The Goal

I am trying to resurrect the long tradition of holiday Sword and Buckler sparring with minimal equipment purchases.

These are meant to be friendly sessions: only pride is on the line. The aim is to mostly have fun hitting each other with sticks, informed by the basics of a few buckler treatises, without going full force on people.

The Background

At my club, I have seen instructors wear very minimal gear for some sword and buckler sparring: hoodies, plastic Bucklers, and synthetic padded swords. Of course, instructors know the benefits of restraint, when hard is too hard, and are honest about hits. It has got me thinking how I can bring the joy of HEMA to my relations during the holidays...

Assuming I can convince them to join me in a little ring out back and learn "an outdated skill," I need basic gear for fighting.

What Do I Need For Reasonable Safety?

Specifically for sword-and-buckler! Currently, I have...

  • Two Cold Steel (Plastic) Bucklers
  • Arming-sword length, round wooden rods.
  • A fencing mask
  • Hoodies
  • Wintery clothes

I want to keep the costs down, so I think a second fencing mask coupled with winter-ish clothes gives reasonable protection against ye olde stick during cuts and most thrusts. What more should I do to ensure a bit more safety?

  • 1
    I would highly recommend a gorget and gloves to reduce neck and finger injuries. Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 18:06
  • What Macaco said. To add to his point I recommend looking up Red Dragon for a cheap gorget. For a cheap glove, look into getting some lacrosse gloves from your local sports store and put on rubber or plastic fingertip protectors for guitar or sewing before putting on the gloves. I would also recommend ditching the rods for something like a Red Dragon Synthetic shortsword or baskethilt since you would be surprised how hard wooden sticks actually hit given their weight distribution. RD's swords taper pretty heavily which means lighter hits than a stick more often than not and safer thrusts.
    – JZBai
    Commented Nov 20, 2022 at 20:06

1 Answer 1


When you do not use full force and are mindful of each other the main cause of injury/pain are mistakes. Most vulnerable are your eyes for thrusts and your fingers for hits. So as minimal equipment for safety I recommend

  • A fencing mask.
  • Protective gloves, esp. on thumb - We have tried different kind of gloves. Some use military gloves with padding, others use motorcycle gloves which have hard padding, too. There are special gloves for fencing, but more expensive. Maybe thick winter gloves will do.

We often practice without mask if no thrusts or hits to the head are planned. Gloves are always a good idea.

  • 1
    Small correction: 1600N doesn't always mean the mask is better protection for HEMA sparring. It's mainly for sport fencing to indicate the bib fabric can resist that much force for penetration in case of a broken steel fencing blade, but doesn't always mean the steel mesh better protects against trauma. For minimalist sparring and reducing costs, a cheaper 350N Epee fencing mask may be fine if you also add a skull cap or rugby scrum cap underneath for additional padding. I also recommend getting a cheap motocross full body protector to beef up padding to the chest and arms for good measure.
    – JZBai
    Commented Nov 20, 2022 at 20:30
  • Thank you, updated the answer Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 12:00

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