Longpoint 2019: Your Qs and Our As

Since our first major announcement for Longpoint 2019, we have been tracking the frequently asked questions and discussions. We hope that this post will address some of them. Much of this is still preliminary, and this simply represents the information we are willing to commit to so far.

Why is Longpoint switching fully to meta events?

A major tenet of the Longpoint philosophy has always been that competition pushes people to improve. Focusing competition on a single discipline, such as Longsword sparring, has pushed performance in that discipline, with fighters like Ties Kool and Sergei Kultaev reaching fantastic heights of speed, strength, and technical ability. While I doubt we’re even close to reaching what is possible, we have pushed this particular discipline as far as we’re interested in taking it in isolation.

We’re slowly beginning to see a similar trend in cutting, as a small group of elite cutters starts to push that particular competition format about as far as it needs to go at this particular point in our collective history.

This is why the Longpoint Triathlon has been the true “main event” since we began the practice in 2012. But despite its official position as the main event, all eyes continue to be on individual events—particularly longsword fencing. Such a myopic view of skill does a grand disservice to the rich martial tradition(s) we’re attempting to rebuild. 

Longpoint wants to encourage the development of well-rounded historical European martial artists. Competition is a great tool for encouraging such development, but only in as far as we’re competing in the thing we want to see most improve. That’s why the only “score” that will matter in Longpoint 2019 is your demonstration of your capabilities across one of many configurations of a “well-rounded” historical European martial artist.

Because “well rounded” can mean many things, and because there are many approaches to the Kunst Des Fechtens, we will recognize each of the triathlons/pentathlons at Longpoint 2019 equally. And while we’re interested to see who the best longsword fencer, or cutter, or grappler is, the prizes will only go to those historical European martial artists who perform well in multiple categories.


Doesn’t This Increase the Cost to Get into HEMA? 

There’s a lot to tackle here. Yes, HEMA is already expensive, although significantly less so than most “adult” equipment-based hobbies (e.g., surfing, bicycling, golf, or even re-enactment or Bohurt-style medieval combat groups). Yes, buying your own sharp can be a costly investment (though it needn’t be). Yes, training in three or more disciplines to prepare for an event means more time spent on an already time-intensive hobby.

So yeah, participating in HEMA costs money for equipment and time for competency. The deeper you go—particularly into the competitive scene—or more events you participate in, the more money and time it costs. 

So, looking at Longpoint 2019, where are the additional financial costs if you’re “just a longsword fencer” who will now be competing in 2-4 more events?

Cutting can be practiced in the air with your feder or blunt, and under a good teacher (or with a good book) that’s all you need, so at the most basic levels there’s no additional costs. If you want to cut some tatami to validate your practice you’re looking at about $8 a roll, and many of the best cutters go through fewer than 5 rolls a year outside competition. If you can’t or aren’t willing to borrow an adequate sharp, you can buy a serviceable cutting sword for around $200, provided you’ve sharpened it well. A $1300 sharp is a great investment if you can swing it, but it’s hardly necessary. 

Finally, Longpoint 2019 is working on a plan to provide event-sponsored loaner sharps for the cutting competitions (longswords and a messer/arming sword), though that’s not yet locked in.

Grappling costs nothing extra outside of your training conditions/environment, and while fancy jackets and padded training halls are ideal, the guy writing this article learned to grapple in a US Army blouse (yes, they’re called blouses) on gravel.

Messer Fencing uses all the same gear as Longsword Fencing, plus a messer trainer like Comfort Fencing’s ~$200 model, if you can’t borrow one.

Paired Technique costs nothing but time. 

Horsemanship Skill at Arms is easily the most costly event for a dedicated practitioner, and becoming such would require a lifestyle change for those that aren’t already in it. While we sincerely hope that a handful of dedicated Rossfechters come to show us all how its done, the Longpoint 2019 Horsemanship Skill at Arms competition is absolutely aimed a novice/casual practitioners with a minimal amount of training. Such training will be available a Fechtschule New York 2018 and Longpoint 2019 (before the competition) or at reasonably-priced workshops such as those held by Broken Plow every few months in Pittsburgh. 

