Art of Fencing, Art of Life

How to Put on Fencing Gear, With Illustration

How to Put on Fencing Gear, With Illustration

Congratulations! Your child has received their first full set of fencing gear and now they’re eager to dress up and start training. You’re probably a little nervous about the gear, because of course you want your child to be safe when they are fencing, and that’s a reasonable concern.

Excitedly, they open up the fencing bag that they received from their fencing club or from a fencing shop and suddenly it hits you – how do you put all of these things on?

Fencing gear is here to help keep your child safe on the strip, and many parents are already a little concerned about their child picking up a sword. Though it can look a little intimidating, it’s actually not that intense! Like anything else, learning to put on fencing gear is just a matter of breaking things down.

Step 1 – Put on Long Fencing Socks

Step 1 - Put on long fencing socks

It is just as easy as it sounds – put on long fencing socks and stretch them to their full length.

Step 2 – Put on Fencing Pants

Step 2 - Put on fencing pants (knickers in the USA)

Put the fencing pants on (called knickers in the US). One leg at a time please. Tuck the socks inside the cuff of the pants/knickers. This cuff should be a bit lower than the knee, not above the knee. It’s important that the entire leg is covered to prevent scratches from the weapon. If the fencing pants are longer than just below the knee, that’s probably because you bought a size up to account for growth. The good news is that your child will grow and they will fit better. The bad news is that the pants might get dirty enough at the knees that you will want to replace them before that growth happens. Either way, be sure to tuck the socks into the pants/knickers to give that necessary coverage.

Step 3 – Put on Chest Guard

Step 3 - Put on Chest Guard (also called chest plate)

Put on the chest plate (aka chest protector or chest guard). You should have a t-shirt or tank top on under this. While chest guard is not compulsory for boys/men, it is highly advisable that every child wears one. It makes it so that most touches aren’t able to be felt.

Step 4 – Put on Underarm Protector

Step 4 - Put on Underarm Protector (aka Plastron)

Now put on the underarm protector/plastron. This goes on the fencing arm, which is the right arm for right handed fencers and the left arm for left handed fencers. There are two types of the underarm protectors, depending on the brand. One is side specific and one is not. If you bought a non-side specific type, which you’ll know because there is no description of it as being for one side or the other, then turn it backwards if you need to to make it fit. 

For example, this FIE underarm protector goes with L/R version, while this one fits both arms. When you purchase the underarm protector/plastron, pay attention to the description. Go back and look it up online if you didn’t remember to check when you bought it.

Step 5 – Untangle the Body Cord

Untangle the body cord, known as the body wire in the UK. If your child is an epee fencer, then the body cord looks the same from both ends and has three prongs on each side. Otherwise, for foil or sabre, it will have two different sides – one with  three prong connector, and another with two prongs. For now, just pull it out straight so that it isn’t tangled.

Step 6 – Hold the Body Cord in the Fencing Hand

Hold the body cord connector in your fencing hand, making sure it is the two prong connector side for foil/sabre.

Step 7 – Put on the Fencing Jacket

Put the fencing jacket on while holding the body cord in your fencing hand, pulling the cord through the sleeve so that it runs along the arm under the sleeve. Make sure you know where the zipper is.  There are two types of fencing jackets – ones that zip in the front and ones that zip in the back.

We do not recommend purchasing a back zipping jacket, as they are mostly entry level jackets purchased by clubs as they can be used for right handed or left handed fencers. Another thing to pay attention to is the handedness of the jacket. A right handed jacket will have a zipper that is on the front left side, while a left handed jacket will have a zipper on the front right side.

Pay attention to the triangle at the bottom of the jacket to show where the front is – it will have a lowered section to protect the groin in the front.

Step 8 – Put on a Foil/Sabre Lame

For only foil and sabre, put on the lame. Just as with the jacket, pay attention to where the zipper is, and make sure to have the lower triangle in the front.

Step 9 – Mask/Body Cords Connection to the Lame

Now connect the crocodile clip of the body cord to the lame at the bottom and the mask cord to the tongue at the back collar of the lame.

Step 10 – Put on Glove

Now put the glove on, making sure that they body cord is still poking out of the sleeve and thru the velcro on the glove. Close the velcro on the glove. The glove goes on the fencing hand only and the non-fencing hand remains ungloved.

Step 11 – Put on Fencing Mask

Put the mask on, adjusting it as needed.

Step 12 – Connect the Mask Cord to the Mask

Connect the mask cord free side to the mask so that the mask and lame (for foil and sabre) are electrically connected via the mask cord. The whole thing won’t start working, electricity wise, until you plug the free end of your body cord into a strip.

You are fully dressed up!

How to Put on Fencing Gear - a Complete Guide with Illustrations and Explanations

Now you are fully dressed! You can practice with your child several times so the next time he/she are in the club or in competition they can comfortably put the gear on without your help.

Fencing is complicated, full of layers when two fencers face each other on the strip. It’s also full of layers when it comes to fencing gear. Getting the gear right is a big deal, and a challenge for beginning fencers. Learning how to get the gear on properly seems daunting at first, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it!


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  1. R

    Alligator clip goes on the weapon side’s back so a fencer can’t pull it off during action. Also, not so far forward so that the fencer can knock it off with their weapon arm’s elbow (had a kid who kept doing that).

  2. Ian's mom

    Great info for new fencers. More importantly, these are beautiful watercolor paintings! I really enjoyed your post.

  3. r

    Mask cord is clipped on bib’s unarmed side. Please correct this- and the lame’s-pictures so refs aren’t delayed correcting your students’ errors they learned from you.

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