Rules for Referees

This rule set is not intended as a guide for players wanting to take part in an FNC tournament. Instead it is an outline of concepts and rules for match referees and tournament directors. With this rule set the referee can be confident in guiding fair play, controlling dangerous play, and being on the lookout for tricky situations that need adjudication between players. It also gives them official sounding language and jargon to confound and deflect any player who may or may not like their decisions.

Follow this link for a more streamlined guide for players.

  1. Initial terms

    1. A point is the basic span of action in Fight Night Combat. It begins once both players are juggling three clubs each, and ends with either:
      1. One player winning the point and the other player out of the point.
      2. Both players out of the point.

    2. A club is considered to be dropped if the club's downward motion is arrested by contact with the floor (or any other surface or object outside of the agreed playing area) without first being caught and held by a player. This can also be known as a club hitting the floor.

    3. A dropped club is considered immediately out of play. An out of play club is no longer part of the point, and can't be touched or juggled.

    4. A club is considered to be in the player's pattern if the player, not the opponent, last threw the club, or was the last in non-dynamic contact with the club.

    5. A club is considered to be in the opponent's pattern if the opponent, not the player, last threw the club, or was the last in non-dynamic contact with the club.

    6. A high throw is any club thrown higher than a typical single spin cascade throw in a three club pattern. A high throw is considered to remain in the player's pattern unless it is attacked, stolen, dropped or discarded.

  2. Winning the point

    The player may be awarded a scoring point if they maintain, without dropping a club, the only remaining and uncontested pattern of at least three clubs. They must maintain this pattern beyond the point when their opponent has unambiguously either dropped a club or otherwise lost control of their own three club pattern.

    At this moment, the opponent is considered out of the point.

    Once the opponent is out of the point, the player must be awarded a scoring point if:

    1. The player has already maintained their pattern for a minimum of six catches beyond the last attack (by either the player or the opponent), and the player stops juggling without a dropped club.

    2. The player continues their pattern for a minimum of six catches beyond the moment when their opponent has dropped or otherwise been put out of the point, and stops juggling without a dropped club.

    3. The player continues their pattern for a minimum of three catches beyond the moment when their opponent has dropped or otherwise been put out of the point, in a clean pattern and stops juggling without a dropped club. In this case a clean pattern means no wrong ended catches, no fumbles, no trapping or holding the club other than in the hands, no wild catches or throws, all in a stable cascade with single spins.

    The player must not be awarded a scoring point if the player drops a club for any reason, either intentionally or unintentionally, without further physical interaction with the opponent.

    Intentional disruption when out of play.

    A player who is out of the point must always and immediately make their best effort to do the following:

    1. Stop juggling.
    2. Stop any attacks against the opponent's clubs or pattern.
    3. Stop any attempt to catch any high-thrown clubs remaining in the air, either their own clubs or their opponent's.
    4. Let go of an opponent's club held in their hand that is also being held by the opponent.
    5. Keep out of the way of their opponent's pattern. If possible the player should remain in place, or not change their current direction and pace of movement, so the opponent knows what volume of space to avoid with their own body and clubs.
    6. Without disrupting the pattern of the opponent, to untangle or release any opponent's club still held by the opponent that may be trapped between any two parts of the player's body (eg. under the arm, in the crook of the elbow) or trapped in any items of clothing. During this time the player should not pull on the club, nor move their body in an unpredictable fashion, and let the opponent continue juggling two in one hand for as long as it takes to gain full independent control over the three club pattern.

    It is difficult for an attacked player to be completely aware of the entire situation in the heat of the moment. However, any player who goes against these guides, and doesn't make a clear effort to be considerate of their opponent's pattern, is considered to have committed a foul.

    At the referee's or tournament director's discretion, a player may be awarded a scoring point if the player's pattern is intentionally disrupted by the opponent, or a third party, before the player has a chance to maintain their pattern beyond six catches and stop juggling without dropping a club. This point may be awarded only if the player is otherwise clearly in control of their pattern, or when a high throw that otherwise would have been effortlessly caught into the player's pattern is deflected or disrupted by the opponent or a third party. This awarding of the point despite a drop or steal is without consideration to any penalty for the foul committed by the opponent.

  3. Attacking an opponent's club

    An attack is the action of making contact with an opponent's club with the intention of removing the club from the opponent's pattern.

    The contact can be between:

    1. The player's club and the opponent's club.
    2. The player's hand or arm and the opponent's club.

    The target club can be:

    1. In the opponent's hand.
    2. In the opponent's pattern.
    3. An opponent's high throw.

    A successful attack is one that puts the opponent's club out of play. This could mean:

    1. The club hits the floor without being caught (i.e. a dropped club)
    2. The club is knocked away from the opponent, such that the opponent would be unable to reach it even if they attempted to do so.
    3. The club is knocked out of the agreed playing area and the opponent can't attempt to reach the club for audience safety reasons.

