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Leon Paul Standard vs X-change Coaching Mask Review

PostPosted: 28 Aug 2009 14:23
by Nikos
I said a long time ago that I really didn't like the X-change masks, now with a lot miore experience with it (though not being used by me), I have a good overall knowledge and experience to write a review. When I originally panned it several people jumped to its defence to say they have had no problems with theirs, well, this isn't to say all out that this mask cannot work, only that it doesn't do the job anywhere near as well as the standard version. (In the internal pics, x-change is on left, normal on right)

Firstly, lets have a look at the overall masks side by side. I added a product shot of a new mask alongside, as Jake had just the day before fitted a new strip over the top. The pictures will show you just how thin and flimsy the strip going over the mask and around the face really is, you might not encounter problems with this for shinai, but any kind of steel weapons just tear it to peices very quickly. Now you might say yes, but then they weren't designed to face steel longswords/sabres etc, however, the standard model has been doing the same job for years, none of the other standard coaching masks have had to have this strip replaced or even repeaired. The strip on the x-change mask was having peices hacked off it in just a month of training, in over 18 months all of the non x-change system masks have never had any problems and get used just as often and hard.


This now carries in to the next problem, the bib, which was a safety concern from day one. Take a look at the pic above, you will see the difference in bib design and fit, the way the x-change system works it actually works like a hinge. Several times per session when Jake used this mask, he would look down, look back up and the bib would stay hinged up exposing the throat, it was being used with a standard coaching jacket as intended. Leon Paul said that they have never had this problem before, and yet did a bodge job for him to solve it, sewing in a peice of leather to give it rigidity. I have since asked and heard many people saying they have had exactly this problem, most don't complain, but its a massive safety risk, not just for us, but sport fencers too.



Now lets take a look inside at the padding, which Leon Paul told me is no different to the normal mask and therefore could not understand why we were having a problem. You might notice that the x-change mask in the picture has had additional high density foam protection added to the top, this is because of the tiny strip of internal padding it has compared to the much wider spanning normal model on the right. The pic of my mask on the right actually has part of the protection foled over, that should be flat, but curls up, haven't sorted that yet, it is because of my back protector, just needs a little velcro.

You can also see that the top protector section is just all round much smaller, allowing the mesh to strike many parts of the exposed head on cuts, as well as the obvious lack of padding generally.


Now lets get on to the padding on the sides, the comparison shows quite how shocking the difference is. The x-change system has no ear vents, why? Because it doesn't have any protection there! The normal coaching mask has padding right from the bib join upwards, the x-change using a much more spartan structure which offers very little coverage.


Jake has been using this x-change mask for something like 8 months, as opposed to my normal model on the right which is atleast 18 months old, we train at the same number of sessions per week and just as hard. He has frequently recieved nasty blows to the head with all sorts of weapons causing injury and pain, where comparative and much worse strikes made against the old masks have not caused anywhere near as much concern or damage.

Most of the problems on this mask do not stop is being used, other than the bib problem, the issue is that when it costs slightly more than the standard model you would expect it to be at least as good, when it is in fact a major step down. To say that I dislike this mask would be a slight understatement. Yes having a washable bib is nice, but at the price of proper protection, not a chance.

This review has been based on continual practice and experimentation as well as feedback and comparison, my advice, the standard coaching mask was one of the best purchases I ever made, the x-change system is way over priced for something that simply ins't anywhere near as good. Jake is likely buying the standard model as soon as he can.

PostPosted: 28 Aug 2009 14:38
by Andreas Engström
Hm, some of the problems you mention are probably at least in part alleviated by using the sabre cover. Which I always do.

Never noticed any tendency for the bib to "hinge", but I agree it would be a problem if it happened..

Well, to each their own. I personally appreciate the less claustrophobic feel and better ventilation, and since I haven't felt any of the problems you mention (yet) I'm still rather satisfied with it.


PostPosted: 28 Aug 2009 14:43
by Nikos
The sabre cover will indeed solve some of the problems of course, but with a sabre cover comes a host of new problems, such as loss of visibility and heat retention. Whatever gains there are in venitlation on the x-change mask will be lost by adding a coaching leather top, I have a leather coaching top for my mask and used it for a month or two, but took it off as I really couldn't stand it, yes the extra protection was good, but the compromises were not accecptable.

Re: Leon Paul Standard vs X-change Coaching Mask Review

PostPosted: 16 Jul 2014 15:52
by Slartibartfast

Just noticed that in response to new FIE rules Leon Paul has added a back strap to their X-change bibs:
It's actually intended to avoid the mask coming off in rare situations, but I imagine it also helps with the bib-flipping-up problem.

Re: a sabre cover - I've had one for years, just couldn't do without it as my sensitive ears can't stand the ringing, deafening shock of blows to the head!