The International Federation is constantly working on improving the viewing appeal of fencing, clarity of rules understanding and attractiveness of the sport for television transmissions. With that in mind, in 2014 and 2015 several proposals have been reviewed concerning the changes in rules of combat in various weapon types. One of such proposals was ‘change of the starting combat distance in the middle of the piste from 4 to 3 meters’ in sabre fencing.

Originally this proposal was announced by world renowned fencing specialists David and Gennady Tyshler. The purpose of the change – to reduce the number of simultaneous attacks in the middle of the piste. At the first stage this proposal was tested by David Tyshler on the basis of the Russian Academy of Physical Culture. After receiving positive results, the Russian Fencing Federation has conducted a series of test competitions with the distance of 3 meters, including official national rating competitions for men and women. As a result, the Russian Fencing Federation has introduced the given proposal to the International Federation. By the decision of the Executive Committee, on the basis of the International Fencing Federation’s coaching council, a working group was created under the leadership of a quadruple Olympic sabre champion Stanislav Pozdnyakov.

Under the auspices of the coaching council, numerous discussions took place and test have been arranged with video, notational recording and statistical analysis of the results.

In July 2015 the International Fencing Federation’s coaching council has voted in support of this proposal and has recommended the changes to the Federation Executive Committee. The International Fencing Federation’s congress of 2015 has voted for support of the given change.
In order not to repeat the mistakes of the previous International Fencing Federation administration, when without research and testing the ‘fleche’ attack in sabre was abolished and the valid target of the sabre glove was changed, the Federation has decided before a final decision on rules change to introduce a testing period of 3 months.

Already at present it is becoming obvious that the distance of 4 meters in single combat in all weapon types exists only at the start of combat in the middle of the piste. In all other cases the starting combat distance is 2.5-3 meters, determined by the referee (the distance between combatants with extended weapons). The change of the distance in the middle of the piste in all types of weapons will improve the visual perception of fencing during television transmission and will not impact on the pattern of fencing combat in all categories of the programme. Should the sabre test be successful, it will be feasible to recommend the change of distance and piste markings.

In order not to change the piste markings during the test period, it is proposed that in sabre fencing the athletes are placed in the en guarde position with the back foot on the starting line, which will correspond to a distance of 3 meters between the fencers.

Recently, a number of USA coaches have organised a campaign to discredit the decision of the International Federation. This campaign includes publications in the social media, press, sending of spam addressed to national federations. The content of such publications does not withstand any criticism. No tests were conducted, no research and statistical data presented, simply unfounded declarations that ‘everything is bad’. Some of them border on absurd, such as, for example, that ‘a tall athlete has an advantage over a short one’, or that a fencer from a distance of 3 meters can ‘reach the opponent with the weapon’!

All the tests conducted by the International Fencing Federation, reports and minutes of the International Fencing Federation coaching councils’ meetings are published on the Federation site in the coaching council section.
If you have a problem with determining an exact distance of 3 meters, we may recommend marking the combat starting distance with a tape on the piste.

Please send your suggestions and recommendations to

Gennady Tyshler
International Fencing Federation Coaching Council

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