On the 13th of June 2015 the FIE Executive Committee ruled to ban Leon Paul Epee blades forged from 2013-2015 as well as bayonet bodywires from all FIE competitions. But what does it really mean and what will the possible long term implications be? Here’s a link to the letter in question.
At the FIE SEMI Commission’s recommendation, we have decided to suspend the use of Leon Paul 2013-2015 Epee blades until hearing the final conclusions of the analyses currently underway. The FIE Executive Committee will make a final decision once it has the results of this analysis. Manufacturers are reminded that: – Equipment or changes to equipment not submitted for SEMI Commission approval (earlier version of PBT sabre mask), – Equipment that does not work perfectly in all situations and therefore does not comply with FIE Rules (body wire with bayonet connection), Will not be accepted during equipment controls at FIE competitions. The SEMI Commission will immediately contact manufacturers about this matter.
It’s always worth keeping an eye out on FIE rulings in case it trickles down in future such as the 800N Sabre glove and the ban on visor masks which is now mandatory at all competitions. And because of this I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a future clampdown on the blades in question. How practical it is to implement is an entirely different story. Admittedly I don’t know how these blades are failing; I can only imagine it’s a safety issue caused by a possible change in the forging process. Although bear in mind that’s just pure speculation. Here’s the official Leon Paul position on it:
These blades have been on sale for 20 years with not a single recorded injury caused by them.
That said the reasoning behind these changes is different to the ban on bayonet bodywires. Gloves and masks were changed in the name of safety whereas bayonet bodwires have been outlawed in the name of reliability at elite level. Again most likely caused due to an issue/compatibility with the wireless systems which the FIE currently use. Although again this is merely speculation so please don’t hold me as gospel (I’m good but possibly not that good). Because of that I can’t see any repercussions because of this. Heck we even see other forms of bodywire systems being sold and used for personal and domestic use such as French two pins and Italian bayonets which should put everything into perspective. What I do know however is that if you are fencing at that level or aspire to be a future FIE athlete then I’d recommend not taking a risk and swapping to German two pin. Which I use myself and as long as you know what you’re doing, isn’t hard to covert provided you have a vice. I haven’t personally used the new Leon Paul German two pin socket although it looks more innovative and less fiddly than a traditional socket. If you’re simply fencing in the UK, starting out in the UK or have no previous armoury experience, again in the UK, then for the love of god use a bayonet. Because should anything go wrong there’s a greater chance someone will have a sword you can borrow. For anyone heading off to The Junior & Cadet Fencing Championships on the 10-17th of July, the Leon Paul Epee blades are banned although bayonets will be allowed. I don’t want to jump to conclusions but I think we can assume they’re using traditional spools.
As for the relative reliability of two-pins and bayonets in general use. It all comes down to the quality of the wire and socket. A cheap and poorly made bodywire is never going to last as long as one that’s been constructed well, no matter which system you go for. Personally I’ve had good and bad experiences with both. Theoretically a bayonet shouldn’t last as long as a duel pin. You have more moving parts; springs can wear down causing them to short out etc. Although I’ve seen some last for decades. There’s even one in my fencing bag that I would still be using now had the crocodile clip not fallen off and had I not been lazy enough to bother soldering a new one back in (it’s on my eventual to do list). I still use it now for armoury work. Although duel pins are hardly bullet proof, retaining clips can fall out, like bayonets they can fail, while there’s a greater chance the wire can pop out during Sabre. It’s safe to say there are pros and cons to both.
And to end a link to this year’s British Fencing (BFA) equality survey: