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Leon Paul Titan Pro Jacket: Becoming a Tank

by Peter Smallridge

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These professional looking shots are by LP. Amateur looking ones are by me. Semi-professional are from bystanders at tournaments.

Review Methodology

I was given this jacket in exchange for writing a series of HEMA-related articles for Leon Paul. The Titan Pro is their latest HEMA jacket. It’s 800N tested, and it looks like the mutant lovechild of a bomb disposal suit and a sports fencing coach’s jacket.

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How does it feel in use?

 Construction

Form

This jacket has a back zip, and a cuissard (“diaper strap”) to minimize the risks of a thrust getting inside the jacket. The collar is not just a turned-over blade catcher but has an insert running inside, protecting the Adam’s apple and acting as something of an in-built gorget. The upper fastening, where a velcro patch secures the collar over the top of the zipper, is highly secure. No fear of the zip slipping down.h360-2.jpg

 Base Material

I’m no expert on fabrics, but this is a heavy jacket. My first thought on picking it up was “I wonder if this could stop bullets.”

Inserts

Without the inserts, it feels like a heavier coach’s jacket. The distinctive feature, though, is 10 removable HDF (that’s blue foam to you) inserts around the torso, collar and upper arms. They’re held in internal pockets, and sit securely when you move – no shifting or opening of velcro.

It does not have in built elbow or forearm protectors, but does have a loop to help attach external elbow guards.h360-3.jpg

I rapidly decided that since I had a throat guard that covered the traps and collar bone, I’d remove the collar and shoulder pieces. The rest go in or out depending on the contact level I’m fencing at.

Performance

Putting the Jacket On

It took me a stupidly long time to get used to a back zip. I can put it on myself, courtesy of the zip strap, but it feels awkward and can be a test of mobility and coordination during a long tournament or hard training session. However, it’s comfortable once on. This jacket was custom fit, and it feels it. The only limitation on mobility was raising both arms vertically while the shoulder pieces were in*, and bending the torso forwards against the front panel insert. That’s it – and neither of these is common in fencing.

Fencing in this Ferrari Armoured Fighting Vehicle

The downside of the thickness is heat and sweat. The fabric doesn’t absorb sweat anything near as well as my old SPES AP jacket, and I feel distinctly hotter and damper when fencing in it.

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Testing shoulder mobility in the St Petersberg FechtTerra tournament

On the other hand, mortal weapons cannot hurt me now. I’ve had sideswords bent to right angles on the thrust to my belly and NOT NOTICED. I’ve had Russian Battle of the Nations-trained fighters club me with SPES solid dussacks and picked myself off the floor without bruises.

On the other hand, I discovered that the seams on the arms, where the insert pouches are on the outside rather than inside of the jacket (to avoid having to invert the sleeves to access them) catch blades. No harm done, since there’s still a full layer underneath the top pocket one, but the stitching tore on a thrust to the bicep that spun me around.

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Sizing

 Custom-sized, it was perfect. I haven’t needed to use the adjustment straps.

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Price

As mentioned, this was payment for some writing I did for LP. The RRP is £280 inc. tax, less than the SPES Hussar and equal to the Garjadoni 800N jacket. Subject to the whims of exchange rates, of course…

 Conclusion

If you’re in need of a really solid jacket, this is the one for you. If your group doesn’t fence hard, it may well be overkill.

*Editor’s note: If you’re tall like the reviewer. If you’re short like the editor, perhaps buyers beware. **

**Author’s note: It’s custom fit. It’s not really a tall/short thing, just the inevitable fabric bunching above shoulders (even with this good cut of seam) plus semi-rigid insert. Removing the inserts made handstands much more comfortable.


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Cyber Monday Manual Deals

by Meg Floyd

It’s Cyber Monday, which means those of us in the States too smart opposed to capitalism lazy to do any Black Friday shopping can order goodies online without need for leaving the house, or wearing of pants.

There’s currently an excellent sale going on over at Lulu.com for some fencing manuals, which I thought I’d post here for those looking to acquire these while they’re cheap.

According to Lulu’s website, you use the code “CYBER40” and can get 40% off. 

Rapier Manuals

  1. Fabris

 

(Actually, there’s a bunch of titles you can pick up from Van Noort on various rapier sources listed here.)

