It is governed by the FIE (Federation Internationale D'Escrime).
Three classes of weapons are included in modern fencing, each with its own rules of play:
- The foil is the smallest and usually the lightest of the three weapons. It has a rectangular blade and a small guard, and is usually (though not always) held with an orthopedic 'pistol grip.' Foil bouts are governed by right-of-way rules, which essentially have the feners 'take turns' attacking. Touches are scored with the point of the weapon, and are only valid when registered on the opponent's torso. In electrically-scored foil, this target area is covered by a conductive lamé to facilitate scoring of on-target and off-target hits.
- The epee has a larger guard than the foil, and is generally heaver than either a foil or a sabre. Epees can be used with either orthopedic or French grips. In epee, touches can be made only with the point, and the entire body of the opponent is considered valid target. Epee bouts tend to be slower than those in foil or sabre due to the lack of right-of-way considerations.
- Sabre is the only weapon in which touches can be scored with any part of the blade. The game is fast-paced and, like foil, considers right-of-way. The target area is the body from the waist upwards, including the mask.
A fencing bout is usually decided at five or 15 touches, depending on the round and competition, though in veterans' competition (for older fencers) the longer bouts end at 10 touches. Bouts occur on a narrow strip, or piste, that is 14 meters long. Electrical scoring systems, which vary by weapon, are used in most modern fencing practice and competition.
Fencers are generally required to wear the following equipment in competition:
- a long-sleeved fencing jacket, preferably with a croissard, and which has a double layer of material in the weapon arm;
- an underarm protector, which is worn beneath the jacket and provides an extra layer of protection to the torso;
- for female fencers, a chest protector, usually plastic, to protect the breasts from impact. Some male fencers also wear chest protectors;
- knickers, short pants similar to baseball pants, which are required to extend at least four inches above the bottom of the jacket and which are usually secured with suspenders;
- a mask, to protect the head. Traditionally, fencing masks have a metal mesh front through which the fencer can see; some modern masks have a clear window so that spectators can see the athlete's face. In electric sabre, the mask must be conductive;
- a glove, to protect the weapon hand. Most fencers do not wear gloves on their non-weapon hand;
- in electric foil and sabre, a conductive lamé, which covers the target area and allows for electric scoring.
- socks, which may be of any color, which extend to the bottoms of the knickers.
Body and mask cords, as well as electric weapons, are also required for electrically-scored competition.