The Air Blade in Winter Guard: Avoid a Timing Penalty!

| December 23, 2008 | 3 Comments

Chances are if you’ve attended more than one marching band show this fall you’ve seen the new Air Blade in action.  In its first year, this alternative choice of weapon has been adopted by drum corps and marching bands across the United States.

Now it’s time to design winter shows.  If you’re thinking about using the Air Blade this winter, here is some important adjudication information related to the equipment and timing captions that you will want to consider

“Authorized Equipment”

According to the Winter Guard International (WGI) rulebook, authorized equipment is defined as a flag, rifle or saber with specific characteristics and descriptions outlined beginning on page 76 of the 2009 Color Guard Contest Rule Book which is available through the WGI website (  Air Blades, then, would be considered non-traditional equipment or a prop.

So how will this non-traditional piece of equipment be adjudicated? We asked our friends at WGI.  Here is what Marketing Manager Bart Woodley responded:

“All hand held and manipulated props (non-traditional equipment [such as the Air Blade] are judged as follows:

1.  Equipment judges consider variety, range, layering, timing, accuracy & technique, as well as impact of movement on the ‘equipment.’

2.  Movement judges consider the impact on the body in motion or dance.

3.  EA judges consider the contribution to the composing, layering, texturing, reflection of musical structure.

4.  GE judges consider the contribution the props make to the effect of the program.

In all cases, props are evaluated and credited for accuracy/training just as the authorized/required pieces of equipment.   The difference is that non-traditional equipment is not counted as legal equipment from a timing consideration.”

This is a very important point which should be reiterated…

“Equipment judges are still going to be judging it as they would any other piece of equipment – considering excellence and design, but it won’t be counted by the timing and penalties judge as an official piece of equipment for timing purposes.” (Woodley, Bart. “Air Blade info.” E-mail to editor. 1, December 2008.)

Minimum Equipment Time

For circuits that follow WGI Rules and Regulations, units are given timing guidelines which include a minimum equipment time.  According to section 5.3 of the WGI rulebook; minimum equipment time is 3 ½ minutes, except for regional A groups (3 minutes).  Below is an excerpt from the WGI Rulebook (p78) explaining what constitutes authorized equipment time:

5.3.1 Authorized equipment must be IN HAND to be considered for accumulating authorized equipment time.  (In hand means equipment must be in hand ready to be used, or being used.  EXAMPLE:  Saber hung at side with hand touching is not considered authorized equipment in hand.)
5.3.2 If any color guard member is visible to the adjudicators with authorized equipment in hand, the time counts as authorized equipment time.
5.3.3 A color guard member is considered visible as determined by the timing and penalty adjudicator with a view from the front sideline.

(Winter Guard International. Color Guard Contest Rules 2009. State: WGI, 2009.)

It’s important to check the rulebook for your local circuit to make sure the guidelines are the same.

What does this mean if you’re using the Air Blade?

To avoid penalties, designers and coaches must make sure a minimum of 3 ½ minutes of the show (or 3 minutes in the case of Regional A groups) includes authorized equipment in hand. If the Air Blade is being used at the same time as an authorized piece of equipment (such as a flag or saber) you should be fine.  Just be certain you have at least 3 ½ minutes of flag, saber or rifle work in the show.

If the Air Blade is the only piece of equipment being used on the floor, you’ll want to go back and verify you have 3 ½ additional minutes of authorized equipment time to avoid a penalty.  The time spent with the Air Blade alone on the floor will not count towards your minimum equipment time by the timing and penalties (T & P) judge.

With a little bit of planning, the Air Blade can be a new and fun way to expand your equipment choices and range.  As long as you are aware of the rules and timing restrictions, feel free to explore and create!

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Category: Adjudication, Design, Drill & Staging, Equipment, Floors & Props, General, Performance, Preparation & Travel

About the Author (Author Profile)

Catina Anderson is the founder/editor of the Colorguard Educators blog. Color guard has been part of her life for almost 25 years. She began coaching in 1994 and worked with the Broad Run High School color guard in Northern VA from 1998 until 2010. She has also written for Halftime Magazine and served on the Executive Board of the Atlantic Indoor Association. A former teacher, she enjoys sharing what she has learned and hopes to encourage others to share as well. Together we can create even more positive experiences for performers and help to collectively strengthen marching arts activities worldwide.

Comments (3)

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  1. Ellen Strong says:

    I appreciate the info on this piece of equipment. I am new to color guard and my team is interested in adding some baton twirling to their routine. Does anyone do this? I have not found any information so I am guessing the answer is no. Can anyone address this for me? A direct email would be great.

  2. J says:

    Color guard and baton twirling sort of live in to separate worlds, in my opinion. Sort of like how guard and cheerleading live in separate worlds. Not many groups choose to use batons. Though if you want to see how the two worlds come together look up Amachi Winterguard. Especially on the field batons don’t add much to the visual program. They are just so small. Also, moving across a large space w. a baton is different from a weapon. Good luck.

  3. Stephanie says:

    Thanks so much for the information you’ve taken the time to find out on this piece of equipment. We have a cadet class, and there are still some smaller bodies in there. We love our airblades, and have found that they’re a great tool for helping to develop basic skills with flags (our kids report that its easier to throw a flag after they’ve been successful with the airblade a few times) and rifles (concrete points of reference that everyone understands in such an abundantly visual way has been fantastic for just starting out). Fantastic information to have as we plan for the next season.

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