These gloves are available through Corsair's Wares
These gloves have been designed for use in the practice of kali, an art that involves striking the opponent with rattan sticks. In a similar fashion to people engaged in the practice of certain disciplines within historical fencing, practitioners of kali need protection for their fingers, hands and wrists. This review will look at the suitability of these gloves for use as protective gear in the pursuit of historical fencing.
In the Academy of Historical Arts we use these gloves as the standard "loaner gloves" for new students when practicing longsword, sword and buckler, and various forms of staff work. They are relatively cheap compared to many versions of lacrosse gloves and it is easy to buy several pairs of gloves at once. Although they do not provide the same amount of cover in some places across the hand as some of the lacrosse gloves, they are well padded *all* across the hand; lacrosse gloves often have gaps or openings in places that don't matter in lacrosse but that are hit on an unfortunately regular basis in historical fencing. This is one of the best things about these gloves: although the padding is not all that thick, is does provide a good layer of protection, and this padding extends all over the back of the hands and fingers, along the outsides of the pinkies, index fingers and thumbs, and all over the wrist. It is difficult to find a gap in the padding, especially with a weapon with a thicker blade such as one of the synthetic swords.
Although the padding is not very thick, this is also an advantage. Because the gloves are not as bulky as some of the lacrosse gloves, students tend to receive fewer "hits" or "slices" on the hand; certainly there are fewer opportunities for a blade to lever over a crossguard and to snag a bulkily padded thumb, something which happens regularly with bigger gloves. The padding is adequate to protect the hand against anything that is likely to happen in a reasonably controlled fight with synthetic or wooden swords. They will not stand up to full contact or an irresponsible level of contact, they should of course be used with due common sense. However, as entry level gloves for someone who simply needs something to give the hands some protection in the early stages of learning historical fencing, these are superb.
One other benefit with regard to the padding is that while the padding on the fingers does not overlap and there are small gaps over the knuckles, the knuckles are staggered. This makes them unlike lacrosse gloves where there is a clear channel running across all four knuckles, where an unlucky strike can land on all four fingers. An unlucky strike landing on the knuckles of these gloves might land in one of the gaps but will also land on two or three pieces of padding on the other knuckles; while not ideal (gaps can never be ideal), they are less of a problem in this regard than many of the lacrosse gloves in general use at the moment.
Mobility is also good in these gloves. When the gloves come out of the packet they are very stiff and rather uncomfortable but after a few hours of use they soften up nicely and fit the hand quite comfortably. The wrist can rotate easily, enough to make the gloves useful for practicing with sabres, and the thumb is free to do what it needs to do (for example, changing grip on the weapon, or thumbing the blade as per many of the longsword illustrations).
In terms of grip, they offer a very good grip of the weapon. There is a circular opening in the palm to allow the skin to contact the weapon and so grip is not compromised by a layer of thick material between hand and sword.
In terms of construction and durability, we have had some pairs of these gloves in the Academy for almost two years now, used on pretty much a weekly basis, and they are still holding up perfectly well. The stitching is good, the leather is hardwearing, the padding stands up to repeated use and hits.
To put things into perspective, comparing these gloves to Ensifers is like comparing a Hanwei practical line sword to a maestro line sword made by Albion. The Albion sword is clearly going to be better; the Ensifer gloves are clearly much better; but these gloves do not cost €200. They cost around £30 plus a few pounds for shipping. They are not the best solution, but they are a good option for someone looking for a cheap and cheerful pair of gloves for controlled work with synthetic or wooden swords (or even with steel swords if the control is present). For outfitting a club with "loaner gloves", our Academy buys these every time.
Co-incidentally, Corsair's Wares (the retail division of our charitable organisation) has a trade account with Blitz Sport and is a reseller of items such as these gloves. At the time of posting this review, I believe we are one of the cheapest sources for these gloves. If you would like to make a purchase of these gloves while supporting a young British enterprise and also a charitable organisation, please take a look at our online store