A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Cat’s Nine Lives Halloween Tournament

The above image I took from HROAR’s article labeled: Hack & Slash in the Age of Reason: Italian Rapier Against Multiple Opponents by Piermarco Tierminiello. This is how it can feel once you decide to start running an event!

This blog post is born from an idea I’ve been mulling over for a while after I had a conversation with Cat Souliere who is the Sports Director of the Cornhusker State Games which is a HEMA tournament I recently had the pleasure of competing at.

I’m going to jump right into the tournament format and then after all the fun I will give advice to people who might decide to run something like what I describe and some of the logistics involved. Plus, I will go into a little bit of the reasoning for why I made various choices in designing this tournament. If you’ve run a tournament before please leave a comment to share your greater knowledge if you see something that I’ve missed.

The Cat is Alive and Dead Tournament

Every fighter starts off with nine lives for the tournament. These lives are lost by taking a headshot, getting disarmed, or having an open double during the event.

The basic structure of the tournament is to have small easily handled pools or duels. We will assume 16 fighters below. We will also want to reward more than just winning the most bouts as that is something secondary to the purposes of this type of tournament.

When running a small event or tournament with mostly new fighters you need to have a different perspective than when running an elite event for the best fighters in a region.

Each bout in this tournament is to 5 touches with each hit counting as a touch and a disarm counting as a touch with the sword taken or falling to the floor counting as a disarm. The bout lasts for 3 minutes and can have ties. If the time expires without a winner scoring five touches than both fighters lose a life and continue on to the next bout.

Depending on the venue you will have to decide how many bouts you can run at one time and if you are running more than one pool at a time you need more than one Director and Judge.

Headshots are not worth extra points during the bout but need to be tracked both for who gave the headshot and who took the headshot for later.

Light contact or an obvious showing of intent from a pommel to the mask is worth a headshot and counts as a touch.

One tempo after blows and closed doubles count towards the 5 touches and towards tallying headshots so be careful about sniping a hand and allowing a headshot.

Open doubles count towards touches and also count against your Nine Lives. Should your opponent score a headshot on an open double against you than you would lose two lives.

Depending on the weapon used there may be hand parries, sword grasping or checking, arm checking, or light grappling with the off hand or disarms. Your venue will also impact this choice.

The logistics team need to keep track of the duration of each bout.

An important way to avoid missed time is to have the logistics team declare who is next and who is on deck. I recently was at a non-HEMA tournament and they didn’t do this which slowed down the flow.

Judging and Directing a bout is meant to follow a minimalist structure given the size of the tournament and the unlikelihood that you as a Director of the event have a deep pool of quality judges. I recommend reading Martin Fabian’s article 2 is more than 4.

As a consequence and since I liked the way the Five Rings tournament worked in KC a single Director and an assistant Judge is what I’d recommend with the both needing to rove to follow the fighters. The Director has the final decision and is advised by the Judge who can see the other side of the fighters. This makes it fast and counters the tendency of distributed responsibility when there are more bystanders. You WILL get errors but as long as everyone understands reality and that we’re having fun it should go smoothly barring colossal egos as commented on by this quote by Vadi below.

“If the tongue could cut with reasons,

And strike as does the sword,

The dead would be infinite.” -Vadi

The first round is Curiosity killed the Cat with 4 fighters in each pool (assuming 16 total). This introduction pool has random seeding and is designed to filter the fighters to fighting more evenly matched opponents in the next pool.

Performance in this round is based on the number of wins with ties decided by the number of lives left and after that number of lives taken and if that isn’t enough then the difference between touches scored by and scores against.

The second round is the Tiger on the Hill. With 16 fighters each fighter will fight people who fought in a different pool prior and had the same ranking. So the winners of each pool in the first round fight against each other and the second place fighters of each pool fight against the other second place fighters and so on.

This works very well with 16 fighters and pools of 4 but can easily work with pools of 5 and 25 fighters or pools of 3 and 9 fighters for a club event. The general idea can be applied to imperfect numbers of fighters with some maneuvering. The more or fewer bouts the more the chance of losing all nine lives will change.

At this point, any fighters who have lost all Nine lives are dead…or are they? Thus, begins the …But Satisfaction brought them back as Zombies round of duels.

“Sometimes you will find yourself

Being like a spent light,

Do not doubt that you will soon return.” -Vadi

At this time the fighters who survived with at least one life left get a chance to rest and take a break while also giving the Director time to tabulate any necessary data which is a lot easier if using Sean Franklin’s Hema Scorecard.

