IntroductionThe following post, as is indicated by the heading is about gorgets. This will be a discussion about some of the assumptions made about them, their actual purpose, what they should actually cover, and the requirements for a good gorget. No products in particular will be spoken about directly to keep this away from any sort of opinions of one brand or another. The discussion will be directed toward construction and coverage and physical aspects of the gorgets in general.
AssumptionsThe assumption often made about throat protection is that we are attempting to prevent penetration of the opponent's blade through to the neck, as has been the case with sport fencing weapons. This is not actually the case. In the case of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) it is actually crushing damage which is more likely to occur from a tip striking the combatant's throat and thus causing damage. Thus gorgets, or other protection of a non-rigid nature, which may protect against similar penetrative damage will not serve to protect against crushing or impact damage.
This is a serious issue as if this were to strike the larynx it could cause permanent injury if not death. A similar case could be that a similar blow striking the neck to the side may strike the cartaroid artery and cause bruising or a clot which would quickly travel to the brain, or strike one of the many nerve bundles and cause other issues, and this is just from the front of the neck. To the rear of the neck there are vertebrae, which are sometimes left exposed, except for back-of-head protection which does not always protect it. A strike to this area can cause paralysis and even death.
PurposeThe purpose of the gorget is to protect the entire neck from penetrative, crushing and impact damage caused by the weapon of the opponent striking the combatant. To a point it also aids in reducing concussion by reducing the movement of the head due to supporting the neck. To achieve this the gorget needs to cover all of the correct areas and also needs to be fitted properly to the combatant.
CoverageThe gorget should cover the entire neck including the cervical vertebrae, and should also extend down past the hole of the throat, where the collar bones meet the sternum on the chest. This covers all of the areas which would likely be damaged by a weapon striking them and also causing catastrophic injury from them being struck. For the more point-orientated weapons, it is advised that the front of the gorget extend down past and sit at least on the top of the sternum to prevent a point coming up and underneath the gorget.
At an absolute minimum, it should have solid plates protecting the larynx and extending down the front as indicated, and should also have the rear protection covering the cervical vertebrae. It is strongly advised, however that the sides of the neck are also protected by rigid material as well due to the more off-line nature of HEMA activities, and also blows which come in at a side-ways angle. This would be the minimum gorget which would give sufficient protection against the threats which have been mentioned.
Requirements for a Good GorgetWith regards to the requirements of a good gorget, many of the points which have been raised previously in coverage will be re-visited, but with a little more detail as this is required.
A good gorget will fit you comfortably. One of the first things that needs to be noted is that rarely will an "off the shelf" bought gorget fit as well as a gorget which has been either built specifically for a person or modified to suit the individual. This is simply the case because rarely do people have the same sort of neck shape. (From a personal point of view, mine is so comfortable I forget I am wearing it.)
A good gorget will be made out of some kind of rigid material. This will mean that it will be made out of some sort of steel, hard plastic or hardened leather. This material will not bend except under a great deal of force. If the material can be bent in the hands then it will be hard to qualify the gorget as rigid. The rigid material is necessary as has been discussed previously to protect against the force of impact and crushing type blows.
A good gorget will have good coverage. This subject has already been discussed previously, but a good gorget will cover all of the required areas and leave very little, if any, gaps. Thus the entire neck will be covered with rigid material, as will the cervical vertebrae, and it will extend down the front at least to the sternum if not further. In this particular case more is better.
requirements for good
A good gorget will include some sort of padding on the inside of it. This may have to be glued in after you buy it. This is to prevent the rigid material from directly impacting upon your neck. Other areas which are advised to add extra comfort are the front and back edges of the gorget where something like sheepskin is advised for comfort and to prevent the edges of the rigid material rubbing on you.
A good gorget will have a securing system which will allow you to put it on and take it off. It is important that you are able to put your own gorget on and take it off without assistance. This means that you can put it on to ensure that it feels comfortable and is fitting properly. It also means that you can take it off quickly should you require to.
ConclusionsFinding a good gorget may take some time and some experimentation, but it will be worth it in the end. Have a look at what other people are using in the way of gorgets. Have a look at their construction. Ask about any modifications that they might have made for comfort. Ask how they feel about wearing their gorget. Examine other gorgets and see what advantages and disadvantages each one has. Some will be quite bulky, but will give excellent coverage, while others are much more slimline but will only cover to the barest minimum. Finding a gorget which will fit you comfortably and gives you all of the coverage you need is a task well worth setting yourself. This is a piece of equipment that can save you a lot of grief, and indeed may save your life.