Safe Operating Procedures

If done properly Historical Fencing is an extremely safe sport and martial art. To ensure the safety of participants Scholar Victoria uses the following guidelines for safety in classes and events.

1.0 Class Supervision

All formal classes should be provided by an appointed instructor, with assistants/senior students as required.

When teaching persons under the age of 18 years we recommend at least one other adult person be present at all times.

2.0 Waivers/Understanding of Risk

All participants are required to sign the appropriate waiver for the event/classes (social fencing presumes all participants are already so signed with their respective clubs).

An applicant, having identified on his/her application form, a medical or psychiatric condition which may affect training should be advised that they may not commence training until their training has been cleared by an appropriate medical practitioner

Test cutting, when performed, may require a different waiver with considerations specific to the risks associated with that activity.

3.0 Hazard Management

Hazard Management is any procedure, policy, rule or action that has as its function the reduction or removal of any risk that may be associated with the conduct of your martial arts class. This would include but not be limited to:

  • The training area is clear of any dangerous and/or sharp objects that may provide a risk of injury.
  • Instructors/fencers should have access at all times to first aid equipment
  • Persons must not wear jewelry etc during training which the instructor deems may present a hazard to the student or to others.

4.0 Sparring & Drilling

4.1 Safe Handling

We recommend that participants be briefed on simple sword safety procedures before drilling. These procedures should include:

  • Not waving the sword around in class
  • Not walking toward anyone drilling or sparring (in case they are hit)
  • Being aware of the point of the weapon while moving in class
  • Location of first aid equipment & procedures for its use.

4.2 Definitions:

Technical/Controlled Sparring:

Is where two or more practitioners engage in very slow paced unscripted motions or semblance of fighting, using any part of the body or a weapon, without the landing of any blows that are risk bodily harm, with the intention of safely training the practitioners in the use of various fighting techniques.


Is sparring where the use of fighting techniques by one or more of the practitioners is not predetermined or advised. The purpose of free- sparring is to test a practitioner’s ability to respond spontaneously and effectively to unforeseen fighting techniques. Free sparring is usually carried out at high speed and so should attract higher safety standards.


Drilling is any pre-arranged set of movements. Drilling may be performed slowly (ie. tai-chi like speeds) or at speed (moderate to normal speed).


Cutting is the use of sharp weapons to cut specific media such as tatami mats, bottles, clay, or other materials.

4.3 Free-sparring Restrictions:

Practitioners should not engage in free sparring without the instructor’s consent.

Sparring at maximum force should be forbidden, all techniques should be “pulled” and executed at less than full intensity whenever possible.

4.3.1 Sparring Supervision

The instructor or a senior student supervise groups of students engaged in free sparring in case of risks to bystanders, or the fencers themselves.

4.4 Safety Equipment

4.4.1 General Provisions:

  • Should be maintained in good working order, preferably to manufacturers standards
  • Should be clean with proper attention to hygiene (refer Sports Medicine Australia’s Policy on Infections/Diseases)

4.4.2 Free Sparring

The following safety equipment is the minimum for all participants involved in Free Sparring:

MaskFencing mask – 350N minimum
OverlayA mask overlay that provides total protection of the back of head/neck.
Throat ProtectorThroat protection – semi rigid or better. Protectors must be appropriately constructed  to disperse impact.
Jacket/Torso ProtectionA jacket specifically designed for historical fencing: modern or historical cuts are allowed or a mixture of both, provided that the style is of professional fit, and finish.

The jacket must completely cover the torso and not have any uncovered area; the covered areas must also include in particular: the whole back, wrists, neck and armpits;  Jackets may have integrated plates or padding as required.

The entire jacket and the remaining defensive equipment of the torso must be protected for a minimum of 350N (or drop test equivalent) as an arithmetic sum – this may be cumulative with an underlay/plastron combined with jacket to achieve the required rating.
Elbows/Forearms/Knees/ShinsThe competitor’s forearms should be protected by thick padding or pseudo-rigid protection.  This may be an integral part of the glove (eg. extended cuff Gloves), as external plates (eg. SPES AP-Pro jacket), or internal sections. 
Elbows must be covered by rigid protection.