Longsword Manuals

Later Period Works


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Building Your Longsword Tournament Kit (Women’s Edition)

by Meg Floyd

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“How much does gear cost?” It’s probably the most frequent question I get from newbies looking to get into HEMA, both as students joining my club, and new people online. Let’s face it, HEMA isn’t a cheap hobby. Building out a tournament-legal steel longsword kit, including your feder, is going to run upwards of $1,000. And there’s other hurdles–limited stock from dealers, long wait times from the mom & pop style blademakers, and the occasional unfortunate circumstance of a sheisty vendor who takes your money and vanishes into thin air, and maybe you get what you ordered a year later. I usually follow this up with letting them know that they don’t have to, and really shouldn’t, buy their gear all at once. My club’s lucky enough to have gear and swords from almost every reputable vendor, and we encourage new people to try everything and really get a feel for their preference before plunking down any cash. However, I know this is a luxury not everyone has, especially those starting out in a small club or an isolated area without gear to borrow. Therefore, I decided to take a walk through what I’ve arrived at as my preferred longsword tournament kit, after about four years of trial and error.

Things worth noting: I’m what you might call curvaceous if you’re being polite about it, so some of the things I had to order custom many women can probably get off the shelf for slightly cheaper. Also, I’m writing this an American fencer, which means things from European dealers are a touch more expensive. However, head to toe, let’s go through my gear.

Head Protection

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I’ve had, and loved, my Absolute Force HEMA mask for three years now. No serious head dents. They come in sizes S-L and tend to run a tch big in my experience.

Cost: $109.99 

Alternately you can buy the same mask with no built-in back of head protector for $60.00. I may be purchasing one of these in a smaller size, because mine’s gotten a bit loose, and doing a Destroyer Modz style modification to it with some kydex and a heat gun. However, that’s a project (and an article) for another day.

 

Throat Protection

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You need to wear throat protection. Let me repeat that. You need to wear throat protection. I wear my gorget religiously now after a couple of close calls that were purely the result of me being an idiot and not wearing mine to spar in class. It’s not 2010 anymore; longsword fencers thrust now.

As for what I wear, I had a ton of trouble with gorgets because, being female, I have a short neck, and it was difficult to find a gorget I could fit under my jacket without being strangled. I wear a bespoke one someone gave me years ago that’s small enough, but the best alternative I’ve found readily available on the market is the PBT gorget, in junior size. I found I had to chop off the side wings to get it to fit under my jacket comfortably. A sharp pair of scissors will do for this–or leave them if it’s comfortable, because it does offer some collarbone protection.

Cost: 30 euro, or roughly $32.00 + shipping from Hungary, which comes out to about $50-60 by my best guess. 

 

Torso Protection: 

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You’re going to need a padded, puncture resistant jacket if you want to compete in steel longsword tournaments. I’d also recommend them for the average person wanting to spar a lot, because hematomas do add up and get really annoying over time. Perhaps the most ubiquitous piece of HEMA equipment is SPES’s Axel Petterson jacket. Lucky for us, they’ve offered a women’s cut for a few years. You can pick one of these up for $239.00 if you run in the standard sizes. Because of my unique proportions, I had a custom one made. It was an extra $70, but my jacket fits me and stays put, so it’s been worth every penny to me. Plus the clean lines look snazzy and professional, which I like.

Cost: $310.70 (Custom)

Now, I’m sure some of you are wondering, what about chest protection? There’s plenty of sport fencing plastrons out there that will run you $20-40. I prefer not to use any, having never found one whose size doesn’t restrict my movement so much I can’t go into overhead guards. (I’ve previously written regarding the question of whether hard chest protection is absolutely necessary, as well as the pernicious myth that getting bruises on your boobs will give you cancer. You can read about it here.)

 

Gloves

I’ve worn a lot of creative solutions for gloves over my HEMA career, including some very sketchy modified lacrosse gloves back in the day, but my vast preference for safety purposes are Barbara Cheblowska’s Sparring Gloves. I highly suggest the mitten model over the hoof model. I’ve modified mine so many times at this point they more closely resemble Frankengloves at this point, but until St. Mark’s Koning glove comes out in a size that will fit me, that’s what I’m going to use. Mine cost me roughly $200.00 with shipping for a custom size. I’m not sure what the current pricing is through the US dealer, but likely around $200~.

Cost: $200.00 (Custom) 

 

Knees/Elbows/Shins

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Not surprisingly, the best elbows to fit over the SPES jacket I’ve found are the SPES elbows. They’re pretty bomb proof, and also refreshingly cheap compared to the rest of my gear.

Cost: $24.70 

 

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My knee guards are a pair of ancient ones I picked up out of the club loaner bin years ago, because they happened to fit me, and I never gave them up. However, most of the folks in my club are very happy with the Knee Pro’s, which conveniently are quite cheap on Amazon.

