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Headgear Brief
Keeping Your Head in Weapon Sparring and Competition
© 2013 James LaFond
I am currently involved with using a wide rand of headgear for contact weaponry. Every piece has a downside. What follows is a guide for using each.
Agonistics Helmet
The triple-wired hockey-based helmet is the safest thing you can wear, and protects against all strokes with all rattan weapons, light steel, bokens, staffs, wasters.
The agonistics helmet should not be used with Sharkee tanto or tactical blunts, but is perfect for the FMA dagger. Sticks must be taped on the end as the wire will abrade rattan and could cause fibers to enter the eye.
This piece can be degraded by long term stick work and is hard to maintain. Save it for wasters, staffs, bokens, shields, knife work, and stick & dagger, and any sets where the back of the head is likely to be inadvertently struck.
WEKAF Helmet
This is not safe for shaped blunts or wasters, and should be relegated to stick sparring, and sparring with rattan ‘daggers’. Stick and dagger tips must be 1 inch to permit stabs. Stabs must be supinated or pronated, and must not be vertical.
Not recommended for stick & dagger because of throat injury concerns.
Fencing Mask
This is ideal for high level stick and any type of knife or dagger work.
It is too light for full-contact stick at the beginner level.
If used for stick & dagger note that passes and dagger-hand shifts often result in back-of-the-head stick contact.
It is too light for wasters and bokens but perfect for smaller shaped blunts like the tanto and tactical Sharkee models.
Saber Mask
This piece offers perfect face and throat protection.
The same passing proviso with stick & dagger that applies to the fencing mask applies with this piece. It is unsuitable for long wasters and pole-arms unless back-of-the-head protection can be improvised.
See Gear Behaving Badly #1 for more on fencing and saber masks.
Note: The shinai, or kendo stick, is too dangerous for full-contact or mixed weaponry, on the account that the bamboo can split lengthwise and enter kendo, WEKAF or agonistics helmets. If you tape it the result is a nasty club. If you do wish to fence with it beyond the parameters of kendo, kum do, or kenjitsu, use a saber mask.
Modern Fighter
modern agonistics
World Bais Tres Manos Seminar
sons of aryаs
under the god of things
beasts of aryаs
son of a lesser god
winter of a fighting life
fiction anthology one
the lesser angels of our nature
George B     Mar 2, 2014

Thanks for the great information. I just transitioned from soft stick to rattan stick sparring. I'm in the market for a helmet and think I might get a AF HEMA Mask, but was wondering what the Agonistics Helmet looks like and where I could find one. I tried to google it and couldn't find it. Thanks for any help you can provide.


James     Mar 3, 2014

I'm getting snowed in just now George, so am hoping for some sympathy from your balmy corner of the world.

If you go to our agonistics page you will find our book, A Fighter's View. Their are numerous pictures of helmets in that free PDF. I believe Cory and I are also wearing agonistics helmets in our gladius and machete duel videos from 2013 on the same page. The agonistics helmet was designed to be proof against heavier sticks and dull machetes. I have built 16 of them, and Robert Gyer and Sam Cooke built 4—only 20 on the planet bro.

Here is what I recommend. Buy a saber [not foil] mask for just under $100. You can then make and attach a back neck guard. Or, if you know someone with an old WEKAF head piece you could detach the back neck guard from that and sew or Velcro it to the back of your mask. We just go with the mask as is because the flange and the back rim provide as much back of the head as the WEKAF soft guard does. The main reason why we stuck with agonistics helmets for a decade, even with stick, was that we did most of our training outdoors on asphalt and concrete. And, besides the football and motorcycle helmet, the hockey helmet, which serves as the body of the agonistics piece, gives the best back of the head protection. Now that we are inside sparring on matts we use the saber mask. You can see examples of these in use on our videos. The black face cage pieces are foil/epee, or foil-saber hybrids. I generally wear those as they are lighter and cheaper and I have a pencil neck and a flat wallet.

Good luck with your training George.
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