Are you looking for starter gear for historical rapier fencing in HEMA and SCA sword fighting? If so this article will point you in the right directions.
This guide has many commonalities to our HEMA Starter Kit Gear Guide, although this one is tailored to provide recommendations for beginners of historical rapier fencing.
Starter Fencing Shoes for Historical Rapier Fencing
The type of shoes we’re going to recommend for the best performance are sport fencing shoes. This is because much like contemporary Olympic style sport fencing, historical rapier fencing is centered around the lunge and sport fencing shoes are designed to accommodate continuous lunges by providing special cushioning to the heel with soles that grip smooth surfaces to reduce the chance of slipping. While you can use regular sneakers while starting out, wearing sport fencing shoes will greatly extend the training session time you can spend lunging without discomfort.
Having said this, sport fencing shoes generally have to be ordered from a fencing supplier and they are expensive. For example Adidas D’artagnan or Engarde shoes will cost $100 to $200 USD and even Nike Air Zoom Fencers are priced similarly.
Considering this it more economical for a beginner to use volleyball shoes, such as ASICS Gel-Rockets which are considerably cheaper, usually under $70.
Starter Gear For Historical Rapier Sword Fencing
Unlike with long sword, fencing with a practice rapier is always done with a blunted steel training sword and synthetics are never used. Many rapier fencers tend to go for customized high-end rapiers produced by specialty craftsmen but you do not need such a weapon when just beginning your training.
The cheapest and most affordable option is going to be the CAS Hanwei Practical Rapier, usually costing somewhere around $200 USD. This is a training sword specifically for historical fencing with a blunted blade able to bend in the thrust and which sports a button tip. It is a popular loaner weapon at clubs that teach historical rapier fencing.
You of course also want a gorget to protect your neck from thrusts and a fencing mask, with coach masks usually being considered the best options for durability. For advice on how to find the correct size of mask for your head please read our guide on this topic.
Fencing jackets for rapier require less padding than for heavier weapons such as longsword, so most opt for a light fencing jacket purpose made for HEMA. Some people also like to have a chest protector, especially for partner assisted drilling without a jacket.
As the legs are generally not a target in historical rapier fencing given the posturing of a lunge makes the upper body more easily struck, many people do not wear any specific pants for historical fencing. It can still be a good idea for men to wear a protective cup. We recommend this one from ShockDoctor, which is useful for many kinds of sports but tends to stick close to the leg and is easy to wear under other types of pants.
You probably will not engage in much intense rapier fighting in your first few training classes but at some point you’ll want to purchase a mouth guard. Thrusts to the head can have a lot of force to them, so you want to protect your teeth. We recommend this relatively inexpensive mouthguard made by Shock Doctor.
Hand protection is less critical than it is for a weapon such as long sword, with many rapier fencers opting to use a pair of lightly padded leather gloves. Given that rapiers have a guard designed to ward off strikes to the hand, there usually are less hits to the hand than for a weapon such as long sword.
We hope this guide helps you start your journey into learning historical sword fighting. Please check out our Path of the Rapier page for more information about historical rapier fencing, including lists of source treatises that instruct in rapier fencing techniques.
Do you disagree with our recommendations? Have any further thoughts you’d like to share? You can comment on this blog or alternatively the Recommended HEMA Rapier Starter Gear Forum Thread.
If you’d like to learn more information about historical fencing practices please check out our Learn HEMA page for a guide to learning about the historical weapon that interests you. You can also find more guides we’ve written about other topics at our Helpful Guides page.