In the zombie round, you fight until you lose a bout or someone scores a headshot on you. Fighters are paired based on when they lost their ninth life with the earliest zombies fighting each other first so if you lost your ninth life in your last bout you would have a better chance of winning this round than someone who open doubled headshots five times in their first bout in the first round.

Once the Zombies have slaughtered each other leaving one special Cat in Limbo then the Virtuous Duels begin.

Virtuous Duels

Silver’s Prudent Duel takes the two fighters with a life left who had the least amount of Open Doubles during the pool rounds and allows them to duel for the Lynx in Boots Award with a small gift card to a shoe store.
Giganti’s Audacious Duel takes the two fighters with a life left who had the most kills during the pool rounds with the winner gaining the Lion with a Heart Award.
Ironhead’s Brave Duel takes the fighter who performed third in the pools and still had a life left and the Zombie Cat in Limbo and allows the winner to achieve the Last Elephant Standing Fortitude award.
Fiore’s Celerity Duel takes the two fighters who still have lives left whose bouts took the least amount of total time and allows the winner to gain the Tiger with an Arrow Award. Technically a fighter who lost a lot of quick duels without losing lives could qualify.

The Golden Crown Duel takes the two highest performers in the pools who still have a life left (using the same parameters of the seeding round) and allows them to battle for supremacy with the winner gaining a BK Crown if you have a low budget and a sense of humor.
Vadi’s Noble Duel is between two fighters who still have a life left who didn’t compete in any of the duels who are nominated by the Director/s and/or the other competitors via a method that works for the event. These fighters exhibited the noblest character and/or helped make the event fun for everyone. The winner wins a Sir X plushie with a maille outfit (Cat Souliere makes maille plushies including the Sir Inky she made for my boy and if you continue to the end of the blog you can see their picture).
Saviolo’s Survivors is a possible pool or duel added just in case that is between any fighter who still had a life left and thus didn’t fight in the zombie round but also didn’t qualify for one of the above duels.

As the Director you can decide that a fighter can be in only one duel or can be in as many duels as they qualify for but make that decision before the event.

Keep in mind that how the Director declares Open Doubles vs Closed Doubles or After blows can really change how this tournament goes. How prevalent Open Doubles are could mean that there aren’t very many survivors or that there are few zombies and thus your ability to adapt and use the Saviolo’s Survivors option above can make a big difference.

You might have to change these duels to the highest performer’s alive or not depending on if everyone or most everyone lost all nine lives or the total number of competitors if it is different than 16. Those are things to consider as possible pitfalls. Hopefully, people would try and be very careful given the rule-set encourages that but that may or may not be the case and best to have plans set up before the unusual happens.

Conclusion

A lot of us in the HEMA community love a good excuse to travel and fence with friends in nearby cities or in larger cities against other clubs in the area. This allows us to discover new people with different styles in order to broaden your experience and understanding and also to have fun.

Keep in mind as well as a small local tournament like this can be paired really easily with a seminar or speaker to draw in people who might not be inclined to compete. One of the great benefits of this is maybe those people drawn in for a speaker could be judges or help with logistics. This can be a lifesaver.

However, for a lot of people who are new to HEMA they can feel uncomfortable in competitive environment let alone traveling a long distance with all the issues involved with that. Also, I’ve noticed that some people can be very very serious which can be off-putting to people new to the art or to people with a different point of view or wants.

If we as a community can encourage small local tournaments that draw in people in a few hour range of a tournament then we can ease newer fighters out of their clubs and into the greater community while also having a lower risk to embarrassment or fear of the new or novel. Countering insular attitudes is one of the best benefits of competition against outsiders.

Now that we’re getting close to Halloween I’ve decided to post a modified version of a tournament structure I had worked up a few months ago to be “Halloween-centric” and honor my friend Cat listed above since we are now at the start of October and the idea sounded awesome.

As part of the design I wanted to add a bit of European history and philosophy to the Historical European Martial Arts event by celebrating the virtues and ideas of Fiore de’i Liberi and Philippo di Vadi with awards influenced by my very limited readings of them.

Check out Matt Galas’s IGX Historical Rulesets in HEMA seminar for ideas to run with when making your tournament. I particularly like the idea of getting credit for two hits within a tempo as that makes the fencing more interesting to watch and more martially valid. I did a krumpow in a bout to an opponent’s forearm and a false edge flick to the mask once and there was argument about how to score…with this in play then that doesn’t matter and both touches would score.

Or even take Matt’s advice and run a replica of an old tournament. King of the Hill could be a lot of fun using the nine lives idea especially since open doubles don’t hurt the king which would encourage the challengers to be very careful!

