HEMA Rules

Arnold Fencing Classic Rapier & Longsword Combat Rules

Welcome to the Arnold Fencing Classic HEMA Tournament hosted by Royal Arts Fencing Academy, the longest continuously running club for sport fencing, HEMA, combat lightsaber, and kenjutsu (Myo-fu An) in Ohio. Following are the rules for the HEMA tournaments. By participating in the Arnold Fencing Classic competition, the fencers acknowledge that they have read and understand the rules of engagement and scoring outlined below. The following are strictly adhered to in order to provide a safe and fun tournament that is also spectator friendly.

The Festival

The Arnold is not your average tournament. Hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Arnold Fencing Classic is a part of the Arnold Sports Festival, the largest multi-sport festival in the world with 70 sports and events, 19,000 athletes, and 200,000 visitors. It is a four-day weekend unlike any you will ever see. Fencing has been a part of the Arnold since 2004. The sport fencing portion of the event runs 27 strips for 3 days and has events from youth under 7 to adults up to 105.

Don't just fence. Enjoy the whole weekend.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Will Arnold be there? Yes. Arnold comes to the fencing venue to present the scholarship. He visits many other venues during the weekend. We are not permitted to give you the day, time, or his schedule for security reasons. Other celebrities may also appear in the venue from time to time.

All events stop for Anrold's appearance or any other big name celebrity.

All fencers MUST leave their fencing gear, masks, bags, gloves, weapons, etc at their competition location. Weapons will not be allowed near Arnold. And, in case you get to shake his hand, you don't want to offer your stinky glove to him.

His time with us is brief and will not have much effect on competition. Events resumes after he leaves.


Wristbands are required for all fencers, coaches, parents, and spectators. In other words, everyone! As a part of your entry, you will receive a wristband that grants you access to most sports and events Friday-Sunday. You may want to come early to enjoy parts of the festival before your event and/or stay afterwards. There are very specific rules about the wristbands.

  • Each athlete is given 1 (one) wristband that is a three-day pass. You can and should shower with it.
  • There are no replacements if you lose your wristband, forget it, etc. You must purchase a new one if you lose it. Our staff are provided 1 (one) wristband per athlete and not permitted extras.
  • You can purchase your replacement or guest wristbands at booths outside the fencing venue. They are conveniently located nearby, but we do not have wristbands to sell.
  • Wristbands get you into all sports and events at the Arnold Sports Festival except the big ticket items.

Parking & Accommodations

Parking can be a bear at the Arnold. We encourage you to pre-book your parking or Uber your way to the venue from your hotel. Book parking and hotels early or you will have a long way to go to get to the venue.
Check the parking page or visit our home page for parking and hotel information.

Liability Waiver

All fencers are required to sign a waiver online here prior to competition. The waiver is included in your Registration Form.
Results of the tournament will be posted to this website.

Registration & Fees

All proceeds from the Arnold Fencing Classic supports the Rose & Gold Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization with the goal to improve lives through fencing -- all fencing whether it is Olympic Sport, HEMA, or other. We provide opportunities in the community to fence for those that would not otherwise be able to, have disabilities, or other hardships. All proceeds from the tournament go to the Foundation.

The fees for the Arnold Fencing Classic are graduated based on time. Fees increase the later you register and pay. There are two fees involved, the Registration Fee and the Entry Fee. The Registration fee is a one-time fee for entering the tournament. The Entry fee is per event that you register for. The refund schedule is below.

Registration Fee Schedule

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DeadlineRegistrationPer Event
Regular Fees End02/12/2018$40$35
Late Registration02/13-19/18$80$35
Scholarship Entry*02/15/2018 - -
Last Minute02/20-22/18$120$40
At the Door03/02-04/18Not AcceptedNot Accepted
* Scholarship entries are restricted to Olympic Fencers that are US Citizens that are participating in the Arnold Fencing Classic.

Are Fees Refundable?

The refund policy for the 2018 Arnold Fencing Classic is listed in the table below.
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Request DateRegistrationPer Event
Before 12/31/2017$40 (100%)*$35 (100%)*
01/01-10/2018$0.00 - No Refund$31.5 (90%)
02/11-18/2018$0.00 - No Refund$17.5 (50%)
After 02/19/2018$0.00 - No Refund$0.00 - No Refund
Refunds for 100% of the total will be refunded minus the credit card processing fees charged by Askfred.

