Fencing tournaments may appear to be organized bedlam to the untrained eye, but there is a well-defined procedure underlying this bedlam. This section is intended to provide an overview of USFA-sanctioned tournaments and the expectations of the fencers. It is important to note that sportsmanship and honor are very important to ATAC. Fencers, coaches, parents and other spectators are expected to conduct themselves with proper etiquette.
Poor sportsmanship and rude comments to other fencers or to the referees are unacceptable as they reflect on all members of the club and may well detract from ATAC's performance in future competitions.
Tournaments are run by a Bout Committee, which administers the registration of fencers, determines the composition of pools, and tracks the progress of each competitor throughout the tournament.
Fencers, in consultation with their coaches, choose the tournaments in which they wish to compete. The decision between fencer and coach regarding tournament participation should occur well in advance of competitions. Registration for the selected national-level tournaments occurs with USFA; registration forms can be obtained through its web site (www.usfencing.org). Larger regional tournaments will also have an optional preregistration registration.
USFA Tournament Registration
The web site and the entry forms will note the pertinent deadlines for registration. It is the responsibility of the fencer to complete and return the registration form to USFA in a timely manner. Registrations must be received at USFA headquarters, in Colorado Springs, by the day entries close. Postmarks are not valid. Registrations may be faxed to USFA, but must arrive at its office by midnight of the deadline day. There is, of course, a risk that faxed entries may arrive when no one is at the USFA office to confirm receipt of the registration. Thus, it is incumbent upon the fencer to ensure that their entry is received by USFA well before the tournament deadline.
Local and Regional Tournament Registration
All tournaments have a registration deadline at the venue itself. Even if you are preregistered, you must still check in by the close of registration. These registrations are by weapon; and may be by age and/or division as well. Such deadlines note the registration time for the particular competition, not necessarily when the competition will begin. Also, the competition fee will be noted. Again, it is the responsibility of the fencer to know the registration time for his/her their competition, and to be on time and to pay the appropriate fee. At these venue registrations, fencers are required to show proof of USFA membership. They may also be asked their rating and age group as well.
At all USFA national tournaments and many local tournaments the fencer will need to have some equipment check before reporting to their pools. Failure to do so will result in penalties and possible elimination from the competition. Always ask about this at local tournament registration desks.
The most common check is the mask check. The armourer will use a device called a "punch tester" to determine the mask meets the required strength. Afterwards he will stamp or mark the approved mask.
At national and some local competitions there will also be a body cord test. This will test the cord for continuity and resistance. Be sure to get two body cords approved. A colored tape is applied to the approved cords.
Fencers will be asked to show the equipment markings to the referee before the pools begin.
The Bout Committee uses the venue registrations to determine the pools for the initial bouts. Pools will usually consist of six to nine fencers, depending on the size of the tournament. On occasion, pools may be as many as eleven or as few as five.
There may be several flights of pools, depending on the size of the tournament. The Bout Committee makes every effort to obtain the appropriate mix in the pools. For each pool, fencers are "seeded" by rating and the year in which they received their rating; for example, a C-01 (a "C' rating received in 2001) is seeded higher than a C-00 (a "C' received in 2000). Fencers' clubs further define the pools. Every effort is made not to have fencers of similar ratings at the same clubs in the same pools. This provides the opportunity for fencers to compete against others from different clubs. However, this aspect is also contingent on the size of the tournament and the mix of fencers participating.
Seeding of the pools is posted prior to the bouts. An announcement is made as to the location of the posting. The posting will note the fencers in the pools, their seeding in the pool, the strip number of the pool, and the time the fencing will begin. ATAC fencers must know their fencing time and strip location, and inform their coach of this information. Pool bouts are to five points; with the fencer scoring five touches the winner. Each fencer competes against all the others in his/her their pool.
Often, in local tournaments, pool bouts are self-directed and self-scored. That is, fencers referee and score each other's bouts. Points are tallied as to number of victories, total points, touches scored and touches received among all the fencers in the pools. Completed pool sheets are provided to the Bout Committee, which determines the seeding of the Direct Elimination Tableau based on the results of the pool bouts.
Based on the results of the initial pools, the Bout Committee determines the seeding for the Direct Elimination (DE) bouts. Depending on the size and category (e.g., Division II/III) of the tournament, 80 or to 100 percent of the fencers advance to DE. (In competitions with less than 100 percent DE, the fencers ranked among the top 80 percent of the pool results advance. Occasionally, there will be a fence-off among the two bottom ranked fencers to determine who will advance as part of the top 80 percent.)
DE seedings are announced and posted, with similar information as the pool sheets. Again, ATAC fencers must know the strip on which they are fencing and their opponent. In a simple elimination tournament, DE bouts in Y-10 and Y-12 events are the best of three 5 touch bouts, DE bouts in all Y-14 and above competitions are to fifteen points(Vets-10 touches), with the fencer scoring fifteen touches advancing to the next bout, and elimination of the defeated fencer.
Even on the local level, DE bouts are typically not self-directed or nor self-scored. At the completion of the bout, the referee will provide the score sheet to the fencers to initial next to their score. The defeated fencers usually initial first; the victor delivers the score sheet to the Bout Committee. The committee then determines the next DE pairing. As fencers advance through the DE bouts, they must be aware of who their next opponent is and the strip on which they will be fencing.
The tournament winner is the fencer who emerges from DE undefeated; second place and third place are also determined and honored. Third place may either be a tie or may -be fenced off to determine a clear victor. At the national level of competition, DEs for Cadet and Junior categories always include repechage, where there is additional fencing off for the losers.
The tournament is not over until a victor is established. An ATAC fencer who has lost his/her bout is not necessarily free to leave the venue. If other ATAC fencers are still competing, fencers need to remain at the venue to cheer on and support their teammates. At ATAC, fencing is a team competition. An individual fencer's victory reflects on the entire club.