I am so glad to see all of the progress everyone is making with fencing, and as we are getting closer to the big day (only 4 months now – eeek!) many of you are beginning to ask about kit -do I need it, what do I buy, what does this mean etc so this will be the sole topic of this blog post. All photos and captions have been linked to the PBT website so should make your shopping easier.
Firstly, I would just like to make clear that while you are welcome to buy your own kit (email me if you would like a 20% discount for PBT 😀 ), you should not feel that it is vital. While it is nice to have your own that you know fits and is clean, there will be equipment provided for the competition and training, and that unless you are serious about continuing fencing it probably is not worth the splurge on full kit – although later on I will go into the cheaper pieces that you may consider.
Although possibly not the most exiting element of this post, it is the most important and the area in which I have received the most questions about so I have here a simple (and quick) summery of it all. As your’e browsing for kit, you will have come across references made to ‘CEN1’, ‘CEN2’, ‘FIE’. Essentially, these are the safety standards used in the EU that all kit must meet, and they mean the following:
CEN1 – 350N equipment – suitable for use at national level, and what we recommend that you buy for your kit (with the exception of the plastron which I will get to later). While it is light weight and will keep you cooler, it will also provide sufficient protection from any jabs you may receive from your opponent.
CEN2 – 800N – this means that the equipment is suitable for international level. We DO recommend that your plastron (that funny one arm thing that goes under the jacket) that you wear is 800N as it is what is going to provide the most protection to the body, and is also where people get hit the most. Also, make sure that you buy the right one eg. if you are right handed you should have the sleeve on your right arm. It may seem obvious but you would be surprised how many times how many people get confused! We do NOT recommend that you buy all your kit at 800N as not only will this increase the price greatly, but will also be a lot hotter when you fence.
FIE – 800N – Basically the same as CEN2 and the two are often used interchangeably, and is just the mark given by the FIE (international fencing federation) to show suitability for competition. You don’t need to worry about this.
Where to buy
Okay, now we have that boring bit out of the way we can now get onto to where to do your shopping. As mentioned before, PentUp has a discount code for PBT fencing of 20% so why not save yourself some money and buy from there? I have used kit myself from PBT in the past and it is really good quality and I would highly recommend it for you too.
However, there are also other places to look for second hand kit, which will be even cheaper. I recommend eBay for this, however you may want to look at some of the other major second hand sites like this, or even FaceBook! The page Fencing kit selling site says what it does on the tin and has over a thousand members so is also a place to consider looking too. Lastly the Fencing Forum has a second hand board which is also worth considering.
Having said this, I would like to emphasise to be careful when buying second hand kit online. People selling may have found kit that has been lying around for years and decide to sell it on. As a result of this it would not meet current safety standards and therefore we would not be able to allow you to fence in this. If you take the precautions to check for the required certification marks however, you should avoid this problem. If you remain unsure, do not hesitate to email me!
What to buy
Fiiiinally we have almost reached the finish and this section should hopefully answer any questions you still have. While not all pieces of equipment may be relevant to you, read the ones that you may be interested in as I explain the pros and cons.
Glove – this is self explanatory. Personally, I would recommend the purchase of the glove as for me it is one of the most personal choices and it is important to have one that is comfy. Also, the memories of the stinky glove bag when I was learning to fence still haunt me and for that reason alone I bought my only glove! Your glove should be a steam one (as pictured) with not metal or shiny bits on it as these are for other weapons. Once ordered make sure that your glove fits upon arrival, as a glove that is too big or small will just get annoying. *Top Tip* when your glove arrives, place it in warm water and once wet put on your hand and let dry. This will mould the glove to the shape of your hand and make it more comfy! (you’re welcome).
Mask – this is one of the more expensive pieces that you can buy, and is not vital. But it can be nice to have one that fits perfectly and is clean. In this case it may be worth trying on a few different masks from different brands and see what fits you best.
Blade – again, personally I would not put this high up on the list of important fencing purchases for this case. The main reason for this is that there are plenty of blades that are supplied and are in perfect working order. Moreover, as an improving fencer there is a chance you can snap your blade when fighting, which is just annoying and expensive. However if you decide you would like to buy one, I recommend tempered steel, instead of maraging, as it is cheaper and strong and at this level personally I do not see the need to splurge several hundred pounds on a fancy stick. Lastly, make sure that you buy a SIZE 5 blade as this will be what everyone else is using, and anything smaller will just put you at a disadvantage.
Bodywire – this is a small purchase and if it is something you would like to buy then it is a useful one, even though it is not totally necessary. If you do decide to buy your own wire, mark it as yours clearly. Don’t let it out of your sight. Wires have a big habit of going walkies and it is annoying to open up your kit bag one day and find out yours is gone.
Breeches – this for most is not a totally necessary item, however I would recommend that if while fencing so far you have not found a pair of breeches that fit so far, this may be a purchase to consider. I say this as no one wants to be wandering around in baggy trousers, nor be THAT person that split there breeches on the piste (I’ve been there and don’t want to go back…)
Plastron – personally I do not think that this is a vital item for you to invest in as there are many available to you at the club. Having said that if you still wish to buy your own, make sure it is 800N.
Fencing shoes – these too I think are no vital at this level of competition as a good pair of fencing shoes alone will set you back over £100. If you do not like fencing in the soft soled running shoes then I recommend you try ones with harder soles that still provide support such as court shoes. These types of shoes are cheaper and much easier to get hold of, and in the shop you will be able to get an assistance to make sure that they fit correctly too and so won’t give you any blisters.
Jacket – this may again be a piece of equipment you want to consider investing in if there are none available that fit you, however it is one of the more expensive pieces so is not vital. Again, for me this is another very personal piece so this may also be a factor in considering a purchase as it will be more comfy.
Phew, and we are finished! Congratulations for reaching it all of the way to the bottom, I hope that this article has answered your questions. However if you are still unsure you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or ask any of the fencing coaches at the Sunday training sessions, or your local club.
Enjoy your kit hunting,