When most people think about fencing, they are reminded of swashbuckling movies such as "The Three Musketeers," "Robin Hood," "The Mark of Zorro," "The Buccaneer" or "The Princess Bride." In these movies, the hero fights by making broad sweeping motions with his sword and running about the stage or scene, and the winner is clear when one of the fighters is wounded or dies. But modern fencing is a sport with rapid, subtle movements and fast actions. Often the action in an engagement is over within seconds.
Because the actions are so fast in competition, judges would have a tough time scoring the competitors' hits. So to make the scoring fair, most competitions use electric scoring machines to detect touches. Even though the weapons are not sharp, modern fencers must wear special equipment for protection and scoring. In this edition of How Stuff Works, we will examine the protective equipment as well as the electric scoring equipment used in modern fencing.