As the summer fighting season approaches, I would like to address the topic of armor standards. Every fighter should be familiar with the standards and make sure their armor meets or exceeds the them. I would hate to have someone not be able to fight because their armor failed. We use three types of armor.
Rigid is defined as puncture resistant material that will not significantly flex, spread apart or deform under 12 Kg of pressure. This can be 22 gauge stainless, 20 gauge mild steel, 16 gauge aluminum, copper or brass, or hardened leather that is at least 8 ounces. Ridged protection must cover the front and top of the head, the entire neck (covering the jugular notch in the front, and the top of the spine to the base of the neck in the back), and the groin for male combatants.
Abrasion resistant is material that will stand up to normal combat. It needs to be tough enough to not snag or tear easily. Some fabric that qualifies is broadcloth, trigger, sweat pants or cotton or lycra/spandex tights. The arms (excluding the arm pits) and legs must be covered. Gloves must be made of abrasion resistant material, and feet must be covered by boots, shoes or sandals that are made of at least abrasion resistant material.
Puncture resistant will withstand the puncture test. A puncture test must be performed on new armor, and once every two years after that. Some examples of puncture resistant material are four ounce leather or four layers of poplin. What is important is not the number of layers, but passing the punch test. Ballistic nylon or commercial fencing armor that is rated to at least 550 newtons also qualifies. The entire torso (chest, back, abdomen, groin, and armpits) must be covered. Two areas of concern are the arm pits and groin area. The armpit area is defined as a triangle extending from the armpit seam, down the inner arm, one third of the distance to the elbow. The groin area is not just the cup area; it is also the major veins in that area. Put the tips of the thumbs on the points of the pelvis and stretch the hands inward so the middle fingers touch the top of the groin area (top edge of cup). This is the area to be covered by puncture resistant material for both men and women.
If you look at most modern fencing jackets, they do not cover this entire area. Many doublets also do not cover this area. Here are some ways to make sure you are in compliance if your armor does not cover the entire groin area. Add an extra panel or two in the front of your pants. Add extensions to your fencing jacket. Make your doublet or dags longer.
Remember, all areas must be covered by the appropriate protection no matter what position your body is in. Double check your armor before your next event. Just because you have been using the armor for a long time, does not necessarily mean it cannot get bounced by a marshal.
Have fun & fight safe.
Alexandra der Wasserman