Why Do We Calibrate?

There is often a misunderstanding as to why light weapons fighters need to calibrate before each match. The purpose is not to show your opponent what you consider a “killing” blow. A killing blow is officially defined as a 2” bend in a standard #5 foil blade. This has been documented by far more competent souls than I as the force required to penetrate the human body. The real purpose is for each fighter to feel their opponent’s weapon when it has a 2” bend delivered at speed.

Foil blades vary in strength depending on the manufacturer and the age of the blade. Calibrating gives you the feel of your opponent’s blade. If your opponent’s blade is weak, you now know to call the blows lighter. On the other hand, because of the amount of armor we wear, if you know you have a weak blade, consider retiring it. Yes, you can deliver a killing blow with a blade that has all the spring of a wet noodle, but don’t get too upset if people don’t call your shots because they can’t feel them. HOWEVER, this is no excuse to ignore a shot because it felt light when you know your opponent has a weak blade.

I have also heard, “You’ll have to hit harder, my armor is thick there.” I quote from the Rapier Combat Rules: “Any protection or article of clothing that prevents a fighter from properly calling a blow will not be allowed.” If you are wearing so many layers of cloth or leather you cannot feel a blow, Then give serious thought to upgrading your armor to a better material and fewer layers. In swashing, rhino hides are far more visible than in heavy weapons. Everyone can see that blade bend.

When you calibrate, a short thrust to the chest, arm, and mask are usually sufficient. A draw cut to the neck or the underside of the arm (where the brachial artery is) is good practice. The thrusts should be quick, delivered at speed, and give a 2” bend. When your opponent strikes you, concentrate on how it feels, and remember how strong their blade is. Proper calling of blows is always difficult, they will make or ruin a reputation quicker than anything else, so this is why we calibrate.

Lord Kirk Dragomani
Provost, Ad’E