Cost: $31.04 

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For shins, most people use street hockey or catcher’s guards. I have yet to find a pair that fit really well. At the moment I’m using SPES’s shins. I don’t love them, but they get the job done for now.

Cost: $21.00 

 

Footwear

Let me introduce you to the ubiquitous black cheap flat-soled HEMA shoe–the Asics Matflex 4. Don’t sweat that it’s a men’s shoe–just measure your foot to get the right size. Note: these run a bit small. I’ve seen dozens of people wearing these, both American and European, probably because they’re cheap and easy to get a hold of, and non-skid. I know the ankle support and flat heel really cut down on some of my knee problems.

Cost: $60.00 

 

Swords

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I’ve used a bunch of swords as my primary training weapons, including an Ensifer Light, a Regenyei heavy, and an Albion Meyer. By far the one that felt the best in my hands and was most appropriate for my size (I’m 5’4”/163 cm tall) was the Albion Meyer. Do pay attention to how a sword feels in your hands. If it’s too heavy or too long, it’s going to feel slow to swing and the point’s going to squirrel around all over the place when you’re trying to do bladework. The bonus of the Meyer? A bomb proof lifetime warranty. I had a rattling crossguard on mine a few months after purchase. I mailed it back in, and got it back with a straightened and polished blade, re-wrapped handle, and fixed crossguard, free of charge. Albions fall in the category of worth the extra money, in my opinion.

Cost: $490.00

There’s a few other concerns, of course, like what kind of bra or pants to wear? This radically differs between women, so I’m not going to address it. I wear yoga pants and a regular bra. Some people might wear a sports bra (I can’t stand the tight feeling of being bound up.) Therefore I’m skipping it for the purposes of this article. Any ladies reading this probably know what works best for them from other exercising they’ve done in the past.

So what does it all add up to? Going back through my gear and the cost at the time at which I purchased it, it adds up to $1297.43 for my entire kit, including my feder. You can push this number up or down depending on a lot of things–for example, if you don’t get custom, you can probably save a couple hundred bucks. Over the course of a year or two, this isn’t so bad. And helpfully HEMA has a way of sucking up all your spare cash once you decide you want to get into it.

 


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Destroyer Mod Head Protection: Indestructable

by Jayson Barrons

Once you install it, you won’t take it off.

Side view of the 82nd mod with the clavicle protection removed.

Head protection in HEMA isn’t talked about particularly often–there’s the occasional discussion around concussions, or the proud display of photos when one gets their head “waffled.”

Outside of that, people generally consider the debate around what to wear on your noggin either moot or a topic worth little more than a pragmatic shrug.

Despite his bravado and persistent smile, maybe we should let Josh Parise of Destroyer Modz change that.

DM’s 82nd mod, a hardshell install to a bare fencing mask, offers some of the best protection on the market today.

Review Approach

The version in review is the “shorty”, which has reduced clavicle protection compared to the full 82nd.

It was purchased without knowledge of a review during DM’s kickstarter program in 2015. It arrived far earlier than the original promise, as Josh had ensured that anyone who attended Longpoint 2015 received theirs during the tournament. It was installed onto a bare Absolute Force mask shortly thereafter and has been in heavy use since that time.

I had no relationship with Josh prior to receiving the gear, and the only communication since then was to ask about installation, give him feedback, and recently I informed him of the review.

Note that all of the pictures were taken after I had cut off the clavicle protection (more on this later).

Installation

At the time of the install, Josh had yet to provide video instruction of the installation process. This was reasonable, however, since the mod was received earlier than anticipated, and Josh has been forthcoming as to the status of the video.

He’s currently selling the mod as both pre-installed onto a mask, as well as a DIY version.

Having said that, the install process did take effort, despite being fairly straight forward.

You place the mod over the mask, and mark where the holes need to be spaced (it’s recommended that you secure it in place to ensure accuracy, but not required).

You then use tools (I used a wood awl) to separate the mesh on the mask where the holes need to be. This took effort and care, as the AF mask has a fairly strong mesh. It’s not recommended to use a drill, as that can weaken the mesh.

After the mesh is properly prepared, you then slip the cover on and screw it in place with the provided chicago screws. The original screws I believe to be aluminum, and I ended up upgrading them to stainless steel screws I purchased on amazon, as I was worried since the heads of the screws had deformed when getting them in place. I do not know if Josh has since upgraded the provided screws.