Refunds are processed 4-6 weeks after the tournament. If you wish to cancel your registration, the request can be made here.
All fees must paid on-line.

You can register for this event here. Payment will be taken at the end of the form.


At the conclusion of each event, medals will be awarded to the top four. Those awards are gold, silver, and tied for bronze. We do not fence off for third.

The award ceremony is held in the Franklin Room, the main room for all fencing information, vendors, etc.

Tournament Format

The term tournament refers to the collection of individual events or age divisions. It can occur over a one or two day period. An individual fight between two fencers or combatants is called a bout. What follows is a summary of the rules. Detailed explanations of the more complicated items are marked and explained at the bottom of this document.

  • Announced start times represent the close of registration. Fencing will commence a few minutes later after the event has been seeded into pools.
  • All fencers will be assigned to a pool.
  • The relative strength of the fencers will be determined by the bout committee to provide balanced pool seeding.
  • Relative strength may take into account some of the following:
    • Current or previous sport fencing experience and level
    • Previous sport fencing experience
    • Combat based historical fencing
    • Martial arts experience with contact sparing
  • The pool is a round-robin. Each fencer will fence each person in the pool once.
  • Pools will be no larger than seven.
  • 100% of fencers from pools will be promoted to single direct elimination.
  • Seeding is calculated from a composite of the following:
    • Win ratio: Victories / Bouts
    • Indicators: Touches Scored - Touches Received
  • Fencers will be seeded into a bracket of best vs worst narrowing down to the finals.

Required Equipment

Safety is of utmost importance. Failure to comply with equipment and safety standards may result in warning penalties up to the possibility of expulsion.

  • All fencers must have an armoury inspection prior to competition.
  • You must supply your own weapons and gear. See list below for approved weapons.
  • Fencing masks with back of head protection must be worn by all competitors. The mask must be free of defects, dents, broken support pieces, etc.
  • All women must wear chest protectors.
  • Men must wear an athletic cup.
  • Fencing jackets or protective jackets are required. Armpit gaps are not permitted.
  • Gloves are required. They must have rigid and padded protection.
  • Some form of rigid neck protection that covers the larynx must be worn.
  • Elbow/knee protection is required. The items must completely cover the knee and elbow.
  • Fencers must wear closed toe shoes.
  • Long pants are required. Suspenders must be over the shoulders or removed for safety.

Approved Weapons

All tips must be lightly colored or have lightly colored tape. Our vendors can sell you tape if you forget. This helps the judges to determine the quality of the thrust.
Regenyei FedersArms & Armor Fechterspeil
Pavel Moc FecersComfort Fencing "Dobringer" Feder
Ensifer FedersDarkwood Armory Feders
Mac Arms FedersBaltimore Sword & Knife Works Feders
SGT Blade FedersCastille Armory Feders
Black Horse FedersChlebowski Feders
Albion Meyer

Bout Duration

Matches will be 2 minutes with a continuous clock or the first fighter to achieve 9 points (12 points for eliminations). In the event of a tie at the end of time, a sudden death bout will be held. The first clean hit (i.e. no afterblow), will result in the win.

However, the Director can stop the clock as is necessary. Such reasons include but are not limited to needing conference with the judges (this should be a rare occurrence), equipment or safety concerns, or issues with the table.

Each match will be comprised of a number of bouts. Bouts begin when the Director calls fight and ends when the director calls halt. After the call of halt, each fighter will return to their respective starting position (as indicated by the coloured marking on the ground).

The Director will call the fencers en garde. The sequence is "Fencers. Ready? Fence or Begin." Talking is not permitted during the bout except for when a referee needs to be addressed. Blows must be controlled and properly delivered.

In the event that time expires and the score is tied the rules of Priority or sudden death apply. Action Completion and Definition:

A fencer in the process of completing an action within one tempo when a halt is called for is allowed to complete their action. For example, one fencer attacks, halt is called but the other fencer was already in the midst of riposting. This is permitted. Likewise, if a fencer finished his attack as a fencer goes out of bounds, he is still permitted to score.