When considering rule-sets for historical fencing it is very important to keep in mind Goodhart’s Law:

goodhart's law

How you decide to measure a fighter’s performance with a rule-set can distort what you’re actually looking to achieve during or in a tournament or competition. Is your goal to find the best competitive fencer in the area and give them extra attention? Or is the goal to have fun and meet new fencers so you can learn from them? What unintended consequences might we create by designing an event in a certain way?

I really like Goodhart’s Law because it also applies to your fencing as a sort of double entendre warning as well.

Matt Easton of Schola Gladiatora recently discussed rulesets focusing on the Afterblow in HEMA. How you decide to handle afterblows will have a big impact on the types of fencing you will see in your tournament.

As a newcomer who started with German longsword and then later Italian rapier sources, I’m just now starting to read earlier Italian and connecting that new knowledge to my older historical research on the Court of Urbino, Sir John Hawkwood, and the Norman-Sicilian-Arab culture.

The four virtues of celerity, boldness, strength, and foresight apply regardless of the art practiced and shouldn’t be forgotten in order to only celebrate winning by beating more people than someone else within the competition rule-set.

At this point, every fighter would have had at least six bouts in the pool rounds and likely at least one more bout either in the Zombie duels or in the Virtuous Duels so they should feel like they got their time and money worth.

After your event hopefully, you’ve shown how people from other clubs could run their own small event for you to come and compete at. As more people get regional practice at tournaments we will see more diversity showing up at the big events or even going international which is to the benefit of the greater HEMA community which like most communities is best served by expanding from the ground up.

This also allows local clubs to snag loners into visiting at least occasionally as a fighter might live a few hours away and not be able to meet often however they might be able to make special events and thus join the regional community. Or even a fighter who is in the SCA, Larp, or into Lightsabers who might for the first time be exposed to HEMA and get hooked with a fun event.

As I mentioned earlier I greatly recommend anyone setting up a new tournament to contact Sean Franklin at HEMA Scorecard for assistance in handling the logistics and record keeping as that tool relieves a huge burden on event organizers.

Depending on your area and how many people might come to fight you might plan on anywhere from 8 to 20 fighters using my basic structure with little difficulty. For more or less you can easily adapt it or use it just between club mates as just a local event.

When making a tournament there are a lot of things to consider such as how you decide to handle judging to what equipment is required and how the event is scored.

One of the most important is to decide what weapons are allowed. Longsword is the biggest in most communities so that is usually the obvious choice for a first-time event maker though you might get a passionate response if you pick a less popular weapon from aficionados of that weapon.

If you’re going to have an event you should plan on arranging extra weapons for people who don’t have their own steel or synthetics. This can be expensive and a big step for a new club.

An option rarely considered is to have a mixed weapon competition and if the community is small and not well developed a Director can pick up a range of synthetic trainers at inexpensive prices for people to try out at Purpleheart Armoury.

If you’re looking to buy equipment for you or your club then check out my blogs listed at the end of the article dealing with buying gear and tournaments.

You can also decide to have more than one event with different weapons. This may be the biggest decision as the more events at the tournament the more complexity in running it but the more events the more likely you will get someone who is interested to come.

Next, you have to find a good place to fight and if outside keep in mind the weather as a factor and have a backup plan for the event if the primary place fails. In October for Halloween if the weather is mild that can help with overheating while wearing gear.

Equipment requirements are pretty easy to set up because you can borrow from one of many tournament pages. I do recommend shin protection which hasn’t been a requirement for Combatcon in the past several years even for their Longsword event which just makes my shins hurt thinking about that.

(Shin and forearm protection are not essential but recommended.) – Combatcon Longsword Tournament Rules for 2018.

Forearm protection should be considered depending on the protection level of your jacket and the weapons used. Remember longsword is the biggest weapon used in HEMA today but it also has the highest requirements for safety.

I have a Gajardoni Challenge Jacket which is very protective and took a few mostly painless bruises doing longsword without my arm protection at the KC Five Rings tournament but for the Cornhusker State Games, I used my arm protection knowing that there would be fighters hitting with more force there and I believe that event required forearm protection.

Gorget requirements are another thing to consider. Some tournaments require a solid metal or plastic/Kydex part to the front of the gorget. Some do not. My jacket has a built-in gorget without rigid or solid parts which would qualify for some tournaments but not others so I have a lightweight “roughneck” gorget from Destroyer Modz to satisfy the rigid/solid requirement.

Another idea besides inexpensive synthetic trainers is to have a singlestick tournament. This has a very low barrier to entry from the weapon to the gear required. Buy a bunch of cheap fencing masks and gloves with some elbow and knee protection and you’re set. People can do singlestick with just a sweater on if you’ve got the head, throat, elbows, and knees covered.