The back of the head was easy enough on the AF mask since it simply took putting a hole in the back of the head hook and screwing it in place. However, since the hook is covered in fabric, the BOH protector had ripped off once during a particularly aggressive sparring session. This was easily fixed, as I just used a larger piece of kydex on the screw and have had no problems since.

Additional kydex helped reinforce the BOH screw so it didn't rip through.

Construction

Josh clearly takes pride in his work and is a skilled craftsman. Despite being made by hand, the quality is extremely high. There isn’t a single burred edge or oddly shaped angle.

The mod is made from a thick Kydex plastic and a high impact foam underneath. , with no extraneous decoration or useless additions.

Performance

I’ve previously owned two masks–the notorious AF “bunny ears”, as well as a bare mask that I used with various cloth protectors. All of them offered so-so protection, and I had been waffled when wearing every one.

One of the chief complaints of the cloth protectors is over heating and additional buildup of CO2 in the mask. But with the 82nd mod, the first is virtually eliminated, and the second is reduced significantly.

This is because it offers its protection where it’s needed most, with materials that don’t build up heat or enclose the mask too much. It makes for a breathable and less sweaty experience. Additionally, the mod doesn’t have so much as a scratch on it, and my mask hasn’t been dented once since I installed it.

Additionally, due to being made from Kydex, it’s ridiculously light. I used to wear my bare mask during training due to both the weight and heat from the cloth protectors, but I don’t notice any difference with the 82nd mod installed.

The protection is where the 82nd mod shines, however.

Previously, particularly hard head hits would ring my bell. Both of my old masks had their share of dents. The 82nd mod, however, does an exceptional job of making a strong strike to the head far less jarring.

The BOH protector is insanely protective, although can sometimes make it challenging to put the mask on.

The thunder of the 82nd Mod

“But reviewer, isn’t reducing the pain of head strike going to cause fencers to be more suicidal? Won’t it ruin the art of historical fencing?” My reply: “Don’t be such a fucking tool.”

In an almost hilarious, but certainly unintentional twist, I protect my head even more. Why, you ask? Because when the Kydex is struck, it is LOUD AS FUCK. Painful? No. Annoying? Perhaps. Virtually embarrassing? Absolutely.

This means that even relatively lower power strikes to the head, even incidental contact, are undeniable. You don’t wonder if they happened, you know they occurred. There’s no debate.

This turns the sound into a more sensitive form of feedback, and I have definitely adjusted my fencing because of it. It is, without humor, one of the big reasons why I will never go back to a cloth cover – in a duel or other unarmored situation, even if a strike to the head wasn’t close to being fatal, I would still be quite aware that an opponent’s weapon was grazing my skull.

It’s a need few in the community have really considered, and while I’m fairly certain neither did Josh when he designed the 82nd, it is no less valuable.

The Bad–or, at least, the Meh.

I originally left the clavicle protection of the mod in place, but, in the end, removed it completely (one of the benefits of Kydex is that it’s incredibly easy to cut with a shop knife).

Our club both studies early KDF, as well as that dirty Meyer stuff. I enjoy throwing zorn hut into my play (if you’re a Ringeck elitist, zorn hut is a guard Meyer employs from behind the head for deceptive purposes. It’s also extremely similar to a couple of Fiore guards, but it’s more fun for people to bitch about Meyer).

Since zorn hut can be used close to the head, on more than one occasion I literally caught my blade on the clavicle protection and firmly wedged it in between the mod and the mask. The results were hilarious, and yes we have video.

But despite being shorter on the mod I purchased, it still occasionally interfered with higher guards. This will already be a point of frustration with folks of stockier frames, and is exacerbated by the mod.

Having said that, since the removal I have had zero problems with the mod.

The profile of the mod is sleek, especially without the clavicle protection.

Customer Experience

As previously stated, the mod was purchased through Josh’s Kickstarter, so I cannot review the more retail experience of purchasing through his website. Additionally, the mod was discounted during the Kickstarter and was cheaper than the now $125 USD price tag.

Despite this, Josh is fantastic to interface with. He was always prompt with answers to my questions, always friendly, and always willing to offer advice. He kept up constant communication during and after the Kickstarter. In a world of HEMA gear providers, Josh is easily one of the best to deal with. He is not happy if you are not happy, and is always open to feedback.

Conclusion

The mod is admittedly not cheap, especially when people look to skimp on their masks first before anything else they purchase. It’s not for beginners, but for practitioners who are dedicated to the craft.

But the mod is a joy to experience. The lower heat buildup, the weight and construction, and the additional sensitivity mean that I cannot see ever going back to another head protector. Despite a few minor flaws, I can confidently say it’s the best additional head protection on the market.