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View Full Version : Does wheel chair fencing need to standardise some of it's equipment.



Barry Paul
-27th July 2011, 16:40
Watching in Sheffield the time taken to adjust the frames to accommodate all the different wheel chairs seemed excessive. Is it time to insist on a standard formate of wheelchair. At able bodied fencing (is this the acceptable name?) we don't have every fencer coming on the piste with different body wire plugs and having to change the spools.

To progress the sport does it need standardised wheel chairs, with a docking pin at the front which easily engages into a front female fixing, plus a standard wheel pitch and wheel so once in position it is a simple matter of locking the wheel in position?

Is the movement of the frame desirable, watching some fencers their reach is extended by a few inches as the back of the frame comes off the ground. Would the fencers like the frames to be solid with no movement?

wide eagle
-27th July 2011, 16:59
both my brother and sister are in wheel chairs (not fencers) and when they get there chairs designed they are made specifically for them (I think never been too involved) based on height, weight and what extras they need for instance my brother needs more back support. Whether this is the same for wheel chair fencing or not I am not sure but if it is then i would imagine that it would be a bit hard to get a standard model to fit all competitors. Even if I am wrong judged by the number of competitors (at the Euros) i don’t think it would be worth it

PLS-F
-27th July 2011, 20:39
In Sheffield I enquired about the fixing of the frame so it would not rise and was told that the fencers prefered it to flex. The French brought one of their own frames and although I did mot act as a frame handler on this frame it looked as if the adjustments necessary to change from a right to left handed fencer which was the most time consuming aspect would be easier and therefore faster.

max
-28th July 2011, 08:18
As a frame handler for most of the competition I pondered this question on more than one occasion. My conclusion was that it is not for me to dictate how someone else should accommodate themselves in order to compete.

The French frame certainly looked easier to adjust and to have a chair attached, with one or two amendments according to those who actually used it. However, the major difference, as I was led to believe, was cost with the French one costing 4 times that of the ones we were using.

I think that is the problem with any attempt to level the playing field for wheelchair fencing, cost versus numbers participating.

BigPappaBear
-28th July 2011, 12:11
Interesting concept, suspect there are bits that can be improved on in terms of design and work-ability. though you may find that you end up with 2 or 3 base "bare" chairs that you then add the appropriate mods to. Think you'd need to get both a panel of experts and a panel of users on the design team. Suspect if you offer to come up with an "Olympic" chair the BDFA will no doubt be approachable...

PLS-F
-28th July 2011, 13:07
Having assisted with the measuring of the wheelchairs to ensure that they confirmed to the regulation dimensions I was surprised at the range of different designs available and on talking to the athletes most were convinced that their chair was best for them.

BigPappaBear
-28th July 2011, 13:24
PLS-F - I suspected that might be the case... its a very individual item and something that probably has more meaning than we "non-wheelchair" fencers fully understand.

mendacious dog
-28th July 2011, 14:02
Hmm - maybe its analogous to standardising the fencing shoes worn by able bodied athletes. Imagine the fuss if someone said "Right lads - at the Olympics you are only allowed to wear Hi-Tec Scimitars. And only in size 8."

Although there are many rules about specific dimensions of the wheelchairs, I think that there is sufficient laxity to be able to get away with a lot of 'tweaks'. These guys spend a massive part of their lives sat in their fencing wheelchairs, so probably need to make them as unique and comfortable as possible.

:dogs:

Woof.

TomA
-28th July 2011, 15:04
Difficult question. I've done some wheelchair fencing sat in various chairs of differing size and support - IMO the design of the chair not only affects set-up but how you fence as well (eg how far you can lean, how easy it is to recover etc). So from that point of view standardisation could be a good thing. However you also have to take into account concerns such as cost and the fencer's own comfort - putting up barriers to entry into the sport would be counter-productive IMO.

Barry Paul
-28th July 2011, 18:24
Most wheelchair fencers have 2 chairs one normal and one for fencing. To make fencing easier I just feel that fencing wheelchairs should have some basic standard dimensions.
In the front two pins that Dock into some female clamps. When the wheel chair is docked the front wheels could be an inch (25 mm) e off the ground so you don't have to strap the front down and ratchet it securely with straps. If we could now have wheels in which the rims are same size and strong enough to hold the chair we don't need to grab the wheel on the top rim. From a standard basic wheelchair all personal changes are possible, but locking the chair in place would be standardised.

