Given the Shin A Lam controversy, I decided to look up the rules for the appeals process.

The technical rules I found on the British Fencing website indicate that a point of fact can not be appealed. A couple news reports indicated that Shin A Lam's appeal was rejected on those grounds.

What is a point of fact in fencing parlance? I'm assuming it's jargon because the situation doesn't make sense when interpreted in plain English.

  • I don't understand why it doesn't make sense? Point of fact – Actuality, Occurrence. Whether the time ran out or was reset, the point was scored while time was on the clock. Frankly, after fencing through high school, I believe she should have remained en garde until the match was called, time or no.
    – stslavik
    Aug 1, 2012 at 17:23
  • 1
    @stslavik To a non-fencer, the term is jargon. I understand that it is analogous to normal use after your description, but as an outsider, I certainly don't see the technical implications. That said, I think the OP needs to be more explicit with the background. What is the controversy? What happened, and how is "point of fact" a relevant term? Aug 1, 2012 at 17:39
  • It doesn't make sense because the timing error is an actuality and occurrence as well.
    – Robin Ashe
    Aug 1, 2012 at 19:47
  • Can someone point out a specific article that discusses the term "point of fact" in context of this controversy? Aug 8, 2012 at 18:38
  • statesman.com/sports/…
    – Robin Ashe
    Aug 8, 2012 at 18:50

1 Answer 1


Found this explanation on a fencing website:

In foil and saber there is a rule called right of way, or priority, which claims only one person may develop an attack at a time. If both fencers are touched it is up to the referee to decide which fencer will be awarded the touch and why. Difficulty arises when the priority relationship between the fencers becomes confused. Each person is struggling to gain control of the attacking initiation. If sharp swords were used the truth would become apparent, but with dummy tips understanding this is a subtle matter. The rulebook has a standard explanation that the referee follows when arbitrating who will be awarded a touch. However: each referee and each fencer may judge events a bit differently. When a fencer does not agree with a referee’s call there is little he can do unless the referee said something which was unclear, or contrary to his own logic. It doesn’t matter if both fencers think they performed in a way completely opposite to the referee’s opinion - so long as the description of the fencing phrase is clear the referee’s judgement is the final say in the matter.

In the rulebook this decision is called a point of fact. There is no appeal for this. However; “if the referee is ignorant of or misunderstands a definite rule, or applies it in a manner contrary to the Rules, an appeal on this matter may be entertained.” (Fencing Rules, 2000 Edition, t.122, t.96b) To make an appeal the plaintiff should courteously inform the director that he would like to make an appeal before the bout committee. Right then and there the bout committee will decide on the issue. The fencer making an appeal on a point of fact, or anything else for this matter should use discretion, since both the referee and the bout committee can penalize a fencer for an Unjustified appeal t.122, Delaying the bout t.31, or Refusal to obey the Referee t.82, t.84.

So if I understand it correctly, the referee judged and called the point correctly, and since he followed the rule book it can't be challenged, despite the failure of the external equipment.

Edit: Just as a note, the rule book for USA Fencing is 230 pages long. That's about the longest rule book I've ever seen.

  • In this particular instance, it was epee rather than foil or saber, and simultaneous touches cancel each other out.
    – Robin Ashe
    Aug 1, 2012 at 23:01
  • @RobinAshe - Oh, yah, thanks for the clarification. I missed that (The epee vs foil/saber).
    – JohnP
    Aug 2, 2012 at 15:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.