The manufacturers of HEMA equipment, including ourselves, have been doing their best for years to offer HEMAists the best possible level of protection. During tournament fights, but also during trainings and sparrings, almost the whole body is being hit in various ways – both by thrusts and cuts. Still, most of the body is protected effectively by textile layers resistant to puncture (e.g. with a broken blade) and amortization layers (felt, foam, plastic). The aim of these layers is to disperse an energy of hit on larger surface and thus reduce pain, bruises, or risk of breaking a bone.
These protectors are formed into various, well known HEMA gear.
Neck protection – problem of a modern HEMA equipment?
In whole “traditional”, common set of HEMA equipment (fencing mask + HEMA jacket + plastic shields) there is still one risky spot – the splice between a mask and collar of a jacket. Neck in this place is protected only when the swordsman stays upright and even then the level of protection is insufficient.
Olympic fencing differs in these terms. The weight, flexibility, linear movement on the floor, and directions of strikes, make a set of quilted collar and bladecatcher fully sufficient. Collar protects the larynx against the sport weapon, and bladecatcher stops possible hits from below.
Coming back to HEMA, practice has shown that this neck protection is not good enough. Positions taken by swordsmen, and directions of attacks, make the accident in form of pushing the blade under the mask collar much more possible. As HEMAists use heavier blades, the risk of injury, or even death, becomes real.
Luckily, it seems that such serious accidents did not happen. Still, the problem is already noticed and defined. It is worth considering the possible ways of eliminating this risk from the world of HEMA.
How to improve neck protection during HEMA duel?
Neck (naturally including the larynx and aorta) is an extremely fragile part of the body, requiring an extra protection. You can find it in the form of rigid or semirigid protector, both resistant to puncture and amortizing the hits. It is recommended to use neck protectors with high puncture resistance. 350N is enough in case of getting hit with tip of a weapon. In case of a broken blade, we would suggest at least 800N. Stiff elements in the front part are also very important – these would save the larynx from “crushing”.
The issue of neck protection in HEMA can be elaborated in a few ways. Here are 4 possible ways of increasing the safety of a neck during HEMA duels.
1. Additional stiff neck guard
Stiff protector in form of a gorget, with upper edge curled outside, can work as an additional neck guard. Protection of this type should be placed “between” collar of a mask and a neck.
Result? A gorget during a hit in a gap between mask and neck, takes the impact. Additional bladecatcher stops the thrust from going up.
In most cases it should work as a sufficient solution but, still, it doesn’t eliminate the gap in 100%. It is also worth underlining that available gorgets are not made of certificated fabrics of specified puncture resistance. Moreover, usually they do not have a curled upper edge outstanding the collar of jacket.
We believe it is worth going this way, but solution requires refining. We would also like to announce that SPES will put forward its own version of a HEMA gorget soon.
2. Placing a body protector’s collar on mask’s collar
Solution similar to outer body protectors used in HEMA by Team Poland for over a decade. Collar of a protector is placed on a collar of a mask. Thus, it stiffs and stabilizes the mask on the head. It hinders the movement of head, but also eliminates the chance of hitting the gap from below – the most possible way.
Sometimes unwanted, additional layers of protection on a jacket are flaws of this solution. User has to remember to fasten the collar after putting on a mask. During sparring, mask can pop out from under the collar, creating the gap. Such probability is not high, but it’s worth remembering to stop the fight and fix your HEMA equipment.
Let’s also underline the fact that body protectors with bladecatchers are currently available on HEMA market. HEMA jacket with spacious collar to put outside the mask is also an option. Stiff larynx guard is an alternative solution.
3. Proper HEMA mask overlay
Of course, not every mask overlay for HEMA will bring a solution to discussed problem. Still, it is worth noticing that on HEMA market you can find models covering not only head, but also neck and shoulders. From SPES assortment we can mention the “Trinity” Integrated Mask Overlay – both basic and PRO versions.
HEMA guard of this type increases the impact resistance against upper and straight thrusts. It doesn’t solve the problem of a gap between mask and neck, unless the collar of overlay is much longer than the collar of mask.
Unfortunately, there is no mask overlay of this type, so it is not a complete solution to the problem. Once again, we recommend to consider getting a proper gorget like in point 1.
4. Extra collar mounted to mask, worn under a jacket
Maybe perfect solution to the problem. However, it also raises a question, who and how will put it through. Producers of masks? Producers of protectors? Maybe mounting this type of guard should be left to customers?
Additional collar for HEMA in this form also seems to be uncomfortable in use and mounting. When putting on a mask, user will have to hide a part of the collar under the collar of a jacket every time. Possibly, when putting on a mask, user will attach it to inner part of mask, and additional guard itself will be put on before.
Protection of this type still remains unavailable on HEMA market. A few years ago we tested this kind of solution, so… maybe it’s a good time to come back to it?
We hope that at least some of you will find this post helpful. Maybe it will create an inspiration or give an idea of other kind – even better? Feel free to leave a comment with your own solutions. Also, remeber that in SPES Histfenc we are open to cooperation – if you have a good idea, we can help you in bringing it into life!