If you look below you’ll see links for general info on how most tournaments handle equipment, where to buy your gear, and what is preferred or allowed.

You also have to decide whether you have any grappling or parrying of the blade with your hand or blade grasping. Only have takedowns if you’re fighting in a gym with padded floors and be really cautious about even that especially if your fighters are primarily people new to competing or new to HEMA.

Hope you enjoyed this post and if you would like to read more of my thoughts please check out these other posts on HEMA I’ve written below.

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Websites to Buy Swords and Equipment

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Tournaments

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Historical European Martial Arts

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: One Year Anniversary Update Post on Historical European Martial Arts

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Novel Exercises and Solo Drills for Historical European Martial Arts

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: My HEMA Loadout and Wishlist

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Cat’s Nine Lives Halloween Tournament

Here is Sir Inky (made by Cat Souliere) with my son at the Bellevue Berry Farm Renfaire.

20180505_154055_HDR

And this is me throwing my sword at my horde of critics and running. This plate is from the same article mentioned at the top of the article.

800px-hundt_094-775x512

Advertisements

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: My HEMA Loadout and Wishlist

I am a newbie to HEMA so I’m no expert but sometimes experts can forget to mention basic things they no longer are even conscious of which is the point of my blog. Hopefully, my posts will help a newcomer to Historical European Martial Arts navigate starting up this awesome activity.

This post is dealing with my equipment that I own or that I am waiting for delivery with an addendum for maybe buys in the future. I will also include some exercise gear and my books.

I would like to thank the reviews people like Matt Easton at Schola Gladiatora, David Rawlings at London Longsword, the gentleman at Hema Reviews, Skallagrim, Aidan Blake, the review teams at Blood and Iron, the guys at R/Hema who made the gear list, and the fine folks at Measure and Weigh. I have replaced a few bits of gear that weren’t working out for items they reviewed with a high opinion particularly the Measure and Weigh reviews. You guys really make it a lot easier for all of us when you share your insights with us beginners so we can avoid at least some of the pitfalls of starting Hema. If people don’t say thank you often enough I’ll just say thank you for a second time just in case.

Don’t forget to clean and care for your gear. Sometimes that means a visit to a competent dry cleaner or a bit of Febreze or clear gear or hand washing in lukewarm water with mild detergent. Odor Gladiator is a good addon for your gear bag.

Speaking of gear bags I find that I get good mileage out of a cheap snowboarding bag. If I was traveling on a plane I would probably get a hard “Sportube” as I’ve heard they are great.

Don’t leave your gear in direct sunlight or damp area for too long. Baby wipes are great for plastic bits. Proper care of steel is important to avoid rust. Always ask your smith for the best care for your blade if you can as they should know best practices and tricks for longer life and aesthetics.

My previous articles on Hema:

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Websites to Buy Swords and Equipment

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Tournaments

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Historical European Martial Arts

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: One Year Anniversary Update Post on Historical European Martial Arts

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Novel Exercises and Solo Drills for Historical European Martial Arts

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: My HEMA Loadout and Wishlist

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Cat’s Nine Lives Halloween Tournament

My boy is wearing my mask in the featured image.

The most precious piece of gear to have for HEMA are books! So, book reviews are what I’m going to start off with. For freely available pdf’s and links to books on the net check up my One Year Anniversary Post above for links to hundreds of articles, books, and other resources for the budding Hema student.

Books:

Cutting with the Medieval Sword: Theory and Application: by Michael Edelson Amazon

51whep0iw7l-_sx385_bo1204203200_

A very valuable resource for anyone wanting to learn how to cut properly with the correct biomechanics with a sword. I’m not done reading it yet and I’m only about a quarter into it and have already learned quite a lot. It is hard to resist the temptation to bounce around and all the pretty sword pictures by Albion are distracting. Get it.

<Edit> From my Amazon review after completing the book: A very valuable resource for anyone wanting to learn how to cut properly with the correct biomechanics with a sword. When reading It is hard to resist the temptation to bounce around and gaze upon all the pretty sword pictures. One thing that I really like is the clear and concise advice and insights that bleed over into your fencing regardless of tradition or school. I bought it so I could be better at cutting but I think I am a better martial artist after reading this book. Get it. </Edit>
Treatise on the Subject of Fencing: Marco Docciolini’s 1601 Fencing Treatise: by Marco Docciolini (Author),‎ Piermarco Terminiello (Translator),‎ Steven Reich (Translator) Amazon

41dbwyxhjhl-_sx362_bo1204203200_

Only about halfway through but I am enjoying reading it. It reminds me of Liechtenauer in that it is very straightforward and focuses on being simple without flourishes or fanciness. Very matter of fact. It would be nice if the book had a longer foreward that went a bit more into history on the period and maybe an index with some insight from the authors on how the treatise could be used in a modern HEMA context. I did find this on HROARR which was interesting to read about dual sword use. I will probably look for videos to help me understand the author better.

