Inspecting a fencer's equipment
This outlines a basic overview of the key points of an inspection at training or events.
The items to check, listed below, are not meant to be comprehensive for every item in the rules. Marshals are encouraged to use their best judgement to conduct any aspect of an inspection more thoroughly.
Note: Penetration-resistant material, masks and blade flexibility must be tested at least every two years, separate to inspections at events.
For more information about these tests see Appendix 4.
Inspecting protective equipment
- When inspecting protective equipment, you may not be able to see every part of the equipment. In these cases, ask the fencer about their equipment, to check that they know the rules and believe they are wearing the right equipment.
- If a part of the inspection requires you to touch the fencer, for example to check for proper mask fit, ask for and receive their permission before you do so. If the fencer does not agree to the check, they may not pass inspection.
- Additional health and safety requirements may apply to physical inspections (see COVID-safe inspections in this chapter).
- Check what type of combat the fencer is planning to participate in. Check that they have the appropriate level of protection for that category (for example, the addition of rigid back-of-head protection and resilient padding on elbows and knees for Cut and Thrust Combat).
- It may be necessary to ask the combatant what their penetration-resistant clothing is made of. For example, it may be a combination of a doublet and underarm gussets sewn into their undershirt. If you cannot see the undershirt in this scenario, ask them if they're wearing it.
- It may be necessary to ask the fencer to adopt a common combat pose, such as a lunge, to check that there are no substantial gaps in their penetration-resistant clothing.
- Check that the fencer is wearing rigid neck protection, noting that this may be integral to the helm.
- Ask the fencer if they are wearing the appropriate groin protection and rigid protection on any vulnerable body part. It is up to them to know what they need to wear.
Inspecting masks and helms
- Check that the materials meet the rigid material standard, and do not have excessive rust or dents that could weaken the material.
- If there you are concerned about the face mesh on a fencing mask, it should be tested using a standard commercial 12kg mask punch.
- Look inside the mask or helm to check that it has no substantial protrusions, and that there is enough padding or a proper suspension to prevent it from hitting the fencer's head.
- After the fencer puts the mask or helm, check that it fits snugly in a way that should prevent the mask from hitting the fencer's head or face. You may need to push or pull on the mask or helm to make sure it doesn't come into contact with the fencer. Tell them what you are going to do as you make these checks.
- Check that the mask is secured by a second fastening below the jawline.
- Gloves are to be made of abrasion-resistant material. Check for any significant openings, breaks or cuts that could permit a blade or abrasive cut. Note that when sewing leather, small gaps that are structurally sound may appear at the seams.
- Check that there is enough overlap between the gloves and the shirt that there are no gaps. You can ask the fencer to adopt a common fencing pose such as a lunge, to check that there are no gaps when they move.
- For Cut and Thrust Combat:
- check that the fencer's hand protection (combination of glove and/or sword or defensive object) has enough padding or rigid protection. If their gloves only have padded protection, remind them that they are not allowed to fight with or against a two-handed weapon.
- Ask the combatant to hold their weapon or defensive object as they would in combat.
- Check that the combined protection covers the back of the hands, fingers, and 2.5cm above the wrist to protect against percussive cuts from normal and reasonable angles. An appropriate test is: can you see a straight line, approximately 10cm long, into which a sword could cut with the edge on any part of the back of their hands, fingers, or wrist?
- A shield alone may be considered an equivalent to full hand and wrist protection only if no part of the gloved hand or wrist is within 10 cm of the edge of the shield while it is being used.
Inspecting bladed weapons
- Inspect the overall weapon.
- Check that the overall length is within the acceptable range.
- Check that the weapon is in good repair - that is it doesn't seem like it will fall apart with a parry.
- Inspect the blade
- Check for nicks that can cut an opponent. You can do this visually or by running a gloved hand along the edges of the blade. Run your hand in both directions but do so lightly - by its very nature a potentially harmful nick can injure you. If the blade has substantial nicks, they will need to be filed or sanded before the weapon can be used.
