Buying your own equipment isn’t necessary to train with us – we provide everything that is necessary. Having said that, most people will start to pick up bits and pieces of equipment as they continue in their training. Below is a short guide to what is worth investing in if you’re thinking about your first equipment purchases. As always, we’d advise speaking to one of the instructors before buying anything so that you’re sure it’s suitable for class.
Synthetic vs Steel
All training in the class is initially done with synthetic weapons – usually Red Dragon or Blackfencer longswords and messers. These handle well enough to more or less simulate an actual sword, and are relatively cheap and replaceable. They tend to be a common weapon for beginners. As students continue, they’ll start to use steel blades (blunted obviously, and designed to flex in the thrust to absorb some of the impact). These are more expensive than synthetic trainers, and also require a higher level of protective equipment, particularly for sparring when padded fencing jackets must be worn, heavier gloves are necessary, and extra padding and back of head protection to augment the fencing mask.
Masks are definitely the first piece of kit we’d advise someone to get. Whilst a sword of some kind is always the most compelling item to buy, a mask is generally the most sensible – we have plenty of swords to go round everyone, but the club loaner masks are always in demand. Picking up a mask of your own sooner rather than later means never having to share. There are plenty of mask types out there, from the Red Dragon masks that we provide in class to more expensive models such as Gajardoni and Leon Paul.
Gloves & Swords
These tend to be the next things that people pick up, and they might seem like odd items to lump together into a single category, but they’re both here because they both have the same initial choice:
Spend a smaller amount of money sooner and buy equipment for training with synthetics that you’ll probably want to upgrade later, or hold off and continue to use the equipment supplied in class until you can afford the more expensive equipment required for training with steel. It’s worth noting here that the Blackfencer synthetics are a lot less forgiving than the Red Dragons, and require protection closer to that used for steel sparring.
For swords, especially for steels, please come and talk to us first. There are a lot of suppliers out there, some better than others, and just because something says ‘Suitable for HEMA’ or ‘Suitable for sparring’ on a website doesn’t mean that it necessarily is.
We’d actually be inclined to advise people to leave gloves and swords aside for the moment and after a mask seriously consider investing in one of the following…
Fencing jackets suitable for HEMA do tend to be one of the more expensive items. The basic AP jacket from SPES which is the most commonly used is around £150, the ‘novice’ jacket by Neyman Fencing comes in at around £110, and the higher end models from SPES, Neyman, Gajardoni, and Leon Paul are more expensive still. Loaner jackets are the rarest of all items within the school though, meaning that an early investment in a jacket of your own will prove of much more immediate use than a set of gloves or a sword.
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