Equipment- what to buy
Insurance Health & Safety rules preclude sharing of personal equipment.
Which means that, except for a few items, we will have no “club” kit available for students to share 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 we find every student wants their own kit in very short time anyway.
New students won’t need to buy everything straight away.
We do, however, expect our students to have the minimum level of personal equipment required for each stage of their TEMA journey.
Notice from June 2020, revised June 2022
Insurance Health and Safety rules require:
1. Everyone must own their personal gloves and fencing mask as a minimum.
2. You will also need, as a minimum, a wooden practice sword or cudgel. We supply of fresh cudgels to novices. Steel swords are expensive, but if possible, do get one. Ask your instructor or other Academy members for advice. Suppliers listed below.
3. Grades above white sash will need a gambeson or suitable fencing jack in order to get full benefits of steel-on-steel training.
4. Throat protectors (gorgets) are advised for sparring, and are mandatory in competition. Club gorgets are available, and we are able to subsidise the purchase of your personal gorget.
The above are minimum requirements. Students will soon find what equipment they need, and where to buy it.
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:
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.
Fingertip Protectors- a good idea
Fingertip protectors are highly recommended, especially for thumbs! Not a must-have, but a nice-to-have.
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.
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.
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 £70 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.
(Tempus Fugitives also run mask + gloves promotions from time to time, (as well as other offers) which provide a considerable saving for high-grade protection.)
Some of 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.
Please ensure that you bring your own cudgel or waster to every session.
Cudgels: You can cut your own cudgel from a tree in the woods. Ask your instructor for details. It’s a nice walk in the fresh air, too.
(Replacement cudgels from the Academy will cost £5.)
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.
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-efficient 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.
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 £170, 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 bladeExample shown is a custom-build. Standard mortuaries have a black guard and no engraving.
Medieval arming sword
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, side swords 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 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 -£220. 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 are currently offering 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.
Tempus supply a variety of better-than-average quality swords and a wide range of training equipment, many made to their own designs or specifications. Not the cheapest equipment on the market, but a good choice for the intermediate to advanced student especially if entering HEMA competitions.
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, federschwert, or longsword wasters will be required for training once students reach intermediate levels.
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. Recommended: Regenyei feder from Red Dragon Armouries.
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 and mains droite 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.
GAMBESONS AND FENCING JACKS
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 is a popular choice for basic medieval-style gambeson, although these aren't necessarily acceptable for HEMA tournaments these days, so if that's your aim, a Spes, Tempus, or Red Dragon fencing jack* would be your best bet. Ask other students or your instructor for recommendations.
Also, 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, Tempus Swords to name but a few. You can buy off the shelf, or spend £££ getting a custom-fitted period gambeson from a specialist medieval tailor or custom-coloured fencing jack through the above suppliers. It depends on your personal preference, so we will not try to influence anyone.
Traditional attire was preferred to the modern HEMA Spes, but times change, and many of our longer term members have both.
Your gambeson 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!
*NB - in practice, we have found that the Red Dragon fencing jack, though a reasonable price, has some features, for example the neck closures and lack of padding across the back, which are not ideal. Ask an instructor for their opinion.
Traditional padded gambeson
This example is inexpensive, roughly £60-£80, widely available, and offers some neck, groin and upper leg protection as well as decent body padding. Drawbacks are there is little or no under arm protection and no blade catcher on the collar.
These do not meet the rigorous safety standards imposed by many tournament organisers, but are fine for most work in class.
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 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. Many of our fighters prefer this style of jacket as it's easy to put on and take off.
There are now many styles of modern fencing jacket, so it's worth taking a look.
prices vary between about £150 to £350+
A Spes is not acceptable for any period events we attend.
Shorter style jacket
For starters, drill work and light sparring, this is a budget option, but it will require the addition of several pieces of additional protection for full-on competition, so it's recommended that you save money in the long term by buying examples 1 or 2.
Not suitable for inter-club tournaments or heavy sparring.
LOWER LEG GUARDS
I would advise the purchase of some shin guards- Red Dragon's HEMA shin & knee guards are fine; The Maister wears ice-hockey shin protectors as he finds them a better fit. A good pair of football shin guards will do until you get into heavier weapons.
Do check out ice-hockey leg guards, though. Highly recommended.
We recommend that you ensure that you have some kind of neck protection, even if your jack or gambeson has a collar, especially at higher levels of sparring.
We suggest that you invest in a Gorget. These are available from HEMA stockists and re-enactment suppliers, either a modern variety or the more traditional. The Academy will supply those made for Tempus Fugitives at a 50% subsidised rate as we believe them to be an absolute must. Order through your instructor.
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 or similar.
UPPER LEG PROTECTION
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. Several of the preferred suppliers offer a variety of specialist padded fencing breeches. These are becoming de rigeur for most tournaments. Talk to your class mates before purchasing.
There is a standard pattern Academy shirt which all graded students should wear to class and events.
These are made from a light, performance fabric, in a practical black with printed logos and insignia.
Price: £35. AVAILABLE TO ORDER. ASK YOUR INSTRUCTOR.
STANDARD ATTIRE FOR CLASS
You should wear:
The Academy shirt or a black t-shirt. No logos or slogans, please.
Blitz or Cimac 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, which are a popular choice.
Footwear: 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, of course, acceptable.
A bandana or other sweat-absorbing headwear or hair-tidy is allowed. No peaked hats or fashion headwear.
These are not mandatory purchases until you are higher up the grading ladder, but many students have bought their own at an early stage, as we still need to clean club-use items after every single use, which is time consuming and boring! Most items are inexpensive and can be easily bought online or in-store.
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.
Other: Sports Direct
A decent head guard with a grid or clear full-face protector is ideal for pugilism sparring. Open face boxing helmets 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.
Other: Sports Direct
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