    The moment the attack is successful and the club is out of play, the opponent is out of the point.

  4. Discarding a club

    A player's club is considered discarded if the player no longer intends to catch a club they have just thrown. This intention must be clearly shown by one or more of the following:

    1. The player makes a high throw away from their current position and doesn't move to catch it.
    2. The player makes a high throw and moves away from the position they would need to be to catch it.
    3. The player catches a different club in the hand the club would otherwise have to be caught in.
    4. The player lets the thrown club bounce off any part of their body without making any effort to catch it.
    5. The player lets the club drop past the point it could be caught without making any effort to catch it.

    As soon as a discarded club touches the floor it is considered dropped.

    A player's club can not be considered as discarded if it has been successfully attacked by an opponent. If the player can no longer reach or catch the attacked club, it is considered out of play, and the player is considered out of the point.

  5. Stealing an opponent's club

    A steal is when a player:

    1. catches an opponent's club out of the pattern.
    2. catches an opponent's high thrown club.
    3. pulls a club out of their opponent's hand.

    This is a valid attack that removes the club from the opponent's pattern, not by putting it immediately out of play, but instead potentially making it part of the player's own pattern.

    How a player knows their club is stolen

    A player's club is considered stolen when it is removed from their own pattern or hand by their opponent, the player no longer has physical contact with the club, and then the club is either:

    1. Cleanly thrown by the opponent. The club is then considered part of the opponent's pattern.
    2. Dropped by the opponent. The club is then out of play.
    3. Held or trapped solely by the opponent while the opponent continues to juggle three other clubs.

    If the player still has physical contact with a club that has been caught or grabbed by their opponent, it is not yet considered stolen. It is still part of the player's pattern.

    If the player no longer has three clubs in their own pattern (the player and opponent haven't swapped clubs), the player is out of the point the moment they catch both their remaining two clubs.

    Stealing a club after discarding a club

    If a player discards their own club to replace it with an opponent's club, they must chose a specific target club and show their intention to steal that club in an unambiguous fashion before their own discarded club either:

    1. hits the floor.
    2. is caught by their opponent.
    3. is touched by their opponent when attempting to catch it.

    Their intention to steal a specific club must be shown by one or more of the following:

    1. The player looks and moves towards the opponent's club.
    2. The player reaches to catch the opponent's club.
    3. The player succeeds in catching the opponent's club.

    A player must clearly be aiming to catch a specific club of the opponent, not randomly grasping in the general area of the opponent's pattern.

    If the player fails to steal the opponent's club and their own discarded club is still in the air (has not hit the floor or been caught or otherwise touched by their opponent), they may be able to select a new target club before their discarded club hits the floor. Again, this new intention must be shown unambiguously.

    If a player fails to steal the opponent's club and their own club has hit the floor (or has been caught or otherwise touched by their opponent), the player is out of the point.

    Clubs are swapped

    If the players discards a club and catches their opponent's discarded club, the stolen club is considered part of the player's pattern from the moment they cleanly throw it. The same is true of the players club being stolen by the opponent. From then on, despite beginning the point as the opposite player's club, it is considered their club for the remainder of the point for purposes of these rules.

    Stealing an opponent's club after the player's club has been stolen

    If the opponent steals a club from a player's pattern or hand, the player is out of the point at the moment they:

    1. Have no physical contact with the stolen club AND
    2. Have caught both their two remaining clubs, either at the same moment in one hand each or both in the same hand, or consecutively in one or both hands.

    For the player to steal an opponent's club in return, the player must catch, grab or hold the opponent's club before they have caught both their remaining two clubs. A player may not juggle their remaining two clubs in one hand while they attempt to steal an opponent's club.

  6. Fumbles and recoveries.

    During the point, a player must generally aim to keep three clubs in steady pattern; a maximum of two clubs held in the player's hands while one club is in the air. In this case, the player is in full control of three clubs. The club in the air must be unambiguously in the pattern of the player and not the opponent for it to be considered as under full control of the player.

    However, during a fumble or recovery, a player may still be considered in partial control of three clubs, and not out of the point, if the player has two clubs under full player control, plus one club in dynamic contact with:

    1. the player's body or other clubs.
    2. the opponent's body or other clubs.

