In March 2017, we launched our first ProGauntlet beta series. These multiple sets of PG’s were to be rigorously tested in secret by Dutch HEMA clubs Mars and Zwaard&Steen.
The results of these tests were mixed. Among a legion of good bad and uglies, three features stood out.
- In terms of mobility, the Beta1s passed with flying colours, with users being able to perform complex techniques, tie shoelaces, sign NDA’s and according to one user, even perform the daunting task of unclipping bra-straps (though this wasn’t part of the testing protocol!).
- When it came to durability, we encountered fundamental issues. Our hardshell material performed right as promised, but the threads that were keeping the whole system together rapidly failed, even though they were made of the toughest fibers available on the market. After a few test sessions, the gloves were starting to fall apart.
- And how about protection? In most areas, our combination of hardshell and padding layers did exactly what it was designed for. But the mechanical connections between the fingers and the dorsal plate had so much play that the hard shell would sometimes roll away upon impact, exposing the finger. The biggest concern, however was thrust protection. We’ve all seen the horrifying pictures of hands completely transfixed by blunt sword tips and we were determined to find a way to reduce the risk of such accidents happening on a regular basis. But that was a complex puzzle to solve and by the time Beta1 rolled out, we still had no satisfying solution.
All in all, despite how the Beta 1 looked on the outside, we weren’t quite there yet, but the tests proved we were going in the right direction and the results gave us a boost to return to the drawing board and bring the PG to the next level. What followed was more than a year of experimentation in which, on a detailed level, the glove would undergo a complete redesign. Aside from taking advice from select users visiting our HQ, this was a time in which we had very little contact with the outside HEMA world.
Last Saturday, that time came to an end, as we presented our new and improved ProGauntlet Prototypes in public at the Dutch Lions Cup tournament in Utrecht. This time, we decided to raise the stakes and have them see some serious action. And what better test than to have them be worn in an actual tournament?
Arto Fama, a trusty advisor to the project for many years, was up to the challenge and felt confident enough that this new experimental model would keep him safe (no pressure!).
With some last minute modifications before the tournament, we were good to go. We watched, somewhat tentatively, as the first match went by… and all went well. We asked if Arto wanted to continue with his old gloves, but he made it clear there was no way he would let go. What followed was a beautiful series of fights, amazing technique with seemingly effortless transitions between hand positions as well as half-swording and grappling and a great measure of control. A true pleasure to behold! If anything, it was the desire to see this kind of fighting performed in tournaments that has motivated us since day one of the ProGauntlet project. Arto made it past the pool phase and went on to win both the technical award and the sportsmanship award. We honestly couldn’t wish for a better and more inspiring champion to showcase the ProGauntlet and we would once more like to congratulate Arto on his achievements.
Left: Arto striking with a reverse half sword grip
Right: Arto strikes with an unterhau to the back of the head
Left: Arto shows the glove to the audience
Right: Jane grabs her opponent’s blade
As a bonus, it turned out another exemplary fighter was still in the race for the finals: the wonderful Jane Johnston. As a true Cinderella, she tried the glove. Not a perfect match by far, but with a bit of extra tape, the fit was comfortable enough and she did us the pleasure of fighting all the way to the finals wearing our DLC prototypes! You can read all about her experience in the latest Women of Hema blog entry.
We would like to thank both Arto and Jane for the trust they placed in us and their wonderful display of swordsmanship.
So what’s next?
With the DLC prototype performing remarkably well, we have achieved a major milestone on the road to completing the ProGauntlet design. The feedback we gained from this experience will be taken into account during the development and production of the upcoming the Beta2 series. The Beta2 gloves will be rigorously tested in order to validate the full functionality of the design. We want to be absolutely sure that the products we will deliver will meet the high standards we have always envisioned.
Click here for the live stream of the DLC finals