Knees & shins must be covered by rigid protection if legs are a target
Longsword specific rigid gloves providing full coverage on the hands and wrists.  Gloves may be articulated with separate fingers (eg. Koning) or “shell” type (eg. Sparring Glove/SPES Heavy), so long as they are constructed with rigid plates.

Gloves must be used which cover the entirety of the hand and over the jacket cuff. Use of padded gloves with rigid sections are recommended.

Sabre, Sidesword, Sword & Buckler
If the competitor’s Sabre has a “full” shell surrounding the entire hand then they should wear padded gloves providing full coverage of hands or wrists.

Leaner sabre guards which do not fully surround the hand, as well as sidesword and messer fencers, requires protective gloves with semi rigid sections (eg. lacrosse  gloves or equivalent).
Groin/Chest ProtectionFencers should wear the appropriate groin protector and chest protector to mitigate risks specific to their anatomy.
LegsFull coverage of the leg, with no skirts/kilts that will ride up to expose areas, unless they are worn over full leg coverage.

Padded Breeches for historical fencing are recommended, with or without additional rigid protection.

Competitors who do NOT wear full upper leg coverage of 350N+ puncture resistant material do so at their own risk
ShoesAll competitors must wear shoes which cover the entire foot. It is strictly forbidden to fight barefoot.

All athletes should wear long socks or other coverage to the knee, where uncovered by other pants, such that no significant exposed skin is present. 
General RequirementsAll equipment must be from a recognised supplier or constructed to professional levels of fit, finish, and function. Equipment may be decorated (patches etc), however images with offensive/racist/abusive language and content are forbidden. This includes offense to legally protected groups as well as for political slogans/beliefs.
GlassesThe use of sport-specific lenses is recommended.

4.4.3 Technical/Controlled Sparring

The following safety equipment is the minimum recommended for all participants involved in technical/controlled sparring – participants are encouraged to increase the protective equipment as they see fit:

  • Mask (350N+
  • Groin protector (if applicable)
  • Gloves commensurate with sparring speed (none are required at very slow speeds)

4.4.4 Drilling

Participants must use protective equipment commensurate with the drilling activity.

Coaches may demonstrate techniques without a mask & hand protection only at slow speed for demonstration purposes (so they can communicate effectively with the class).

Students may practice drills without a mask & hand protection only when:

  • Moving at slow speed
  • Not using any technique which the instructor deems presents a risk requiring a mask (thrusting techniques, on-point techniques etc)
  • At any time the student is moving at high speed in drills they are advised to wear hand protection.
  • Any time the student is moving at high speed using thrusts/the point they are advised to wear appropriate torso protection/throat protection.

At all other times students should wear a mask while drilling

4.4.4 Test Cutting & Handling of Sharp Weapons

Any use of sharp swords is an extremely specialised activity which requires heightened care and management to avoid accidents.

No sparring of any kind is sanctioned with sharp weapons. Sharp activities should be limited to test-cutting demonstrations, and then only under strictly controlled circumstances.

  • Students should only be allowed to perform cutting exercises when they have reached the requisite level of experience as determined by their instructor.
  • Sharp weapons shall be secured in a safe area when not in use.
  • Cutting shall only take place in an allocated space free of obstructions or other hazards.
  • Only a single person shall handle the sharp weapon at any time
  • While staff are setting up targets etc. nobody shall be in the cutting area with a sharp weapon.
  • The person holding the sword shall not engage in any other activities such as setting up targets without first placing the sword down in a safe area or with another person.
  • If using wet targets (water bottles, wet tatami, etc) the fencer shall ensure their hands are dry to prevent slipping.
  • No persons shall not be allowed in areas where they may be struck by a released sword.
  • Junior students shall not engage in cutting with sharp swords.

5.0 Grappling/Wrestling Considerations

This standard applies to the teaching and practice of any grappling art taught in total or taught as a component of a historical fencing class, including armed techniques which involve grappling, locking, restraining, choking and strangulation techniques.

