US Lightfencing Rules: combat

Below are the current US Lightfencing (USL) rules for match play. This information is the minimum needed for certified combatants. Please check back often for any updates. 

Update: July 1st, 2023

Update: July 18th, 2023- images only

Update October 15, 2023

Update November 24, 2023- Clarification on Engagement arming for clarity and to align with updated French rules language. 

Update November 29, 2023- Added Offenses and Penalties 

Update January 20, 2024- Added to gear section. Added information page and explanation of gear levels. Added list of Approved gear.

Update March 2, 2024: Added Saber Drops and disarms to the Combat Concepts section

March 6, 2024: Added Reglas de-TPLA-USL Lghtfencing-en-espanol

US Lightfencing rules/ US version 2.0 [V.1 by C. Giroux and updated by C. Eisner, Terra Prime Light Armory.]  

Spanish Translation: Aureo and Roberto Andino

The Game

Protocol for combatants 

Each combatant will be called to the Arena before their match. Combatants must appear within a reasonable amount of time (to be determined by the event) for gear and weapon checks. After each combatant is cleared, they enter the combat area. Each combatant stands on their “line of engagement” Each combatant salutes the ref, the judges, then their opponent. The ref calls “En Guard!” And the combatants take their ready positions behind their lines of engagement. The ref will call, “Fight!” Which will begin combat. 

Combat will continue until 

When a hit is scored, the judges or the referee calls out “hit!” the referee then waits for a beat to allow for a salvo then calls out “Halt!”. All action must stop when “halt” is called. 

This process is repeated until one combatant achieves 15 points or the time limit of 3 minutes has elapsed. After the Referee ends the match, the combatants will salute each other, salute the ref and approach the center of the ring. At that time a winner will be announced by the referee.Each combat will be released form the arena and the match is officially over. 

Assuming the ready position 

Combatants are required to assume a ready position behind the “Guard lines” on their side of the arena. Combatants may assume any position they wish while waiting for the command to begin. If a point is stopped and combat is to resume, each combatant must return to outside the “Engagement Boundary” and assume their ready position. 

Starting and stopping combat

Combat starts when the referee says “Fight”. Any action taken before this action is invalid in the game and attacking prior to the fight command is punishable by a red card offense. 

The judges may call out a hit, or a combatant may call a hit on themselves. A combatant may not call a hit on the other combatant. After a hit the referee will allow time for a salvo. If a salvo is not started within a beat of the last touch, the referee will call “halt”. 

Any interruptions in combat will be called by the referee saying “Halt!”. To continue fighting after the Halt command is punishable by a red card offense. If a combatant stops fighting before the hit command, any touches made on them will be valid. 

The referee may stop combat when a touch is scored, an offense is committed, the game play is becoming dangerous or unnecessarily rough or any other reason that may put the combatants, the officials, or the audience in danger. 

The referee cannot permit any combatant to leave the area for any reason other than medical or another extenuating circumstance. Leaving the ring will be punished by the appropriate sanctions or forfeiture of the bout. 

Combat Duration

Bout: The period between the command “Fight” at the start and “Halt” at the end.  Time will be kept by a judge or time keeper. Matches are 3 minutes long and time is kept without stopping. 

The official match duration is no longer than 3 minutes. At the end of the three minutes The time keeper will yell out “Time!” Loudly and authoritatively to the referee. The referee must then yell “Halt”to end combat and the match.  Any combat occurring after this time (including salvos) are invalid. Attacking or continuing combat after time is called is punishable by a red card offense or disqualification. 

Time outs: Combat can be interrupted but the referee by calling a time out. Timeouts can occur when there is a dispute, a possible injury, or any event that is unforeseen that will adversely affect safety or game play. If a combatant calls for excessive timeouts, or attempts to prolong combat, rest, or otherwise give themselves an advantage, it is punishable by a red card offense. 

Weapon Phrases: When in a weapon phrase, combat must continue without interruption until a touch is scored or the combatants disengage. When a touch is scored, the judges will call “hit” by indicating which combatant they saw. The referee will then call “Halt” and combat must be stopped. Any salvo in progress will be valid if it lands a touch. 

Time between matches: In competition for individuals, the time between 2 consecutive matches is at least 2x the duration of the last match. Juniors will be required to have at least 10 minutes between consecutive matches.

The Arena

The Lightfencing rule set is a game of lightsaber combat. The Arena is the area occupied by the combatants, judges, the referee, and the time keeper. The arena is divided into several rings and areas. Combat and game play take place in the Combat Ring. 

