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Even when fighting carefully, HEMA sparring involves serious risk. There is a variety of protective equipment that is REQUIRED for full participation. We take safety very seriously in this community and as a result: how much gear you have will directly affect how much you can do at practice.
On this page I list the equipment you will need for each class participation level and some general advice on how soon you should buy them.
The gear on this page is listed in recommend-purchasing order.
Remember that protective gear not only keeps you safe but it also allows your opponent to focus on technique rather than your safety.
Before we get started, note that I do not regularly update the prices on this page, so it is always wise to shop around! The most common retailers I use are:
– I use Purpleheart Armoury for most purchases
– For steel weapons I recommend the economy line from Castile Armory
– I purchased my gambeson from Hema Supplies
GEAR TO GET AS SOON AS POSSIBLE (Training & Light Sparring)
First order of business is to make sure you are protected from serious injury at practice. You will not be allowed to participate in “light sparring” until you have purchased the following.
– Men need to buy an athletic cup. They cost $10-$20 on amazon. This is not optional.
– Women are required to wear chest protectors (~$35). This is encouraged for males also.
– You need a HEMA approved fencing mask that protects the back of your head: AF Deluxe HEMA Fencing Mask (~$110)
– I strongly recommend a pair of work gloves. Basically any $15 glove is fine. This is only for comfort; no hand protection is needed besides the broadsword’s basket.
GEAR TO GET IN YOUR FIRST FEW MONTHS (Heavy Sparring)
Over time you will discover that you keep getting hit in the same locations — and its starting to hurt. Maybe you’ve got some ugly bruises and people are starting to ask too many questions at work. Well its probably time to invest in additional gear. All of this gear is available at pratice for you to borrow; so I recommend trying it before you buy anything.
Knee & Elbow Pads
You are going to take a LOT of hits on the knees, forearms and elbows. You will eventually want something like the following:
– Sam’s Favorite Knee Pads: Ultra Flex III KneePro Pads (~$30)
– Sam’s Favorite Forearm Protector: PHA’s Economy Forearm/Elbow Protector (~$50)
If you’re just getting started then you can grab something cheap like Steel Motorcycle ATV Motorscross Elbow/Knee combo (~$25) (Includes knees & elbows)
These are OK but they DO NOT FIT EVERYONE WELL. I have some you can try. Please try them before you buy them.
Your First Broadsword
We have broadswords available for new students, but you will eventually want one of your own.
– Synthetic: What we normally use: Knightshop Synthetic Baskethilt (~$75)
These synthetic swords are very blade heavy and you will eventually want a weighted pommel ($14). I cannot recommend these enough.
I do not recommend getting a steel broadsword yet. If you have more money to spend: spend it on a gambeson.
We use singlesticks from time to time. We have plenty so I do not recommend getting your own.
(*) Consider getting Neck Protection (see below)
GEAR TO GET BEFORE YOU CAN COMPETE
– I personally use the Scholar Jacket from Hema Supplies ($200)
– … I have been “allowed” to compete while wearing several sweaters as a makeshift gambeson. You will wish you had a gambeson
– if you find a gambeson that seems “too cheap to be true” then it probably is
– You will eventually be stabbed in the neck and it is really bad. You will need a gorget when entering a competition where thrusting is allowed.
(Optional) Hard Chest Protection
– There are some cases where you may need (or at least wish you had) hard chest protection. Everyone should consider Chest protectors (~$35)
FIGHTING WITH STEEL
You should not be spending any money on steel weapons unless you’ve purchased all of the protected gear listed above. Steel broadswords rust really fast in Louisiana, so make sure you’re ready to care for your broadsword like a new baby.
Steel broadswords are EXPENSIVE and you have a lot of customization options. Absolutely do not buy from ANYONE besides Castille or the Purple Heart Armory without asking me first.
This is my favorite affordable option: Complete Economy Basket Hilt Sword (~$275)
Make sure you see my guide on how to order a steel broadsword from Castille.