It is recognized that some components of these arts and their practices are of extremely high risk and so must be approached with caution. As with all aspects of this Policy and Standards document the safety and well being of the participants is our highest duty.

We require that Throwing/Grappling Mats be used for all activities involving the practice of high speed throws, wrestling, submission holds; including where such activities are included in sparring.

When teaching, instructors should make students aware that a lock or hold should not be applied so as to cause injury i.e. to point where breakage or dislocation does or could occur. The lock or hold will be applied to minimum pressure. A ‘tap out’ safety system will be taught before any lock or hold is taught.

It is VERY highly recommended that a choke or strangulation not be practiced in such a way that it is fully applied i.e. to point where complete unconsciousness or ‘blackout’ does or could occur. A ‘tap out’ safety system should be taught before any choke or strangulation is taught. It is noted that choke or strangulation techniques can, and has, resulted in brain damage and/or death.

6.0 Weapons

6.1 General Provisions:

  • Participants may not own/use weapons if they are a Prohibited Person under Victorian law.
  • In Victoria swords/prohibited weapons must be used in accordance with the Control of Weapons Act (1990).
  • Instructors can deny the use of a weapon to a student if they deep in unsafe/unfit for purpose.
  • Participants with weapons should adhere to local legislation concerning weapon ownershipSharps may not be used under any circumstance for drilling or sparring.
  • Sharps may be used for ‘Test Cutting’ under strict controls.
  • For sparring swords, the following apply:
EdgeEdge must be free of sharp or jagged edges, and be appropriately filed. Dents and slight inclusions are acceptable.  Edges should be greater than 1 mm in width. 
BladeThe blade must be free of cracks or warps considered significant to compromise safety.
PointThe point of the blade must be spatulate, rolled, or squared and tipped with leather, plastic, or similar of 2mm or more thickness, and secured with bright coloured tape.
FlexThe swords should pass a flex test. Pressure to flex should be less than 15kg when pressed upon a scale until flex is achieved.
SizeAnything outside of recognised average sizes for weapons must be cleared with instructor/safety officer

7.0 Health Risk Minimisation

  • Persons should advise the Instructor if suffering from any injury or medical condition, either permanent or temporary, which may be adversely affected by certain types of training. Examples of this may include blood pressure problems and cardiac disorders, neck, knee and back injuries, diabetes and asthma.
  • Persons with the above or like conditions are advised to seek medical approval to participate in martial arts classes, where possible, and whether there are any restrictions or conditions applicable.
  • Persons may not to train if they may be suffering from the flu or other viral infection that may be passed on to other persons.
  • Persons should not attend training under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.
  • Smoking is not allowed in or around the training area.
  • Persons training must give proper attention to personal hygiene and exhibit clean grooming; and ensure that fingernails and toenails are trimmed and clean.
  • Persons with a cut or bleeding injury are advised cease training immediately and receive appropriate first aid. Rejoining the training session should not be allowed until the instructor has deemed that is safe to do so. The procedures for dealing with cuts or bleeding injuries are as outlined in the Infections Diseases Policy of Sports Medicine Australia – Attachment ‘3’
  • Persons suffering from a concussion, diagnosed or suspected, should refrain from training for a period of time as specified by their health care professional.

8.0 Prohibited Activities

The following activities are prohibited:

  • Uncontrolled Throwing on an unmatted surface
  • Use of live blades in any circumstance for sparring, or by a junior student for any activity.
  • Exercises that are generally considered dangerous, or any other exercise which is known to be a danger to the student.
  • Providing instruction to a student who has not signed a waiver/contract

9.0 First Aid Equipment

  • All classes shall include a First Aid kit wherever possible containing the required items for the kind of injuries which rarely occur.
  • At least one member of the class have received prior first aid training, including CPR etc.
  • All students be informed of the location of the first aid kit.
  • Any use of the kit include an injury report.10

10.0 Insurance Policy

  • The club shall have appropriate insurance covering PPLI as well as individual insurance.
  • Club members shall have access to the insurance policy.
  • 2022 Insurance Policy Link