Santa Cruz Historical Swordsmanship Club

Click here to edit subtitle

In progress:
Drills, links, resources, classes and lessons coming soon.

The Santa Cruz Historical Swordsmanship Club Sparring Rules



Standard Sparring Rules:




Full sparring requires at a minimum:

HEMA mask with back of the head protection.

Appropriate gorget

HEMA jacket

Protective gloves/gauntlets (leather only or padded gloves alone are not acceptable)

Groin protection

Joint coverage (elbows and knees)

Close-toes shoes with a non-slip sole.

Feder/blunt designed for sparring, including a tip that includes or has some combination of: Rolled, spatulate or covered with a blunt

Recommended gear:

 Body protector, vambraces, shin coverage.


2) Rules/comportment


Cuts, slices and thrusts are allowed with edges and point.

Controlled pommel attacks are allowed (use a “placement” or push, rather than strike)


Flat strikes do not count


Verbal acknowledgment is required when your opponent strikes you.


Deliberate groin attacks are forbidden, deliberate full power attacks to the hands are forbidden. Both targets should be acknowledged when struck.

After verbal acknowledgment of a strike, both fighters reset. Retaliatory strikes begun after verbal acknowledgment are forbidden (see alternative rules section)

If your attack is already in motion when you are struck, you are allowed to finish the motion. If you strike your opponent, this is considered a “double” and you both lose.

If you attempt a single time counter and miss the defense, while striking your opponent this is a  “double” and you both lose.


Punches and kicks are forbidden (see alternative rules section)


Grappling beyond incidental contact is forbidden (see alternative rules section)


Blade grabbing is forbidden (See alternative rules section)


Alternative rules


Any alternative sparring rules must be explicitly discussed and agreed on by both parties. No one will be pressured to fence under alternative rules if they do not feel safe/comfortable to do so. Alternative rules must be cleared with instructor before utilized.


  • Gear

Full sparring gear remains the same despite the use of alternative rules.
“Scalp wound” sparring can be conducted with masks, groin protection, gorgets and protective gloves.


2) Rule/Comportment alternatives.


Striking  (punches and kicks) allowed: No strikes intended to injure joints. No strikes to the throat or cervical vertebrae. No intentional strikes to the groin.  Strikes do not end an engagement unless a control position has been secured and three unanswered strikes are landed in rapid succession. Strikes should be lightly powered “demonstration” strikes.  An opponent so struck must verbally acknowledge and reset. A strike with a buckler will be considered a “fight ender”. Verbal acknowledgement and reset should follow.
Buckler strikes must be performed with extra care, and should also be performed lightly or in the manner of pommel strikes.


Grappling Allowed:  Throws/sweeps to the floor are forbidden. A physical “lift” or unbalancing that demonstrates control ends the engagement. If you are fairly struck while attempting to grapple, you must acknowledge and reset. Joint locks should not be performed at full speed. Standing keylocks and arm bars can be applied in the control position and stopped. If your opponent seems unaware that a lock has been applied, call “hold” and bring their attention to the situation. “Cranking” any lock or hold is forbidden.


Blade Grabbing: If your hand is struck while attempting to grab a blade, you must acknowledge and reset. If a blade you are grasping slides more than approximately one inch, you must acknowledge and reset.


Tournament rules: There are a variety of tournaments with various rule sets. If you wish to prepare for a tournament by sparring under that rule set, please clear it with opponent and instructor.


Finally, understand that HEMA is a martial art/combative sport that inherently includes some form of risk for injury. You are ultimately responsible for your safety, and the safety of your partners. If you have to choose between “losing” a point or doing something unsafe, such as swinging with excessive force, shoving someone over or engaging in actions that break (or even skirt) the above rules, just accept the point and continue fencing.

Remember, all of the above rules are just clarifications of rule #1: “Don’t be a D%@K!”