This rule is for DE only, not for pool rounds or team events.
When both fencers make clear their unwillingness to fight, the referee will call ‘Halt’. If one of the two criteria below is present, there is unwillingness to fight:
1. One minute of fencing without a hit
2. Absence of blade contact or excessive distance (greater than the distance of a step-lunge) for 15 seconds.
If this rule is applied during the two first periods of direct elimination, the referee will proceed to the next period, without the minute rest.
If this rule is applied during the third period of direct elimination, the referee will proceed to a last minute of fencing.
This last minute, which will be fenced in its entirety, will be decisive and will be preceded by a drawing of lots to decide the winner should the scores be equal at the end of the minute.
So, the main rule change is that fencers are no longer carded for this offense, which is good news generally. However, strict officials could call non-combativity more often, especially for epee where 15 seconds without blade contact is common. Hopefully referees will use the rules sensibly!