What is fighting? Most people that engage in fighting sports forget about the fighting aspect and hold it against you when you fight, even when it’s non-harmful, because they still tend to be shocked by the timing aspect of what then becomes a sport.
In any fighting sport, this is something I’ve had to learn also: even when it’s a relatively soft sport, you still need to make it clear you score your hits. I’m not a judoka, but when you throw someone on the ground, they do need to hit the ground firmly to indicate the finale was executed properly.
In fencing today, for instance on sabre, you still have to ensure that the hit was delivered properly and not just registered through mild contact. You do need to cut your opponent, so the referee is allowed to annul a touch on sabre if it wasn’t delivered with sufficient force. Then it’s called a passed attack: attaque passé.
You need to respect the conventions, because they teach you to respect the fact you’re not fist fighting, but fighting with a sharp sword: even when the counter-attack hits first the original attacker will slide on through over the blade and hit, resulting in two deaths.
It doesn’t hurt to learn to draw the counter-attack and parry-riposte binding the blade though: then there’s only one hit and the referee can’t award it to the counter-attack when they “don’t know you.”
Other than that, I believe we need to level the playing field. For women I have to recommend a different grip than for men in fencing. Due to the physical makeup of the male hand, men can fence with any of the existing grips, but women can’t. The male hand lines the fingers up with the pinky set higher on the hand than on the female hand: that’s something artists learn to draw female hands realistically.
Practically, although you should also aim to make the smaller motions with your bigger muscles, even then to have a more comfortable grip - a necessity - the grip should be accomodated to the female hand. There’s no revolvergrip that does this right now, however, you can get straight French grips.
Women can also make use of the classical Italian grip, but these aren’t allowed in tournaments anymore: they offer the option of holding on to your opponent’s weapon with the aid of the crossbar, which is great fun, but not fair in a tournament.