The Passage at Arms (Harnischfechten or Armored Combat) is the only event that really will cost a lot more to participate in (unless you can borrow a full harness that happens to fit you). Getting outfitted in low-end but acceptable kit will run at least $3000 and can easily work its way up to $15,000-$20,000 for the hard-core. Time is also a factor, as getting cheap kit can be accomplished in a few months but the expensive custom-made stuff will take a year or longer to produce. For this reason we anticipate a fairly small turnout for this event at Longpoint 2019, roughly on par with the 6-8 contestants we’ve seen at the last three Longpoint Passages at Arms. We hope that this catches on and grows over the next few years. 

In other words, Longpoint 2019 shouldn’t cost you much more to prepare for or compete in than Longpoint 2017 did, particularly if you’ve always competed in multiple events, and provided you don’t decide that this is your year to jump into a custom-made gothic harness.

One final note on this topic—Longpoint is an expensive event to run and, when compared to something like a regional or league tournament, expensive to attend when one takes into account registration, airfare, food, and hotels. We assume a certain level of commitment in all our attendees and we hope that our limited competitive slots (less than 200 total this year) are filled with people who love this stuff as much as we do and who look at this new approach as the answer to their dreams, no matter what their current level of competency in any single discipline. You don’t have to win every event you sign up for, but we hope you love your experience in each of them all the same.


Why are we limiting people to one meta event? What if I want to do one extra thing? 

The limitations are primarily logistical. Feedback and experience from past Longpoints is that people get more excited when we host more events, but are happier in execution when we host fewer. Previous years and Longpoint's exponential growth have meant that staffing crews run more and more ragged while attendees feel stretched thinner and thinner. A big part of this year’s experiment is focus. Pick the triathlon or pentathlon that best captures your imagination or best reflects your training this year, and pick another for 2020. Thanks to a significantly more focused (and less intense) schedule this year, you’ll have much, much more time to spar, play, attend classes, and enjoy those other disciplines that you won’t get to compete in in 2019. 


How are you handling the Longsword Blossfechten event? Will there be tiers? What about Women’s?

We have a lot of work to do to flesh out and test this idea, but our current plan for the Blossfechten events is a modified Swiss Pairs tournament that is initially seeded based on some combination of height and weight. In your starting pool, you will find yourself against people of a relatively similar build. If you perform well, you will be grouped with a mix of greater and greater heights and weights through the rounds. If you do not perform well, you will remain within your general class. 

Due to the lower number of competition slots this coming year, and because we have to fit events into the Meta Event structure, it is unlikely we will run Tiers.

We believe that, if testing goes well, our plan above resolves a subset of the desires for a Women’s event. That said, it does not resolve all of them. If enough women register for the competitions and desire a Women’s event, we will look into hosting one as we have historically done. A Women’s triathlon would simply be Women’s Longsword Blossfechten and mixed Paired Technique / Cutting, as the latter two events do not involve competing directly against men and the scores would count directly towards the Women’s meta event. 


How the heck are the horses going to work?

We will be bringing horses in from Pittsburgh. These are the horses that Broken Plow has been using for seminars over the last year. Although we can look into accommodating personal horses brought to the event, we do not expect anyone to bring one. 

This event is aimed at novices, but will require some experience on a horse for safety reasons. This experience can be gained at one of a few HEMA seminars over the next year hosted by Broken Plow in Pittsburgh or at events around the east coast, other similar seminars, or from personal riding lessons. A significant portion of swinging a sword from a horse is horsemanship, not swordsmanship. 

The competition elements will revolve around riding obstacles and striking targets. There will not be any direct fencing against other riders. We are aiming to create a scoring rubric that focuses on accuracy while using speed for some granularity, similar to how our Cutting competition functions. 


It does not look like I can compete in Longsword and Ringen without opting in for Armored or Horsemanship. What can you do?

We are going to look into resolving this issue, as we want to continue to push Ringen to grow. We are considering either adding another Triathlon meta event that includes Longsword and Ringen, or allowing people to replace one of the events, Cutting or PT, in the main Longsword triathlon with Ringen. 


