. This is why fencing is only heard from every four years.

pffffft.
 
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StevenE Smooth Sailing...
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erak wrote:
Watched the men's foil competition. More often than not, if you get stabbed, then stab the other guy, you get the point. There's also some dumb right-of-way rule where you don't get the point if it's not your turn to get stabby. This is why fencing is only heard from every four years.


For some reason I am reminded of this scene

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Kelsey Rinella
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jeffreyac wrote:
Also, they mentioned Epee has no rules. So, there ya go!


You'd think this would make it more observer-friendly. Not so! Because your opponent can get a point just for a tiny touch on your thumb or toe an instant before you tap their heart, épée is generally very tentative, with each fencer searching for a tiny advantage to exploit. Sabre, by contrast, is like a swarm of angry bees. You can't see what the hell is going on, but it's dauntingly aggressive.
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Andrew Brannan
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Here's how I understand it boils down.

Foil and Saber: The only differences is what part of the sword you can hit with. Foil is point only, saber is point and edge. Fights/points are to the simulated death (Head and body only targets)

Right-of-way: If your opponent is making an attack, you must deal with the attack before launching your own attack. Similarly, you must be able to clear out your opponent's weapon when striking, else you lose the point.

Epee: Fights are to simulated first blood, rather than simulated death. Touches count anywhere on the opponent.

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Andy Leighton
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abrannan wrote:
Here's how I understand it boils down.

Foil and Saber: The only differences is what part of the sword you can hit with. Foil is point only, saber is point and edge. Fights/points are to the simulated death (Head and body only targets)


Not quite. In sabre arm hits count too. In foil you can't go for the head.

I think right of way is slightly different between foil and sabre too. Also sabre doesn't allow a flèche attack - basically crossing of the feet is against the rules. Flèche is allowed in foil and épée.
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Ingo Backert
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I also know next to nothing of the fencing rules but for the general concept of hitting the opponent but I highly enjoy watching those fights. However, I must admit that most of the time I have no idea what is going on as my untrained eye is just not cut out to follow the movement of the foil.
When I was a child, fencing was the #1 sport I wanted to pursue but no fencing clubs were around unfortunately. Even now I'm still itching to poke my enemies deftly and with grace. whistle
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Paul DeStefano
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abrannan wrote:

Foil and Saber: The only differences is what part of the sword you can hit with. Foil is point only, saber is point and edge. Fights/points are to the simulated death (Head and body only targets)


Head is not a target in Foil. Arms Are a target in saber.

Otherwise, your breakdown if fairly close.

If foil there is ONE legal attack. Lunge (called Fleche if your feet leave the ground). If your form does not meet the requirement for a lunge (leg and elbow positions), the attack is moot. If you do not advance, the attack is moot.

In foil, if you are backing up, the other guy taps your foil, impales himself on yours and then hits you - it is his point. Even after impaling himself.

Direction and intent need to be present.

Source: Silver medalist NY state open foil competition, 1996. Me.
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Scott Russell
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My daughter joined Michigan State's (club) fencing team and about three years in, she was able to answer all of my questions about the rules. (She does saber, but is considering also adding epee.)

The reasons behind the valid target areas are interesting.
Saber was a cavalry weapon, so edges are allowed, but leg hits don't count because they "didn't matter" in combat.

Foil was a duelist's weapon and I don't recall the details, but targeting only vital areas became the "proper" way to fence duels.

Epee is just brawling, so everything counts.

Right of way was the toughest for me to understand. Basically, as described above, if someone starts an attack*, his opponent must counter or dodge before launching his own (for it to count). The judges often call it a tie if both lights come on (indicating touches) if both started at once. Also, the lamps both won't come on if there is a certain amount of time between touches (hundreds of milliseconds). So if fencer A has right of way, gets touched before landing his touch, but then does, he gets point unless there was a delay between the touches (in which case only the defender's touch counts).

Saber parries also have to be on the top third of the blade to count as a parry otherwise the initial fencer still has right of way.

So lots of goofy little rules, but still fun to watch. I can predict the judges calls (correctly) about 2/3 of the time now. (In person, not sure about on television.) And that's not far off my ability to guess if a pitch was a ball or a strike....

