GUIDELINES ON SAFETY IN FENCING FOR FENCERS,
COACHES, REFEREES, CLUBS AND COMPETITION ORGANISERS
- These Guidelines for all age groups are issued
by British Fencing to ensure that Fencing remains one of the safest
sports. Please study them carefully and always follow them.
- Almost all serious fencing injuries are caused
by a broken blade, so please pay particular attention to sections 2(g)
- Fencers should apply these Guidelines to anyone
with whom they are fencing, as well. as to themselves If your opponent's
blade is soft, for example, you are the one that may suffer if it
- Coaches have a special responsibility for safety
during training and should especially study section 4. They should also
give very careful consideration to the circumstances in which they are
prepared to instruct pupils who are not wearing protective
- Referees are the guardians of safety in
competitions. They have the authority to prevent the use of unsafe
equipment and to penalise dangerous play; and it is in the best
interests of the fencers and the sport that they should always do
- These Guidelines have been drawn up in
accordance with contemporary Rules for Competitions. In the event of
these rules changing and laying down more rigorous safety requirements,
the requirements of the rules will naturally override the
- Accidents and injuries are rare in fencing. If
everyone were to follow these guidelines all the time, they would be
- James Chambers
- 8th Edition - 1997
2) Fencers' Accident Prevention Responsibility:
Fencers are responsible for ensuring that their personal equipment
is in a safe condition, and in particular that it conforms to the
- a) Masks: Fencers are strongly
recommended to wear masks with 100mm bibs and should ensure when buying
a new mask that the bib is of this length. No attempt should be made to
repair the steel mesh of a mask; if the mask is weak or damaged, it
should be thrown away. Masks should be checked for the following
- i) Weakness due to rusting.
- ii) Softness, holes or excessive deformation
from the original shape.
- iii) The bib not properly sewn on.
- iv) Gaps at the side or under the chin.
- v) Poor means of retention on the head, making
the mask liable to come off. To reduce the risk, British Fencing
strongly recommends that every fencer wears a mask backstrap. A
backstrap is mandatory for British Fencing competitions. Referees can
apply to those without backstraps the same penalty as for appearing on
the piste with equipment which does not confirm with the Rules for
Competitions. A back-strap consists of elastic at least 2 inches wide,
secured to the mask side mesh at each end, passing UNDER the mask spring
piece at the back, and tensioned to keep the mask firmly in
- b) Jackets & Breeches:
- i) Jackets should be of the correct length and
fastened on the opposite side to the sword arm.
- ii) There should be a minimum of 4 inches
(10cms) overlap between breeches and jacket when fencer is on
- iii) On no account should clothing be used which
is damaged, show visible tears, or has been corroded or weakened by
- iv) With electric weapons, it is particularly
important that light-weight jackets should not be used and that in epee
a jacket made of material of over 12ozs per square yard is used.
- v) Breeches should be closed below the
- vi) In non electric fencing only, proper
breeches may be replaced by strong full-length trousers or tracksuit
trousers, provided all pockets or zips are sewn up or taped.
- vii) The strength of Kevlar protection clothing
may be reduced if the Wash & Care instructions are not followed.
Copies are available from Leon Paul Equipment, Units 1&2 Cedar Way,
Camley St., London NW1 0JQ
- c) Plastrons: These should be of a double
thickness material with no seams under the armpit, and they should not
be attached to the jacket in any way. A simple under-jacket or T-shirt
is not sufficient. Plastrons should always be worn when fencing.
- d) Socks: Socks should be long enough and
remain OVER the knee during fencing.
- e) Shoes: Shoes should have a sole which
grips the floor, and should be replaced if the soles are worn
- f) Gloves: The gauntlet should be long
enough and firm enough to stretch and remain over the sleeve of the
jacket whilst fencing. Gloves should not have any opening other than is
necessary to admit the body wire, they should be inspected regularly and
any holes and tears should be repaired.
- g) Weapons: Weapons should be regularly
checked to ensure they are in a safe usable condition.
- Blades: Blades should be observed and tested to
see whether any portion is "soft", that is to say whether any portion of
the blade bends more than the rest. "Softness" indicates a dangerous
weakness which may lead to a break
- A 'soft' portion is indicated when a blade bends
into an irregular or uneven curve. The portion which bends more than the
rest is 'soft'. A new blade should be tested by placing the point on the
floor and depressing the top about six inches and checking that it bends
evenly. Blades can be checked similarly during the non-fencing breaks in
- i) If blades develop sharp edges, these should
be rounded with an emery cloth; they should NEVER be filed or
- ii) Sabre blade points should not have become
sharp by continual scraping on the piste.
