Smallsword Ruleset


All fencers will be expected to fight with both skill and control.

Any fencer that is deemed to pose a danger to themselves or others will be first verbally warned, second removed from the match, third removed from the tournament.

Fencers are expected to act professionally, and respectful to the officiating staff.

Fencers are expected to follow the commands of the tournament staff at all times.

Violating the rules of conduct can and will result in:

a) a verbal warning and a point(s) deduction at the discretion of the fight director.
b) forfeit of the match.
c) expulsion from the tournament.


The goal of this rule set is to promote a style of fencing that is skillful, artful and historical. This is an experiment rule set based on a historical ruleset. These rules are taken directly from a set of rules described by Monsieur L’Abbat of Toulouse and translated by Andrew Mahon, Professor of the Smallsword in Dublin, in 1734. It is the intent of this tournament to represent this rule set as practically as possible in a modern tournament setting. Where needed, additional rules will be inserted to accommodate the modern tournament format restrictions and time constraints.Our interpretation of each rule is provided as a dashed footnote below the original rule.

Thrusts of Emulation for Prizes, Wagers &c.

All Thrusts from the Neckband to the Waistband are counted good.
- The valid target area is the torso, front and back, bib of the fencing mask, as well as the arms.

Coup Fourrés or interchanged Thrusts are not counted on either side, except one of the Competitors has Recourse to it in order to make the Thrusts equal, then the Thrust of the other is good, and not his.
- Double hits are not counted and afterblow priority will be given to the initial hit.

If one hits the Body and the other the Face or below the Wast at the same Time; the Thrust on the Body is counted, but not the other
- Off-target hits will not be counted in the event of a double.

If a Man parrys with his Hand, and afterwards hit, his Thrust is not good, because by parrying with the Hand, his Antagonist's Foil is less at Liberty than if he had parryed with the Blade, and might be a Reason why he could not parry and risposte.
- Off-hand parries followed by an on-target hit will not count.

If a Man takes the Time, opposing with the Left-hand, and hits without receiving, his Thrust is not good, because if he had not Opposed with the Hand, both would have hit, the Opposition of the Hand serving only to avoid, but no way contributing to the Success of the Thrust.
- Offensive off-hand parries used to land a thrust will not count.

If in parrying, binding, or lashing the Foil, it Falls, and that the Thrust is made without Interval, it is Good.
- Hitting while the opponent has dropped their weapon will count if done without delay.

Thrusts made with the Sword in both hands, or shifting from one Hand to the other are not good.
- No thrusts will be counted if both hands are on the weapon or the weapon changes hands.

A Master is not to give judgment for his own Scholar.
- Instructors will not be permitted to judge their students bouts.

Of chusing and mounting a Blade.

Courage and Skill being often of little Use without a good Weapon, I think it necessary, before I lay down Rules for using it, to shew how to chuse a good Blade, and how it ought to be mounted.

The Length of the Blade ought to be proportionable to the Stature of the Person who is to use it: The longest Sword, from Point to Pommel, should reach perpendicularly from the Ground to the Navel, and the shortest, to the Waste; being large in Proportion to its Length, and not extremely large, nor very small, as some People wear them; the over large Blades being unweildy, unless very hollow, which makes them weak, and the narrow ones being not sufficient to cover the Body enough.

In Order to chuse a good Blade, three Things are to be observed: First, that the Blade have no Flaw in it, especially across, it being more dangerous so than Length-way. Secondly, That it be well tempered, which you'll know by bending it against a Wall or other Place; if it bend only towards the Point, 'tis faulty, but if it bend in a semicircular Manner, and the Blade spring back to its Straitness, 'tis a good Sign; If it remains bent it is a Fault, tho' not so great as if it did not bend at all; for a Blade that bends being of a soft Temper, seldom breaks; but a stiff One being hard tempered is easily broke. The third Observation is to be made by breaking the Point, and if the Part broken be of a grey Colour, the Steel is good; if it be white 'tis not: Or you may strike the Blade with a Key or other Piece of Iron, and if he gives a clear Sound, there is no hidden Fault in it. In bending a Blade you must not force it, what I have said being sufficient to know it by, and besides by forcing it, it may be so weakened in some Part as to break when it comes to be used.

It would not be amiss for a Man to see his Sword mounted, because the Cutlers, to save themselves the Trouble of filing the inside of the hilts and pommel, to make the Holes wider, often file the Tongue[1]of the Blade too much, and fill up the Vacancies with Bits of Wood, by which Means the Sword is not firm in the Hand, and the tongue being thin and weak, is apt to break in Parrying or on a dry Beat, as has been unhappily experienced. Care should also be taken that the End of the Tongue be well riveted to the Extremity of the Pommel, lest the Grip should fly off, which would be of very dangerous Consequence.

Some Men chuse strait Blades, others will have them bending a little upwards or downwards; some like them to bend a little in the Fort, and others in the Feeble, which is commonly called le Tour de Breteur, or the Bullie's Blade. The Shell should be proportionable in Bigness to the Blade, and of a Metal that will resist a Point, and the Handle fitted to the Hand.

Some like square Handles, and others chuse round Ones; the square are better and firmer in the Hand, but as this Difference depends on Fancy, as does also the Bow, which in some Cases may preserve the Hand, but may be a Hindrance in inclosing, I shall leave it to the Decision of the Fashions.

- Weapons shall be of a historical design to the 18th or early 19th century, i.e. no modern pistol grips, overly whippy blades, or overly large bell guards. All weapons shall be subject to the approval of SoCal Swordfight.

Point Scoring
1 point will be awarded for a Good strike to any valid target area.

Match Length
Each match will last for 90 seconds of regulation time, or once the maximum score has been reached. Once the time of 90 seconds has been reached the timekeeper will cease clocking the time and the match will then proceed until the next break in the fighting is called. At this point time will be elapsed and the match is concluded.

Point Limits
The match will be concluded once a fighter has reached a total of 3 points.
In the event of a tie, sudden death will be fought and the winner will be determined by first clean exchange with no afterblow.

Additional Rules
Punches, kicks, strikes with the hilt or pommel and takedowns are not permitted.
Ring out – 1 pt penalty for the fencer who steps out, defined by both feet stepping out of the ring.

Acceptable Equipment

Protective Gear - All equipment will be inspected by the tournament staff prior to competition.

  • Appropriate Head protection: Fencing Mask.

  • Acceptable head protection – ‘That guys products’ style masks.

  • Trachea protection, that protects the throat from a direct thrust.

  • Light Fencing Jacket with Puncture Resistance

  • Leather gloves or other appropriate puncture resistant gloves.

  • Groin protection is required for male fighters.

  • Breast protection is not required but recommended for female fighters.

  • No exposed skin will be permitted.