How are the Meta Events scored?

The Longsword Triathlon has always worked on a scoring rubric that awards a set number of points based on placement in an event. 10 points for 1st, 9 for 2nd, 8 for 3rd, 7 for 4th, 4 for 5th - 8th, 2 for 9th - 16th, and 1 for 16th-32nd. Your total number of points across the three events gave us your Triathlon score, and the highest score won. The new events will follow a similar model, although the specific scoring may change. 

Individual events are going to be made up of people who are participating in different Triathlons or Pentathlons. Points will be awarded based on your placement as a part of the whole, not as a part of your meta event. For instance, if Meta Event 1 Participant gets 1st place in Longsword Blossfechten, and Meta Event 2 Participant gets 2nd place in Longsword Blossfechten, Meta Event 2 Participant will receive the points allocated for 2nd place, not 1st, even though they are the highest scoring person within their meta event. 


You said this event is KDF specific? 

Mostly. Our announcement post specified that we are moving towards a KDF oriented event. It also mentioned that Longpoint’s main organizers are all Early KDF practitioners. This does not mean that the event, however, is moving towards an Early KDF focus… just KDF. Meyer counts. 

We are considering including a few classes from other traditions. 

Longpoint 2019: Event Evolution and Dates


We’ve spent a significant amount of time over the past seven years talking about experimentation. Our blog posts, our website, the event welcome letters, and Jake Norwood’s (excessively) long dinner speeches have all hit on it. Longpoint has tested and executed new rule sets, tournament formats, tournaments, staffing schemes and, what we consider to be our jewel, the introduction of the Longsword Triathlon. Historically, Longpoint has combined this experimentation with massive growth. In eight years, we went from our 30-person Mid-Atlantic HEMA Gathering in a suburban community center in 2010 to hosting over 350 people in one of the largest hotels in downtown Baltimore in 2017. We have pushed for this growth out of a desire to bring the community together and because we see the ability to bring so many together from across the world as an indicator of the community’s health.

Growth has come—as we knew it would—with a few perils. As we grow, we find it more and more difficult to maintain the familial atmosphere that we’ve worked so hard to create at Longpoint. Growth comes with exponentially higher legal and financial risks. It requires significantly more time to organize, and demands input from a larger and larger group of people. It necessitates larger divides between the core staff and our attendees. Finally, and most importantly, all these growth-borne costs have made this less and less fun, both for the organizers and sometimes for the attendees.

Over the years, our goals evolved to meet both the community’s changing scope and our own desires for HEMA internationally. Whereas we once wanted to bring all-things-HEMA together annually, we now feel that HEMA is large and healthy enough that the direct benefits of us doing so are diminishing. Being that the organizers of Longpoint are all early Kunst des Fechtens (KDF) practitioners, the event has always had an undercurrent preference for this, although we may have denied it in the early years. The Longpoint rules were originally developed for a KDF tournament format where specific-to-KDF techniques were to be rewarded; this was replaced with the “Control Point” to make the rules more inclusive. The Paired Technique tournament has never featured anything outside of KDF’s longsword, though we thought eventually it might. We’ve been having serious discussions about focusing the event on KDF exclusively as long ago as 2015, though for many reasons (such as Jake’s love of saber), we held back from doing so.

Our experiments have always meant to promote those things that we felt would do the most good, and so the experimentation continues. It is time to put a plan we’ve been cooking up since at least 2012 into action. We believe we do significantly more good for one tradition than we ever possibly could trying to focus on many. We have spent the last year really exploring what it is that we want to provide, what we want to encourage, and why we want to feature what we have chosen to feature.

So what’s coming? You don’t have to look any further than the fourth couplet of Liechtenauer’s Zettel:

Wrestle well, grappler.

 lance, spear, sword, and knife,

Manfully handle,

 And in others’ hands ruin.

Ringen, horsemanship, the passage at arms, longsword, and, because it’s sexy, messer. This is what our competitions and what a majority of our classes will focus on.