- iii) The point of a non-electric foil must be
covered with waxed thread, plastic, or with some other non-metallic
- Guards: Continuous use of a weapon can leave
very sharp edges round the guard circumference, and these can produce
quite severe cuts on the opponent's knee, leg or hand. Such guards
should not be used.
- h) Women's Breast Protectors: Women fencers
should consider carefully the type of breast protectors they wear.
Well-developed fencers in particular should decide whether conventional
protectors give them adequate all round protection or whether they would
feel safer and more comfortable wearing protectors which provide greater
coverage. These are available from a number of manufacturers.
FIE Requirements: The FIE has laid
down equipment standards which fencers must observe in order to compete
in the Olympic Games, in World Championships and in all 'A' grade
events. These standards apply to masks, jackets, breeches and
- The British Fencing Board has decided that,
except as may be laid down in these Guidelines, these standards will not
apply to fencers in UK competitions (apart from 'A'; grade events). It
will review this decision from time to time and will endeavour to give
not less than one full Season's notice of any change (with the possible
exception of blades).
3. Broken Blades: Penetration by a
broken blade is almost the only cause of serious fencing injuries. One
of the most important accident prevention measures is, therefore, to
reduce the possibility of a blade breaking during a bout. There are
three ways of doing this:
- a) Never use a blade which shows signs of
'softness' (see 2(g) above). Consider using a blade made out of a
special steel, such as maraging steel, which on average will last longer
than a blade of conventional steel.
- b) Never fence against anyone using a blade
which shows signs of 'softness'.
4. Accident Prevention During
Lessons: During lessons the instructor and pupil should wear
full protective clothing (except for class instruction - see below).
However, the instructor may consider that there are particular
circumstances in which it is inappropriate for full protective clothing
to be worn, but instructors must be aware of the dangers, in different
circumstances, of not wearing any particular items of regulation
clothing themselves, or of permitting their pupils not to do so, and
should draw pupils' attention to the accident or injury which could
result because full protective clothing is not worn.
- Nevertheless, the following items should always
be worn, even if the instructor is giving a lesson to an experienced
pupil, because any relaxation will probably be copied by less
- The instructor should wear:- A mask; a
fencing or teaching jacket; a teaching plastron, a glove; and some form
of leg covering.
- The pupil should wear:- A mask and a
- Instructors giving individual or class lessons
must decide what clothing they wish their pupils to wear in order that
they are not put at risk. However, if fencers are not wearing full
protective clothing, the instructor must draw their attention to the
fact that an accident or injury could result.
- In law, the instructor will be considered to be
negligent if a class member is injured during a class through a cause
which is foreseeable. The instructor must ensure that:
- a) The venue is adequate for the
- b) The venue has a fully equipped first aid
- c) The class does not exceed recommended numbers
for the available space and the available number of instructors.
- d) All fencers are aware of emergency evacuation
- e) All fencers are aware of an established code
of safety practice.
- f) All fencers have been advised of the correct
use of the equipment and the potential dangers of mishandling it.
- g) All fencers have been told to stop fencing
immediately if a blade breaks or a point or button falls off.
- h) All fencers carry their weapons by the pommel
with the points towards the floor when they are not fencing or
- i) All fencers have been taught not to put on
their masks using both hands while holding a weapon.
- If there are any fencers in the class who have
health problems (e.g asthma, diabetes) which may cause difficulties
during training, the instructor is fully aware of the best way of
dealing with this.
- NEVER give the instruction to begin fencing
without checking that all fencers are wearing their masks
- NEVER under any circumstances leave a class
5. Accident Prevention in Clubs and at
Competitions: Club officers, instructors and all members of
competition organising committees have responsibility for ensuring that
the accident prevention precautions in respect of premises are observed.
They should also ensure as far as practicable that individual fencers
observe their own accident prevention responsibilities. They also have
responsibility for ensuring that the rules to prevent accidents during
lessons are observed.
- Non-fencers should not use the fencing area as a
thoroughfare, or if this is unavoidable, must take particular care when
crossing an area on which fencing is taking place.
- When laying out pistes, due consideration should
be given: to the age group, the weapon and the standard of fencing; to
enabling the president to be at a safe distance from the fencing on the
pistes between which he is standing; and to the possibility of
non-fencers being too close to the pistes.
