In a recent study on Olympic sport injury rates, Fencing ranked among the safest sports listed. Given the fact that Fencing is a combat sport rooted in duels to the death, it should come as a surprise that such a ferocious sport would be safer than say, Badminton or Table Tennis.
Yet, our equipment is (mostly) refined enough to prevent any serious bodily injury outside of pulled/torn muscles or cramps. Rarely does one see an injury related to impact with the intact blade, and if you’re wearing quality gear, most forceful hits feel negligible in terms of pain.
The more comfortable we get with safety, the more more our attention to safety can slip away. As I’ll detail later on in this post, I’ve been guilty of this myself. Sometimes you’ll see folks bouting only wearing shorts without knickers. Sometimes the underarm protector will be forgotten. I’ve seen an instance where a fencer forgot his glove in his hotel room and thought “I’ll just bout without it” (Cough Adam Frank cough cough).
With fencing safety, it’s important to always be overcautious. We are playing with swords after all. So if your students or teammates are letting safety slip, just remind them of any of these true stories. They might take these tales to heart and reconsider their practices.
Why you should always wear knickers
This story, which I believed to be an urban legend, was confirmed by Dan Kellner in his AMA on Reddit. A member of the 2004 US Olympic Men’s Foil Team was bouting in a pair of shorts during practice. This can’t possibly go wrong, since the torso is the only target area in foil, right? Wrong.
A large action caught this Olympian in the leg, after which the blade broke, went up his leg, and punctured his scrotum. The fencer required surgery to repair a ruptured sac. Love your crown jewels and want to carry on your family tree? Wear knickers.
Why you should always wear a glove
A friend sent me this one and told me this story. To be fair, this blade went through the fencer’s back hand in a freak accident, but it’s certainly a reminder of the importance of a gloved hand. This is an X-Ray photo. The actual picture my friend sent me is too grisly to post. But, you can look at this X-Ray and imagine…
Why you should always wear an underarm protector
When I began fencing, I had a pretty lax attitude about safety, as all younger people have a sense of infallibility. My first weekend at Brandeis was spent in the hospital due to my recklessness in not wearing an underarm protector. One of my teammates and I were practice bouting. He was borrowing an old club weapon rusted to its last legs.
At close distance, we simultaneously fleched at one another. His blade broke, went through my jacket and into my chest, where I began to bleed a lot. Because I was an idiot, I went straight to a dinner date and was hanging out (still bleeding) before I passed out at the table and was transported to the local hospital.
I had ruptured some cartilage around my ribcage and required 12 stitches. A well-deserved lesson learned for disregarding safety. But also, a lesson to never stand up a lady on a date—even if you are bleeding profusely.
Why you should always wear a mask
Mask safety standards were modified significantly after the tragic and untimely death of Vladimir Smirnov. Some people don’t learn from this tragedy however, like this idiot coach giving a lesson without a mask or protective gear on. It’s not a horror story…yet, but if karma plays out, he’ll become a one eyed pirate from giving lessons this way, or some vultures will come and peck his eyes out, just cause.
Why you should wear a cup
If you want to know why you need to wear a cup, then look no further than “The Ultimate Compilation of Painful Nutshots” video. Or this video in which this dolt is wearing shorts and no cup.