Academy of Fencing Masters Blog

Art of Fencing, Art of Life

How and Why to Mark Your Fencing Gear

How-and-Why-to-Mark-Your-Fencing-GearWhat’s the number 1 reason for buying a new piece of fencing gear? If you’re a fencing parent then you probably know the answer already.  It’s not because it wears out, or because they outgrow it, though those certainly do happen occasionally. The number 1 reason for buying a new piece of fencing gear is far and away because kids loose their stuff.

I cannot even count how many times gloves, foils, masks, jackets, body cords and even sometimes knickers get lost.

Why does fencing gear get lost?

Fencing gear all looks the same.

There is very little difference, if any, between your child’s mask and their teammates masks.  When they walk into a locker room, they take their fencing gear off and put it on the floor or the bench. Then a few moments later, their teammate by mistake picks it up and puts it in their bag.  If this piece of the gear is something like a weapon, mask or body cord, it can even take few weeks or months until your child will notice that they are missing it for the competition.

By that time, you can bet it will long be gone.  Unintentionally gone, but most likely gone forever.

In most cases it would be nearly impossible to find the missing piece, and parents will resolve to do what they usually do – buy new stuff.

Marking fencing gear makes it better

When new fencers buy their first fencing gear, every single time I tell them to mark everything. Don’t be shy – the stuff all looks the same, and the more visible the marks are, the better.

However, what I generally find is that parents hesitate to mark their child’s equipment, as they don’t know what’s allowed and what’s not per regulations. But frankly there are no real regulations of what’s allowed and what’s not (or at least there aren’t any that I’m aware of) Pretty much the idea is that the marking should be in a good taste.

So by following are my guidelines that have been proven to be effective, you’ll have a much better chance of either:

  1. Not losing your equipment
  2. Finding and getting back lost stuff fast.

By doing this, you’ll find that you have a lot more control, a lot less frustration, and a potential for spending a lot less money on gear that you’ve already bought.

How to Mark Fencing Uniforms

how-and-why-to-mark-your-fencing-gear-resized-2The best marking pen is permanent sharpie, preferably a thick one. Permanent markings will resist sweat and several washing cycles quite well, plus they can be easily renewed if faded.

There are 6 or 7 pieces of a fencing  uniform:

  • chest protector
  • underarm protector
  • jacket
  • lame (for foil or sabre)
  • glove
  • knickers
  • socks

In general, use that thick black sharpie and mark everything on the OUTSIDE of the cloth (versus the inside that many parents do). This way even if it is misplaced  and taken by somebody else by mistake, everybody will clearly see to whom this piece belongs.

When you write, use your child’s name and write in big block letters. If you want to,  you can include your club abbreviation as well so that if you forget your equipment at competition, the organizers will at least know which club to call.

Where to Mark Fencing Gear

Now let’s dig into where I recommend you mark each piece.

●       Where to Mark a Fencing Mask

There are many good places to mark a fencing mask:

  • it’s side on the head perimeter
  • its protective tongue (the one that holds the head from the back)
  • its protective stripes.

Any of these spots will mean that your child’s name is clearly visible and much less likely to get lost in the milieu.

●       Where to Mark a Fencing Jacket or Lame

The best place to mark a fencing jacket or lame are near the ring on the back that the reel connects to. This way it is does not disturb the opponent, it’s not too obstructive, and yet at the same time it’s still very visible when needed.

Of course, if your jacket or lame (or knickers ) have your child’s last name stenciled on them, you do not need to do anything else – they are already clearly identified.

●       Where to Mark an Underarm and Chest Protectors

Since these two pieces are under the jacket, you’ve got a ton of freedom and can completely let loose with your imagination. My recommendation is the same – use big block letters to clearly write your child’s name on the outside of the piece (chest protector) and on the outside of the underarm protector when it is worn on the right arm (not left, even if your child is lefty). The reason is that there is a much bigger probability that whoever mistakenly picks your child’s underarm would be a right handed fencer, so when they put your child’s underarm the writing will be on outside and visible.

●       Where to Mark Knickers

Some kids come to the club or competition venues always wearing knickers from home, and these kids will never loose their knickers. But many kids wear knickers only for the fencing part and then change the knickers out to street clothes when it’s all over.  Which is completely a reasonable thing as kids feel uncomfortable or parents are concerned about knickers getting soiled. So knickers definitely can be forgotten or misplaced.

The best place to mark knickers is their stripes – write on the outside of the stripe on the chest side. Clearly visible and easy to notice.

●       Where to Mark the Glove

Gloves are arguably the most easily lost piece of equipment. It seems to me that at least every second or third child will lose his or her glove at least once in the first three months after they started fencing. They’re just so small and easy to misplace!

The best place to mark the glove is its cuff, on the outside of the hand part. It needs to be incredibly visible and easy to see!

●       How to Mark Fencing Bags

If I had a nickel for each time a pair of kids mistakenly exchanged their bags in the locker room, only to find out later at home that they made a mistake, I would most definitely be a millionaire.

A few times it has been quite a dramatic – a child took somebody else’s bag and on the morning of the competition discovered the mistake. The whole thing makes for one very hectic Sunday morning involving many people trying to retrieve the right bag from the other fencer.  Forget about performance at the competition after such adventure.

Just as with your luggage at the airport when you would like to see your bag clearly on the carousel, same should be with your fencing bag. Put a name, a luggage tag, a ribbon on it. Recently USFA started to send membership cards together with the luggage name tag, which is a great initiative – use it!

●       How to Mark Weapons

Mark your weapons in two places

  • On the belt guard on the inside under the pad, as close to the edge as possible
  • On the pad itself.

Pay attention to whether your pad is made of felt, because the marking will soon be gone as the pad will get a lot of scrubbing from the fingers and that sweaty glove. All you need to do is to freshen it up a bit when that happens.

●       How to Mark the Body Cord

Body cords have only just a  few places to mark.

  • First, write on the socket itself. While 3 prong side has enough space for the whole name (our last name long enough to test and we can fit it), the two prong side can have at least initials.
  • If you can, write on the wires themselves.
  • I use a piece of tape and wrap it around two sockets and write the name on it too. The tape should be of very different from the body cord color to be quite visible.

This might seem like a lot of marking for the cord, but it’s well worth it as this piece is just so critical!

Marking Fencing Equipment is SO important!

If you mark all your equipment in a clear and visible way chances are that even if your child looses some pieces (and it inevitably will happen), there’s a good chance that these pieces will be recovered quite soon.

These few simple things take just a few minutes of your time once you receive your new equipment. But they will save you a great deal of frustration for you and your child later down the road!

Please share your ways of marking your gear! You might well have some amazing tricks that we’ve never even thought about, and aren’t we all here to learn and grow? Comments are a great place, that way other parents can learn from you. Let us all know of your experience!

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2 Comments

  1. R

    Put address labels on mask tongue, weapon pads, body cord plugs and shoe-backs near heel. Don’t put a decal on a bell guard’s outside – as I found this weekend. Lame – just have your name printed. Worth it.

    • Irina Chirashnya

      Thanks for the good advice! With the name stenciling on the lame, I would hold off for beginners. The first time they really need it would be for nationals/NAC’s and it will take at least a year to reach this milestone. Given it costs additional $40 and the lame will most probably be worn off by that time, I don’t think it worth it. For advanced fencers like you – definitely!

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