As mentioned above, the Longpoint Triathlon is our jewel. We have been promoting this idea of recognizing well-rounded martial artists over everything else since 2014, awarding our biggest prize, an Albion sharp, to this position every year. We will be massively expanding on this concept alongside our new focus on Liechtenauer’s Kunst des Fechtens. In this way, we hope that we can push the envelope of our understanding of Liechtenauer’s system.

With this, all competition slots will be either Triathlon or Pentathlon slots. We will no longer be allowing participants to pick competitions a la carte. Every participant who wishes to compete will choose one Meta Event (triathlon or pentathlon); no more, no less.

The following is a list of the events that will be featured at Longpoint 2019:

Longsword Blossfechten
Longsword Cutting
Longsword Paired Technique
Messer Blossfechten
Messer Cutting
Passage at Arms
Horsemanship Skill at Arms

All of our Meta Events will comprise of a selection of these events into several different Triathlons and Pentathlons as follows:

Longsword Triathlon - Longsword Blossfechten, Longsword Paired Technique, Longsword Cutting

Messer Triathlon - Messer Blossfechten, Messer Cutting, Ringen

Man-at-Arms’ Triathlon - Passage at Arms, Longsword Blossfechten, Ringen

Light Rider’s Triathlon - Horsemanship Skill at Arms, Messer OR Longsword Blossfechten, Ringen OR Cutting

Knight’s Triathlon - Horsemanship Skill At Arms, Passage At Arms, Longsword Paired Technique

Liechtenauer’s Light Pentathlon  - Longsword Blossfechten, Horsemanship Skill At Arms, Messerfechten, Longsword Cutting OR Messer Cutting, Paired Technique

Liechtenauer’s Heavy Pentathlon - Passage at Arms, Horsemanship Skill At Arms, Longsword Blossfechten, Ringen, Paired Technique

This event paradigm will allow us to significantly change up the normal tournament structures. We will be able to re-focus our tournaments on being tools for training and development rather than a race to dominate a bracket. There will be no winners in individual events—medals and prizes will be awarded to those to perform well in their selected triathlon/pentathlon. By abandoning the bracket for other formats, fencers will be able to focus on their individual fights rather than where those fights are going to put them in the eliminations. For Cutting and Paired Technique, this might even usher in a larger change in feel, as we address the longstanding issue that these competitions quickly pare people out in search of an overall event winner. In the current format, by the third round, judges are essentially deciding who was just a bit more perfect than the others, instead of who failed and who passed. This new system may allow us to have everyone progress as far as they can in Cutting and PT, and then be awarded the appropriate number of points to their Meta Event score.

Longpoint, has always been more than just a competition. We have had the space and time to host more classes than many events with much smaller competitions, especially in this previous year. Our change in scope allows us to better utilize the space available to us, ensuring that competitions are not overlapping in any significant way. This means we have more consistent space for classes and significantly fewer overlaps. The current draft plan for 2019 removes inter-event conflicts almost entirely and should significantly free up time for attendees to attend more classes and free-fence more.

Finally, we fully expect that our change in scope will prompt a reduction in size… so Longpoint 2019 will to return to Turf Valley on March 28th, 2019. The Baltimore Hilton was a great venue. It had a lot of space, it carried with it a lot of accessible amenities both inside and outside the hotel, and was easier to get to. However, the Baltimore Hilton lacks any nearby green space and will not let us ride horses around the ballroom. We also lost something important that we completely failed to recognize in our plans to move. Turf Valley is semi-isolated. It’s hard to go places, especially if you do not have a car. This can be a pain, but it also meant that you could ALWAYS find a large group of people in the lobby. We lost this social aspect in 2017, and we are excited to get it back for 2019.

We understand that this event will be smaller. This event will inherently interest a smaller number of people in the wider HEMA community. However, for the people that this event does excite, we feel that it will be a huge boon. It will be a place for fighters who spend most of their time exploring Liechtenauer’s system, especially those who do not limit themselves to one part of it, to meet and play. It will be a place to exchange more focused ideas. It will allow us to justify hosting much deeper classes. And finally, it will be a lot more fun for everybody.

