Martial Arts Tournament Rules

As in previous years the most prestigious prize for all participants is the sportsmanship prize. In prior years there has only been one prize for this. It is expected that this year there will be two prizes, one for the most sportsmanlike, and one for the honourable mention. Sportsmanship includes all manners of conduct both in the Fechtplatz (fight ring) and outside of it. Any instructor participating will be judged by the behaviour of his/her students, as well.

Nordschlag 2017 tourney currently has these armed divisions: Open Synthetic Longsword, Open Synthetic Shortsword & Buckler, knife (junior and senior), Open Steel Sword and Buckler, and Open Steel Longsword, and Women’s Only Longsword (with enough participation) – this latter event is done in order to encourage overall participation. Women may fight in this as well as the Open divisions, and are encouraged to do so.

Steel events are senior level events.

Synthetic sword events are junior level events.

If you are in doubt as to what level you should be competing, please consult with the tournament referees.

Kicking and punching will not be permitted as part of the conduct, due to recent events in the overall martial arts community and how such combat is now viewed from a legal standpoint in Canada.


AES 2015 tournament sportsmanship award

2015 Sportsmanship Award
(knife donated by SGT Blades Inc.)

  1. Anyone who loses their temper during a match may be disqualified from the event.
  2. Anyone who strikes without control and hits too hard will have one warning. The second such strike will be a loss of that round. In previous years this has been an issue with the sword events and we would like to avoid it this year. We are martial artists and should be able to control our blows enough that people are not injured through the protective gear.
  3. Unsportsmanlike conduct can, at the discretion of the judges, eliminate you from all events. And will most likely cost you the event you are currently competing in.
  4. Any excessive force or refusal to listen to the referee can result in loss of points (or points awards to the opponent), disqualification from an event, or ejection from the tournament.
  5. If anyone continues to fight after the halt is called, they will be given one warning. If this happens again, then the referee may, at his own discretion, disqualify that fighter from the match or the event.


  1. The weapons to be used in synthetic sword divisions are Rawlings nylon sparring swords, supplied by the AES or the competitor (subject to AES approval).
  2. The knives are Cold Steel rubber trainers, or foam rubber trainers, supplied by the AES.
  3. Steel longsword must be approved Federscherts or equivalent, and follow Prairies Historical Fencing League (PHFL) rules.
  4. All steel shortsword/Messers must be approved by the AES and follow PHFL rules. No Einsefer Messers!
  5. ALL outside weapons are subject to approval and follow PHFL guidelines.

All bouts are refereed by four judges and one referee. The decision of the head referee is final. Any argument can result in disqualification.

Additionally, competitors may call a hit against themselves. For example, if competitor A feels that competitor B landed a fair hit, competitor A may call a halt and tell the referee. In this instance the competitor’s call overrides all other calls! The referee will decide the number of points awarded in this instance. Please note that this is one of the considerations in the sportsmanship prize, which is the most coveted prize in our competitions.

Participation in multiple categories per participant is explicitly encouraged! There is no extra cost to participate in multiple events, and learning and fun is to be had.

The competitor that wins the most events at his/her division level will have his/her name inscribed on our helm trophy for that year as the all-around champion.

Each category must have a minimum four people per division, categories may have empty divisions.

All foils (sparring swords) must meet PHFL guidelines.

Coaches, Scorekeepers’ Table…

Each player (fighter) is allowed only one coach in his or her corner. Only coaches, players, and the tournament staff are permitted in the Fechtplatz. If players and their coaches are not currently fighting, they are not permitted in the Fechtplatz area. Only the tournament staff are to approach the scorekeepers, unless permission is given by the referee on duty or head referee.

Timing of Rounds

All events, except knife, will be timed this year. Senior pools will be 90 second rounds, and finals will be 180 seconds. Women’s longsword will depend on the number of competitors and will be announced prior to the event starting. During pools the clock will not stop unless there is an equipment time out or an injury time out.