The Combat ring has two areas; the Engagement Area and the Combat Area. These are delineated by the Exit Boundary (8 meter diameter) and the Engagement Boundary ( 6 meter diameter). Combatants must begin behind the engagement boundary when a point is stopped, which is 6 meters in diameter within the Combat Ring. Combatants must stay within the exit boundary for the duration of the match. (Combatants under the age of 12 compete within the 6 meter engagement boundary for the entire match). 

Two lines are described on the ground and are used as the guard lines. Matches begin with both opponents facing each other standing behind these lines. 

The officials like referees and judges occupy the Outer Ring in the “official’s area”. The score and time keeper is positioned outside the outer ring. 

The arena dimensions are: 

Arena Outer diameter: 10 meters (32 ft.)

Combat ring diameter: 8 meters (26 ft.)

Protective Gear

Safety is of paramount importance in any sport. The gear and equipment needed for any sporting activity is based around minimizing injury in vulnerable areas. Lightsaber combat and competition is a high energy, physical sport and carries with it the risk of injury. Proper gear and safety measures should be taken at all times to minimize accidents and injuries that can result from them. Click for More

The protective gear used in competition is mandatory and combatants that do not have proper gear or Gear that is ill fitting or in a damaged state to render some or all of its protective value moot will be barred from competing until proper gear is obtained. 

The pieces of protective equipment are as follows. 

Head protection: Fencing or HEMA helmet. 3 weapon fencing masks by approved suppliers are the minimum protection to the head. Helmets and masks may have hoods or other back of the head protection built in or worn separately. 

Hoods or back of the Head Guard: For Fencing masks that do not include back of the head protection, hoods or guards may be worn in addition. Most Fencing masks can accommodate any number of back of the head protectors. 

Hands/Gloves: Hockey, Lacrosse, or Heavy HEMA gloves are required. Gloves must protect the hand reasonably well from finger strikes, finger tip injury, and thumb. Light gloves like Rapier gloves, motocross or motorcycle gloves, and other “work glove” style hand protection is not allowed. Gloves must be protective from full force hits with the 2mm blade. 

Shoulder and Chest protection: Hockey and Lacrosse body armor is ideal for the sport. Be sure all gear fits well and protects shoulders and chest. HEMA jackets are legal provided they offer enough protection at the shoulders and chest. Female combatants should wear a plastron or other hard insert with HEMA jackets. Fencing jackets without padding or joint protection are not allowed. Historical Gambesons must be independently cleared by event or tournament officials. 

Elbows and Knees: Elbow and Knee protection can be skateboard or biking pads, any sporting style elbow or knee caps, or HEMA or martial arts style protection. Knees and elbows should be completely covered by the protective piece and that piece should be sufficiently padded to prevent injury from the hard plate. Lacrosse slash guards, baseball catchers, leg guards, and other bigger pieces of equipment are allowed and can protect a larger area.

Footwear: Solid athletic shoes in good repair and well-fitted are required for all competitions. Any closed toe shoe with a good sole can be used. High top shoes that go above the ankle are ideal. Boxing, wrestling, kung fu, fencing, and other flexible soled shoes are suitable. 

Protection for different sexes: A cup for male anatomy and plastron for female will be required for competition. 

Gear Checks

All combatants participate in any competition or activity associated with TPLA or the USL rule set does so at their own risk fully knowledgeable to the risks inherent in this sport. All combatants will arm, dress, equip and maintain their gear with the understanding that these measures are implemented for the safety of all combatants and preserve the fun of the game. Event organizers and competition officials will perform gear checks before any event or match that requires gear. 

Any warming up or training on the premises where a TPLA or USL event is happening must be in proper gear at all times. This includes locker room, extra space for preparation or any other location at the venue. Combatants may be cited by officials if they're found in breach of these rules. Examples of Approved Gear

Gear checks will be performed upon entering the competition and marked as being approved or the combatant will be asked to make alterations or additions. Gear checks will also be performed before each match to ensure that each combatant's gear is in good working order and is properly worn and secured. Weapon checks will be performed at the same time. 

Gear levels 

Level 3: Full kit. For sparring and competition. 

Level 2: Head, back of the head, elbows, knees, and gloves. 

Level 1: Mask and gloves

In lightfencing, there are several types of activities all requiring a different amount of protective equipment. These are all two person drills and games. Any solo practice has no gear requirements as there is no attacking opponent. But, when working with another person it is important to wear the appropriate gear for what you are doing. 


Dueling in the rule set consists of two combatants that compete to gain 15 points by making touches to the target areas of the opponent or as many as they can in the space of 3 minutes without leaving the combat area. Tournaments for individual combatants may be organized as single or double elimination or round robin style. At the end of all the scheduled matches, a ranking of the participants will be  calculated. 

All competition is co-ed and there is no separation of combatants based on sex or gender identification. 

