Safety is a concern for all fencers. It does not matter which weapons you use or which school you subscribe to, safety is important. This entry in the blog will discuss safety and some aspects with regard to it. This is a subject of great significance for all fencers.
Safety is one of the most serious of considerations with regard to all forms of fencing and one that cannot be ignored except at our peril. It is important to all who participate and not just for those safety officers whose job it is to watch over the proceedings. We all need to be aware of the various aspects which affect our safety and also how this affects the entire fencing community as a whole independent of the weapon choice or style being used.
At this particular time I would like to discuss the subject of armour. In essence this is the protective equipment that we wear in order to be safe in the practice of our particular art. This takes into account such things as masks, helms, jackets, groin protection and footwear. All of these elements are a part of what we would call protective equipment, what I would like to refer to in the future as armour. Next there is the subject of calibration, the question of how hard we hit our opponents. Calibration is a measure of how hard we hit our opponents with our chosen weapons. This is a particular aspect which goes hand in hand with the chosen armour for the particular form of fencing which is being done.
There is a scale of calibration as to armour. If we wish to hit our opponents with a certain level of force then the armour must be up to this task. If the striking is heavy then the armour will have to be heavier than it would have been if the striking was much lighter. This is the first question that we need to ask. Do we increase the armour and increase the calibration or do we reduce the calibration and thus the armour required? This is a question that needs to be answered by the particular organisation doing the fencing and the safety officers within that organisation.
There is a sliding scale which exists which must be paid attention to in the question of establishing an armour standard. If the armour standard increases so too will the calibration and thus the armour will increase and so forth. In order to limit this it is necessary to remain in control of the calibration of the striking being done. In response to this it is fair to say that the level of calibration used takes an element of control and it is better to have this control than to increase the armour. This must be taught to the students of the school in order that they can control their calibration and thus not require an increase in armour.
In all aspects of our teaching of students control should be the focus, and calibration will emerge from this. It is better that we teach all of our students control in all their actions in order that they are able to become better fencers. With regard to engaging an opponent the focus of the training should be on the technique used in order to gain the hit rather than the hit itself. This will promote better fencing overall as it is a technique and therefore skill-focused pursuit rather than a result-focused pursuit. Thus the aim should be for the accurate performance of a skill or technique against an opponent rather than just seeking to hit them. This will enable the students to focus on a successful strike on the opponent as the result of the correct conditions being made rather than force being used to ensure the strike.
Accurate technique should always be the focus above the use of force used in order to ensure a successful hit on the opponent. With regard to this accurate technique is more effective that the pure use of force. Technique requires little strength but great knowledge of technique, distance and timing. This should be the focus of our training of students. Due to its basis in the foundation principles of fencing and also skill, technique will always have the advantage over strength and force when it is used. This relates directly back to calibration and by nature safety. If the technique is performed at the correct distance and time, force and thus calibration should be no issue for the user of the technique. Where the lack of technique is compensated for by force then issues will abound.
We should all be aware of the various safety issues involved in the performance of our art and not leave these to the safety officers who are delegated to oversee them. If you have concerns about safety you should be encouraged to bring these up with your safety officer. We should strive to teach our students control and thus this will increase our safety in a way that no increase in armour can. The safer we can make our art the more appealing it is for all. If one group is lax about safety in any form this can bring the rest of the practitioners of this art into disrepute or even cause a threat to the existence of our art as it is in the current age. Be aware of safety issues and the important part that you have to play in ensuring that our art is as safe as it can be not only for ourselves but for future teachers and students of our art.