After-blows or "Revenge Strikes"

After an unsuccessful defense a fencer will often follow up with some form of continuation. In general, these do not count. If they are excessively violent or vindictive they will result in penalties.


All valid strikes that occur within a single beat of the first touch are valid and will be counted with the lower scoring strike subtracted from the higher scoring blow. This means that afterblows and doubles are essentially identical. This change was made to streamline the judging process and to encourage maintaining a defense while attacking.

Example: Combatant A lands a strike to Combatant B worth two points. Within the same tempo, Combatant B lands a strike worth one point. In this instance, Combatant A will be awarded one point (2-1=1).

Points can be earned for successful strikes, thrusts and slices. For a strike to be valid, it must me made with proper technique and intent. For instance, a blow with the flat is worth no points, regardless of target. The Director can call a contact incidental without stopping the bout and having the fencers return to their start positions.

Points Longsword and Sword & Buckler

Cuts and thrusts to the head or torso are worth 2 points.

Cuts and thrusts to any extremities are a single point. Any cut or thrust performed with a single hand is worth a single point unless the free hand is being used to manipulate the opponent's weapon, limbs, or body.
Draw cuts, I.E. push and pull cuts, must travel at least half the length of the blade in order to score and must be made with obvious intent.

A pommel Strike to the head if worth a single point. The fighter utilizing the pommel strike should make the strike with a reasonable amount of control and without the intent to harm the other fighter. Pommel strikes may not target the back of the head; however, if the opponent should turn their head and receive the strike to the back of the head, the strike will still be valid and the Director will issue a verbal warning (no card issued).

Points Rapier

Thrusts to the head or torso are worth 2 points.

Thrusts to any extremities are a single point.

A cut to the head using the long edge and weak of the sword is worth a single point.

A push or pull cut made with obvious intent against the head or neck are worth a single point. The blade must move at least half of its length to be considered as a draw cut. Additionally, a missed thrust or return, without further indicia of intent will not be considered a push or a pull cut.

A pommel Strike to the head if worth a single point. The fighter utilizing the pommel strike should make the strike with a reasonable amount of control and without the intent to harm the other fighter. Pommel strikes may not target the back of the head; however, if the opponent should turn their head and receive the strike to the back of the head, the strike will still be valid and the Director will issue a verbal warning (no card issued).
If a fighter moves a target to receive a blow on a lower scoring target when the hit would have otherwise struck a higher value target, the fencer making the imposition will be warned and the high value target will be awarded.

Example: A is making a clean cut of B's head. B raises his hand to intercept the blade and is struck only on the hand. B will be warned and A will receive two points as he/she otherwise would have struck B's head. (And assuming sharp weapons would likely have struck both.)


When fencers enter into a grapple, the Director will begin a five second count. If no fighter scores within that time, the director will call halt, and the fighters will return to their starting positions.

A throw in which both fighters end on the ground will result in a single point to the fighter who ends in the dominant position once both fighters are on the ground.

A throw which results in one fighter standing will score two points for the standing fighter.

A throw which results in one fencer standing, retaining their weapon and showing a clear ability to strike an unarmed grounded opponent will result in three points (two for the throw and an additional point for the ability to make the following strike. The follow up strikes should not, however, actually be completed due to safety concerns. This additional point will only be awarded in clear situations).

A fighter is considered down whenever three points of contact are established with the ground with the exception of one hand and the soles of both feet.

Fencers may make contact and use grappling that does not injure or incapacitate an opponent. For example, you could seize an arm or wrist in order to get a valid strike, but you cannot put them into a position that they are in danger of injury.

Disarms are allowed provided they meet all other requirements.

Grabbing a Weapon

A weapon may be grabbed only while it is at rest or the momentum has been primarily stopped due to contact with another weapon. Grabbing a blade that has sufficient velocity to score will result in a single point being awarded to fighter whose blade was grabbed. A blade may be grabbed and held for any length of time at the strong or forte of the blade without penalty, but will begin the grapple clock. A blade may be grabbed at the weak or foible for only a single beat and must then either lead to a completed technique, be released, or result in a point to the opponent. Further, if a blade visibly slides against the hand of the individual grabbing it will also lead to a point for the opposing fighter.