Each player may challenge a call of the referee/judges. This means that if the fighter feels that the referee’s call is completely off, then s/he calls “challenge!” At this point the referee will approach the player and ask the grounds for the challenge. The player is to succinctly state to the referee, in a calm manner, what s/he thinks happened. This will be discussed by the referee and the judges and/or coaches of the respective players. Once discussed, the referee will make a decision that may or may not override the previous call. If the previous call is NOT overridden, then the player no longer has a right to challenge. If it is, then the player will continue to have that right. Please note that it is not advisable to use this challenge in order to gain points, as that is harder to judge and more likely not to succeed.
(Yes, it is possible that players miss feeling/seeing hits against themselves, but it is also possible that one or more judges do not see the full picture, which is why this rule is here.)

Double Hits, Self Calls

The goal of the good swordsman is to hit without being hit. To encourage this, double hits will count against both competitors. If there are three double hits, then both will be counting as a “loss” for that round and move down in the competition rankings.

Double hits are any hits that are judged to be close enough together that both competitors (players) would be injured if it were a real fight. This means that one player could strike the other slightly before being hit, and this play could be called as a double hit, scoring against both players.

When a competitor wins s/he moves up on the board, while the competitor who loses will move down in the competition ranks. With this kind of elimination style, the one who wins for each level is most likely to be the competitor who loses no matches, thus avoiding the double-hit loss. As in previous years, competitors are permitted to call a hit against themselves. Thus, if a fencer feels that his opponent scored well, he can say that he was hit. A fencer so calling a good hit may override any call of the judges. Scoring rules are below…

Minimum required protective gear: 

Note that all gear must meet the minimum requirements as set out in the PHFL rules.

Synthetic Longsword / Shortsword & Buckler:

  • Three-weapon fencing mask with back of head protection or equivalent
  • Lacrosse/Ice Hockey gloves or Absolute Force Gauntlets or Ensifer or Red Dragon Sparring Gloves
  • Padded jacket/gambeson or equivalent
  • Groin protection
  • Rigid throat protection/gorget with adequate padding built in or worn on top of fencing jacket.

Steel Events Gear, as per PHFL rules:

  • Three-weapon fencing mask with back of head protection or equivalent
  • Absolute Force or Ensifer Sparring Gloves or SPES Heavy Mitts or equivalent. Koening Gloves must be inspected, as it has been found that these are inconsistent in their quality.
  • Padded Jacket/gambeson
  • Groin Protection
  • Rigid throat, elbow, knee and shin protection

While not mandatory, the following equipment is recommended:

  • Plastron
  • Padded Skirt/Thigh protection
  • Ankle and foot protection

Also, note that while the gear requirements for Synthetic divisions are less stringent, it is recommended that even those in the synthetic divisions adhere to the standards for steel. Competitors may not fence barefoot. Those accustomed to doing so may wear “barefoot” style footwear as a minimum.


  • Seniors must have fully covered (front and back) fencing mask; juniors may have the back of the mask open.
  • throat protection (may be built into mask/helm)
  • gloves
  • groin protection
  • Recommended: gambeson or similar heavy torso covering, knee and elbow pads.

Waivers are available to be signed at the tournament and are also available online at Registration will begin at 09:00. Competition is expected to begin at 09:30.


The rules for all sword divisions are identical. The rules are as follows:

The ring will be staffed by four judges and one referee. Any of them may stop the action in case of a hit or for safety reasons (equipment failure, injury, etc.). In case of a safety issue it will be rectified and the fighters shall reset at their corners if the fighters can continue.