- The following should be minimum
- i) between the edges of adjacent pistes on the
side where unattended boxes are placed: not less than 1 metre.
- ii) between the edges of adjacent pistes on the
side used for refereeing: 2.5 metres. If the distance is less, the
referee should wear some form of protection, such as a mask or
- iii) between any person (e.g. scores, box
operators and standing, sitting or moving, spectators) and the edge of
the piste: 1.25 metres.
- iv) total distance between the rear line of two
pistes placed end-on: not less than 2 metres.
- v) at least 2 metres beyond each back line
should remain unobstructed by a wall, chairs, cables, fencing equipment
or by anything else which might trip up a fencer passing quickly over
the back line either backwards or forwards or which might injure a
fencer who collides with it.
- Competition organisers should ask referees as
far as practicable to ensure that these Guidelines are observed, in
particular those concerning personal equipment, including a check that
proper plastrons are worn, and the recommendation concerning spectators
and officials. Checks on competitors' personal equipment, especially
blades and masks (using a mask tester), are strongly recommended.
6. Premises: The following accident
prevention requirements relate to the premises used by fencers and to
the area where fencing take place.
- a) The fencing area should be such that fencers
performing all normal but nevertheless fast fencing movements are not in
danger of slipping.
- b) A length of at least 2 metres beyond each
back line should remain unobstructed by a wall, chairs, cables, fencing
equipment, or by anything else which might trip up a fencer passing
quickly over the back line wither backwards or forwards, or which might
injure a fencer who collides with it.
- c) Spectators should not be allowed so near the
sides of the piste that there is a risk of collision with a fencer who
fleches off the piste nor any risk that they may be struck by a weapon,
due for instance to a wide parry. Furthermore, spectators should not be
so near the sides of the piste that they force the referee, judge,
scorer, or person working the box so close to the piste that they risk
- d) Cables on the ground should be arranged so
that they will not trip up fencers or spectators and should be taped
7. Mains Operated
- a) Mains operated equipment should not be used
unless it is correctly earthed using a plug with an earth pin.
- b) Mains cables should not be extended by
joining to another cable. The cable from the mains supply plug to the
equipment should be a single continuous length.
- c) Only heavy duty mains cable should be
- d) Mains cables should not be run over or under
the metallic piste.
- e) It is dangerous to open the case or to
attempt any repair on mains operated equipment if anyone is connected to
- f) A fuse should not be replaced before a
qualified electrician has found and rectified the fault which caused the
fuse to blow.
- g) Electrical equipment should be used only if
it is made by a reputable manufacturer and it should not be modified
except by the manufacturer.
8. Legal Responsibility: A fencer
is generally deemed at Law to accept the ordinary risks involved in
fencing. Excluding from this general statement are fencers who come into
certain limited categories, notably those Under 18.
- Examples of ordinary risks which a fencer is
deemed to accept are accidents arising from breakage of blades, or from
normal bodily contact with an opponent, arising in the normal course of
a bout. However, a fencer may possibly be legally liable if he injures
an opponent by an action which is illegal under the Rules of fencing or
is recklessly violent, or if he or she knowingly uses an unsafe blade.
- h) All fencers are strongly recommended to
obtain insurance cover by joining the British Fencing
- This cover is provided automatically among the
benefits of membership. Fencers should avoid any risk of legal liability
by fencing within the Rules and ensuring that their equipment is
- The British Fencing Rules for Competitions make
it clear that each fencer is responsible for the safety of his own
equipment and that the organisers and referees are not responsible.
Organisers of competitions will normally wish to include a clause on
entry forms, pool sheets and brochures advertising competitions seeking
to exclude liability. A suggested form of words is as follows:
- "Each fencer is personally responsible for
making sure that his or her clothing and equipment conform to the FIE
and British Fencing rules and are in good condition. Neither British
Fencing nor the organisers of the competition, nor any official or
referee involved in the competition is responsible for these matters, or
for any accident, loss or damage to persons or property however
- The degree of liability which may fall on
organisers and referees is unclear. In any event, they should take care
to ensure so far as is reasonably possible that the Rules governing
safety of equipment and conduct are properly enforced.
- When fencers under the age of 18 are entering a
competition, the entry form should contain provision for it to be signed
not only by the competitor but also by a parent or guardian consenting
to the fencer taking part in the competition.
- The BFA has an indemnity policy against legal
liability. The insurers have agreed that all BFA competitions fall
within this policy.
