Equipment- what to buy

Government and insurance Health & Safety rules preclude sharing of equipment.

Which means that, unlike the past years, we will have no “club” kit available for students to use for the foreseeable future.

We have always tried to be as inclusive as possible with the lowest possible costs to students. But every sport or hobby has a buy-in price, and these are difficult times.

New students won’t need everything straight away.

We do, however, expect our students to have a minimum level of personal equipment for each stage of their TEMA journey.

Notice from June 2020

Government and insurance Health and Safety rules mean:

1. NO SHARING OF KIT. Which means that we will have no “club” kit available for the foreseeable future.

2. This means that everyone must own their personal gloves and fencing mask as a minimum.

3. You will also need, as a minimum, a wooden practice sword or cudgel. We will have a limited supply of fresh cudgels when we start back. Steel swords are expensive, but if possible, do get one.

4. Grades above white sash will need a gambeson or suitable fencing jack in order to get full benefits of steel-on-steel training.


We have a club discount with the HEMA Shop (Red Dragon).

(Existing accounts and the old discount code will be honoured.)

To get a discount:

  1. Contact Maister Jed Pascoe directly: email, Messenger, or text 07785 254510, and ask for the code

  2. Go to the HEMA shop

  3. Sign up for an account

  4. Email them with your club discount code and club name.

  5. They will acknowledge.

  6. You will be able to get a discount when you next log in.

Kit requirements and recommendations

Advice on what you need for a particular grading and when you will need to buy it will be given in class. What follows is a guide, not a must-get-now shopping list. We try to keep our students' costs to a minimum and spread out over a period of years.

Instructors and other students will always be willing to give advice

What to buy and - what not to buy


Every student MUST own a pair of leather gloves for safety. No gloves- no train.

Gloves- what to buy

Ordinary leather workmen’s or rigger gloves are fine, the Red Dragon padded swordsman’s gloves are ideal. Quality gauntlets that look the part can be bought at re-enactment fairs and events. Even inexpensive heavy-duty gardening gloves from your local Homebase will suffice as a starter. Make sure your gloves are a good fit.

Other suppliers of re-enactment kit can be found on line.

Gloves- what not to buy

There is no need to buy heavy-duty ‘lobster’ or heavy sparring gloves until you move up the grades. Heavy sparring gloves don’t fit into basket hilts or leather cudgel pots.

Fingertip Protectors- a good idea

Fingertip protectors are highly recommended, especially for thumbs! Not a must-have, but a nice-to-have.

Steel gauntlets- do I need them?

There’s no need to buy re-enactment steel gauntlets unless you are taking part in re-enactment. It’s your personal preference. Ask advice from your instructor or higher-grade students.

Fencing Masks

Once you have finished your trial period- or even before- you must have your own mask.

Loan masks will no longer be supplied to novice students as previously.

Where to buy a fencing mask

The most popular HEMA masks are supplied by Red Dragon. These are not only fit for purpose, they are also comparatively inexpensive at about £50 including club discount. (Apply to the Maister for a code- see Club Discount above)

Red Dragon also supply a Tournament mask which would be your personal choice but at a later stage in your training.

Other suppliers include Leon Paul and Allstar Uhlman.

These suppliers have a higher price range, reflected in an arguably higher quality product, although for most practical purposes, the Red Dragon masks are fine, and in this writer's opinion, a more comfortable fit!

Sizing instructions are available on the respective sites.

Beards and masks

Bearded students should take their facial hair into account when measuring for size- squeezing a large amount of Viking-style growth into a small chin space is not recommended!


The Academy will issue every student with a fresh cudgel. Replacement cudgels will cost £5.

COVID-19: There can be no sharing or lending of equipment as in the past.

Please ensure that you bring your own cudgel or waster to every session. No cudgel - no train.

Cudgels: You can cut your own cudgel from a tree in the woods. It’s a nice walk in the fresh air, too. Ask your instructor for details.

Wooden waster: single-handed only needed at lower grade. A good starting point for novices and white grades if you don't want the outlay of a steel sword in your early days of training and want something that looks like a broadsword. However, for all practical training and ECB competition purposes, your cudgel will be sufficient.

Cudgel Pots

To complete your cudgel combo, you will need a leather pot.

You can buy one through the Academy. They are rarely available commercially as they are not very cost-inefficient to produce. Cost TBA

The Dutch Sail is a simple leather hand-guard suitable for drill training and light in-club sparring, but not suitable for competition. These are available from your instructor.