In the event of a hit, the judges shall bow their heads so as to not see the other judges. The referee shall then call for each of the following primary criteria: Contact, Quality, Target, and Control. These criteria function as follows:

  • Contact: Maximum one point. Two of the judges must agree that there was a successful strike, thrust or slice with edge, point or pommel to a target. Strikes with the cross-guard are illegal. Contact that is flat, grazing or that would have missed an unarmoured target may be disregarded by a judge. Pommel strikes only score if they contact the mask. If there is agreement, the fencer is awarded one point.
  • Quality: Maximum one point. Two of the judges must agree that the contact was done with good balance and technique. Quality points should not be awarded for strikes that are done while the fencer was stumbling, in the process of dropping a weapon, etc. If there is agreement, the fencer is awarded one point. If there is no quality point, then neither of the following two criteria will be called.
  • Target: Maximum three points. If a fencer has received the awards for Contact and Quality with no afterblow, the fencer may be eligible for Target points. Target points are awarded for successfully scoring a point on the head or torso of the opponent. If a judge believes the strike contacted the head or torso, he may award a Target point to the fighter. Thus a total of three Target points may be awarded for such a strike, in addition to those awarded for Contact and Quality.
  • Control: Maximum three points. If a fencer has been awarded points for Contact and Quality, he or she may be eligible for Control points. Control points are awarded for successfully controlling the opponent’s weapon while delivering the scoring hit. Examples include a grapple or shove that keeps the opponent’s weapon from being brought to bear, or a scoring while controlling the opponent’s weapon with one’s own (usually a winding/absetzen/attack in opposition). Also, covering/positioning the weapon during or immediately after the scoring point’s tempo such that the opponent’s attempted afterblow is locked out qualifies for Control. Thus, a thrust into Ochs that such that the opponent’s afterblow is directed into the crossguard would qualify, but a strike followed by a hanging parry while retreating would not. If a judge believes there was control, he may award a Control point. Thus, three Control points may be awarded for such a strike, in addition to those awarded for Contact, Quality, and Target.

NOTE: the last two of these are scored separately! A competitor may score points for target or control or for both of these!

Secondary Scoring Criteria

  • Afterblow: An afterblow is a “revenge strike” given in the tempo following a successful hit. Thus, if fencer A scores a hit, Fencer B may attempt an afterblow in the next tempo. If the strike has been judged as a hit, then the opposing fencer (the one who had the original strike) will score one point only for that pass. If there is too much of a delay in the afterblow, it may be viewed as poor sportsmanship, since this must fall within the natural tempo of the fencing bout. Such may warrant a warning, or if it is too hard of a blow, deduction of points or loss of the bout. Also, note that a bout may not be won on an afterblow.
  • Takedown:  three points. A fencer scores three points if the judges concur that he has scored a takedown. A takedown is defined as taking an opponent to the ground in a controlled and safe manner, maintaining body contact for the duration of the technique. It is NOT a throw, nor is it a body slam. A takedown may not function as an afterblow, so a successful strike will stop an attempted takedown. A takedown must finish in a clear position of dominance (Full mount, side control, immobilized and threatened with weapon, etc.). Combatants have 10 seconds to establish dominance after the takedown, thus a takedown may be reversed.  Should both fencers reach the ground without a clear position of dominance established, the bout will continue for the referee’s ten count. If one fencer gains and maintains position by the end of the count, that fencer shall be awarded the Takedown points. Note that position may change multiple times during the ground engagement.
  • Ring Out: Two points. If a fencer pushes an opponent out of the ring while maintaining control of the engagement (generally by body contact or weapon leverage, i.e. hende drucken) he will be awarded two points. A mere shove that happens to shove a fencer out of the ring will not suffice. A bout may not be won via Ring Out. A ring out may not function as an afterblow.
  • Trip or throw: one point. This is slightly less controlled than a take down, whereby the technique is done in such a manner that the opponent falls to the ground but contact is not maintained (as per a takedown). If there is no follow up strike, then the person who did the trip will score one point.
  • Striking the ground. If a fencer has such poor control that s/he strikes the ground, then the referee will give a warning. These may, at the referee’s discretion, be counted as uncontrolled, brutality strikes and fall within this criteria (below).