9. Accident Report: British Fencing
has a responsibility to keep safety standards under constant review and
to improve them when ever possible. One of the most important ways of
doing this is by reviewing all accidents which are serious enough to
cause a fencer to abandon a competition or to take no further part in a
club session or a fencing course; or which prevent an official from
continuing his duties or compel a spectator to leave the premises. A
person with first hand knowledge of such a fencing accident is therefore
asked to complete a British Fencing Accident Report and send it to the
BFA Secretary as soon after the accident as possible
10. First Aid: Club and competition
premises should have a first aid box available. There is usually
considerable difficulty in positioning the box where it can be quickly
found when needed but at the same time is not accessible to fencers who
wish to use adhesive tape and other items to repair weapons and
clothing. Club Chairman and Competition Organisers should find the best
solution for their particular circumstances. Regularly, before and after
each competition, the box should be checked and restocked as
- When a doctor or someone with first-aid
knowledge is present among club members or competitors, there should be
some means of finding them quickly if needed. Clubs and competition
organisers should know the telephone number of the nearest doctor and
hospital, and this information should be clearly displayed in all
fencing premises, together with the position of the nearest
- The minimum contents of a first-aid box
should be:- One pair of scissors; one box adhesive plaster (eg
Elastoplast); two triangular bandages; two 2" crepe bandages; one 3"
crepe bandage; safety pins; one small bottle disinfectant (eg Dettol);
one packet sterile gauze swabs; approx 2ozs cotton wool; one roll 1"
adhesive tape (eg Micropore or Elastoplast); one packet adhesive strip
(eg Steristrips); one small bottle Tinct.Benz.Co. (Friars Balsam);
Polythene bag to hold ice cubes.
- Cold treatment of sprains and pulled muscles is
most easily and cheaply obtained by using ice cubes. Alternatives are a
PR spray which is quick and easy to use on the piste, or commercially
available and chemically activated packs which become extremely cold
when crumpled and are small enough to be bandaged in place enabling the
fencer to continue on the piste.
- First-aid treatment needs care and thought. Use
common sense in how you apply these guidelines so as to avoid making
matters worse by incorrect intervention.
- Organisers of competitions should consider
inviting a member of the St. John Ambulance or Red Cross to be
- The following are suitable
- Cuts: If cuts are dirty, they must first
be cleaned with disinfectant and cotton wool, working from the cut
outwards. Cover small cuts with adhesive plaster. For larger cuts, clean
and dry the edges, and then bring the edges together with adhesive
strips (Steristrip). These, however, do not stick well to hot sweaty
skin. It is best to dry the skin on either side of the wound as
thoroughly as possible then, using a gauze swab, apply Tinct.Benz.Co. to
the dried skin and then immediately apply the Steristrip. The wound can
then be covered with gauze, held in place by Micropore or crepe bandage,
or by elastoplast or something similar.
- Serious Bleeding: The way to stop serious
bleeding is by direct pressure on the wound. Do NOT apply tourniquets.
Do NOT try to find pressure points unless you know exactly what you are
- If the casualty has lost a lot of blood and is
becoming shocked (pale, sweaty and anxious), lay the casualty on the
back and raise both legs in the air to an angle of about 45
- This manoeuvre should help improve the
casualty's condition and gain valuable time in a crises.
- Blisters: Do NOT break the blister.
Protect it with cotton wool held in place by a crepe bandage.
- Serious Injury: In the event of serious
injury, such as a broken limb or penetration by a broken blade, the best
procedures are as follows:-
- Broken Limb/Dislocation: Move the
casualty as little as possible. Provide comfortable support to the
injury. Give nothing to eat or drink.
- Broken Blade Penetration of the Body: In
practice the broken blade will have been removed because in all known
cases to date, the broken blade has been instinctively withdrawn
immediately after the accident by the fencer holding the broken weapon.
If the wound is clearly superficial it may be treated like any cut. If
there is doubt about the depth of the wound, or its seriousness, the
casualty should be taken directly to hospital. If waiting for an
ambulance is likely to lead to dangerous delay, consideration should be
given to taking the casualty to hospital by any suitable means.
- a) If the chest is injured, support the casualty
in a sitting position, if possible leaning towards the injured
- b) If the abdomen is injured, place the casualty
on the back with the knees drawn up, in as comfortable a position as
c) If the head is injured, the casualty, if
unconscious, should be placed in the semi-prone position.