A vambrace on one or both arms is a vital piece of protection. You may buy vambraces online; or order them through your instructor. Academy vambraces are longer in the arm and offer more protection than most commercially available leather vambraces. Academy vambraces are supplied as either laced or strap & buckle and are available in a range of sizes.

Modern textile and plastic HEMA vams are available through sources such as the Red Dragon HEMA Shop, but although acceptable, we prefer the traditional leather vambrace.

Cost TBA



Nylon practice swords

Aisle O’Var Academy of Arms does not practice with plastic. In our opinion, these are not authentic wasters, and do not perform correctly. Other clubs may ask you to bring a ‘nylon’, but you should be fine using your normal club sword when visiting other clubs or events.

Steel swords to avoid

The so-called ‘Practical’ range, and any swords made by Hanwei: these are cheap Eastern imports made in bulk from moulds. They might look pretty, but they are poorly balanced, heavy, and have a reputation for breaking easily. Do not waste your money.

Rule of thumb when buying a sword

Basically, if a steel sword has an original list price of less than £150, it’s junk.

Re-enactment swords from the HEMA shop are also untested by us, so we would advise you to err on the side of caution and buy from our recommended suppliers below.

Types of sword we prefer

Mortuary- hilted Backsword

Also available with a broadsword blade

Example shown is a custom-build. Standard mortuaries have a black guard and no engraving.

Medieval arming sword

or 'broadsword'

Dragoon-hilted backsword or broadsword


Where to buy: A list of recommended Swordsmiths

Notes before choosing your sword:

  • Novices are advised to stay away from heavier hilt designs, such as the more ornate Scottish basket hilts. Your arm will soon tire, and practice will be a chore not a joy.

  • We don't train in German fighting styles, so until you want to add one to your collection, don't buy a messer, langmesser or dusack.

  • Similarly, we don't as yet train with rapiers, so you don't need to buy a rapier. A rapier is not a substitute for a backsword or broadsword, as the weapons have very different handling characteristics and fighting techniques.

  • The same applies to smallswords and 17th C 'single' swords.

  • Cutlasses and hangers tend to be a tad short in the blade for most students. They are specialist weapons for use in confined spaces or as a back-up sidearm. Recommended, though, for shorter-statured students. Ask for advice.

  • Don't bring a sharp sword to train in class.

  • And leave your katana and tsurugi at home. We love 'em, but they ain't us.

Armour Class

Armour Class is the club standard for basket-hilted swords. Their single-handed medieval broadswords are good value from £180, a mortuary hilt will set you back £190. Good value and great performance. They will also make you a custom piece to order for more or less the list price or their standard swords. A downside is the long waiting time. Best to buy your first Armour Class from their stall at TORM* or email and ask if they hold any in stock.

*The Original Re-Enactors' Market.

Kovex Ars

Kovex Ars are currently offering up to 20% discount.* Good quality steel swords, with a huge variety of designs, and in stock.

As with all sword designs, the more complex the hilt, the more expensive the sword.

Also worth a good look around their site.

*September 2020

Lixa Rebellum

Lixa Rebellum is currently our go-to supplier for longswords, and they also have a good stock of single-handers and superb re-enactment kit.

See the note above regarding German-style weapons.


NB Wait until the need for two-handers is announced in class. No need to rush. -

Steel longswords or longsword wasters will be required for training once students reach Green/Red intermediate level, ready to grade in the longsword drill for their Red shield.

Wooden waster: Longsword-style wooden practice pieces are available from many outlets. Discounts available through the HEMA shop.

Steel Longsword: I recommend Lixa Rebellum for steel longswords. A good product at a good price.

Federschwert: is a two-handed steel practice sword, ideal for training. Some aren’t suitable for heavy sparring, but totally acceptable in class. Be guided by the price!


You will need a dagger or dagger substitute (usually a cut-down broken cudgel) for your Green Shield Grading.

Daggers come in all forms and varieties, and many vary dramatically in length. Check out what other students and instructors use in class before plunging in and buying.

Kovex Ars is a popular choice.

All the usual suppliers above have a wide range of daggers to choose from, so it pays to shop around to find one that suits your personal taste and budget.

One note: don't get a Rondel dagger until you feel the need to add it to your collection. It's a different animal from the companion dagger needed for the period we teach.


Once you start sparring with steels, you will require a higher level of protection.

A decent gambeson which falls to your upper legs is ideal, and will not cost the earth. Red Dragon are currently* offering traditional-style gambesons for around £45, which is a bargain!

There are many suppliers for authentic and modern padded protection, including second-hand kit through E-Bay. It's worth shopping around.