    Dynamic contact is defined as:

    1. Any single movement that immediately reverses a descending club with a maximum of one point of contact between the club and the player's body or other other club (i.e. scooping a club upwards with a single point of contact).
    2. Any single movement where more than one body part/club are ascending on contact with a descending club, with the aim of deflecting the club upwards to return it to a juggling pattern (i.e. hitting the club upwards with two or more points of contact).
    3. A club bouncing or rolling off a player's body or other clubs.
    4. A club bouncing or rolling off an opponent's body or clubs.

    Non-dynamic contact is defined as:

    1. Any player movement where more than one body part/club are intentionally descending on contact with the descending club, with the aim of controlling the club fully before launching it again (i.e. a catch followed by a throw).
    2. The club is caught or held in the player's hand.
    3. Any form of controlled catching and throwing motion with any non-hand body part/parts (e.g. a kickup).
    4. The club is trapped or caught between any two parts of a player's body.
    5. The club is trapped or caught between any part of a player's body and one or more of the player's other clubs.
    6. The club is trapped or caught between the player's two other clubs.
    7. The club is in a static or sustained horizontal balance with a single point of contact with a player's body or one other club.
    8. The club is in a static or sustained balance with two or more points of contact with a player's body or other clubs.

    So a player is considered to still be in partial control of a three club pattern if:

    1. They have one club in each hand and their third club is either in the air or in dynamic contact with the player or opponent.
    2. They have one club in one hand and two clubs either in the air or in dynamic contact with the player or opponent.
    3. They have empty hands and three clubs either in the air or in dynamic contact with the player or opponent.
    4. They have two clubs in one hand and the third club is in the air. In this case, the player must throw one of the two clubs in one, leaving just one club in the hand, before the third club is caught or otherwise comes into contact with the player or opponent.

    A player is no longer considered to be juggling three clubs if they have one club in each hand and their third club is in non-dynamic contact with either the player or the opponent.

    A player is considered to still be juggling four clubs if they have one club in each hand, their third club is either in the air or in dynamic contact with the player or opponent, and their fourth club is in non-dynamic contact with the player (not the opponent).

    If a player is in control of two clubs and their third club is in non-dynamic contact with their opponent's body and/or clubs, the third club is considered stolen , and the player is out of the point the moment they catch both their remaining clubs.

    With these terms, and defining a catch as non-dynamic contact, we can define a valid three club pattern by stating: Non-dynamic contact with a specific club is allowed only when a player has a minimum of one other club in the air or in dynamic contact with the player's or opponent's body and/or clubs.

  7. Between points

    The players should acknowledge to each other that they are both ready to begin before moving or attacking. A player should give their opponent both time and space to begin juggling without coercion or intimidation.

    Players should help the tournament run in a smooth and prompt manner by not waiting too long or wasting time between points. With regards to timing:

    1. It is not the job of the referee or announcers to begin the point. The players themselves are responsible to start juggling in an appropriate time.
    2. After a point is awarded, the players should begin juggling within 24 seconds.
    3. If a point ends with both players dropping, or no point being awarded for other reasons, the players should begin juggling within 14 seconds.
    4. If a preceding point has been particularly long or dramatic, leniency may be shown to both players over a slight delay of play only if both players have not begun juggling.
    5. If 24 seconds passes and one juggler is already juggling, the other juggler should begin juggling right away or else receive a warning.
    6. If there has been a foul against a player, that player may take some extra time to begin juggling. The opponent must begin juggling as soon as the player is ready to replay the point.
    7. If a player has been injured or harmed by the opponent, the player may begin the next point whenever they feel ready, within reason, at the discretion of the referee. The opponent must begin juggling as soon as the player is ready to begin the point.
    8. If a player has been injured or harmed by their own actions, the player may request some more time before playing the next point.
    9. There are no time considerations once both players are juggling, only between points.
  8. Fouls

    A wild attack is a club swung or thrust towards or at an opponent without a specific club targeted, or to a place where there is currently no pattern to target. A blind attack is a club swung at an unseen target club or pattern.

    Wild attacks and blind attacks are allowed during play. However, if this leads to harmful contact, it should be penalized to a greater extent than a targeted attack against a specific club that accidentally hits an opponent.

    A foul is considered any play that may lead to:

    1. Harm or injury to any part of the opponent's body.
    2. Disruption of the opponent's pattern in an unsporting manner.

    The only valid target of a player's attack is an opponent's club or clubs. If the targeted club is currently held in the opponent's hand, the player must make their best effort to aim for the body of the club, not the handle, to avoid unnecessary danger to the opponent's fingers and hands.

    Contact between the player's attacking club and the opponent's hand, arms or body is acceptable only when:

    1. Contact is accidental in an otherwise well-aimed attack against a specific club.
    2. The opponent raises their arm to block an attack.
    3. The opponent otherwise intentionally uses their body to deflect an attack.