Permitted, Non-Scoring Techniques

Punch, kick, elbow, open hand strike etc. All require proper control and are intended only as set ups for follow up techniques. Any fighter wearing either heavy or metal gauntlets are not permitted to use closed fist punches, but open handed strikes are permitted.

Forbidden Techniques

  • Any technique which aims to bend or turn a limb against its natural direction
  • Grapples where only the neck or head is manipulated
  • Strikes to the back of the head
  • Strikes to any unprotected area due to equipment failure, such as a mask falling off


We are all part of the same HEMA community, and to make that community stronger, we encourage honesty and good sportsmanship. Further, judges are not perfect and there will be things that are missed. To mitigate these issues, we ask that you respect the following:

If a fighter is awarded points which they feel un-entitled to, such as a poor strike being awarded points, the fighter may refuse the points. A fighter may only refuse points that are awarded to them, never to refuse points awarded to the opponent.

A fighter may acknowledge a valid strike against them or acknowledge a higher scoring target than was awarded by the judges. However, a fighter may not protest a lower scoring target unless asked directly by the Director.


Each fight will have 4 Staff Members: 1 Director, 2 Judges, and a single Table Staff. The Director will be in charge of the fight and has final authority on all calls. Any and all issues should be brought to the attention of the director. Both fighters agree to abide by the Director’s calls, which will involve both the competitive scoring, and assuring the safety of fighters and spectators. If the clock needs to be stopped for any reason, such as for an injury or equipment failure, it shall be incumbent upon the judge to call “Time,” at which point the Table Staff will stop the clock.

The Judges are present to aid the director and will make calls on all hits, calling “Point,” at which point, the Director will call halt and ask the Judges, “Ready...Point.” The Judges will then display the location of the strike with the semaphore which corresponds to the fighter’s colour. Anyone who is fencing may be call upon to judge. However, as all fights will only be using two judges, not every fencer will need to judge. If a fencer is asked to judge and feels unable to fairly judge due to lack of experience, a relationship with a fencer, or undue bias, the judge may recuse himself. A fencer should not ask to recuse himself simply due to a lack of desire.

As the Director will be an experienced judge and will have the best view of the action, the Director will be given wide discretion in their decisions. The Director may agree with only one Judge, seek input from the fighters, or call the bout “Unclear, no points.” Rarely should the Director overrule both judges except for extreme circumstances. If points are awarded, the Director will indicate to the Table the correct score to be added.

Actions that Stop a Bout

  • A fencer makes a hit
  • A safety concern, which could be due to equipment, safety gear, unsafe conduct, spectator interference, etc.
  • Weapons with broken or loses pieces will result in a halt.
  • Anything that is of concern to the referee.
  • Anyone other than combatants and judges entering the ring
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger or other celebrity appearance.

Warnings and Penalties

  • Warnings are issued as a yellow card.
  • No points can be awarded on the offending yellow card touch.
  • Two yellow cards = 1 red card.
  • A red card results in three points (3) against the violating fencer. That is the equivalent of a body strike.
  • A black card is an expulsion from the tournament.
  • Trash-talking or taunting opponents.

Yellow Card Offenses

  • Delay of bout.
  • Disorderly fencing, taking off the mask prior to a "Halt"
  • Touches done with brutality.
  • Touches made during or after a fall.
  • Covering or substitution of valid target.*
  • Refusal to obey the referee.
  • False injury / cramp complaint.
  • Anyone disturbing order on the strip.
  • Refusing to recognize the point.

Red Card Offenses

  • Dangerous, violent, or vindictive action.
  • Dishonest fencing.
  • Receiving Second warning in a bout.
  • Direct hit to non-valid target with intent to injury, e.g., the back of the head or groin.

Black Card Offenses

Black card offenses are the most serious kind and generally represent actions that are blatantly dangerous or a complete violation of the rules. Black carded fencers are expelled from the tournament and the venue. Their results will posted as "FENCER EXCLUDED."

  • Throwing the mask or weapon for any reason.
  • Deliberate cheating.
  • Refusing to fight an opponent assigned.
Whew! You got all that? Now it's time to register.

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