The saber world is all abuzz because after the Olympics they are changing the rules to move the sabers closer together before starting. I guess this is due to maneuvering by the East European fencers to counteract the athleticism of the Koreans.

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Andy Szymas
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Dearlove wrote:
Like most sports, fencing starts with a basic concept, but then has to layer complications on board to make it work. Sports that have to layer so much on that the basic concept appears to get lost are generally a sign of failure.


Say's the guy on the board gaming website for maximum irony
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J Mathews
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Geosphere wrote:

If foil there is ONE legal attack. Lunge (called Fleche if your feet leave the ground). If your form does not meet the requirement for a lunge (leg and elbow positions), the attack is moot. If you do not advance, the attack is moot.

I'm pretty sure that an advance is also part of a legal attack. Right-of-way is judged by the extension of the arm combined with a forward movement. Otherwise it is just a counterattack and has no right-of-way.

Personally, I was always partial to foil. Epee is too much of a free-for-all where an exposed thumb could screw your best laid plans. Saber, while flashy, was always too fast for me to appreciate the strategy and screwed up my foil technique for weeks when I indulged. I liked the structure that foil provided, even though the right-of-way rules could be kind of screwy if you aren't actually involved in the sport.

As for the OP and why fencing is only heard from once every 4 years: it has more to do with a lack of professional league nationally and minimal American success internationally than any unfamiliarity with rules. No one cares about short-track speed skating or synchronized swimming more than once every 4 years either and they are pretty straightforward.
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Momiji Take-sumi
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Weird, never heard of right of way rules when fencing saber in high school.
 
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J Mathews
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red black wrote:
Weird, never heard of right of way rules when fencing saber in high school.

That's because those rules usually include parry/riposte instead of just attack/counter-attack
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Momiji Take-sumi
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EventHorizon wrote:
red black wrote:
Weird, never heard of right of way rules when fencing saber in high school.

That's because those rules usually include parry/riposte instead of just attack/counter-attack


If you get hit hard enough you'll want to parry but getting points off being scratched is why I never liked electric.
 
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Adam Tucker
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frumpish wrote:
erak wrote:
Watched the men's foil competition. More often than not, if you get stabbed, then stab the other guy, you get the point. There's also some dumb right-of-way rule where you don't get the point if it's not your turn to get stabby. This is why fencing is only heard from every four years.


I don't know a thing about fencing.

Off the cuff it seems like if you are in a sword fight with someone and you kill them, but they kill you, have you really succeeded?

As for the right of way rules, I don't really understand offsides in hockey. It's like the referees are saying can do better than the opposing defense oh wait but not that much better!

I have no idea if that is relevant, I just wanted to bring it up.


Offsides, in hockey and pretty much any sport that has such a penalty, is to prevent cherry picking. Considering the greater likelihood of scoring on a penalty shot vs. a power play, cherry picking would be a viable strategy, but would detract immensely from both the skill of play and enjoyment to watch.
Given that such play is detrimental, rules are needed to prevent it; but such rules need to be fairly clear and relatively easy to determine an infraction. For example, in hockey, they could change the rule to something about being in the same zone as at least 1 defender when a change of possession occurs, but that requires more strict definitions "change of possession", referees to remember the positions of all players (most importantly those away from the puck) from a couple up to several seconds ago, encourage sending at least 1 forward to the bench on a change of possession (quasi-cherry picking) or make the refs monitor that as well, as well as a few other difficulties.

Note that even if a rule was once as simple as possible, it is more than likely that a rule has since changed incrementally over the years, to encourage attractive attacking style play.

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Jeff
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Geosphere wrote:


Source: Silver medalist NY state open foil competition, 1996. Me.


Damn, that and you forge blades, too??? You are DEFINITELY being recruited for my team to survive the coming apocalypse!

(in all seriousness, that's pretty cool. I got as far as two classes in fencing in college, where they tried to teach me how to stand and hold the foil, and how to learn point control by making tiny circles. When I realized it'd be a long time before I'd be swinging on chandeliers and battling pirates for the hand of princesses, my interest waned...)
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