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Know the Rules: When Does Passing Occur?

Rule: Pursuant to USA Fencing Rule t21.3, “halt” will be called by the referee when a fencer goes “completely past” the other fencer. Thus, referees should be cautious not to call “halt” too early for passing. The USA Fencing Referee’s Commission provides guidance: Fencers are “completely past” one another if their entire torsos (shoulder to shoulder) no longer overlap. Basically, if you can see daylight between the fencers’ torsos, they’ve passed. Similarly, a highly-rated referee opined that he calls passing when there is a “butt gap” between the two fencers.


Touches: FIE Rule t.21.4 states that with respect to the fencer who is doing the passing — as a fencer passes his opponent, the touch made immediately is valid, but a touch made after passing is annulled; with respect to the opponent who is being passed, a touch immediately made (even when turning around) after the passing is valid. Clearly, for a referee, this call is a fairly difficult one to make and relies on the referee’s identification of when the passing occurred and possibly how immediate the opponent’s touch was (as well as, on some occasion, determining who was doing the passing).

Placement: If no touch is awarded, both fencers should be placed in the positions which they occupied before the passing took place. Note also that if the passing fencer is also out-of-bounds, the referee must determine which offensive action occurred first — the Passing or the Out-of-Bounds. If the Out-of-Bounds occurred first, then there is effectively no Passing, and the fencer who went off the lateral boundary will be placed back one meter from where such fencer’s action began (resulting in a point awarded to the opponent if the fencer was situated within one meter of the fencer’s own rear end-line).

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