The Fencing Fight

Fancy learning about the ins and outs of fencing fights? Here’s our guide to the piste, the bouts and how to score in fencing.

An image of The Fencing Fight

The piste in fencing

In Olympic fencing, the competitors compete on a ‘piste’ which is 14m (45.9ft) long and 1.5m (4.9ft) wide. The piste has a strip covered with a metallic mesh which is grounded so as not to trigger the electronic scoring system.

The fencing bout

  • Each ‘bout’ consists of three rounds of 3 minutes, with a minute interval between rounds. The winner is the first to 15 valid hits or the greatest number by the end of the bout.

  • Fencing begins when the referee calls ‘fence’ and stops when he calls ‘halt’.

  • Fencers move back and forth on the piste. At each end is an out-of-bounds area, which if the fencer crosses, leads to the deduction of a point.

  • After each hit is scored the fencers stand in the center of the piste 4m (approximately 13ft) apart behind ‘en-garde’ lines.

  • Fencer's salute their opponent, the referee, and the audience at the beginning and end of each fight.

Scoring in fencing

Lights - A red or green light means that a hit has landed on a valid target area. The light on the side of the fencers who scored the hit lights up, and the referee then awards the hit. In foil and saber, when both red and green lights flash, the referee decides who had the right of way. A white light can be an off-target hit in foil (no hit awarded) or a fault in foil or saber.

Right-of-way - When both the red and green lights are lit, the referee has to decide which competitor was on the attack when the lights went on, to determine who should be awarded the hit. Epee does not use the right-of-way — in epee, the fencer who hits first scores; if both fencers hit within 1/25th of a second, both are awarded a hit.

Picture Credit: Lilyana Vynogradova /