In response to my post yesterday, Steve Silva asked a question about the apparent lack of safety gear in the video. In my response, as usual, I went off on a bit of a tangent and used up all my blog writing time for today. So I’ll share my response with all of you, so you have something to read today.

From Steve Silva:

This is a sincere question: Why isn’t anyone wearing safety equipment other than masks? Are the hits soft enough to not worry about jackets and pants?

Hi Steve,
I guess the answer is yes, no, depends, maybe?

One one hand, most people locally just really don’t care about minor bruising, cuts or scrapes. They are considered just part of training in a martial art. The people who care wear more protection, but most don’t. It’s just not needed.

On the other hand, they are wearing more protection. Everyone, without exception, wears a solid gorget under the mask. Most are heavy waxed leather, some, like mine, are high quality steel made by a top armourer. Men wear protective cups during every bout, even light practice. And good quality leather gloves are a constant as well. The concern is with serious injury or death, not minor injuries.

On the gripping hand, we don’t use modern olympic weapons. This means no worries about weapons that break into a deadly needle. Our weapons break into blunt squared end, more like a screwdriver than anything. Still dangerous, but lacking the combo of slicing/piercing that makes a broken foil/epee so downright evil. This saves us from having to wear protective knickers and FIE-rated fencing doublets.

On the fourth tentacle, we stress that even training weapons have the potential to be deadly. The onus on absolute safety lies on the hand that drives the weapon. This means a constant stress on being in control of your weapon at all times. You save the last bit of power and measure on impact, you don’t blast someone full-out just to land a touch. And honestly, people with attitudes that require them to go that hard aren’t welcome.

This doesn’t mean we are gentle, by any stretch of the imagination. We can be, when we put some real effort into it. If you watch the first bout, you will see me being a total dick to a talented new fighter. I’m fighting him with techniques out of his comfort zone or exposure (mostly out of pleasure, he seemed very competent and game, so I felt comfortable enough to try some things with him that I usually only do with my students) and you can see that I am either moving very fast, but landing my touches at the extreme of measure, or moving slower with a careful placement.

In the next bout, you see Gary Spechko pez Yan Emond with his usual light-speed shot. You can see Yan rocked by the shot…in the uncut video, Yan actually takes a moment to recover. Gary has excellent control and lightening speed, and in this case is bringing Yan his “A” game. I doubt you will ever see someone move a rapier faster than Gary. There are some, though…

The remaining bouts are mostly at speed, with good measure control. No one really wants to get closer, and take more risk than is necessary to land a touch. Why do more than is required to kill an enemy, when you can still have something in reserve in case the whole thing was a trap set by your opponent?

The last bout is between Gary and Devon Boorman, and those two have been fighting each other with rapiers since long before I ever heard of the things… Their bout is friendly, full speed and full contact. Look carefully and this should be very apparent. Anything that looks slow or soft is more of a result of wariness of a cagey opponent that knows all your tricks, than anything else. The full bout is educational, and I think Gary has them online somewhere.