HEMA fighter in sparring kit (cropped)

HEMA: Protective items

HEMA fighter in sparring kit (cropped)Following on from our post on Safe Conduct of Classes and our general post on safety and protective equipment, here follows our breakdown of which items to wear for training and sparring.

Fencing mask

FIE 350N or 1600N masks. The ‘N’ or Newton rating is for the bib more than the mesh. Masks must not show signs of distress or damage, particularly dents, rust, broken mesh, or especially tears in the bib. Mask top/side covers are not required, but are recommended for sabre and longsword.

Back of head protection

For intense sparring or passing exercises which expose the back of the head to hits, the back of the head needs to be covered by a solid, rigid protector, without significant gaps.

Throat protection

A solid throat guard (‘gorget’) covering the front of the throat should be worn, ideally with an extension covering the collar-bone and top of the shoulders. This should be worn under any protective jacket.

Of the types available, the shape, area, fit and breathability of the materials vary widely

Chest protector

Chest protectors - male and femaleRequired for women and recommended for men. Worn under the jacket or gambeson, a standard polypropylene one-piece chest protector will defend against thrusts and heavy hits to the trunk of the body.

For intense sparring, a similar stomach guard for the abdomen should be considered.


Either a well-padded HEMA jacket, or a sports fencing jacket with significant other protection such as moto-cross padding or solid chest guards, or coaching vest. Modern HEMA and fencing jackets have a folded-over collar as a blade-catcher at the throat; otherwise a “Polish apron” or similar guard to prevent the blade sliding under the mask bib must be worn.

For sabre and longsword, the jacket should cover the points of the hip, or else padded sports trousers (BMX, martial arts or similar) or a SPES padded ‘skirt’ must be worn.

Gambesons without gaps under the arms or at fastening points are allowed.

Moto-cross and BMX suits designed for road traffic accidents and gravel-rash are not generally recommended as a) they are generally too tight-fitting and restrict movement, b) there are significant gaps in the plates in areas likely to be hit by weapons.


Solid protective pads across the back, inside and outside of the elbows; arm guards should be worn for longsword and sabre. Also recommended for rapier and dagger.

The all-in-one SPES arm and elbow guards are adjustable and work well.


Solid protection including the sides of the knee is required for all weapons. Note the popular choice of lightweight ‘brush-cutters’ do not always provide complete protection for the knees.

Shins and forearms

Solid protection is required for longsword and sabre. Recommended for rapier.

Groin guard

Definite requirement for men, recommended for women.


For longsword and sabre thick, fencing gloves with no, or very limited, gaps at the fingers – such as SPES heavy gloves or Sparring Gloves. Metal gauntlets are not allowed for sparring. Unmodified cricket, hockey or lacrosse gloves are not suitable for longsword but are allowed for sabre. Finger tip protectors are recommended for all weapons. For rapier, sport fencing gloves are allowed, but it is recommended to wear padded coaching-type gloves or better.

A takeaway version of this and the other safety posts mentioned is available here as a PDF (2MB).