Have you ever wanted to try fencing, but were unsure about the safety protocols involved? One concern that many newcomers have is whether or not they need to wear a mask during bouts.
FIE and National Governing Body Mask Rules
The FIE (Fédération Internationale d'Escrime) rules state that fencers must wear a mask, meeting their requirements, while competing. You can purchase FIE and non-FIE masks, with the former suitable for FIE-affiliated competitions.
As National Governing Bodies (NGBs) follow FIE rules, and clubs follow the rules of the NGB you will need to, and should, wear a mask while fencing, otherwise you can risk serious injury or death, if you are even allowed to fence without one in the first place.
For more information see our guide to fencing masks.
The Death of Vladimir Smirnov
Vladimir Smirnov was a Russian fencer who tragically died in 1981 due to a lack of safety precautions. During a match, Smirnov's opponent's blade broke and then pierced the thin mesh of Smirnov's fencing mask and through his eye socket, severely injuring and killing him.
Since then, the FIE has implemented strict rules regarding fencing masks and other protective gear. All masks must meet stricter standards in order to be approved for use in competitions. Additionally, all participants must wear their masks at all times during matches, regardless of the intensity of the bout.
The death of Vladimir Smirnov serves as an important reminder that safety should always be of the utmost importance when fencing.
Do I Have To Wear a Mask While Training?
This depends on what type of training you are doing. If you are doing general fitness training, stretching or movement exercises and there are no swords being used around you, then no. However, if you are doing fencing drills, doing friendly bouts the answer is absolutely. If you are doing general warm ups and cool downs in an area where people are fencing, you should move away from the area or alternatively wear a mask.