Something to fight lightly with
This page is a subsection of SCA Without Breaking the Bank. It provides information on fencing.
Submitted by Reinhard Hauser von Burgdorf
Rapier gear can often be bought cheaply from second hand stores or as surplus from fencing clubs.
Submitted by Lady Catalina dell'Acqua
- When I first started fencing, I was a poor just-out-of-college research fellow. If you can't sew well, like me, a doublet is not easy to make, regardless of what people tell you. For the first year I fenced, I used a long T-tunic, with a short sleeved, short tunic underneath. (Make sure it passes the punch test and armor requirements for your kingdom.) I know a lot of people who started fencing in T-tunics, because they are easy and fairly cheap to make. Sometimes a modern T-shirt is enough underneath.
- Loaner gear is your friend. Depending on the local practices, they may have enough loaner gear to let you use it for a while. But you should try to get your own stuff as soon as possible.
- Buy your blade first. I waited for a year before getting my own armor, but my blade was in my hand months after I started fencing (and decided I liked it). If you decide you really like fencing and want to stick with it, buying a blade sooner will allow you to get used to it, since everyone balances their blade differently. It will make authorizing that much easier. Besides, most practices have loaner armor, but very few have loaner weapons, and you will have to borrow someone else's sword all the time. For epees, American fencer has a good epee with a period looking guard for about $100. Triplette has one for about $80 or so.
- Gloves and mask should be your next purchase. There is nothing worse than fighting with gloves that don't fit right. Buy gardening or welding gloves and sew a gauntlet on the wrist of either thin leather or brocade. It doesn't take much fabric to extend the glove. Triplette also sells a good, inexpensive leather glove for $20.
- If you decide that you absolutely MUST have a full set to fence in, Triplette sells a great starter set. It includes a mask, tunic, gloves and weapon (epee or schlager). Depending on the weapon you get, it will be about $200 (give or take about $20). Fairly expensive, but you get everything you need to start fighting right away, and it is yours (gorgets and hoods are sold seperately). The tunics can be spiffed up with trim or something.
Submitted by Domenico Angelo Malavolti Tremamundo
- For most pieces of your gear, it is less expensive to make your fencing gear than to buy it. And if you'll be wearing a doublet anyway, you might as well make it fencing armor -- You'll wear fewer layers that way.
- For fabrics, use linen, cotton, or a blend of the two. Synthetics, wool and silk trap heat, and fencers in 20 minutes use up the same amount of energy as an NHL hockey player uses in an entire match, so don't overheat yourself because of your clothing.
- Tights and trunk hose, or Venetians, are not very fun to fight in, since the ties at the knee can be really annoying if you keep putting pressure on them from the inside (and you will). If they fit perfectly, perhaps they won't be such a problem, but you still can't easily fit kneepads underneath them. Fortunately, 16th century men (mainly sailors) also wore longer trousers, termed "slops". They look like Venetians, except that, once they get their fullest, they fall at that size all the way to your ankles. They were worn over Venetians, but when fencing you probably want to limit your layers to the minimum level of protection you feel necessary.
- For a fencing doublet: Use 3 layers of fabric (trigger or stronger on the inside, lighter materials on both sides of the strong fabric). Get a sample of the fabric to make sure it will pass a punch test before you spend cash on it!
- You should wear a shirt under your doublet, to catch the sweat -- Make it as light as you can, so it will air out easily once the doublet is off.
- It's just as cheap to buy leather work gloves, as it is to make your own gloves. However, the work gloves won't give you a perfect fit. If you make your own gloves, use linen, cotton or a blend of these two, with three layers or more for protection--Leather shrinks from sweat. It is actually easy to make your own gloves.
- Buy nice dark sneakers. Try to find some that look like mules, which are dress shoes that look rather period. Don't try to wear period shoes when you fence, unless you know someone who can add lots of cushion to your shoes.
- It's better not to be fighting on your knees, but if you must then kneepads are cheap, and they'll help you enjoy fencing a lot more.
- If you're in a schlager-only environment, you'll need a rigid gorget. You should be able to make one for cheap out of leather with blue foam padding. I recommend you get a leatherworker to show you how to make a nice gorget--A nice gorget costs nearly the same amount as a cheap one.
- Buy a mask that fits your head. If you buy it through mail order, give accurate head measurements to the company. Give them a measurement of the widest circle from the top of your head around to the tip your chin, then another from the back of your head to the tip of your nose. If you wear glasses, make sure they're factored in as well. Tell the company your measurements and how you derived these measurements. All masks are somewhat adjustable, but there is only so much space for adjustment. A well-fitted mask makes the game much more enjoyable.
- If you wear a hood under your mask, I recommend that the hood have holes from your ears. I've never tried this, but I know it's very hard to hear commands when you have two layers of cloth pressed against your ears by your mask.
