Originally published in Punta Dritta May AS XXXVI (2001)
Many of you have requested some clarification on how to properly secure a mask to your head. To begin, you must secure the mask below the chin of the mask in order to keep the bib down. So it's best if you secure a tie just below the chin on the bib on either side and then tie it in back once you have the mask on. Variations on this that don't allow any play will work too. The most important thing to remember is that if a blade is caught under your bib there needs to be something holding it down.
Under your mask there are two other important bits of armour to concern yourself with. First is the back of the head/neck protection which is best supplied by a hood. The advantages of a penetration resistant hood compared to something which attaches directly to the mask is that the hood moves with your head and won't gap significantly the way many other designs will.
Second is of course the gorget, or rigid throat protection. This is required to cover the front of the neck so that any shot which lands will have its force distributed to your collar bone. Leather is generally and bad material for this as it naturally flexes (and gets worse when wet with sweat). In the throat area you want to make sure that the hollow of your throat, all the way up past your Adams Apple is covered. I recommend using one as high as is comfortable and thus as close to your jaw bone as possible. Behind this must be some padding or a hood to provide some space and minor cushioning against a blow. While a hood may not intuitively seem like good impact protection it will actually help disperse the force of the blow. On the back of the neck you must also cover the base of your neck and the cervical vertebra. These are easily identified because they form a bump at the base of your neck. It's typically a 3 inch long area that you'll need to cover. The reason for this is simple; if one of these is damaged significantly you'll never fence again... Last, you must be sure that the gorget will not slide forward or backward on your shoulders and expose your throat, or move sideways enough to put any pressure on your throat. This fit requirement is to protect from a shot that simply slams your gorget into your neck and causes blunt force trauma to you despite it being in the way.
If you have any questions on this please contact your area or group marshal for help in designing or inspecting your armour.
Have fun and be Safe!