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Priority or right of way is the decision criterion used in foil and sabre fencing to determine which fencer receives the touch, or point, when both fencers land a hit within the same short time-frame (less than 1 second). After this window, if one fencer had already landed a hit, the electrical scoring apparatus would "lock-out," or fail to record, an opponent's subsequent hit, and thus the one fencer to land a hit is awarded the touch. In épée fencing, if both fencers land valid hits at the same time, they each receive a point. Because of this foil and sabre are considered conventional weapons.
Generally, priority is determined by first considering which fencer attacked first. In order to initiate an attack a fencer must threaten the target area of their opponent with the point of the foil while their arm is extending. When performing a compound attack the fencer must not withdraw the arm by bending the elbow.
These stipulations mean that, in the event of both fencers hitting with the tip, the hit made by a fencer that initiates an attack will have priority if:
- The opponent attempts a stop-hit into a simple attack.
- The opponent attempts a stop-hit into a compound attack but isn't in time.
- The opponent attempts to avoid the touch but fails to do so.
- The opponent parries the attack but pauses before the riposte.
- While the opponent has the point in-line, the opponent's blade was beat out of line.
- While the opponent has the point in-line, the opponent doesn't hit with the point of the blade.
The hit made by the defender will have priority if:
- The defender already has the blade in the point-in-line position.
- The attacker attempts to deflect the blade and fails to find it while the defender hits the attacker.
- The defender beats the blade while the attacker is executing a compound attack and the attacker continues the attack anyway.
- The attacker makes a pause or withdraws the arm during a compound attack during which the defender hits the attacker.
- The attacker is executing a compound attack and the defender executes a stop-hit which is in time.
- The defender parries the attack and makes an immediate riposte.