<Edit> I did finish the book and it was enjoyable though I might not recommend it as the first book for a beginner with a rapier as the lack of pictures and the lack of resources online to find extra info or to answer questions makes it problematic compared to a treatise by a more well-known author. Alfieri would be my first read, then Giganti, and then Docciolini would be a better reading order I think.</Edit>
La Scherma: The Art of Fencing, Francesco Ferdinando Alfieri: by Piermarco Terminiello (Author),‎ Phil Marshall (Author),‎ Caroline Stewart (Author) Amazon

61re1n1rtql-_sy361_bo1204203200_

Very clear and easy to understand treatise. Loved it and the overall layout. Definitely a good value if you’re new to rapier and want to get some good fundamentals. Alfieri focuses on a single rapier for most of the book and then gives some good advice on expanding that with a parrying dagger and some really interesting plays with a cloak.

Self-Defense for Gentlemen and Ladies: A Nineteenth-Century Treatise on Boxing, Kicking, Grappling, and Fencing with the Cane and Quarterstaff: by Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery (Author),‎ Ben Miller (Editor) Amazon

51iyrfgn2bql-_sx365_bo1204203200_

I love the history and story of the first half of the book. Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery seems like such an interesting individual and his students include some surprisingly famous individuals. If a competent tv team took him or Jaguerina on as a tv show that would be amazing. The second half is the Colonel’s actual treatise which is worth reading from my limited understanding of the material. I would’ve liked an addendum with a modern practitioner’s point of view and perspective on using the techniques, learning them, teaching them, and applying the lessons of the book in a modern Hema context and perspective.
Nicoletto Giganti’s The School of the Sword: A New Translation: by Nicoletto Giganti (Author),‎ Yvonne Rogers (Illustrator),‎ Aaron Taylor Miedema (Translator),‎ Tara Lynn England (Translator),‎ Kim Reynolds (Translator) Amazon

41epdifzr8l-_sx331_bo1204203200_

Seems well made but I have to say that I didn’t enjoy the book as much as reading Alfieri and if Docciolini had pictures I would rate it much higher. It is nice that it has so many plays shown and good artwork so you can see what is going on clearly and it is a good solid book to build on your skill.

The ‘Lost’ Second Book of Nicoletto Giganti(1608): A Rapier Fencing Treatise by Piermarco Tierminielo (Translator) and Joshua Pendragon (Translator) Amazon

51fccfzsp9l-_sy362_bo1204203200_

Clear and concise instructions on how to fence well in the Italian style. Covers more weapons and off-hand defensives than his first book such as rotellas, targas, and cloaks. I particularly like the extensive footnotes at the end of the book.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Duelling: Of Honour and Honourable Quarrels: by Vincentio Saviolo and edited and presented by Jared Kirby. Amazon

51clilwwabl-_sx345_bo1204203200_

This book is full of insight into the mind of a man at arms and gentleman from Italy living in England during the time of Shakespeare (who was influenced by it) in the late 16th century. I breezed through the first half of the book until I made it into the section about lying and dealing with lying which was a bit dense. I love the term dis-beast he uses to describe gentlemen using reason to handle their emotions and apologize when they’ve done wrong. Saviolo also goes into detail talking about the Nobility of Women whether by words, deeds, reason, or arms which just puts Swetnam in especial consideration and puts the lie to the apologists of misogynists of later periods using the excuse that it was the norm for their time.

I would really recommend the book to writers, screenwriters, and playwrights so they can better capture the code duello and the vast importance of hierarchy in historical pieces or fantasy stories. If you’re building a system of honor for a science fiction novel it would also be useful to accurately know an honor system rather than a flawed hollywood system. For example, Saviolo gives examples about how one should be prepared for betrayal by being armed and weapons in hand or how it can be considered noble to allow an opponent to re-arm themselves if you win and an act of stupidity if you lose. Basically, he was very pragmatic and not a bit like “honor-bound” men like the Stark’s in Game of Thrones.

GEAR:

Gajardoni Ancient Air Mask

gajardoni_0047_ancient_air_mask_front

This mask is very protective and comfortable. It has a cool gimmick that does militate a hit to the upper head a small amount by pumping air into little bladders built into the padding like those old basketball shoes in the 80s. The main benefit is in helping the fit better match your head and mold a little bit better to your head in my opinion versus actually protecting you in a significant fashion. The ridge the splits the face bilaterally does a great job at dispersing the kinetic energy from certain types of hewing hits and helps make a full on thrust to the center of the face skitter off either to the left or right rather than sending the energy full on pushing the head and neck back.

