Weapon check during the fencing boutBeing in Salt Lake City at the US Fencing Summer Nationals gives a fencer and their parents a lot of experience. It’s the kind of experience that’s very difficult to acquire in any other venue. This experience is invaluable and cannot be substituted, either by private lessons or in group classes. Fencing Summer Nationals are a huge event that brings together fencers from all over the United States and even the world. There’s so much fencing going on – so much to see and do absorb!

Due to the sheer volume of fencing that you either participate in or watch, fencers expose themselves to this experience that’s really fantastic and brings their fencing up to a whole new level. There’s truly nothing like it.

You learn about tactical decisions, you see how fencers behave on the strip, you see a lot of actions and technical elements at the highest possible levels in each category. Of course you are exposed to a lot of implementations and interpretations of rules as well. Some of those rules you might not have known existed before.

One of the rules that many people don’t know about is weapon check.

What you need to know about equipment check

As we’ve written many times before, the referee will check the weapon twice: at the beginning of every bout, and when the weapon is replaced. That’s what we’ve always talked about. However there are many more times during the bout when the referee can check the weapon.

One such event happened during one of the bouts of one of our fencers during her first DE.

At some point during the bout, she asked the referee to tighten her pistol grip. After the referee gave his permission for her to do that, our fencer disconnected the body cord and tightened the grip with an allen key. When she connected the weapon again, the referee requested to check the weapon. And his examination revealed that the tip was missing a screw. He immediately reached for the yellow card and punished our girl. We protested but it was denied. Wrongly!

We’ve double and triple checked the official rule. The rule says that the weapon can become non-compliant (for example, in epee it can be missing a screw, not holding the weight or not passing the shim test), but during the bout THERE IS NO PENALTY for non-compliance for the weapon which is being fenced with.

The referee later apologized for the mistake of giving the card, but explained that since our fencer disconnected the weapon and tightened the grip he felt compelled to check the weapon again.

And here comes the important point: the referee at any time during the bout can decide to check the weapon at his or her own discretion. However even if during this weapon test the weapon fails, then there is no card for it. The only thing the referee would do is to request that the fencer change the weapon as it is broken.

Keep in mind this important point about weapon check

This point is important to know. Rarely will referees ask that there be a weapon check during a bout, and frankly in the last few years this was the only instance I’ve witnessed with our fencers, but this definitely can happen.

The other case is actually might be very interesting and useful, and it’s one that many fencers definitely aren’t aware of.

A fencer can actually ask referee to test their opponent’s weapon as well!

The most common case for such a request is when a fencer believes that she was barely touched by her opponent and thus the light went off because the weapon is not conforming anymore.

This actually happens all the time – during the bout the springs deform and might not hold the weight anymore. The point is pressed with a much lighter touch that otherwise wouldn’t happen were the equipment working and the circuit not closed. If this were the case, and the referee finds that the weapon is not working indeed, he or she will request to change it but will not card the opponent.

Of course, if you take a new weapon and it is not working that’s another story – the card will be awarded as every new weapon that is taken to the bout should be fully compliant.

So now you know what can happen during the bout, and you can also use this knowledge if you believe the weapon of your opponent scores touches “too lightly”.

Have you ever requested a weapon check for your opponent during a bout? What happened? Let us know in the comments!