    A player should use their hands, arms or body to attack the opponent's clubs only, never the opponent's hands, arms or body. Grabbing, grappling or pulling an opponent's hand, arm or body, rather than the opponent's club, is not allowed.

    Contact between the player's hands or arms and the opponent's hands, arms or body is acceptable only when:

    1. The contact is accidental, as the result of a clearly targeted attack at an opponent's club.
    2. The player is pushing an opponent's arm away from their own pattern or body. This should be a clear pushing motion with a non-violent initial contact, not a strike.
    3. The player is stationary and the opponent runs, falls or otherwise launches their body at the player.

    A player should not use their body to attack, push, shove, block or otherwise body-check an opponent, only the opponent's clubs or pattern.

    Contact between the player's body and the opponent's body is acceptable only when:

    1. The player is attempting to make a catch or save, not an attack. In this case, stumbling or falling into an opponent's body is acceptable, though should be avoided by the player to avoid the chance of injury.
    2. The player is moving towards a high thrown club and accidentally crosses paths with the opponent.
    3. The player is stationary and the opponent collides with the player.

    Contact with the opponent's head.

    Any intentional contact between the player's attacking club, hand or arm and the opponent's face, head or neck is expressly forbidden.

    A wild or blind attack that leads contact between the player's attacking club, hand or arm and the opponent's face, head or neck may be judged as intentional, as more care should be taken to avoid swings towards the opponent at head height.

    Contact with an opponent's face, head or neck may be judged as unintentional if:

    1. The contact is a result of a deflected attack against a valid target.
    2. The player had a clear intended target but the opponent moved their head into the path of the attack.
    3. A blind attack by the player was directed at a reasonable height (well below head height) but the opponent fell or otherwise lowered their head way below their normal head height.

    If contact with a player's head is unintentional and minor, and doesn't result in either harm or the player dropping, the player may chose to either:

    1. Stop play with a clearly intentional clean finish (all clubs caught by the handles in the hands). This must be done immediately and before any further attacks by the player. The player must then explain to the referee what happened, and the point will be replayed.
    2. Continue with the point. That the player is okay to continue must be confirmed verbally or by the next attempted attack by the player.
    3. If the player continues juggling but doesn't attack or looks confused, during the next break in action the referee or tournament director should ask the player to verbally clarify their decision to continue. If the opponent decides to end the point, no points are awarded to either the player or the opponent, and the point is restarted.

    If contact with a player's head is unintentional and results in either harm to the player or the player dropping, it is considered good sporting behavior on behalf of the opponent to stop the point by intentionally dropping. If the opponent did not realize or see that they struck the player's head, the referee or tournament director should declare the point ended, and not award it to either player.

    If contact with the player's head is unintentional and results in harm to the player, but happens after the player has already dropped or is otherwise out of the point, it is considered good sporting behavior on behalf of the opponent to stop the point by intentionally dropping. If the opponent did not realize or see that they struck the player's head, and they continue to a clean finish, the referee or tournament director should not award the point to the opponent.

    If the player makes repeated wild, blind or intentionally close attacks towards the opponent's head but never makes contact, the referee may declare a player's specific attack or style of play to be too dangerous or threatening. At this point the referee should stop the point without awarding any score, explain to the player that they should be more careful and considerate, then restart the point.

    Summary of fouls

    In order of severity, with each considered to be a either a consequence of intentional action or unsafe play:

    1. Wasting time between points.
    2. General unsporting behavior.
    3. Attacks that hit the opponent's hands or arms.
    4. Disrupting an opponent's pattern when already out of the point.
    5. Attacks that hit the opponent's body.
    6. Attacking with the body against the opponent's body.
    7. Attacks that hit the opponent's face, head or neck.
  9. Penalties for fouls

    These penalties should typically be applied in order. Depending on the severity of the foul, one or more penalties may be skipped, in order to award a more severe penalty earlier than the stated order.

    If a player commits two fouls in more than one category, they may receive a second warning. For example, a warning for time wasting may be followed by a warning for dangerous play. A third foul should receive a greater penalty, not just a warning.

    1. A warning.
    2. The player not being awarded a scored point at the completion of a point where they committed a foul.
    3. The player having one point deducted from their score.
    4. The player having one point deducted from their score and a point being awarded to their opponent.
    5. The player forfeiting the match. In this case, all play stops and the opponent is awarded the win. The score remains as it was at the moment of the foul, even if the forfeiting player is ahead.

    All warnings and penalties should be accompanied by an explanation of the foul.


    Rules last updated: 2015-06-05

© Copyright 2017, Luke Burrage. All rights reserved.