Red Dragon, The Knight Shop, Get Dressed For Battle, Spes, Lixa Rebellum, to name but a few. You can buy off the shelf, or spend £££ getting a custom-fitted period gambeson from a specialist medieval tailor. It depends on your personal preference, so we will not try to influence anyone.

Traditional attire is preferred to the modern HEMA Spes.

Your gambeson ideally should have long sleeves. Also look for one which is easy to put on and take off: one-piece over the head gambies are great, but may need a squire's help to lace up and remove!

*September 2020

Example 1:

"Traditional" padded gambeson

This example is inexpensive, widely available, and offers neck and some groin and upper leg protection as well as decent body padding.

Example 2:

Spes high-end tournament jack

Spes is the big name in HEMA jacks. The Academy, though, does prefer our members to wear more traditional kit; and certainly as little plastic as possible! However, for travelling tournament fighters, the Spes is the standard for many other clubs, and so it has now been accepted as par for the inter-club scene.

A Spes is not acceptable for any period events we attend.

Example 3:

Shorter style jacket

Ideal for starters but will possibly require the addition of other protection for full-on competition.



I would advise the purchase of some shin guards- Red Dragon's HEMA shin & knee guards are fine; I wear hockey shin protectors as I find them a better fit. A good pair of football shin guards will do until you get into heavier weapons. - Jed


We recommend that you ensure that you have some kind of neck protection, especially at higher levels of sparring.

If your gambeson or Jack does not have a high collar, think of investing in a Gorgette. These are available from HEMA stockists and re-enactment suppliers, either a modern variety or the more traditional. A rolled bandana is sufficient for lighter play.


It's a good idea to sooner or later invest in some elbow protectors. These can be bought from the usual suppliers, or you can buy skateboard-type elbow pads.


We would hope that you will become skilful enough not to require such kit as this, but these are also available. Don't rush out and get some until you have moved up the grades and you absolutely feel the need. Which you shouldn't.



There is a standard pattern Academy shirt which all graded students should wear to class and events. At the time of writing (September 2020) the new branding is being developed and new suppliers are being investigated.

We are looking at performance fabric, in a practical black with printed logos and insignia.

We hope that the Academy shirt will cost no more than £25. AVAILABLE TO ORDER. ASK YOUR INSTRUCTOR.

Existing AOBC shirts will still be honoured.


You should wear:

  • A t-shirt or Academy shirt

  • Blitz kung-fu pants are the club standard leg wear. Very lightweight and airy, allowing full movement of the legs at a minimal cost from the The Martial Arts Shop.

  • Alternatively, you may wear black joggers or track suit bottoms.

  • Trainers or running shoes or squash/badminton shoes or boxing boots. No outside or fashion footwear. (Different footwear may apply at outside events, advice will be given in class.)

  • Do not wear jewellery, necklaces etc. for safety reasons.

  • Supportive wrist bands, knee supports, etc are acceptable.

  • A bandana or other sweat-absorbing head wear is allowed. No peaked hats.


At the time of writing, we are still maintaining social distancing due to COVID-19, so much of our syllabus relating to pugilism will be somewhat watered down. However, here are some items you will find useful should things return to normal. These are not mandatory purchases until you are much higher up the grading ladder, but many students have bought their own at an early stage.

Sparring gloves

A wide variety are available. Get ones with thumb protection. Look for MMA style. Boxing gloves aren't suitable for our style of open fighting. Prices vary from under £10 to £70-80 or more. Something around £25 is a good start.

Your mitts should protect your hands and knuckles while allowing you to grip, throw and wrestle.

Recommended supplier:

Other: Sports Direct

Head protector

A decent head guard with a grid or clear full-face protector is ideal for pugilism sparring. Open face guards are ok, but be aware that these are designed with an opponent's thick padded boxing gloves in mind, not the lightly padded MMA mitts we use.

Recommended supplier:

Other: Sports Direct

Focus pads

for paired punching training, it's best to have your own focus pads.

While we maintain distancing, these won't be necessary, but they are a good training aid and it's best to have your own.

Find at Sports Direct


Gum Shield

You will not be allowed to spar without a gum shield.

These vary in quality and design, but every student who engages in loose sparring MUST wear one.

No gum shield, no fight.

Prices start at £1.99.

Buy from your local sports shop, Sports Direct, or


You will be awarded your sash on successful completion of each grading. These are supplied by the Academy, for which we make a small charge at the time of grading.

You must wear your sash to every class. It tells the class instructor at what level he or she can teach you.