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Insights into the world of fencing and thoughts on life

  • Writer's pictureKate

Fencing Newbie: Referee hand signals

Updated: Aug 2, 2020

Every sport has its own terminology and language. Even if you’re not well-versed in the rules of football, you will probably understand this:


Football referee giving touchdown signal

In fencing, referees speak in a kind of sign language that helps fencers, coaches, and spectators understand their calls. These signs demonstrate the referee’s interpretation of the actions that led up to a touch being awarded or the action being halted. They also ensure that people who aren’t close enough to hear the referee (or who can’t speak the language being spoken) will understand what’s happening on strip. Most of the signals are the same across the three weapons–I’ll label the photos of them by action. If the action is weapon-specific, I’ll show it in parentheses. I have also included front (what a fencer sees) and back (what a spectator sees) views of the same hand signals.


A huge “thank you” to SabreCat referee Annamaria Lu for serving as the model in these photos.


Fencing referee giving on-guard signal from the back

En garde signal from front

En garde



Ready signal from the back

Ready signal from the front

Ready?



Fence signal from the back

Fence signal from the front

Fence!



Attack from the right signal from back

Attack from the right… (foil and sabre)



Arrives signal from back

arrives. (foil and sabre)



Touch right signal from back

Touch right.



Attack from right signal from front

Attack from the right… (foil and sabre)



Arrives signal from front

arrives. (foil and sabre)



Touch right signal from front

Touch right.



Double touch signal from back

Double touch signal from front

Double touch (epee).



Parry signal from back

Parry signal from front

Attack is parried.



Attack misses signal from back

Attack misses signal from front

Attack is “no” / attack misses. (foil and sabre)



No touch signal from back

No touch signal from front

No touch (after a simultaneous action in sabre).



Attack off-target start signal from back
Attack off-target end signal from back

Attack off-target start signal from front

Attack is off target (foil)–starting position.



Attack off-target end signal from front

Attack is off target (foil)–ending position).


If you’re interested, here are pdf files to show the various hand signal of several sports:


Ice hockey referee signals
Football signals

Wrestling referee signals
Basketball referee signals
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