Weapon Requirements

Lightsaber combat is a sport that takes from many sword arts. As such, there is a great deal of variation in weapon dynamics and statistics between combatants. In the TPLA rule set, there are several designations for legal weapons. 

Standard (all events no restrictions)

Overall regulation saber:39 inches (100 cm) -43 inches (110 cm)

Blade length exposed: 31 inches (79 cm) 34 inches (86 cm) 

Hilt length without blade: 6 inches (15 cm) and 12 inches (31 cm)

This is the only completely legal configuration of a saber for combat. Standard saber can be wielded one or two handed and it is the configuration that the rules were based around. It can be used with no adaptation or handicap. 

Blades: The legal blades for competition and practice is 1 inch (254mm) outer diameter and 2mm thickness. This thickness is between the 1.5 mm (light) and the 3mm (heavy). Only rounded tips are permitted for competition. No bullet tips or other end caps that pose a puncture risk are allowed. 

Weapon handling

Standard weapons may be handled with one or two hands and the combatant may switch hands during combat at will. There are no restrictions to weapon handling except for the rule that the weapon cannot be wielded by the pommel or end of the handle. The weapon hand must remain on the handle portion of the hilt when using the weapon two handed. If the weapons are welded one handed, the dominant hand is whichever hand is holding the weapon at the time and cannot be holding the saber from the end or pommel. Reverse grip is allowed but all rules of priority and arming are the same. 

Weapons may not be used as projectiles or throwing weapons at any time. Doing so will result in a Red card offense and possible disqualification. 

Target Areas

Target areas in the TPLA rule set are based on how far one has invaded their defenses. There are three zones worth an ascending number of points. 

Zone 1: hands, weapon. 1 point

Zone 2: Arms and legs. Arms from the wrist to the deltoid. The legs from the ankle to the hip. 3 points

Zone 3: Head, shoulders and torso to top of pelvis. 5 points. 


In order to score in the TPLA-USL system, a combatant must do certain things. The game is based on a system priority, this is achieved through arming techniques. There are five basic principles  to scoring in the system. The first is priority, only the one with priority may make a touch. Priority is gained by Arming. Engagement Arming to begin a weapon phrase. Simple arming used within a weapon phrase. The second is Defense, the defender from any priority attack must make a good faith effort to protect themselves. The third is the Blade must be activated in order to score. The fourth is Safety. Scores are made by touches only, not by “strikes”. Combatants must use reasonable force for attack. The fifth is the Excitement. The action and game play is supposed to be exciting for the audience to watch and for the combatants to play. Several techniques can be used to maximize the excitement of a match. 

Engagement Arming: In order to obtain priority to attack, the combatant must bring their hand , weapon , and blade behind the vertical center lines determined from the cervical vertebrae/ear. Once the weapon  and hand pass the centerline, they can launch a priority attack. Engagement arming can be done by bringing the saber back then forward, in a circular path around the head, or with a spin or turn of the body. In standard combat, the entire weapon must be brought behind you, including the pommel. For engagement arming to be valid it must: 

Simple Arming: Simple arming happens within a weapon phrase after a successful defense. Simple arming entails bringing only the tip of the saber back behind the vertical centerline as determined by the cervical vertebrae/ear. The tip must be brought back from the defensive position before being brought forward to attack. This can be done in any way. 

Protection principle: Before a combatant may answer an attack, they must perform a “good faith” attempt to defend themselves. They may do this by performing a parry or a dodge. 

Parries: must be complete and should be dedicated to the defense. If a parry stops the movement of the attack, intersects in a way that would provide good protection, or otherwise provides a successful defense, priority will change to the defender. If the parry is ineffective, collapses, or does not contact the opponent's blade in a way that would prevent a touch, any touch made by the opponent will be valid.  Touches that “wrap around” the blade or make contact while in contact with the opponent's blade will not be valid unless the parry would have been ineffective with a straight angle. 

Dodging can be complete or partial, but must entail moving either the limb or the entire body out of the weapon’s path. 

Blade activation principle: The blade of the combatant’s saber must be illuminated while in play. If a saber blade goes off during a point, any parry attempted will result in a touch by the opponent to the targeted area. If the blade goes dark during an attack, any touches made will not be scored. If an opponent's blade goes out during a match but not during a phrase, they must turn it back on in order to continue. 

Salvo principle: After a touch is made, the point is not yet over. If a touch is made to one scoring area, they may arm another strike and try to gain a touch to a higher scoring area. If a touch is made at the limbs for 3 points, one may immediately arm another strike and try to touch the head for 5 points. If they are successful, they receive the 5 points, if the opponent parries or dodges, or the combatant simply misses, they will receive the score for their original touch. The combatants have 3 chances to achieve the highest score of 5. one initial hit and 2 salvo attempts.