Steel Longsword Medallists, HEMA medal winners, Nordschlag medals winners

2016 Steel Longsword Medallists


  • Brutality: If the referee feels that a fighter is showing disregard for the safety of his opponents, he may be summarily ejected from the tournament. For the first infraction, the referee shall usually issue a warning. Two warnings shall result in ejection from the event, possibly the tournament (referee’s discretion). The referee may eject on the first warning if the infraction was especially and deliberately egregious (i.e. attacking an opponent after his mask falls off, etc).
  • Non-combativeness: If a fencer continually disengages and retreats, he will be given a warning. Subsequent infractions result in being penalized one point. Continual non-combativeness will result in the offending fencer forfeiting the match.
  • Illegal techniques: The following techniques are illegal for this tournament and will result in a warning, a point deduction, match disqualification, and ejection from the tournament (in that order) for successive violations: Crossguard strikes, sword throwing, throws deemed to be dangerous, half-sword thrusts with the point, mortschlags, joint destruction, small joint manipulation, purposeful strikes to the back of the head or neck [accidental strikes have happened and are not penalised], chokes, strikes with the knees, elbows, hands or feet; and uncontrolled striking a downed opponent with a weapon. [It is acceptable to gently touch a downed opponent to demonstrate to the judges that this may have been done.] Three match disqualifications for illegal techniques will also result in ejection.
  • Double Hits: If two fencers score hits on each other in the same tempo, it is termed a double hit. No points are scored and the fencers will reset. If a bout produces three double hits, it is recorded as a loss for both fencers. Note that a fencer’s total double hits are deducted from his score for Tournament Champion.
  • Unsportsmanlike Behaviour: a fencer is expected to behave with decorum while in competition and on premises. Disputing judges, berating staff and volunteers, losing one’s temper (shouting at an opponent, throwing gear, etc.) will result in warnings, loss of a bout, or ejection from the tournament. This is up to the discretion of the referee(s). Three such warnings will result in ejection, without exception, even if the warnings are across different bouts. It is allowed for a fencer to be upset, but it is not acceptable to spread one’s displeasure to fellow competitors, staff and spectators. Getting upset with one’s self is only normal in a competition environment, but expressing that in a negative manner or towards others is unacceptable. While on premises, all competitors are ambassadors of the Art and of their respective Schools. Competitors are reminded that this is merely a tournament; it is only a game played by comrades-in-arms.

Buckler Use

Note that the buckler may be used for strikes only if the boss is used for striking with control! Any edge strikes with the buckler will be considered illegal techniques and treated accordingly.


Sportsmanship winner with prize

2016 sportsmanship winner with prize (sharp sabre from SGT Blades Inc.)

Knife Fighting Rules

The senior knife fights will use the Cold Steel rubber practice knives provided by the AES. Required equipment is a fencing mask with back of head protection, gloves, and groin protector. Recommended gear includes knee pads, forearm/ elbow pads, and a gorget.

Junior knife will use the rubber foam knives provided by the AES. Minimum protective gear is a fencing mask and groin protection. It is recommended that the same gear be used as per the Senior division.

These bouts will be scored to a maximum of nine (9) points. Double hits will score the relevant points for each competitor. Competitors may win a bout in a double hit pass, if their score exceeds that of the other competitor by at least two points!

There will no points scored for hits between the fingertips and elbows nor from the top of the kneecap down. All scoring hits must be above the elbows and knees! There will be one (1) point awarded for hits to the legs or arms above these zones. Two points scored for inner thigh or top of shoulder or armpit area. And three points for head, neck, and main torso area. It is possible to complete a “quick attack” that scores more than one hit, which could win the bout.

Judges calls are final in dagger fighting, with the only exception being a competitor calling a hit against him or herself! Scoring of a hit that a competitor calls against him or herself is up to the discretion of the referee.

Please note: Control is not only expected, it is required for this event! While these knives are not lethal, they can cause severe bruising. Any competitor who is judged to be hitting too hard or with malicious intent will be ejected from the event.

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