I have a giant head so they were nice enough to provide a double sided velcro strip to act as an extender to the back straps to fit both my huge head and the included back of neck protection.

You can buy it here: Ancient Air Mask

Gajardoni Challenge Jacket

challenge-jacket-800-n-nero

The jacket is extremely protective and comes with a ton of modular padding you can choose to use or not for even more protection. The jacket has a built-in gorget (not sufficient for tournaments but a good supplement and it can be replaced with rigid material that probably would be tournament ready), shoulder pads, and elbow pads. Mine is tailored which is very worth it unless you’re very close to an actual size. I personally don’t use most of the padding but as I have a lot of padding built in it isn’t necessary. Very breathable compared to other jackets and it is surprisingly heavy to people who aren’t used to Hema jackets. Construction is excellent. My only nitpick is that there was a small error on the sewing of the pin side of the zipper pulling the pin closer to the fabric. This makes it surprisingly harder to hook to the zipper when your hands are behind your back to get the zipper started. Other than that the behind the back zipper works fine and the collar is great.

Since a commenter had a question about why there is no plastron I should mention again that it comes with basically enough modular padding/armor that can be velcroed directly to the jacket that there is no need for a plastron because it basically is a plastron. However, so far just the bare minimum padding is very substantial so I haven’t really used the modular padding. You can cut the padding as well to shape it into what you really want like if you have a lower left rib you are worried about you could cut out a section and stick it onto the velcro of the jacket and have a little extra protection in that spot.

You can buy it here: Challenge Jacket

Destroyer Modz Gorget

dm-gorget-2t

Speaking of built-in gorget in the challenge jacket here is my main gorget (\ ˈgȯr-jət \). This is a very lightweight and simple gorget mainly to be tournament ready or for low gear sparring without the jacket or for singlestick. Many of the different gorget designs can be quite large and substantial which can require modifications for guards when your arms are above your shoulders otherwise they can be restrictive. Since the Challenge Jacket already is very substantial in its protection I chose simple and to be honest relatively inexpensive. One problem I can see is if you have a very large neck the fit is tenuous and I think they would be well served to have a large size. Purpleheart was amazingly fast to deliver this to my door. I expected I’d be lucky to get it in a month or two but it was less than a week. If you’re a Hema Alliance member don’t forget to add your promo code when ordering for a discount.

You can buy it here: Purpleheart Armory Destroyer Modz Gorget.

Gajardoni Custom 800 Newton Breeches

gajardoni_0055_breeches_800n_man_black_front

These breeches offer a lot of extra protection most of which I took out like I did with the Jacket. These are custom sized because of my stature but I would recommend bespoke gear in general as the extra cost is worth it even if you aren’t a giant. I supplemented the suspenders that come built-in with Holdup Suspenders as I am a giant and the suspenders are insufficient for the weight of the pants. They are no doubt just fine for your typical Hema enthusiast. The back pocket works well for a wallet or if you’re an Apple Pay/Android Pay type you can carry your phone instead so you don’t have to worry about people “lifting” it while you’re at a tournament. The material is incredibly well made and substantial without the extra modular padding. Some of the padding has a very soft velvet feel which is nice if you need the extra padding because of a wallowing buffel at a tournament.

You can buy them here: Gajardoni Breeches.

K-P Knee Pro Ultra Flex III Knee Pads

61wv2c2brafl-_sl1200_

This knee protection works great and is readily available for quick delivery or at many brick and mortar stores. It should fit just about anyone. It covers the side of the knee and is light. It is probably close to indestructible and protects amazingly well. It may be the cheapest, best, and accessible piece of gear in the Hema arsenal.

You can buy it here: Amazon.

Harrow Probot Shin Guard

81-tzodhuol-_sl1500_

These shin guards work so well with the knee pro that it is magic. They are so much better than my previous set of shin guards. They have soft ends at the bottom to help defend the top of your ankle and not be painful. Once you pull up your socks they stay where they need to be and help anchor your knee protection which should fit and rest at the top of the shins. They don’t need straps or a wrap around which made me wary at first. One negative is that they don’t provide any protection to the back of your calf but they do great on the side of the calf as even with a giant like myself it wraps around pretty far. After use, it should kind of mold to your leg a bit which is nice.

You can buy it here: Amazon.

