One of the most important pieces of safety equipment that we can own is our fencing mask, and for this reason it is often worth spending more money on the fencing mask compared to other items of safety equipment. A head injury is simply more likely to present a serious problem than an injury than to many other parts of the body.
We are now seeing more masks being developed specifically for HEMA, such as the masks by Gajardoni, or the Titan X-Change HEMA mask by Leon Paul which I’ll be reviewing today. I would argue that there is no true, mass-produced mask built for purpose. In an ideal world, a mask built for HEMA would have integrated back of head protection and an overlay above the mesh, or using solid plates instead of just wire mesh around the top and sides of the head. This would prevent us needing separate masks and overlays; in the mean time however, this isn’t a huge problem and we can continue to use masks and overlays, as long as the masks themselves of sufficient quality.
The Titan X-Change HEMA mask is part of Leon Paul’s Titan Range, which is mostly based off of SPES’s range of HEMA equipment. The Titan mask is an upgraded version of Leon Paul’s prior X-Change masks, featuring several enhancements.
Alex fencing with minimal gear with Aäron Faes at Fechtschule Brugge. Photo by Pjay Peere.
Last weekend I was at the wonderful HEMA event Fechtschule Brugge, run by the Hallebardiers. One of the most interesting things about the event to me was their sparring format, which they referred to as Blössfechten, or just Blöss.
Of course most longsword practitioners aim to practice Blössfechten (as opposed to Harnischfechten, or fencing in armour), but generally this will be done wearing quite a lot of protective equipment, such as a gambeson or fencing jacket, chest protector, gorget, heavy gloves etc. Instead the fencers at the Halleberdiers prefer to fence with a mask, light gloves and nothing else. I sparred a fair amount over the course of the event, and I only wore my sparring gloves and jacket for a single sparring bout. I fought all the rest of my bouts in their Blöss format, and I also competed in their King of the Hill Blöss tournament.
To do this safely, there was a heavy emphasis on control, and the mask was the only valid target as it was the only protected part of the body. Further, as the Hallebardiers are working in the Fechtschule tradition of the 16th century and later, thrusts were not allowed.
The very tight focus of the sparring (cuts to the head only) did mean that you could fight with a relatively high amount of intensity, as long as you had sufficient control of your sword, i.e. you could strike to the head with real intent, but you had to be prepared to abort an attack if the opponent moved in a way you did not expect, such as moving his hands in the way.
An Albion Meyer and a pair of Sparring Gloves. Photo by Keith Farrell.
It is easy to spend a long time discussing gloves for longsword fencing. Each make and model has advantages and disadvantages, and every practitioner will have their own preferences and needs.
This article lays out the brief comparisons and recommendations that I give to my students when they ask me about what gloves they need for lessons in the clubs at which I teach.
This is an updated version of the article; the first version was published in April 2015, and since then, I have had more experience with some of the types of gloves mentioned here, and have remembered to include one or two others!
In today’s article, I’m going to be outlining a few reasons to start grappling in HEMA classes, and in longsword classes in particular. Some people just train longsword in isolation, which is strange from a historical point of view, as a medieval fencer would not just have trained in one weapon, they would have trained in many combat arts, including wrestling. Training longsword in isolation like that is not the best way to develop martial skills either I feel. Other HEMAists already include grappling in their training regime, and they should continue to do so; this article is aimed at groups that don’t already do any grappling, and will outline a few reasons why they should.