- Look down the length of the blade to look for kinks. Weapons with kinks consistent with fatigue cannot be used.
- Check the flexibility of the blade. If in doubt, check the weapon for flexibility using the flexibility test at Appendix 4.
- Inspect the blunt
- Check the blunt visually for cracks, bulging, or discoloration, or any other signs that the sword is starting to punch through the blunt.
- Frequently, it isn't possible to ascertain the internal components of the blunt. For example, if the blunt is made of leather, it may not be possible to tell that the leather is thick enough. Ask the fencer about the construction of the blunt to check that they are familiar with the rules and that their blunt meets the requirements of the rules.
- If the blunt appears not to meet the requirements, it must be replaced before the weapon can be used.
- Check that the blunt is unlikely to come off during combat, by pulling on it.
- Inspect the quillons, pommel
- Check that the quillons and pommels do not have sharp or pointed ends.
- Check for any major splinters, nicks, or features that could injure an opponent.
- Check the ammunition to ensure it contains no metal parts or fillings.
- For long-arm RBGs with a draw length of more than 45cm, check the circumference of the ammunition is at least the same as the draw length. Flatten two rubber bands in half and use that to measure against the draw length, as shown in this figure.
- Inspect the head
- For rubber-headed spears, check that the tip is flexible, and returns substantially to its original shape within 3 seconds.
- For metal-headed spears, follow the inspection methods for a bladed weapon.
- Check that the head is securely fastened to the haft.
- Inspect the haft
- Check that the haft is made of appropriate material (rattan for rubber-headed spears; wood or rattan for metal-headed spears).
- Check that the rattan haft is the appropriate diameter (between 28.5mm and 35mm).
- Check that the spear is the appropriate length (no longer than 275cm for rubber-headed spears, or 244cm for metal-headed spears).
- Check that the haft does not have dangerous burrs or protrusions.
Inspecting defensive objects
- Check for any major splinters, nicks, or features that could injure an opponent.
- Check if a cloak or non-rigid defensive object contains any rigid parts. If it does, remind the opponent that they may not throw it at their opponent.
COVID-safe low-contact inspections
The health and safety of all rapier combatants, students and marshals is our first priority. The following steps are a guide for marshals on how to conduct a no- or low-contact inspection of weapons and equipment.
- Marshals must wear abrasion-resistant gloves to conduct all inspections of fencers.
- Physical distancing should be maintained while conducting inspections.
- Ask the combatant to stand at an appropriate distance in front of you.
- Ask the combatant to show you the inside of their mask.
- Inspect by sight to assess if the padding is intact.
- If uncertain you might need to ask the combatant to press the padding to check it is still resilient.
- Ask the combatant if they are wearing groin protection (if applicable).
- Ask the combatant to present their gloved hands, palms up. Inspect the gloves by sight looking for any rips or holes.
- Ask the combatant to turn their hands palms down and repeat the inspection.
- Ask the combatant to spread their arms to the sides. Inspect the armpits by sight, looking for sprung seams, rips or holes.
- If you are not certain about the underarm coverage, discuss it with the combatant.
- You might need to ask the combatant to press or pinch the cloth under the arm to demonstrate its coverage
- Check that the combatant is wearing rigid neck protection, noting that this might be part of their helm.
- Ask the combatant to put on their coif and mask or helm.
- Check the fit of the mask or helm. This might involve asking the combatant to move their head or manipulate the mask or helm.
- Check that the combatant has a secondary fastening to secure their mask.
- Visually check all the armour to ensure there are no gaps showing skin. This includes checking that normal fencing movements (such as a lunge) will not expose skin.
- Ask the combatant to stand to one side and present their sword or dagger so that the blade is in front of you. They should hold the hilt.
- Wearing a fencing glove, check the blade for nicks and ensure the blunt is securely fixed to the tip.
- Used your gloved hand to check a buckler or baton for nicks, chips or splinters.
- Inspect a cloak for any rigid material.