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Kindred Willow

Location: United Kingdom
Joined: 21 Oct 2014

Posts: 1

PostPosted: Tue 21 Oct, 2014 1:16 pm    Post subject: Sparing Weapons         Reply with quote

HI everyone,
I'm new to the site and was wondering what people think of different materials as training weapons?
My current sparing weapons are wooden with a metal core to make the weight more realistic for a fraction of the price as a metal sparing weapon.
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Jeffrey Faulk

Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

Posts: 578

PostPosted: Tue 21 Oct, 2014 2:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In general, off the top of my head:

--Wood is cheapest but the balance is the worst. Useful for beginners, practice, and in some specific situations such as single-stick. Very rigid and is more dangerous in the thrust as it won't flex against a person's chest (or whatever part you hit). Cost is definitely a big part of why people buy this stuff, though-- you can get a reasonable waster for less than half the price of a good metal practice sword.

--Plastic-- currently a little more in favor than wood. Slightly better balance and fairly tough. Some prefer this. By 'plastic', I include composite materials, which aren't all that common (carbon fiber, Kevlar, etc) due to cost. Has some flex to it, but still not a good practice weapon for thrusting. 'Binds' a little better than wood, but not by much.

--Steel feders and such-- Probably the favourite. Considered to have the best, most accurate balance and performance compared to the latter two. Binds, flexes, and hits right. Some brands are better than others, of course.

And in all matters, if you join a group, always consult them for the weapons they consider appropriate. Don't fight wood or plastic with metal. Don't mix wood and plastic, either, for that matter, though it's less likely to cause injury than the former...
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Timo Nieminen

Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
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Posts: 1,504

PostPosted: Tue 21 Oct, 2014 5:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To add to the above:

Rattan: more flexible than wood. Heavily used in escrima/arnis/kali and the SCA.

Aluminium: light, low maintenance. There are some aluminium longswords and the like out there, but aluminium is more often used for training knives and short swords for kung fu and escrima/arnis/kali than for HEMA. Often, these are not meant for blade-on-blade contact, but are used for drills, often with one person unarmed. Aluminium allows a thicker blade at the same weight, for more safety, while keeping the weapon simulator looking dangerously metallic.

Bamboo. In the form of shinai, a very common sparring weapon material.

Padded weapons. Usually wood or plastic, with padding to allow more contact with limited protective gear being worn. Essentially, the weapon carries the protective gear, not the people. Good option for spears.

What's best? Depends on what kind of training. For solo training, full-weight steel weapons are best. Can be sharp, but one might prefer unsharpened for safety. Some steel sparring weapons will work fine for such things.

For sparring, it depends on what kind of sparring you want to do. Level of contact, amount of protective equipment, etc. Also depends on the weapons being simulated.

Stiff weapons are dangerous. Heavy weapons can be dangerous. Of lightweight weapons, wood is probably the most dangerous option, since it's stiff. Realistically stiff is necessary for some techniques. Realistic weight is good.

A common weapon simulator that offers a safe sparring tool with minimal protection and closely matched the sharp weapon in size and weight is the fencing epee. Under-appreciated in many HEMA circles, due to the sportified nature of modern fencing. But that's not a fault of the tool.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Ben Coomer

Location: Colorado
Joined: 06 Sep 2011
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Posts: 184

PostPosted: Tue 21 Oct, 2014 10:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I have four different types of trainers, so here's my feelings.

Wood, from Hollow Earth. Durable, cheap. Balance tends towards awful. They also don't really perform like swords in contact with each other and the stiffness makes them a bit dangerous for any sparring above half speed. However, they are pretty cheap and available and hickory ones can put up with a lot of pell work, so overall, I think they are a good thing to have. If nothing else having a tool you don't particularly have to worry about is nice.

Plasitc, Rawlings. Durable, better balance. Mine, however, are really whippy and sag. They have a pretty good profile and okay balance. They flex pretty well which allows more sparring options. Personally, I don't really like them. The whippiness of my generation of Rawlings is pretty offputting.

Padded, by Lancelot Chan. Lancelot made these to mimic my wife and I's Albions and he did a pretty good job. They are well padded and allow a range of sparring with a helmet and gloves. They have also held up well for years, but I don't get to use them as often as I would like, because they are pretty much for sparring only. I like them.

Steel, by Arms and Armor. Just about perfect. Balance, weight, just feel are pretty close to perfect. Price however was $500's. Which is well outside a casual budget. But this is a joy to work with and I can't wait till my wife's gets here for some real action.

All have some advantages and disadvantages. Personally, for the budget minded, I would go with a wood waster to complement a real sword. Vary between the two to keep a good understanding of swordwork while preserving your real blade as much as possible.