- If you wear glasses, you will find it difficult to keep them on properly when you put on your mask. This is a problem caused by your hood. I recommend you wear a hood over your mask, and make the back of the hood very large (otherwise your glasses won't fit through). You can fold into the back the extra cloth in the hood once your mask is on. It is always a fine art, keeping your glasses on your face while putting on your mask, but it is only really possible when your equipment works for you.
- I've had knee and ankle braces recommended to me, if you're going to be fencing for a while and you're not in your early twenties or younger. These joints take a lot of strain from fencing, and you can't afford to lose any use of them. I've had a couple close calls, so please think long and hard about getting them.
- Buy a cheap fencing bag. They run about US $20, but they're worth it. Duffle bags aren't often long enough for fencing blades, so the tips will stick out while you're walking. Then the weather can get to them, not to mention the people you might hit!
- I prefer a double-wide epee or a schlager. They last the longest. Trust me, you'll thank me later. Don't bother to buy a foil--They cost nearly the same as an epee, they don't last very long and they don't feel right anyway.
- Buy a bag of plastic tips for your sword when you buy the sword. They're cheap, and you never know when you'll need them.
- If someone wants to borrow your epee, I recommend you first look at the direction their own epee is bent. Epees bend either towards the bottom of the 'v'-like section of the blade, or they bend towards the top two edges of the 'v'. It is better for the blade to bend towards the bottom of the 'v', but that is dependent on the way that a fencer pushes on their blade when they hit their opponent. If you bend your blade the ÒwrongÓ way, as I do, don't allow anyone to use your blade who bends their blade the ÒrightÓ way--Otherwise you are likely to get an 'S'-curve faster, and need to replace blades more often.
- Leon Paul makes amazing flexi-daggers, which are so durable they can double as schlager daggers. I recommend them heartily--they're worth the cost.
- If you line a cape, leaving a two-inch seam allowance to both sides, you should have enough bulk on the edges to make a cape that turns nicely when you twirl it, without the need for bean bag weighting or similar. Make a collar for your cape: It's easier to hold this way.
- The cheapest and easiest way to make a buckler: Get plywood, cut it in a circle, sand the edges away and then attach a handle. I recommend a large leather strap for a grip--It conforms much better to the hand. You make one by cutting two short lines in the center of the buckler, then running a leather strap through both to attach to itself by rivets on the back side. If the cuts are tight enough on the leather then it won't move.
- Canes are easy to make too. The cheapest cane is a wooden dowel, sanded down to avoid splinters and sharp edges. It's also easy to find cheap wooden canes with a shepherds' crook.
- Buy a good mask, preferably with a removable bib piece (for washing). A good mask will probably be the longest-lasting piece of equipment you'll own, if you take good care of it. I place a towel over the mask while it's in my armor bag, to protect against swords scratching it. If you wear a hood over your mask, either wear a bandana or a coif underneath. This will protect your mask from sweat, which can eventually rust it.
- Don't leave your blades in your fencing bag while at home--they're more likely to rust. Never leave them overnight in their scabbard, unless it's a properly-made wooden scabbard.
- Use a heavy plastic bathroom scrubbing pad, or steel wool, to clean the nicks off of your blades. These nicks create weak spots in the blade--It will break on one of these.
- Oil your blades every other month, or more often. Use light oil, such as linseed. This is to prevent rust.
- Excellent calibration will not only protect your opponent--It will protect your blade from additional strain as well.
- Stretch before bouting, and then stretch after. It's easy to forget, but it's better on your body if you don't. Also, take the time to warm up before fencing at top speed.
- Eat a good meal a few hours before fencing, and make sure your body is well watered the entire day or two before a bout. You'll fence better, and have more fun, if you take good care of your body before putting it through the strain of fencing.
- Drink lots of water and Gatorade. Get some high-protein food in your stomach, but not lots of food--The idea is to keep the body replenished, for longer endurance and quicker recovery. Filling up only puts the body in digestion mode, pulling it from combat mode.
- When you start to fence, use a foil if you can. This is to develop strong point control.
- Learn to alternate hands. You will be a better-rounded fencer for it. If you've fenced with one hand for years, switch hands for at least a few months, then alternate regularly.
- If you can't remember to use your off-hand, hold something light and small in your hand, just to remind you that hand is there.
- If you can't remember that you have multiple directions you can move, try constantly circling your opponents until you get used to the movement. You'll never circle this much in later practice, but it is useful to exaggerate in order to force yourself to understand the field as a round.
- If you feel frustrated, think about why. If you can't discover a reason, keep trying--There's always a reason. Once you find it, be pleased that you had the perception to discover the problem, and try to create some solutions. It is also very good to discuss possible solutions with someone with more fencing experience. The more problems you discover and work on, the better a fencer you'll be.
- If you don't feel like coming to practice, unless you're ill, go anyway! You'll thank yourself before the evening is over.