Compression Socks

71eg-v-wchl-_sl1488_

There is very little price difference between getting good compression socks and just normal fencing socks so I recommend compression socks. They also tend to be better constructed and better able to keep shin guards in place. I find they help me last longer on my feet and are great when you have to sit for a long time like a plane trip or road trip to the tournament. They also are supposed to help with a lower recovery time after the event or practice and are good for diabetics. You can buy them pretty much everywhere though I am sure there are quality differences depending on the place.

You can buy one of the types I use here: Amazon.

Forearm and Elbow Protection

gajardoni_0089_forearms_protectors_closed

These are solid protections that I received from Gajardoni mainly because it was easy and convenient to just add it to the cart with the rest of the gear but there are plenty of different designs available. These are nice because they fit well over the jacket or without the jacket and my forearms are very large. The built-in elbow protection to the Challenge jacket actually works well to anchor the elbow part of this protector making it very safe from harm. Or since the elbow piece is separate you can undo the velcro and go without the elbow pad. The other good thing is that there are no gaps like a lot of designs running up the inside of the arm. So, good for longsword and good for low gear practice or singlestick.

You can buy it here: Gajardoni Forearm and elbow.

Koning Gloves

koning-300x300

These gloves are very well constructed with a very soft inner leather glove so you can get a good grip and feeling through the glove to your weapon. On the outer part of the glove, the leather is harder and more durable seeming as that is where you’re going to get hit. It has a band around the wrist for extra protection without restricting wrist movement. Sandwiched between layers are rigid plates to protect the hand and in particular the fingers from direct hits by blunt steel blades. These plates can be maneuvered around while you use the gloves and get it prepped for you so the glove gets more tailored to your particular hand as you use it. When you first get the glove it can be hard to even fit your fingers in it but as you stretch it and get it used to your specific hand it becomes quite comfortable. It is very much like getting a baseball glove ready for the season.

It took me about a month of just working the gloves while watching Netflix or Youtube videos on HEMA to get the gloves comfortable.

These gloves are primarily for longsword but unlike most longsword gloves can be used with different weapons making them a good backup for even some rapiers or sideswords should something go wrong with your lite gloves. The wait time from Sweden is substantial though it is improving and now you have the option if you’re in America to get them quickly from Purpleheart Armoury.

You can buy them internationally from here: St Mark.

Kombat Gloves

gajardoni_0064_kombat_gloves_front

These are very well protecting lightweight gloves good for historical fencing with lighter weapons like sabres, rapiers, singlestick, or daggers. One thing to keep in mind that the extra knuckle protection can with some designs of rapiers make it a bit cramped if your hand is large and space is small. I also have very large forearms so with my jacket it can be difficult for the forearm velcro to fit around but that shouldn’t be a problem for most people. With the Challenge jacket having built-in elbow protection you can use these and not worry about forearm and elbow protection. If wearing without the jacket you can take the elbow part of the forearm protectors I showed above and use them in conjunction with the gloves if you want and if you have the little leather jutting out the end outside of the elbow cup.

You can buy it here: Gajardoni.

Type III Pentti Synthetic Longsword

type-iii-50-fuller-2t

Quick delivery as a surprise Christmas present for me. Well constructed and capable of taking a lot of punishment it is a great practice tool at home. If I had a real pell I wouldn’t worry about harming the pell or the weapon like I would with a steel weapon. But, it works well enough on my makeshift pole in my backyard and at practice with other synthetics. Don’t forget to use your Hema Alliance membership promo code when ordering.

You can buy it here: Purpleheart Armoury.

Purpleheart SingleStick

20180130_113259_HDR

This singlestick is very well made with a leather basket and for a little extra over the standard rattan, I chose the hickory model with the oval shape. It has a nice shape for grip to help with edge alignment so you don’t get in bad habits and has a taper making it feel more alive and responsive in the hand.

I ended up picking up rattan sticks from Purpleheart as the ruleset for the Cornhusker State Games required rattan. Customer service was fantastic and shipped them out in time for me to use them at the tournament.

Pick up some gaffer tape if the sticks don’t fit the top and bottom perfectly and you’ll appreciate the improvement.

You can buy it here: Purpleheart Armoury

Cold Steel Synthetic Buckler

71ocazxm2ul-_sl1024_

Solid and practically indestructible this buckler is inexpensive and does the job whether using a synthetic or steel blade.

You can buy it here: Amazon.

Cold Steel Rondel Rubber Training Dagger

41bkauzmwml

Good and simple practice dagger that has good flex so you can safely stab your friends. Inexpensive and with easy accessibility it is a good addition to your loadout.

You can buy it here: Amazon.

Sisu Mouth Guard

71i7dmrtukl-_sl1500_

Good to have if you’re going to be doing some boxing, bartitsu, ringen, glima, or just common fencing grappling or wrestling. Don’t want to get your teeth knocked out on accident if you can help it.