If budget isn't a much a consideration, add a steal one, but still have a wood one ready. Adding the other two are nice options but real, steel, and wood will cover most needs.
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T. Kew

Location: London, UK
Joined: 21 Apr 2012

Posts: 256

PostPosted: Wed 22 Oct, 2014 2:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the UK, the cheap option I'd get is the Blackfencer synthetics. for example

They're plastic, yes, but the balance is about right, the bind is pretty good, the blade is stiff enough but flexes in the thrust. Pretty much best of breed in plastic, and not significantly more expensive than the Rawlings line.

The rest of this seems to have turned into "tips about getting gear to start up a HEMA club" - if you're not doing that, feel free to discard it.

Synthetics can still easily put out eyes and break hands, although you'll not get much more than bruises to most of the rest of the body. So the next thing I'd get (and get at least mask and gloves before you start sparring at speed), is mask + back of head protection, gloves, box, and a gorget.

Then get steel. Don't get lots of synthetic, just get steel. It's just better, more realistic in weight, blade presence, dynamics, etc. You can get steel earlier, but don't think about sparring with it until you've got a good collection of protective gear. is probably the best bargain in steel training swords in the UK at the moment. Strong, flexes in the thrust, rolled point, rounded edges, etc.

Regarding gloves, incidentally, something like is basically the minimum. Lacrosse gloves are not suitable - especially not for steel, but you can break a finger through them with synthetics. The Red Dragon gloves are marginal for steel, so you want to be careful there, but they'll do the job well enough for getting started.

One final tip - if you talk to the HEMA shop guys, they can probably set you up with a club account if you have a group, which gives you a discount on most things.
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Robert Frey

Location: Wausau, WI
Joined: 19 Nov 2013

Posts: 42

PostPosted: Wed 22 Oct, 2014 11:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben Coomer wrote:

Steel, by Arms and Armor. Just about perfect. Balance, weight, just feel are pretty close to perfect. Price however was $500's. Which is well outside a casual budget. But this is a joy to work with and I can't wait till my wife's gets here for some real action.

Which A & A sword are you referencing?
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Mikko Kuusirati

Location: Finland
Joined: 16 Nov 2004
Reading list: 13 books

Posts: 1,080

PostPosted: Thu 23 Oct, 2014 3:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As everyone else has said, steel is absolutely the best if you can afford it and the requisite protective gear. Wood and synthetic wasters cost less and allow you to get by with lighter protection, but that comes at the cost of realistic handling.

More detailed thoughts on the wasters I personally own:

A couple of red oak bokken - I would say these are a better match for what they're intended to simulate than western style wooden wasters, generally, although mine have a good amount of distal taper which I gather is not very common. The only thing significantly off IMO is the weight.

A set of Purpleheart Armory hickory longswords, swords and plywood bucklers - I started out with these. They're affordable and durable, but the weight and balance are way off: they handle like what they are, sword-shaped sticks. They feel clumsy and much heavier than they really are. I've shortened the blades by about two, three inches, making them a bit more wieldy and the points much broader and rounder. They're still my least favorite option these days (apart from the bucklers, which aren't bad all).

A set of Rawlings synthetic wasters - long and short swords plus the elongated pommel, wheel pommel and basket hilt. Almost all the components are perfectly interchangeable (apart from the basket guard only fitting on the short blade) so all together they're almost like a Lego set. My favorite configuration is the short blade with basket guard and wheel pommel. They're light (the manufacturer says about 2/3 the weight of real weapons) and fairly well balanced, so they feel much better than the wooden wasters, though not quite like real weapons, in large part because of the light weight, I think.

Armour Class steel spadone trainer - a custom piece bought second hand through the Marketplace. Extremely lively for such a large weapon, balanced very close to the hand. The sheer weight still packs a lot power, though, so you have to be careful with it, even with the blunt and quite flexible blade: my nephew dropped it from a height of maybe three inches, point down, and it actually stuck quite deep into the wooden floor... Still, with appropriate protection and control it is perfectly safe, and handles almost like the real thing (if perhaps just slightly too handy).

Darkwood Armory steel rapier and dagger - the best training weapons I've ever used, period. They feel and act like real weapons, with the correct weight, mass distribution and handling properties, and have a safe amount of flex (assuming proper protective gear!) without being floppy at all. I love them.

"And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That's what sin is."
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum
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Jeffrey Faulk

Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

Posts: 578

PostPosted: Thu 23 Oct, 2014 8:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It would be quite amiss to not note that protective equipment is just as important as the sparring weapons you buy, if not more so. HEMA enthusiasts tend to go through weapons quickly enough until they hit something they want to stick with, but one doesn't want to do that with equipment because it costs more. So it's worth it to invest in good quality protective equipment. I'm not talking a suit of full plate here-- that's actually not necessary in many cases, although useful once you get into the more advanced aspects-- but at the minimum head/face protection, gauntlets and gloves, a breastplate and last but not least a cup are necessary. Additional protection includes arm (especially elbow) defenses and some protection for the legs.

Again, check your local club's regulations.

As for specific brands of equipment, I'm not versed on that, so I'll leave it to others on that end. Just thought this was something that needed to be pointed out if you're interested in getting started in HEMA...
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