Combat concepts

Close combat: Close combat is when both combatants are within each other’s weapon range. Close combat is permitted as long as the combatants are properly using their weapons in arming and priority, and the referee can keep track of the action. No contact with the body is allowed. 

Corps a Corps (Body to body): If at any time, the combatants touch each other without the saber and with any part of their body, it is called Corps a Corps. (Pronounced Core ah Core) and is forbidden. If a corps-a-corps occurs, the referee will stop combat. This includes touches and actions by the non weapon hand and arm, the legs, shoulders or torso. 

The use of the non-weapon hand is forbidden in standard combat. Grabs, grapples, and pushes will stop combat. If a combatant continues or is obviously doing these actions to gain advantage, it can be punished with a yellow or red card offense. 

Any striking with the arms, hands, legs or feet, is considered roughness and is grounds for sanctions up to and including disqualification. 

Footwork: Combatants may use any footwork techniques they can for locomotion. Kicks, sweeps, and other leg attacks are forbidden.

During engagement arming, combatants may take two full steps (switching the forward leg twice to end up in the starting stance) and one shuffle step or “Hutt Slide” (a quick small step done with the front foot so as not to change stance). 

Combatants may perform one 360 spin for engagement arming. A single step can be performed at the end of the spin. 

Combatants may perform one jump during engagement arming. This jump can be with two feet (jump) , one leg (leap) or with a spin. 

Combatants may take as many steps as they wish before arming. Once a strike is armed, the above rules are in effect. 

Falls and 3 point rule: 

A combatant is considered to have fallen if three separate extremities(e.g. hand, one foot, and one knee), their head, back or hips touch the floor. During this time, the combatant may neither attack nor be attacked but must return to their feet immediately. 

Saber drops and disarms:

If during the course of a match, one of the combatants drops their weapon or is disarmed by the other's weapon, and the weapon hits the floor, the referee will immediately call "HALT!". The immediately proceeding phrase and actions will be invalidated unless the saber was dropped (hit the floor) after a hit was called. Any deliberate dropping or throwing of the saber can be sanctioned with yellow card. This determination is left up to the referee. 


During a match, the combatants have free range of movement within the combat area. This includes dodging, jumping, rolling, spinning, and simple tumbling tricks. Some of these movements will allow a combatant to arm an attack and some must be done as preparatory movements. All movements are assumed to start with both feet on the ground and in a standing position. All movements must conform to the "3 points of contact” rule. 

Movements of arming to engage

Spins: if the combatant makes a 360 degree turn and brings their weapon in that same arc, the strike is armed.

Rolls: If a combatant performs a shoulder roll and the weapon does not touch the ground, the strike is armed. The strike must be delivered with at least one foot on the ground and the body upright.

Cartwheels: if a combatant performs a cart wheel and the weapon does not touch the ground, the strike is armed. The strike must be delivered after both feet are on the ground. 

Dodging: a combatant may dodge a strike in any way that they are able while staying inside the combat area.

Kneeling: kneeling can be done if certain criteria are met. One knee on the floor, the hips must not rest on the legs or shin and the body must be upright. The combatant must return to their feet as quickly as possible. 

Target and hand switching

One may not switch or or otherwise obstruct a targeted strike with priority by switching the target. Example: lifting the hand and arm to take a 3 point hit on the arm to prevent being hit on the head and losing 5 points. 

A combatant may switch weapon hands during a point. They must handle the weapon in the customary way from either hand. Do not strike or attack while holding the pommel of the saber to gain reach. This action will be deemed invalid. 


If a combatant throws a priority attack at a specific target, they may switch targets before the opponent parries. This action must be distinct from the original arc of the strike thrown. This is done by: 

In order for a feint to be legal it must:

Offenses and penalties

Offenses and penalties are separated into four categories in ascending order of severity.  As the seriousness of the infraction increases so do the penalties for that offense. If the combatant receives a sanction, points will be awarded to their opponent.  Any phrase in which an offense occurs is deemed “invalid” and no score will be recorded for that phrase. 

Example #1:  Combatant A has 5 points when they receive a sanction from the referee of 3 points. The combatant would then continue the match with 2 points instead 5. If however, the combatant had only 1 point, they would loose their point and 2 points would be awarded to their opponent. 

Example #2: A phrase ends with a hit to the head but they did not gain priority with an engagement arming movement. The phrase is invalid and no scores are awarded. 

If point based sanctions are ineffective or the infraction is of sufficient severity, the combatant may be removed from competition..

Offenses are marked during a match by the show of cards. The order and penalties associated with each are below: