The equipment information on this page should not be taken as requirements for a beginner. Months of study can be accomplished with nothing but a broom handle and a mirror, and a mask alone unlocks the most fruitful partner drills. Other protective equipment can be purchased piece-by-piece at your own pace as you increase the intensity of your partner work.
Likewise, this equipment information is specific to rapier fencing. It will not provide sufficient protection for other disciplines, such as longsword. Fencers with diverse interests in HEMA may opt for heavier protection at the expense of flexibility.
All swords and protective equipment must comply with the HEMA Alliance Safety Policy for the intensity level of practice.
To the point – How Much Does Gear Cost?
Kind of as much as you want it to.
- $0 – borrow our equipment, take turns at practice, do everything except spar
- $60 – a decent mask if you don’t want to stick your face in ours
- $450-500 – a fencing jacket ($300), gloves, groin protector, and gorget so you can spar
- $200-∞ – hard joint protection and tournament gear
- $0 – a literal stick for home practice
- $50 – plastic or wooden sword to upgrade from the stick
- $350 – generic HEMA-rated rapier
- $500-1000 – semi-custom rapier, suited to Thibault’s unique grip, your budget, and your tastes
- $1000-∞ – a custom sword
Thibault’s sword is the Late Renaissance rapier, but one which differs from the widely-known Italian and Spanish styles.
The most notable difference is that Thibault’s rapier lacks the knuckle bow common to most complex hilts. As our fencing system fundamentally relies on a straight-line grip that places the pommel along the hollow of the hand, the knuckle bow knocks against the wrist and inhibits movement. A sword with a knuckle bow can work in a pinch by rotating one’s grip, but this is obviously not optimal.
The other difference is that Thibault’s rapier is quite short compared to those recommended by his contemporaries, although it’s pretty average for modern rapier reproductions. Thibault states that the proper length for a sword blade, tip to quillons, is the distance from the floor to your navel as you stand upright. Our loaner swords have a 42-inch blade.
Swords should be designed specifically for HEMA sparring. Blades must be blunt on both edges and the tip must not come to a point. Spatulated/swelled tips are highly recommended, and may be used without a rubber tip in some high-protection practice if the tip’s circumference is wrapped with two layers of tear-resistant, fiber-backed tape. Any other tip style requires a rubber tip for all activities involving a partner.
Blades should have HEMA/F3 flex, and must not be less flexible. Ideal flex is 1-1.5″ when held horizontal with a 6oz. weight at the tip, and nothing that flexes less than 1″ will be acceptable for any activity with a partner.
If ordering a sword specifically for Thibault style, note that many guard designs are only available with a knuckle bow and are thus unsuitable. As many moves depend on binding the opponent’s blade between your own blade and your quillion on either side, straight quillons are highly recommended, and any short or asymmetrical design is discouraged.
While other manufacturers are acceptable, we recommend Castille Armory’s semi-custom rapiers. Fencers looking for the most authentic Thibault-style rapier can order the “2-port cross” guard with straight quillons and no knuckle bow, as this is identical to the style of sword depicted in the manual. Less expensive (and more protective) options available without knuckle bow include the clam shell and cup designs. We recommend the “standard” blade type, spatulated tip, and a medium-weight pommel for blade lengths around 42″.
Masks must be designed for HEMA and rated for 350N or higher puncture resistance. Sport fencing masks are not suitable. Damaged masks may be disallowed depending on the extent and location of the damage, and no mask with significantly dented mesh will be allowed.
Tournament sparring requires back of head protection, which may be integrated into the mask.
Ideally, gloves should be designed specifically for rapier or single-hand HEMA use. But many rapier gloves do not have enough flexibility, or add too much bulk to the fingers or wrist, for the Thibault grip. Finding an acceptable balance of protection and dexterity can be challenging, and no one solution will work for everyone. One critical step is making sure that you’re wearing the smallest size glove that fits comfortably.
At minimum, gloves must have impact padding or armor on the fingers, knuckles, back of hand, and wrist. Hard knuckle protection is suggested but not required. Hockey, lacrosse, and similar gloves are usually too bulky to fit inside the rapier’s guard, but can be okay for an off-hand glove. Un-padded leather gloves (e.g. garden gloves) and fingerless gloves are not suitable. Insulation, added to make gloves warm, is not the same thing as impact padding.
Purpleheart Armory sells a basic rapier glove. If you can make this work for you, it’s going to offer the most protection. While perfect for an off-hand glove and popular with rapier fencers of other styles, they can add too much bulk in the hollow of the hand to hold the sword with Thibault’s grip. Since the grip is key to our club’s style, you may find these gloves impossible to work with.
A much more dexterous option for the sword hand, but also less protective, might be the Mechanix M-Pact gloves. Be careful when evaluating the different models, as some of them (such as the open-cuff and fingerless styles) do not provide sufficient wrist or small bone protection and are not suitable. Choose a model that has impact padding on the fingers, first knuckle, and wrist (the padding is integrated into the wrist strap on most models).
For earnest sparring in our club, low-profile impact-resistant gloves meet the safety requirements for the sword hand only and must be paired with a rapier glove or better on the off hand.
Suitable throat protection must have a hard plastic or metal plate that covers the front of the neck. This may be attached to the jacket, a separate garment, or worn in any other secure fashion that does not compromise protection.
We recommend the Destroyer Modz Roughneck gorget.
Fencing jackets must be designed for HEMA fencing and be rated for 350N of puncture resistance. Jackets should fully cover the torso to the waist and the arms to the wrist.
While HEMA fencing jackets with more or less padding are acceptable, we recommend the SPES AP Light design as it provides a good medium between protection in full-intensity sparring and comfort for lighter practice.