If your fencer competed at the recent SYC here in Rochester as their first major tournament, or has recently travelled to a larger tournament, they may have experienced a formal tournament equipment check for the first time.
Equipment check serves two purposes: proper function and safety. Functional testing verifies equipment is working properly and ensures a fair bout. Safety testing verifies there are no issues with the equipment that could cause injury.
Here is a list of what a fencer needs to take to equipment check, and for what the armorers are checking:
- Two or three body cords: The armorer will attach these to an ohmmeter that verifies the conductivity of each cord. They will often wiggle and stretch the cords at the end when attached to the meter to make sure there aren’t any breaks in the wire
- Two or three mask cords: These are tested just like the body cords
- Lamé (foil/saber): The armorer rubs a metal weight or probe attached to an ohmmeter across the garment to make sure that there aren’t “dead spots” where an opponent’s touch wouldn’t register
- Mask: There is both a function and a safety test for masks. For foil and saber, the mask is checked for conductivity, especially the lamé material on the bib. For all weapons a metal punch tool is often used to make sure the face mask is still structurally sound. If the metal punch penetrates the wire mesh protecting the face, the mask fails
- Glove: All gloves are safety inspected for holes, and saber gloves are tested for conductivity in the same manner as the lamé
Not every tournament will test all the above. There’s usually a sign by the armory/equipment check area listing what equipment is to be tested. If there is no sign, just bring all the above to the equipment check table.
Once equipment is checked and passes, it is marked so that the referee on the strip (at both pools and DEs) can verify the fencer’s equipment has been tested. Typically, a small ink stamp with a logo for the tournament is applied to the mask bib, foil/saber lamé, and glove. A long-used lamé or mask can begin to look like a passport, with the many inspection stamps that act as reminders of all your fencing travels!
Body and mask cords have a small strip of colored tape applied to indicate they have passed inspection, but any old inspection tape is removed each tournament. The tape color used for each tournament varies. Below is a photo of an inspection tape marker on a body cord.
My daughter Megan offers the following tips to make things easier and faster at equipment check:
- Be prepared when you walk up to the check table! Don’t bring your whole fencing bag to the desk, just bring the items to be tested
- Have your foil/saber lamé zipped and right side out
- Have your body cords and mask cords untangled (Megan drapes them around her neck in what she calls the “body cord princess” manner). Remove any colored tape from previous equipment checks (a seam ripper works great for this, and is a good item to keep in your fencing bag)
When a piece of equipment doesn’t pass (and eventually this will happen), remember that the armorer is just doing their job! Armorers are often fencing parents who will sympathize with the sudden need to run to an equipment vendor to buy a last-minute replacement. They are making sure the tournament runs smoothly and fairly with everyone having working equipment, and that your fencer is safe. If you need to buy any last-minute replacements for failed equipment, it needs to be checked and marked too, but the armorers will often offer to just have you come back directly to the table and skip any line when you come back.
In closing, all fencers should perform periodic checks of their own equipment. Your coach can help with this if it is new to you. Don’t rely on tournament checks to discover your equipment is non-functional or unsafe.