There are a lot of people who we consider a part of our family who will not be interested in this event, such as the many dedicated rapierists who have attended the last few years. We sincerely thank you for helping to make our event what it was. We also encourage you to organize some events focused on what interests you, if you feel that there is a hole to fill. Reach out to us if you need any advice or help… we’ve learned a lot in the last few years. And if you do come to Longpoint 2019, bring your rapier to spar with other enthusiasts during the increased free-time.

Longpoint will continue to set standards for how an event should be run. We hope to continue to set standards for what to expect from our martial artists. And we hope that you will be able to join us on this new adventure in 2019.

Thanks always,

~The Longpoint Team

The Next Longpoint

It's 10 AM on Sunday morning. Longpoint rages on, with classes, free sparring, and distant friends catching up. You can feel the event  starting to wrap up, with people milling about waiting for classes to start or looking for sparring partners. Last night we experienced the largest and most intense finals we've seen here yet. Jake Norwood then awarded all of our medals, with the Triathlon--the event championship--awarded to Ties Kool, and spent time speaking about the goals of our little event. 

Our goals are based on fidelity to the sources, the practical, physical application of that fidelity in a high pressure environment, and on building and maintaining the family that is our community. We will be spending the next few months (as we have the last few) evaluating how we can continue to meet these goals as the family grows ever larger.

The next Longpoint is currently unscheduled, primarily because we needed to evaluate the new venue and the increased size of the event before planning the next one. Not having next year's date, particularly on Sunday morning, distresses us, as our excitement and drive to plan the next event is highest in the 48 hours after the awards dinner. Early 2018 is too close for us to handle, especially if the event continues to grow, or even if it simply remains the same size. Because we also want to  move the event to a date earlier in the year, we will be shooting for early spring 2019. We are excited to show you what we've been working on.

Thank you for either attending or following the event this year. 

~The Longpoint Crew

Longpoint 2017 Welcome Letter and Packet

Dear Longpoint 2017 Attendees,

As the seventh Longpoint kicks off, I find myself thinking back to why we started this with the 2010 Mid-Atlantic HEMA Gathering. At the time, as a new transplant to the D.C. area, I hoped to start a little annual shindig that would bring local groups into contact with each other. I wanted to build a little community. In 2011 my goals grew a little bit and the event—now the first Longpoint—became a venue to promote the benefits of competition into a community that was just beginning to coalesce around the HEMA Alliance. I loved what I saw competition doing to the physicality of interpretations of the historical treatises. I loved that competition got people to train and work hard to “git gud”. In 2012 we pushed the idea further, introducing the first version of the Longpoint rules, which were meant to use the artificialities of a game to promote fencing behaviors that we, the growing team of organizers, wanted to see in the community. It was also the year that we sought to use competition as a driving force for the development of cutting skill in the longsword community. Triathlons, paired technique, and more was to follow

We accomplished more than I could have hoped for, and the current levels of fencing we see in the US now are, to me at least, a reflection of some of the things we’ve done right in that regard. Competition has done some really great things for the performance and interpretation of the historical masters’ works. But there is so much more to do.

Longpoint this year is huge. Like, stupid huge. The whole scale of the thing is a ridiculous experiment, and to even attempt to pull it off we're doing some things we've never done before: tiers (which is how we're handling the staffing problem of the largest longsword tournament evar) and a new approach to secondary tournaments (which is how we can have weapons other than longsword). These experiments are attempts at meeting scale. We've tested them in the leagues or other venues. We're confident they'll work, and we know you all will help them to work. You're great that way.

What may not be as obvious is that there's another, existential-level experiment going on right now. You’ll see it reflected in our triathlon. You'll see it in many of our awesome instructors’ classes and lectures. I also hope that you see it in our possibly insane experiment of continuous action hybrid point/gestalt rules for messer, singlestick, and sword & buckler competitions…an attempt to promoting a different set of behaviors than what standard Longpoint rules (or other common rules) do.

But if all those little experiments failed, I’d be okay—disappointed, sure—but okay. If the primary experiment fails—if we lose the soul of our martial arts to the very competition which has served them so well these past seven years…I don't think I could bear it.

