This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 28th August 2015. It has been edited and improved for posting here.
Every so often, I find a discussion (online and in person, in roughly equal quantities) where people debate the merits and problems of including hands as a valid target area when fencing. Usually this is with regard to longsword, but sometimes with other weapons as well.
It is my firm belief that the hands are important targets when learning how to fence, but we should look after them and not take matters to extremes.
When people begin training at a club, it is only reasonable for them to be able to borrow some equipment from the club. After all, no one can reasonably expect that a complete beginner will run out and buy themselves all the protective gear to participate in high intensity longsword fencing, right from the first session! However, people will inevitably want to begin to acquire their own kit – or, if they don’t, the club may need to wean members from borrowing equipment after a while, to free it up for newer members.
This article will attempt to advise a sensible progression for buying equipment for learning to fence with the longsword, along with suggestions for items that might be most suitable and useful.
I was brought up as a stereotypical Scotsman, making many purchasing decisions with my wallet-brain. This meant I almost always went for the cheapest option, and didn’t even consider more expensive options. However, this also meant that I ended up making poor decisions and often ended up buying more expensive equipment in the end, so I wasted quite a lot of money in the process.
Buying equipment on a budget is an issue that almost everyone will face at some point in time. The budget may be very tight, or it might have quite a bit of space in it for more purchases, but inevitably everyone will reach a point where they will think “what can I afford, and should I maybe take a cheaper option?”
Often, and most especially when starting out, I believe that the best policy is not to skimp on certain purchases. It is far better, for many reasons, to save up for a little longer and to buy something better as a result.
In the last five years, the HEMA community has seen a veritable explosion of new manufacturers, suppliers, and producers of equipment. In fact, there are currently more HEMA-specific gloves on the market than one has fingers to be protected! This is a wonderful state of affairs, as practitioners have plenty of choice, both in terms of which gear to buy, and from which retailer to buy it.