Almiz
-28th July 2011, 23:44
To make fencing easier I just feel that fencing wheelchairs should have some basic standard dimensions.

The chairs do have some of their basic dimensions controlled (see link) and all the chairs at the Europeans were controlled by the IWAS representatives and had the appropriate marks. I did get to watch some of the team matches and the method of securing the wheels i feel is fine as it keeps them secure, however most of the problems i saw were with the front straps not being tight enough or well placed to allow secure fastening as no two wheelchairs seemed to be the same.

http://www.iwasf.com/iwasf/assets/File/Fencing/B%20-%20IWF%20The%20Fencing%20Wheelchair%202011-03-20.pdf

There may be some merit in pins as barry says or anouther method however altering the frames and every wheelchair to accommodate this would be expensive (not a 10 bodge as lame bibs are) also moving the hight of the front wheels would alter the angle of the seat which would mean that the entire wheelchair would need to be changed and those who dont have a second chair might slide off when not in the frame so maybe not a good idea :P

BigPappaBear
-29th July 2011, 07:17
Also how would you get the rest of the world to standardise?

Given there are three different sizes of grub screw on the market!

Think my line would be talk to the BDFA about it and see what they felt was feasible... not sure how many of the forum members are qualified to debate this through to a conclusion.

Paladin2019
-29th July 2011, 22:56
Wouldn't it be possible to have some kind of adjustable retrofit attachment that could be standardised without having to standardise the chair?

Just an idea... I have no clue when it comes to this subject!

purple
-1st November 2011, 09:38
As one of the guys working the Carbon fibre frame - nope.

The french frame has some advantages. The main point which lets it down is build quality. The CF sections are excellent, but the connecting section is terrible and the strapping was piss-poor.

purple
-1st November 2011, 09:47
Watching in Sheffield the time taken to adjust the frames to accommodate all the different wheel chairs seemed excessive. Is it time to insist on a standard formate of wheelchair. At able bodied fencing (is this the acceptable name?) we don't have every fencer coming on the piste with different body wire plugs and having to change the spools.

No, but we do have different sized jackets, from different manufacturers, with slightly different tailoring. Or else why would we buy LP over TCA? Whilst chairs *are* part of the technical kit, they're also part of the personal kit. And the range difference in fencers is from 7ft, 20 st. Russians (with chair to accomodate), down to 5ft, 7st. Italian foilists. You're going to get variation.


To progress the sport does it need standardised wheel chairs, with a docking pin at the front which easily engages into a front female fixing, plus a standard wheel pitch and wheel so once in position it is a simple matter of locking the wheel in position?

For a number of reasons, I can see that docking pin twisting. I've seen the forces the fencers exert, and *any* single point of contact will suffer. The existing flaws in the docking system are:

1) Wheel variation - some of the Russian/Polish frames have *huge* wheels, which don't easily fit the ratcheting handles. Either the handles need to be made larger or the wheels need to conform to a maximum diameter, which the frames can then be built to.
2) Strapping - the ratchet straps work, but they are slow to engage/disengage, which takes time. I'd love to see a better system for this, but any system will need to engage at multiple points on the footrest, or potentially behind the footrest.


Is the movement of the frame desirable, watching some fencers their reach is extended by a few inches as the back of the frame comes off the ground. Would the fencers like the frames to be solid with no movement?

Yes, yes it is. It is in effect the lunge, and I would say is characteristic of play. It's an accepted position, and I only noticed one or two people complaining about it (usually on the losing end of a fight). Also, if you take that outlet for the energy away, where is it going to go? Probably back through the anchor points in the form of extra stress and that's a lot of energy to dissipate.

Barry Paul
-1st November 2011, 13:43
I had envisaged two locking pins 400 mm apart.

The wheelchair is personal equipment and like a body wire should be made so it fits into a standard wheelchair frame. If you want to make wheelchair fencing more assessable and being able to run without a large number of able bodied helpers there is a requirement to make the the system easier and standardised.

Having two pins at a fixed height which locks into two holes is not a huge engineering feat or alteration to make. As for the wheels if you lock the steel bottom rim rather than the top of the wheel which is soft and compressible the wheels can be as big in diameter as you like.

As for movement the wheel chair association needs to give some sort of assistance to how much flexing is allowed.

