The foil is the modern version of the original practice weapon for dueling sword. The foil is a thrusting sport weapon. Unlike other weapon types, the foil has the smallest body target area – the torso and neck. The rules of foil fencing include the principle of priority or right-of-way – the right to attack. A foil fencer needs to have right-of-way in order to make a valid hit. For example, the foil fencer has the right-of-way when attacking. The opponent must first defend against an attack before receiving priority to give a valid response – a riposte. When two attacks arrive simultaneously, the hits are not counted.
The epee is the modern version of the historical dueling sword. The Epee is heavier than the foil and has a rigid bi-angular blade. Epee fencers have the largest target area: almost the entire body from head to toe. The rules of right of way do not apply to epee fencing. Touches are awarded solely on the basis of which fencer makes a touch first, according to the electronic scoring machines. Double-touches are allowed in épée, where both fencers receive a point, although the touches must occur within 40 milliseconds (1/25 of a second) of each other.
The saber is the modern version of the cavalry sword. Saber differs from the epee and foil, in that it is possible to score with the edge of the blade; for this reason, saber movements and attacks are very fast. The body target area includes the head, arms, and torso above the waistline. Much like in foil fencing, the conventions of right of way apply to awarding points in saber fencing.