Referees Suck

“The referee was biased.”
“The referee didn’t see my attacks.”
“The point was mine, why didn’t the referee award it to me?”

Mike Selig used a wonderful line in a briefing on a recent trip - “don’t expect the referee to win your fights for you.”

This is painfully true. In any fight, there are at least three people involved - you, the person on the other end and the referee. The referee’s job is to maintain good order on the piste and facilitate the fight, not to award you points you “think” are yours.

At the very least, the referee has a different view point to yourself. At the worst (and we hope it never is), the referee may be biased. As you have to learn to beat your opponent, you also have to learn how to score points that your referee is willing to give you, and how to adapt when the referee doesn’t award points the way you think they should go.

The following game has been played a few times, and generated a lot of positive feedback.

  • Print out the following document. Cut the cards, fold in half and chuck in a mask.
  • Fencers self organise in to groups of three. Two to fence, one to referee. The referee collects a card and reads the instruction on the card. The referee doesn’t disclose the contents of the card to the fencers.
  • Fencers fence. Referee refs. Fencers attempt to guess the rule change, and then adapt to it.
  • Once the fight is over, the referee discloses the rule change. Fencers then rotate around, grab a new card and repeat. It’s not expected for fencers to stay in the same grouping for the entire session, they’re expected to rotate and form new groups.

Word Document
PDF Document

Several of the rules were introduced by students after we played the game the first time. It’s worth asking for feedback and extending the ruleset with scenarios that your fencers ask for.