If every one is happy to have it as difficult as possible to run an event your present system is perfectly adequate, but if you want to become more self sufficient and more open you need to look at making competitive wheelchair fencing easier. IMHO

Bayston
-2nd November 2011, 23:00
Barry, if you want to make Wheelchair Fencing more accessable, surely reducing the cost of a wheelchair piste would be a better solution? I don't disagree that a standardised piste would make it a lot easier, but with the current cost I doubt that many clubs can afford to even offer it to the public? I know for the fact that my club has often spoke about investing in one, but at nearly 2k for the piste and a couple of chairs for those not in wheelchairs, it is simply out of our price range and will probably remain so. Without being able to show we have fencers who need it, we cannot apply for a grant, but without the piste we cannot attact the fencers, it is a vicious circle. Can I ask if Leon Paul has ever looked into creating a cheaper, perhaps more basic version just for club use?

Barry Paul
-3rd November 2011, 08:36
Not sure what you are quoting, a metal piste is not needed a club wheel chair frame cost from Leon Paul about 1100 plus Vat. This is cheaper than all other frames. I would like to bring the cost down even more but with the low volume this is very difficult.

Barry Paul
-3rd November 2011, 18:43
Can any one tell me if there is a maximum and minimum width of a wheel chair at the point of contact of the wheels on the ground? At the Europeans how often were the frames adjusted so they became wider or thinner?

miraberis
-3rd November 2011, 20:14
One fencer I know had trouble because of the unusual gap between her large wheels and her small wheels, such that the small wheels weren't set in the frame properly, but rather free in the gap in the middle. This was causing problems because her chair was wobbling around and they kept having to stop and tighten the straps, which was all they could do, though it didn't help much from what I could gather.
Just my little contribution to this discussion.

purple
-11th November 2011, 17:12
At the Europeans how often were the frames adjusted so they became wider or thinner?

Pretty much every other fight. Basketball-style chairs requiring some of the widest distances, and standard chairs requiring the narrowest.

purple
-11th November 2011, 17:14
One fencer I know had trouble because of the unusual gap between her large wheels and her small wheels, such that the small wheels weren't set in the frame properly, but rather free in the gap in the middle. This was causing problems because her chair was wobbling around and they kept having to stop and tighten the straps, which was all they could do, though it didn't help much from what I could gather.
Just my little contribution to this discussion.

Yep. We changed the strapping tactic with this fencer and there was a marked improvement. Sometimes, changing the technique (even if the fencer disagrees) makes a huge improvement. The wheels being in the free space wasn't the problem - the problem was the positioning of the clamping over the rear wheels was pulling the chair *backwards*, tipping her up. Move the clamps, pull the front down and then restrap.

purple
-11th November 2011, 17:29
I had envisaged two locking pins 400 mm apart.

Struggling to see this. Are you looking at two plates on the chair which lock into pins on the frame? And would this work with a range of chair styles?


The wheelchair is personal equipment and like a body wire should be made so it fits into a standard wheelchair frame. If you want to make wheelchair fencing more assessable and being able to run without a large number of able bodied helpers there is a requirement to make the the system easier and standardised.

Honestly? Given a bit of time, most wheelchair fencers can get themselves in and out of a frame, and would rather do it themselves THANKYOUVERYMUCH. In nature, the wheelchair is closer to a jacket than a bodywire. And last time we checked, we do not enforce that everyone wear one 44" jacket cut to a single specification.


Having two pins at a fixed height which locks into two holes is not a huge engineering feat or alteration to make. As for the wheels if you lock the steel bottom rim rather than the top of the wheel which is soft and compressible the wheels can be as big in diameter as you like.

So we're talking about a common interface between chair and frame? I think this is sensible. A standardised specification for a wheelchair isn't going to work, but the idea that a chair must be able to fit a standard interface I can see working.

I can see a few problems with anchoring to the bottom of the wheel WRT stresses. Wheels are designed for the force to be exerted on the outside of the wheel, not the inside. I know in bike wheels, this would be a "bad thing", but I have no real idea for wheelchairs.


As for movement the wheel chair association needs to give some sort of assistance to how much flexing is allowed.

Interesting to note the different approaches:
1) British Frame - flexes a lot, but in quite a natural way, and tends to work with the fencer.
2) French Frame - the carbon fibre sections slap around and put huge strains on the axel. Less flex, but less useful flex where it is.
3) Italian Frame - No flex. Basically a raised platform. And to be honest - *horrible* to put fencers in and out of (dire to set distance).