So help me celebrate the good of what we can accomplish for our martial arts and for our community this year. And carry that positive influence into all your training in the year to come. We’ve got folks betting against us, after all. Prove them wrong with me. It’s like a competition, but for the promotion of the “martial” in Historical European Martial Arts. That’s what Longpoint is about.

Jake Norwood
Alexandria, Virginia
June 2017

The Longpoint 2017 Welcome Packet can be found by clicking on this line.

Longpoint Planning: Dimensions in Time, Space, and Length

Real Dimensions in Time and Space

Click on this image to enlarge it.

Both Jake Norwood and Ben Michels have mentioned in posts on Facebook and the Longpoint blog alluding to the fact that, this year, Longpoint is not only expanding the tournaments, but also significantly expanding the space for NON-tournament activities. So, let's take a look at our current floorplan.

Of perhaps minor, but somewhat important, note: the bathroom facilities immediately available around the Ballroom are much larger than those at Turf Valley. In fact, there are two separate banks of restrooms (one at each corner of the hall).

The Lobby/Foyer area alone is multiple times larger. Turf Valley had a Hallway about 130’ x 15’. The Baltimore Hilton Ballroom has a Foyer which wraps three sides of the Ballroom, and totals over 400’ in length, with a varying width that allows for areas to be dedicated to some specific purposes. We will have a dedicated Gear-Stowage hallway, an area for Vendors larger than last year, and at least one set of tables dedicated to break/rest/snacking. In addition, the widest section will allow us to place Free-sparring circles, that will be available throughout the whole event, in front of the Bay windows which look out over the ballpark across the street.

At LP 2016, the Cameo Ballroom, in which most of the classes were held, was 85’ x 53’. Most of the schedule included two classes at a time in that space. Our projected Classroom space at the Baltimore Hilton for 2017 is comprised of a space which measures 126’ x 50’. In that space this year, we are tentatively planning to separate into three classrooms (one larger, two smaller).

In 2016, there were no classes scheduled for Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, 15 hours of class-time was scheduled between the two halves of the ballroom. Sunday was mostly dedicated to classes and free sparring, with 18 hours of classes scheduled. In total, across the whole event, we had 33 hours of classes, with a non-tournament to tournament ratio of about 3 to 5.

This year, we have space to run classes on Thursday, and more space every other day. Because of this, and because of the larger space we have available, we are certain that there will be AT LEAST 100 hours of available non-tournament time throughout Longpoint 2017. If you come for classes or similar this year, you can find yourself with less ‘down’-time, and far more from which to choose than ever before. Our schedule at the moment, found here, does a good job of displaying just how much space we have to fill. Our non-tournament to tournament schedule this year is just about 1 to 1, not including our dedicated free sparring circles.

Finally, the hotel lobby bar is much larger, and no further than was previously the case. The hotel is surrounded by bars, restaurants, and lounges, improving upon our social opportunities of previous years. 

Go Long

The overall scheduling of Longpoint every year is a complex trade-off between various resources. Obviously, the amount of space we have is a constraining factor. More important in many ways is the number of volunteers, and the amount of time they have, or are willing to lend to us. Many of our volunteers work long, but reaonable, hours on top of the amount of time they want to actually participate in Longpoint.

Every year, the scheduling directors of Longpoint work hard to try and pack in as much of an event into the time we have. Our intention is for everyone to get the amount of fighting, learning, and general revelry they want out of the weekend. We want everyone to feel they got their money’s worth. 

Right now, our size – the size of the tournaments, the number of classes – is designed with a specific length-of-day built into the event schedule. It’s already long. Last year, for example, Friday had TEN HOURS of consecutive Longsword fighting, and the Passage at Arms after that. The fighting rings were busy from 0800 to 2030 . That’s a long day. There is a high burn-out factor already. And we are anticipating using the same or similar schedule this year, but with double the amount of rings.

Go Large

One way or another, this depends on you, the participants in Longpoint, to be a part of making this event what you want it to be. The stronger and larger our community that attends and helps out, the better the whole thing becomes for everyone. The earlier everyone registers, the earlier we know how many people are really going to attend, the better our planning becomes, and the more we can offer, now and in the future.

