The American School of Verdadera Destreza strives to be a welcoming environment for newcomers. You don't have to have any experience with the sport of fencing, martial arts, or athletics to join our club.
All you really need to get started is:
If you don't mind sharing, we have a limited number of training rapiers and safety equipment such as masks and gloves in a few different sizes that you can borrow when you are first starting out until you are able to get your own gear. If you already have your own fencing gear, please check the section on what to look for to make sure your equipment meets the club's safety requirements.
The first couple of lessons you'll attend will focus on:
You'll want to wear comfortable shoes and clothing, such as tennis shoes or running shoes and sweatpants and a t-shirt or lightweight sweatshirt, to these lessons. You'll be handling the rapiers quite a bit from the start so, if you have a pair of snug fitting leather work gloves you can wear to prevent blisters, bring them. If you don't already have a pair, don't rush out and buy them. If you're going to buy gloves, you'll want to get a proper pair of fencing gloves instead.
Once you've learned the basics, we'll move on to some controlled, slow-speed drills to master the core techniques of la Verdadera Destreza. You'll need proper fencing gloves and a fencing mask for these drills. If you don't have your own, don't worry. You can borrow club gear. Men are required to wear athletic cups for these types of drills. (Sorry, no club loaners for that --you'll have to provide your own).
Eventually, when you are ready, you'll probably want to challenge the other club members to friendly duels. To participate in free-play sparring matches you must provide your own personal safety equipment. At a minimum, you must have the following:
The following equipment is optional, but recommended for sparring matches:
The next section covers what to look for when you are ready to buy your own gear.
A good pair of fencing gloves are the first personal equipment you'll want to purchase for yourself. You'll need a durable pair of leather gauntlet gloves with a long cuff that covers your wrists and forearms. You can find them from a number of merchants in a variety of styles in a wide price range anywhere from around $20 to well over $100.
The training rapiers we use have complex hilts providing good hand protection and we don't allow intentional strikes to the wrists or forearms in our practice sparring sessions, so you don't really need to buy padded or reinforced gloves unless you want the extra padding for your forearms. If you do want padded or reinforced gloves be careful not to buy gloves that are too bulky to comfortably fit into the rapier hilt. Black or dark brown gloves are preferred, but not required.
Darkwood Armory offers an economical fighting weight leather glove for around $30 and a softer calfskin glove that's more comfortable, but less durable, for around $37.
Ravenswood Leather offers a high-quality deerskin gauntlet glove with a seamless palm for around $75.
The second item of gear you'll want to buy is a good mask. You'll need a basic, three-weapon (3W) mask that meets the following requirements:
Masks are usually advertised as either FIE or non-FIE compliant. Non-FIE masks are less expensive entry-level masks that meet the safety requirements for United States sport fencing competitions while FIE compliant masks are more expensive and meet the stricter safety requirements for international Olympic competitions. You may also see these ratings listed as either CE level 1 or CE level 2. Generally, CE level 1 masks are non-FIE masks and CE level 2 masks are FIE masks. Non-FIE/CE level 1 masks provide adequate protection to meet our club's safety requirements.
Some other features to consider are whether or not the mask has a removable liner for easier cleaning and whether or not the mask comes with back of the head protection, which is recommended but not required.
Darkwood Armory offers a 350N mask for about $60. You'll also need to get their leather mask protector, which is sold separately for about $25.
Absolute Fencing Gear offers a 350N mask that includes a leather mask protector for around $86. They also offer the same mask with a removable liner for around $92 and a version of the same mask with back of the head protection for about $115.
When you are ready to start sparring against other club members you'll need to purchase a fencing jacket that meets the following requirements:
Zen Warrior Armory offers a 500N Classic Fencing Jacket starting at around $82. This jacket in the steel color is the preferred style and color of our club, however you may use any fencing jacket that meets the club's safety requirements.
Purpleheart Armory offers a 350N SPES Officers Jacket in a variety of colors starting at around $199.
The rapier is by far the most expensive piece of gear you may want to invest in. A good quality steel training rapier from a reputable merchant can cost anywhere between $300 to well over $800 depending upon the ornateness and complexity of the hilt and type of finish. When purchasing a rapier make sure it meets the following safety requirements:
You may use a rapier from any merchant you choose as long as it meets the club's safety requirements.
Our club purchases its club-owned rapiers from Darkwood Armory. They have excellent customer service and the quality and construction of their rapiers is superb. The Darkwood Armory Economy Hilt Rapier, which starts at $325, probably offers the best quality to cost ratio of any historically accurate rapier on the market. If you purchase an economy hilt rapier from Darkwood Armory we recommend the following options: