Rules of the Salle

Madame Collie of Rome fencing at Angelo’s Academy. Thomas Rowlandson, 1816.

Madame Collie of Rome fencing at Angelo’s Academy. Thomas Rowlandson, 1816.

A hallmark of the fencing salle, or place where fencing is taught, is courteousness. Fencing salles evolved to instruct the nobility as a means of personal defense and defense of one’s honor. In fact, the term courteous is derived from the Old French curteis (Modern French courtois), meaning “having courtly bearing or manners,” or behavior fit for nobility. As such, there are are centuries-long traditions for appropriate behavior in the salle where good manners were both generally and explicitly expected (Acosta-Martinez). “[M]aster Alberto Marchionni tells us that: ‘the fencing school requires decency and reciprocal respect like any other noble establishment'” (ibid).

In honor of those long traditions, we set forth similar rules for behavior of Queen City Classical Fencing members, with adaptations to the modern era, as follows:

  1. Students are obliged to acknowledge they are learning a historic, western European martial art, not a sport, and to show respect for all that the practice engenders.
  2. All cursing, swearing, and obscene or indiscreet language is prohibited.
  3. It is forbidden to fence without a mask, glove, and jacket, even in jest.
  4. When entering or leaving, greet the instructor and those present, but do not disrupt instruction, drilling, or fencing.
  5. It is forbidden to mock anyone, to make signs of disapproval, or to disturb them in any manner.
  6. No person may offer a foil or other weapon to a visitor without having asked the instructor’s consent.
  7. No student or spectator, without permission from the instructor, should offer to direct or give advice to any of the students who are either taking a lesson or fencing.
  8. When holding a foil or other weapon in an upright manner, it is forbidden for the button to touch the ground; it should rest on one’s foot.
  9. During open bouting, fencers shall salute their opponent and return all salutes.
  10. A valid touch is one that lands within the designated target area, is firm, and elicits a three-finger bend of the foil; hits that land plaqué (flat) or passé (scrapes/slides past) are to be disregarded as nothing done.
  11. The throat, as protected by a mask’s bib, shall not be a valid target and fencers shall endeavor to avoid it.
  12. During open bouting, fencers must always acknowledge openly and clearly each time a touch is received.
  13. A fencer may never claim that one has made a touch when the adversary denies it.
  14. While fencing, when one makes the weapon of his adversary fall, it is necessary to collect it promptly, and present it with courteousness.
  15. If, regrettably, during fencing, one is struck in the face, the one who gives the blow has to render courtesy to the other.
  16. All defense with the off-hand is prohibited unless the bout is with smallswords; should the bout involve smallswords, an off-hand glove is required.
  17. One should not use any fencing equipment belonging to others without permission of the owner.
  18. Students or other persons may not fence with each other without obtaining permission from the instructor.
  19. No student shall be allowed to freely fence until that privilege is awarded by the instructor.
  20. Students are obliged to full attention during instruction, drilling, and bouting
  21. A broken foil or other weapon, whether during a practice drill, or bout, is at the expense of the person holding it unless the instructor determines the adversary was negligent.
  22. Should a visitor break a foil, it is on the account of the student who presented him the foil.
  23. When fencing, if one perceives that the adversary is becoming angry, end the encounter.
  24. Spectators are obliged to whisper and not disrupt instruction, drills, or bouts.
  25. Before departing, everyone shall return their foils, masks, glove and other fencing equipment to their place.
  26. Out of deference to their experience, skills, and accomplishments, no persons shall be allowed to wear a black fencing jacket, save those bestowed the honor of Maître d’Armes by an Academy of bonafide lineage.
  27. Due to some salle particpants having a background in HEMA and having already owned black fencing equipment, rule 26 is suspended until further notice.

Works Cited

Acosta-Martinez, Jeannette (n.d.). Etiquette in the 18th and 19th Century Fencing Schools Part I: 18th Century – Historical Fencer. Retrieved March 13, 2021, from

Acosta-Martinez, Jeannette (n.d.). Etiquette in The 18th and 19th Century Fencing Schools – Part II: 19th Century – Historical Fencer. Retrieved March 13, 2021, from

Courteous – Origin and meaning of courteous by Online Etymology Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2021, from

Hope, Sir William (1692). The Fencing-Master’s Advice to His Scholar: Or a Few Directions for the Regular Assaulting in Schools. Edinburgh.