Ladder Tournament - Continual Action Rules

Bout Officials

Each fight is administered by a referee and three judges. Optionally, bouts may also have an assistant referee.

  • Referee: Watches for hits, calls break, separates fighters. May stop the fight for administrative or safety reasons. 
  • Judges (3): Determine the “winner” of each exchange (see Judging below)
  • Assistant Referee: Only watches for hits and calls “break” when he sees them – an extra set of eyes on the fight. He may also keep time. 

Fight Setup

Challenge fight logistics will be somewhat informal the first year, though we may formalize these in future years. Both fighters should show up for the fight with HEMA equipment that meets that current Longpoint rules standard. Each fighter should find two judges who are familiar enough with the Continual Action ruleset. The four judges will consult and decide which of the four will serve as the referee, and which will function as judges. At Piedmont League events, there will be a few trained judges who can help coordinate the set and running of fights, if necessary. If the two fighters are from different clubs, no more than one judge should be from each of them. Judges will keep score on paper but the end tally from each round does not necessarily need to be shown to fighters (for convenience, see Ladder League Tally Sheet below). 

Match Procedure

  1. Each match is composed of three 60-second rounds with breaks in between as needed.
  2. Except for administrative or safety reasons, the clock remains running for the entire 60 seconds without stoppage.
  3. Each fight consists of multiple “exchanges.” An exchange starts when the ref calls “fight” and ends when the ref or assistant calls “halt.” A break should be called once a hit is seen. The ref should separate each fighter, make sure they are out of range, then immediately call “fight” again.
  4. Once the timer rings, the fighters should finish their last exchange, after which they break and the scores are tallied by the judges. 
  5. Each judge separately awards the round to one of the fighters, indicating his or her score using the 3-point-must system (see below)
  6. At the end of all three rounds, the judges tally their own points and each awards an overall winner. 


A given round may consist of any number of exchanges, which are started and stopped by the referee. The judges determine the “winner” of each exchange on their own and award points accordingly, per the following procedure.

  • For each exchange the judge tallies two things, 1) who they feel was the winner of the exchange and 2) whether the exchange was dominant. Tallies can be as simple as a tick mark for each point, circled if that point was dominant.
  • Criteria for Winning Exchanges: This ruleset accepts that judging HEMA fights can sometimes be a subjective endeavor. Judges are empowered with the ability to make their own judgement calls about who won under the following guidelines
    • Any exchange where a fighter hits his or her opponent and doesn’t get hit in return should be considered a win for that exchange.
    • Exchanges where both fighters take solid hits should be considered a double loss (i.e. no score for either fighter). Likewise, exchanges that are halted by the ref with no hits exchange should also not be scored.
    • Judges are empowered to ignore hits if they’re deemed insignificant. Consider the following scenario. Fighter A lifts his sword to strike and takes a hit on the hand and in the same motion strikes fighter B solidly on the head. Judge may each rule this exchange in one of three ways
      • If the judge felt the nick was insignificant, it may be intentionally disregarded and the exchange awarded to fighter A.
      • If the judge felt the hand hit was significant enough to wound but not stop the motion of the blow, then it may be called a double hit
      • If the judge felt the hand hit was solid and significant enough to have stopped the blow, he may award the exchange to fighter B and disregard the blow to his head as having not been feasible in a “real” scenario.
    • Judges may likewise consider or disregard flat strikes, off-balance strikes, or otherwise poorly executed strikes at their discretion.
    • Judges should award wins when a grapple ends in positions of dominance. The ref may add his opinion on dominance if he stops the grapple prematurely for safety reasons.
    • No joint locks, high throws, or dangerous grappling techniques are allowed, but generally referees should allow the exchange to proceed until the grapple loses momentum.
    • Judges may award a win for a successful placement and control with the schnitt, even if the opponent pushes through the blade with his arms (in a manner that is deemed to be unrealistic) to hit his opponent.
    • In all cases, judges are given the flexibility to use their judgement about who the winner of the exchange would be in a “realistic” case. This presumes that such judgements on realism are both hypothetical and speculative, but in this ruleset judges are given the freedom to explore that speculation with a reasonable degree of latitude.
  • Dominant Exchanges: Exchanges are considered dominant if the winner of the exchange
    • demonstrates any controlling techniques the prevents his opponent from defending the attack (absetzen, single-time attack that effectively closes the line, etc.)
    • performs a solid and clean hit/thrust to the head, or thrust to the body without receiving a blow in return.
    • clearly shows dominance in a grappling scenario
    • disarms his opponent
    • displays any other clean technique that clearly overwhelms his opponent’s ability to counter with something of his own (techniques that have that “wow” factor).


Judges tally the winner of each exchange as the fight proceeds. The exchange tallies from each round are only used to determine winners and losers of that round. Afterwards they are discarded. At the end of each round

  • each judge adds the number of exchanges won by each fighter and determines a winner for the round. Judges should award a draw if the tallies are even.
  • each judge tallies the winner’s dominance score by subtracting his dominant exchanges from his opponent’s (even if negative)

Points are awarded based on the results of the round. Our scoring system uses a 3-point-must system (similar to the 10-point-must system boxing and other sports use). Therefore

  • The winner of each round is awarded 3 points
  • The loser is awarded points based on the winner’s dominance score.
    • score of 3 or more: the loser gets 0 points.
    • score of 2: the loser gets 1 point.
    • score of 1 or less: the loser gets 2 points.


At the end of the entire fight, each judge adds his points up (the ones awarded at the end of each round, not the tally of exchanges during rounds) and awards the fight to one of the fighters. If the points are even, he awards a draw. The fight results are announced by the ref and the result is noted as follows

  • Unanimous Decision: Three judges awarding the win to one fighter
  • Split Decision: Two wins to A, one win to B
  • Majority Decision: Two wins to A, one draw to B
  • Majority Draw: Two draws to A, one win to B
  • Split Draw: 1 Win to A, 1 Win to B, one Draw
  • Unanimous Draw: 3 Draws

In the case of a Majority Draw, a Split Draw, or a Unanimous Draw both fighters remain at the same ranking. If the challenger wins by unanimous decision, split decision, or majority decision, he jumps in front of the defender in the ranking. This essentially means the challenger takes the defender’s ranking, bumping him down one level. If the defender wins, then the rankings remain the same.


After the fights are finished, the referee is responsible for immediately reporting the results to the Ladder League, but fighters may want to follow-up with the referees to make sure this reporting is done quickly and accurately. During events, fighters may want to issue follow-up challenges that depend on the results of the fight, so the League will attempt to have someone on staff who will coordinate and log fight results quickly.

Outside of events, refs should email as soon as possible to report results. If the referee cannot do this, for some reason, he may assign someone else to report results, but the ref is still responsible for making sure the reporting is done promptly.