You can buy it here: Amazon.

NuttyBuddy Cup and Compression Shorts

51xogn3qpcl-_sl1004_

Gotta protect your “nutty” and this combo of shorts and cup works very well. It must take a ridiculous amount of force to break this.

You can buy it here: Amazon.

Alera Wire Garment Rack

20180226_135103_HDR

It is nice to have something to hang up your gear to dry it out and just keep it organized. This holds my Purpleheart longsword and singlestick on the left side there very well so it is also a sword rack to add to the convenience. I got it for $55 at Costco.

Mares Mesh Bag

20180728_161112_HDR

As an upgrade to my snowboard bag, I picked up the mesh bag based on the review at Measure and Weigh. It is really convenient for everything not requiring longsword. Singlesticks fit in fine with no problem. A really nice perk is when you’re trying to find stuff it is easy since the mesh is see-thru. I am a giant so my gear is heavier and larger than most people and I had no problem storing my jacket inside out and all my protective gear so the vast majority of people should have no problems. I bought mine at Amazon.

Exercise Gear:

I get a lot of mileage with my NSD spinner which is fun to do and I think helps build up finer muscle control for strammazone type cuts as you’re making very tight circular motions to get it to spin. If you check out my previous post on exercises you’ll see a link to the one I have.

From Iron Mind I have a Captain’s of Crush Trainer and #1 grippers, a Blue Iron Egg, and the elastic bands. The Trainer is good for reps a couple of times a day for building your grip strength which is important for sword work and for things like the bench press. If you want to push your grip strength get an additional gripper of higher tension like the #1 or go with the #.5 if you have difficulty with the Trainer and use that to step up the difficulty. The Iron Egg I squeeze while reading a book or watching a video and same with the elastic bands which are fun for building your forearm and fingers and can help with an injury.

The Gripmasters I use at work though I have destroyed them pretty badly. I have the 9 pound and the 11 pound and if you do the pinch grip it will give you a good workout for your fingers. Great for building your bass playing skills especially the pinkie and of course your grip for Hema.

The Theraband blue is good for if you get tennis elbow and for your grip do a pickup grip on the tips of the band and twist and that will get your whole forearm and fingers working.

Resistance bands are good for increasing your leg strength and are really interesting to use when practicing careful short lunges, voids, and traverses while you have them at your ankles.

Battle ropes are fun and I get double use out of my makeshift pole/pell.

I have a Valeo medicine ball which is good for working out your core and I like to lay down and throw it up with my right arm like I am punching out or making an oberhau. Exercising the lazy way while listening to a podcast or youtube video drone on is a-ok with me.

Balance pads and agility ladders are good to help get your feet moving and your balance better which is a huge part of any martial art and will help you get better at dancing too!

Wishlist/Waitlist:

ih001_small_8_2

For my steel longsword, I am looking at the smith Logan Black of Black Horse Blades. He now has three Hema training blades the Arbeitsferd, the Eisen Pferd, and the Grosse Pferd. I like the Eisen Pferd design the most which is the blade above. I have communicated with Logan on Facebook and he has been extraordinarily pleasant and if money had allowed I would already have his work in my home just for their customer service soft skills. His site is Black Horse Blades.

wallace20collection20a58820replicadacl52028129

For my steel rapier and dagger, I am on the waitlist for a Danelli Armouries until Christmas of 2018. So many beautiful works of art on the site you can get distracted very easily if you’re a sword enthusiast. The rapier above is one of his most beautiful though way out of my price range. His website: Danelli Armouries.

Over at Castille Armory, there are a lot of good looking blades. The link is to an inexpensive clamshell rapier with a lot of good reviews. For Hema, I recommend from my research that you get the F3 blade and a lobed tip. Length of the blade is, of course, a contentious issue and depends somewhat on the master or tradition you’re studying though in general the taller you are the longer the blade. Keep in mind that some tournaments have length maximums and most of the lengths on bladesmith sites for rapiers include the ricasso. The bronzed work looks great in my opinion too. Over at Blood and Iron, they recently did a review of a custom blade Sam made that the lead instructor gushed over. They have some amazing sabres that are tempting.

For sword and buckler, I am looking at just a basic arming sword by VB available at Purpleheart.

For sabre not from Castille I am thinking about just snagging a cheap Hanwei Hutton from Amazon because I get bonuses from work each month in Amazon gyft cards so that would make it easy to get and the Hanwei’s are okay.

If I get more into the lighter weapons I will probably eventually get a Diamond Jacket from Gajardoni as it is just amazing looking and better suited for lower impact weapons.