Padded Contact Weapon Design

Additional Directions on Care and Use of Contact-Sparring Weapons

Fiberglass Rapier Simulators


Basic Pole-Arm




Sparring Staff

Throwing Spears

OLD ARMA Medieval Sparring Sword Construction

OLD Medieval Sword Construction Steps

OLD Alternative Foam Configurations

OLD Renaissance Cut & Thrust Style Swords

Note:  We believe the time of padded contact-weapons in historical fencing practice has passed. They were a necessary part of the early process of exploring and reconstructing authentic Medieval and Renaissance swordplay, but no longer. As it is, padded weapons were never capable of the full range of action or true execution of techniques, and their technology has probably gone as far as it can go. With the availability now of accurate steel training blades (Federschwerter) and better quality wooden weapons, there is in our opinion simply no need for padded weapons---whether for novices or others---even in sparring.

The comfort that some practitioners feel in their early stages of learning when using padded weapons for free-play is understandable. There is also no denying their virtue in easing some new students into free-play bouting. And though the ARMA early on recognized the merits of using robust padded weapons against practitioners who did not grasp the value of controlled intent in contact sparring, we no longer feel these issues warrant their use over what can ideally be achieved with the newest training-swords. But, there has never been for us any question that there eventually comes a point for the serious student at which the nature of padded weapons serves to inhibit (and even contradict) a fuller understanding of the historical methods of real weapons.

Since 2004, padded contact-weapons have ceased to be an official part of the ARMA curricula and training with them no longer recommend for our members or Study Groups. While we value the experiences and lessons acquired from years of sparring and experimenting with various padded weapons designs when made of realistically performing materials, we now rely entirely on training-blunts and better wasters (wooden or nylon). Neither control nor intent nor technique either among novices or veterans suffers as a result.  Higher skill transcends the tool employed, but the more realistic the tool employed in your training the more genuine your ability. With accurate Federschwerter and the better wasters now on hand, we are confident all serious practitioners can discard the padded sword.

The old pages on ARMA’s prior contact-weapons policies will remain here for those who may still find them of use.


Basic ARMA Padded Contact-Sparring Swords

ARMA padded Contact-Sparring weapons are designed to closely simulate a real weapon's handling, weight, and balance. ARMA contact sparring swords are discernible edge, padded sparring tools that can be used for delivering safe, yet substantially solid and satisfying blows ("contact fighting") without any flexing "whip action". They can make strikes, thrusts and draw cuts. They are inexpensive, easy to construct and perform realistically in both parrying and hitting. They have the great virtue of being able to be used "as is" against either unarmored or armored opponents. When armored, they can be used full contact and are nearly unbreakable. ARMA contact weapons also stress realistic appearance and shape. They cost as little as $7 to $12 for individuals to build.

Swords can be made to any specifications so long as based on a documented historical model. Choice of blade and handle length, guard type, and grip are up to the individual's preference. Guards and pommels must be of 100% foam construction. All pommels must be padded and all blades have a cloth cover.


ARMA contact weapons are not "boffers". They utilize two types of unique high-impact, closed-cell foam that are shaped and then attached with spray on adhesive. The rest of their material comes from common hardware stores.  The two distinct types of foam are white "Landau padding" or L2000 (which comes in convenient 1", 1 1/4" and sometimes 3/16" thickness) or high-impact (HI) "flotation" foam like that used in martial arts sparring pads (available in convenient 1" thickness). Although uncommon, they are both usually available from foam warehouses or specialty fabric and upholstery shops. Flotation foam can also be obtained in certain kinds of pool rafts. Additionally, ordinary soft foam rubber is used only for the points of thrusting tips and pipe-insulation foam used only on shield edges and shafts of pole-weapons.


Note: The word "ARMA" and its associated arms emblem is a federally registered trademark under U.S. Reg. No. 3831037. In addition, the content on this website is federally registered with the United States Copyright Office, © 2001-2016. All rights are reserved. No use of the ARMA name and emblem, or website content, is permitted without authorization. Reproduction of material from this site without written permission of The Association for Renaissance Martial Arts and its respective authors is strictly prohibited. Additional material may also appear from "HACA" The Historical Armed Combat Association copyright © 1999-2001 by John Clements. All rights are reserved to that material as well.