If every one is happy to have it as difficult as possible to run an event your present system is perfectly adequate, but if you want to become more self sufficient and more open you need to look at making competitive wheelchair fencing easier. IMHO

We could quite happily make it more difficult. However, I agree we could make it easier. I think some level of standardisation should come in to it. Each country running it's own specification for frames and competition does not help the global sport.

I don't think these ideas can be discussed very effectively without the inclusion of wheelchair fencers.

WheelchairFencer
-23rd January 2012, 12:32
As a G.B. Wheelchair Fencer, I've noticed a LOT of issues with frames, chairs, scoring equipment etc etc..
Regarding Chairs. As a custom wheelchair for fencing can cost close to 5000, Fencers are either buying cheap sports chairs from RGK and then converting them into fencing, or adapting day chairs to fence. There are specific height and width restrictions regarding fencing wheelchairs, because height equals reach. The problem is the adapted and converted sports and day chairs have smaller narrower wheel base, and some sports chairs don't even have brakes. So it's hard to secure them in ANY frame. Onto frames, I've competed all over and each country has it's own adaptive frame, straps and clamps, and it's normally adaptive for it's own countries wheelchairs. The frames that are the best are the French, they are a light weight Carbon Fibre, they do not bend like cheaper metal frames do, they have a specific clamping mechanism that secures you in place without damaging your wheels, but they are around 5000 Euros each. Metal frames can and do bend quite easily, especially when you have 2 bigger fencers throwing themselves around. The Italians have the Army that straps us in International comps, The Polish have the same. Other countries normally have volunteers from various clubs in the region. This can be VERY time consuming, I've had to wait up to 30 mins to be clamped in, because of metal piste issues, or the volunteers weren't physically able to do it. This is not good for the sport or the athlete who is hanging around and getting a little miffed off.
You cannot develop one type of frame when there are so many different shapes and sizes of fencing chairs, unless the frame could be altered to accommodate such differences. Various countries will do anything to get the upper hand, whether that's in reach or height, as that can be the difference between winning Gold. Hope this helps and i would be happy to answer any questions.

Barry Paul
-24th January 2012, 08:43
My original posting was meant to provoke discussion and thought about how wheelchair fencing can be, made more accessible and easier. Clearly the fencers are vital in making comments and feedback, however like able bodied fencers in general they are interested in what is best for themselves not necessarily the sport in general.

Taking on board the comments, I still believe for the sport to progress and grow there is need to make some standardisation of frames and chairs and how the chairs are locked in place and the amount of flex allowed when the chairs are fixed to the frames.

Espada74
-18th June 2012, 12:45
Sorry to resurect an old thread but being quite new to wheelchair fencing (not being a wheelchair athlete) I have only really recently seen how this all comes together. Having an engineering type mind I don't think this would be to difficult to acheive a standard fitting which could be added to existing chairs and frames.

As far as I can see, there are a few simple requirements

1) the frame must work with existing chairs
2) must not add excessively to the cost
3) allow the base to flex
4) hold chair firmly in the base
5) still allow for easy distance adjustment

It would be possible to move the flexibility into the connection between chair and base but that would require a much heavier base or for the base to be fixed to the floor, neither would be a great way forward, a third way would be to allow flex in both but that will just add to the price.

After a few minutes thought, there are a couple of fairly simple ways forward. Fundementally though, we need to get away from the idea of clamping the wheels and move the clamping to a seperate system either underneath the chair or outside the existing wheels. This would allow the frame to still have the old strap style fittings for unmodified chairs.

I really need to see some existing chairs again and see where they are strongest before being certain but should be able to do that later in the week.

purple
-3rd July 2012, 13:32
In all seriousness - is part of this problem down to the use of wheelchairs? A wheelchair is designed primarily to move and be moved, and for the purposes of this sport, we strap the chairs in to a static position. Would a static frame with fixed seat be a better approach, possibly allowing for the fencer to supply their own padding/seat to be added to the frame?

Experience with fencers from Sheffield and the test event - fencers often hand their competition chair to the volunteers to fit and then transfer when their fencing chair has been strapped.

This provides a level of standardisation, potentially reduces the stress on the chair, and could reduce the overall cost of equipment required (assuming the static chair would cost less than a sports-chair).