Rapier Rules for the Pennsic War

Warder Lazarus Gauge has posted rules for rapier fighting at the Pennsic War.

Gauge writes:

Standard Rapier Rules
These rules establish standards and conventions for rapier combat at Pennsic for all rapier war points. Kingdoms sponsoring other rapier events at Pennsic may also employ these rules, but are not required to do so. These rules are designed to promote safe rapier combat at Pennsic and all participants in events governed by these rules are responsible for knowing, understanding and applying them. However, no matter how clear or accurate, rules cannot replace common sense, good judgment, and concern for the participants. If a question arises when applying these standards, choose the response that promotes the greatest degree of safety for all participants.


  1. A fencer must be inspected by either a marshal from his or her home kingdom to that kingdom�s standards or, if a marshal from that kingdom is not available, by any marshal, to Society standards.
  2. A fencer must provide the following documentation to be inspected: picture i.d., site medallion, proof of membership if required by that fencer�s home kingdom in order to fight, and authorization card.
  3. After passing inspection, a fencer will be given a sticker recording his or her medallion number, and the inspecting marshal�s medallion number and initials. This sticker must be displayed on the side of the fencer�s mask. . If this sticker is lost, or if a fencer changes his or her armor or equipment, the fencer must be re-inspected and the sticker reissued.


    • Rapier Combat shall be conducted in accordance with the Rules of the Lists of the SCA, Inc., The Corporate Rules for Rapier Combat in the SCA, and these rules.
    • The Rapier Marshal of that year�s hosting Kingdom is the Marshal in Charge at Pennsic. He or she may assign a �marshal on duty� to oversee the day�s events, but serious problems should be handled by the Marshal in Charge.
    • A fencer must comply with the standards for protective gear of his or her home Kingdom, but shall comply with the weapons standards of the Kingdom hosting the rapier event in which the fencer is participating.
    • A fencer, prior to every combat or practice (a minimum of once a day), shall ensure his or her weapons are safe, in good working order and have been inspected by a marshal authorized to inspect rapier gear.
    • Marshals have the power and the duty to remove from the field any person who is violating the rules of the list. This includes but is not limited to non-acceptance of blows, ignoring the rules of engagement and behavior that is dangerous to combatants. Marshals should keep in mind that all fencers are honorable people and treat them with courtesy and patience. Remember that honest mistakes do happen. Fencers should remember that the marshals are attempting to ensure the safety of all fencers present and treat them with courtesy. Marshals shall always be obeyed by combatants on the field.
  2. Marshal's Court
    A Marshal�s Court will be in place after each war point melee, and will be prepared to address any serious problems that are brought before it. A Marshal's Court may also be convened at any other time, if needed, but only in the event of a serious or intractable problem arising on the list. Marshals or fighters can bring issues before a Marshal's Court. A Marshal�s Court shall be presided over by the Pennsic Rapier MIC, and shall include both the KRM of the Kingdom hosting the rapier event in which the problem at issue occurred, and, if possible, the KRM of the fencer who is subject to the Court. The MIC for the tournament/melee and any pertinent witnesses may attend if required by the MiC. The Marshal�s Court will review infractions of the rules and combat conventions.
    Valid blows are performed by:
    • Thrusting with the point of the blade (thrust)
    • Sliding the edge of the blade by pulling (draw cut) a minimum of 6� across the target. .
    • Placing the tip of the blade upon, and then drawing it across the target (tip cut)
    • In rapier combat, blows will be counted as though they were struck with a real blade, extremely sharp on point and edge. Any blow that would have penetrated the skin shall be counted a good blow. Any blow that strikes a mask, helm or gorget shall be counted as though it struck flesh.
    • A a valid blow to the�
      • head,
      • neck,
      • torso
      • inner groin (to the fighter's hand width down the inner limb), or
      • armpit (to the fighter's hand width down the inner limb)�.
      �shall be judged incapacitating, rendering the fighter incapable of further combat.
    • A valid blow to the arm will disable the arm. A valid blow to the hand shall render the hand useless; the arm above the incapacitated hand may be used to parry.
    • A valid blow to the foot or leg will disable the leg. The fighter must then fight kneeling, sitting, or standing on one leg.
    • Though the gloved hand may be used to parry, it shall not be used to push, grasp or strike an opponent.
  5. BLADES:
    There are two classes of rapiers in the SCA:
    • light rapiers (e.g. epees and foils) and
    • heavy rapiers (e.g. oval- and diamond-cross section �schlager� blades)
    Any blade in a given rapier class may be used against any other blade in that same class, but NOT against blades of the other class. Daggers may be used against either class of rapier blade. The Kingdom hosting a particular rapier event may specify the types of blades to be used at that event. If a tournament specifies allowed blades only by general type, i.e. light or heavy, then all blades allowed at Society level in this category will be allowed. Information regarding which blades are permitted in the Society and within each Kingdom is available in the Marshals� Tent.
    There are no restrictions on parrying device size
    • AUTHORIZATIONS: Authorizations must be done by marshals of a fencer�s home Kingdom. It is against Society Law and Policy to authorize across Kingdom boundaries. Only fencers from Calontir may hold authorizations from neighboring kingdoms.
    • EXCESSIVE IMPACT: Combat at Pennsic poses risks to the participant. This recognition, however, does not excuse fighters from exercising control of their techniques. If a fighter throws blows which force their opponent to retire from the field, from a real injury (even one which only causes brief incapacitation), the marshal responsible for the field shall take such steps as are appropriate to stop the problem from recurring. At a minimum, the thrower of the blow should be removed from the field for the remainder of that tourney/melee.
    • MELEE: Melee combats present special challenges to all involved.
    Society norms are repeated here for emphasis
    • In melees, fighters are engaged with all opponents immediately upon the call to lay-on.
    • Fighters may strike any opponent with any legal blow if they are within the 180-degree arc of the opponent's front. A fighter who approaches an opponent from behind shall not deliver a blow until he is within that frontal arc. A fighter may never strike an opponent from behind. In addition, fencers should make a reasonable attempt to get an opponent�s attention before throwing a blow.
    • Killing from behind is allowed if it has been announced beforehand. The Society norm for "death from behind" in melees shall be: If a melee scenario allows killing from behind, a fighter does so by laying the rapier blade over and on the opponent's shoulder, to at least a third of the blade, while calling "Dead, my lord" (or any other short, courteous phrases) in a loud, clear voice.
    • Reaching around the neck is forbidden.
    • The opponent will be deemed "killed" from the instant the blade touches the opponent�s shoulder who shall not attempt to spin, duck or dodge away.
    • Note: If death from behind is not allowed in a given melee, a fighter who deliberately ignores an attacker behind them, or repeatedly maneuvers to keep their back to an attacker (thereby preventing any attack on them) may be considered misuse of the rules and obstructive behavior.
      In addition, the thrower of the DFB must come to a complete stop. Hyper-DFBs or machine gunning (Deadmylord-deadmylord-deadmylord-deadmylord) will not be tolerated. The marshals are allowed to have the DFB disregarded and to remove the thrower of the inappropriate DFB form the tourney/melee.
  7. In any tournament or melee, additional restrictions may be imposed by the marshals as needed.
  8. UNFORESEEN SITUATIONS: Should a situation arise not explicitly covered by Corporate or Kingdom rapier combat rules, the marshals should NOT assume that the situation is forbidden or inappropriate. Again: However, no matter how clear or accurate, rules cannot replace common sense, good judgment, and concern for the participants.