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Wheelchair Fencing Rules

Wheelchair fencing is a dynamic, exciting and fast-paced sport. It is usually played between two fencers, either as a team event or as an individual event. 

Sabre, foil and epee are modified swords and they are used in scoring points when they strike certain parts of the upper body. For a fencer to participate in this sport, he/she must meet the least disability requirement. 

In a wheelchair fencing game, the competitors must perform with their chairs anchored on the ground in a stationary position, though this doesn’t take away the allure or intensity of the duel. As a matter of fact, it gives the competitors a better upper body stability, which enable them to display a high level of skill, reflexes, requiring hand coordination and mobility. 

The distance between one fencer and another is usually determined before the duel kicks off (in order to get the wheelchairs anchored to the floor), and determination is made based on the fencer with a shorter arm reach. In other words, the fencer with the shorter arm reach is allowed to decide whether the distance between him and his opponent should be measured according to his arm reach or that of his opponent. 

Just like the regular fencing, in a wheelchair fencing play, the players are linked to a signal box (electronic) that registers whenever they get hit by their competitor’s weapon. 

The Rules

Some fundamental wheelchair fencing rules include the following:

  • All fencers must be well equipped with the right protective clothing that cover the hands, legs, face and torso. 
  • The first fencer to give five hits to their opponent will be declared as the winner.
  • Weapons are not allowed to be modified, and fencers are not allowed to hurt their opponent. 
  • If a fencer has difficulty with controlling or grasping the weapon with his or her hand, such a weapon has to be attached to the fencer’s hand. 
  • The height of the wheelchair during fencing must be 53 centimeters and it must be rigid. The height of the backrest must be 15 centimeters at least, while the armrest on the other side should measure 10 centimeters at least. 
  • The size of both wheels must also measure according to the officially defined measurements. 

Rules of Engagement

The rules of wheelchair fencing are governed by the FIE (International Fencing Federation) with amendments according to the needs of the disabled wheelchair fencers. 

Both males and females can compete in this sport and a fencing game can be done with three different classes of weapons; saber, foil and epee. Competitors fight to 5 points in the first few rounds. In the next stage called direct elimination or the knockout stage, fencers fight for 15 points.

Right Of Way

A fencer is awarded the right of way when:

1. he/she starts attacking before their opponent.

2. he/she block or parry their rival’s attack.

3. he/she takes their rival’s blade.

If both lights show a hit, the officiating referee must decide on the player that will earn the right of way in order to score the point. A white light points out a hit which is off target and such point will be played again. If the officiating referee cannot decide on the player to earn a right of way, the point will be played again.

The Scoring Of Points

Both competitors can score points while playing a fencing game. The fencer at the referee’s right hand side has a green light, and the fencer at the referee’s left hand side has a red light.

A green or red light shows a hit to a target part of an opponent’s body, and a point is scored by the attacking competitor. A metallic lame apron is usually used to cover the non-target area.

Measuring Distance 

The wheelchairs are firmly fixed to a frame. To ensure that the two competitors reach each other, the distance between them must be measured and their chairs adjusted accordingly. The distance between two fencers is usually measured when a fencer extends his or her hand while holding a weapon(usually the fencer with a shorter arm reach). For sabre and epee, the distance is measured by allowing a fencer’s weapon to touch the elbow of the other fencer. In the case of foil, the distance is determined by measuring the inside bend of a player’s elbow. 

Sabre fencing is the fastest type of wheelchair fencing. Once the officiating referee says “Allez” both competitors use lightening fast skills and reactions to make a hit and probably score a point. The knockout bouts work a bit differently as the competitors must halt when either of them reach eight points and they must take a one minute break. After this break is taken, they continue to fence till a fencer reaches a fifteen score points. All the fencing terminologies are in Old French.

Point scoring in sabre is the same as that of foil, however, a hit in saber isn’t known by a white-light indication. Here, both fencers must keep fencing until one of them scores a hit.


Wheelchair fencing has been among the most popular Paralympic sports since the first Rome Games in 1960. As a matter of fact, it was introduced by the founding father of Paralympic sports, Sir Ludwig Guttmann. The wheelchair fencing grew popular because of its dynamic, fast-paced and medieval qualities. Just like the regular fencing, wheelchair fencing is also governed by rules and regulations. For a Paralympic fencer athlete to participate in this sport, he/she must follow the rules of the game carefully.

The goal of a wheelchair fencing play is just like that of the regular able-bodied fencing – to hit an opponent in the chosen areas during a duel. Unlike in the regular fencing game, every fencer competes in a chair anchored to a particular position. The target areas and number of hits needed differ in every event. Athletes depend on half-turns, leaning and ducking to dodge attempted touches from their competitors as they can never leave their seat.  


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