Our Field of Play: The Piste

In modern fencing, the piste or strip is the playing area. A regulation piste is 14 meters long and between 1.5 and 2 meters wide. This narrow pathway is where all of our fencing activity will take place, and why our movements are so linear in nature.

electric piste

Fencers must be on the strip to score touches. In electric fencing, the strip is grounded so that if a weapon hits the strip, no touch is registered. There is a center line; most scoring equipment will be aligned with the center of the strip, set off to the side. Every bout begins at the on guard or en garde line (located two meters either side of the center line) with a fencer on each side. There are warning areas at the end of each strip two meters before the end of the strip. The President or Referee will halt the action when a fencer passes this line to give him or her a two-meter warning (so named because there are only two meters of strip left). It merely serves to let the fencer know that he or she is nearing the end of the strip.

If a fencer goes off the end of the warning area with both feet, essentially off the strip, the opponent is given a point even if there is no actual hit. Going off the side of the strip with one or both feet halts the fencing action and is penalized by allowing the opponent to advance one meter before being replaced on guard. If the offending fencer would then be replaced behind the rear limit of the strip because of this, a tough is awarded to the opponent. If play is halted for any reason other than stepping off the side of the piste, a fencer may never be replaced on guard behind the rear line.

Once a touch has been scored, fencers begin again at the en garde line and action resumes as directed by the Referee. If no touch is scored but play was halted, the fencers come en garde at the position they were stopped.

The video below shows some of the strips that were set up for the London 2012 Olympics. Strips such as these will not be found at the local, regional or national level. They will most likely be found at international competitions. Enjoy!

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