So, register and put yourself on the waiting lists for tournaments, if that’s a goal for yourself. If that is not your only goal, register early, and we promise that, for everyone, there will be more and better classes, free sparring, and general fun than we’ve ever had before. Class announcements will be coming shortly.


Longpoint Registration: Forward from the Frenzy

I just went back and reviewed the posts from 2015 and 2016 that were similar to this. In 2015, I was forced to make this post about 8 days after registration opened, with a cap on Open Longsword of around 65, and the caps hadn't even been hit yet. They were just closing in. In 2016, this post came 3 days after registration, about 24 hours after almost everything had sold out. It's 3:15 right now as I start to write this. Registration opened 3 hours and 15 minutes ago. The only tournament with slots left are Tier A Longsword and Women's Longsword, two events with strict entrance requirements.

So, let's go few our next steps and what else is coming down the pipe.

Tournament Capacity

This has become our most consistent, most visible challenge. This year, we almost flat out doubled our tournament capacity. We estimated that this meant registration for the tournaments would last at least as long as last year. But while we increased tournament capacity by 100%, registration went at least 1000% faster.

Usually, we are able to release an attendance sheet by the end of the first day, even with an initial surge of registrations. However, it looks like there might be almost as many people registered for the event in 3 hours as we had total at Longpoint 2016. It will take us a few days, maybe a week, to work through all of this. Once we do, we will have some updates. Sit tight.

What you should know is that there are always registration errors. If you are interested in an event, email fightlongpoint@gmail.com to be put on the wait list. As we work through and resolve registration errors, spots will open up, and they will be offered to the next person on the list. People who are registered for the event have priority over those who are not registered for the event on the wait list. If you have sent an email already, you will not lose your spot, but you might by the end of the week if you are not registered for the event.

As we do every year, we will be exploring possibilities for expansion. As we say every year, there's no guarantee on this. It requires larger staffing solutions, more space, and more time. This would not happen for a few months.


It's Not All About The Tournaments

With all that said, Longpoint has never been a fully competitive event. It gets the most press, and it is the cause of these initial surges of interest, but the reasons to attend Longpoint are many. Over the next couple months, we will be announcing instructors and their classes. We will be fleshing out the schedule, which includes space for sparring 24/7, no matter what is going on, as well as themed sparring times to get practitioners together with a plan at a given time. Socially, Longpoint is hard to beat; you will meet, talk to, and drink with more of the nationally and internationally recognizable names than at any other event in the western hemisphere.

Keep an eye on the Longpoint pages to keep up to date with this information.


In Conclusion

As I wrote above, we will need some time to process this. We will have an update within a week. If you have any questions, notes about registration mistakes, would like to be put on a waiting list, or anything else, email fightlongpoint@gmail.com. The tasks will be worked through in order, and your part of that list will be reached. We will be in touch with all of you soon.

Ben Michels
Longpoint Director


Longpoint 2017 Registration is Open!

Longpoint 2017 Registration is open! Click on over to the Registration page to sign up!

Pre-emptive FAQ

1. Are there limits on what I may sign up for?

Yes. Registrants may only sign up for one Longsword division, choosing between RTT, Women's, Open Tier A, or Open Tier B. Please see this blog post for requirements to enter each of these divisions. Additionally, registrants may not sign up for more than one Auxiliary tournament, which includes Rapier & Dagger, Sword & Buckler, Messer, and Singlestick. Cutting, Paired Technique, and Ringen do not have any restrictions beyond caps.

Please make sure that you add the tournament registrations to your cart that match what you select during the main registration form. When slots fill up, they are full. If you do not complete all parts of the registration, we may not be able to fix the issue.

2. Where do I go to get questions answered?

All Longpoint questions, comments, or complaints that need to be addressed should be sent to fightlongpoint@gmail.com. Many of you know the organizers personally, but please do not send these through any other means, including Facebook, texts, or personal emails. Items sent through other means are difficult to track and deal with. Email us.

3. I want to staff. How does staffing work?

A staffing section is included in the registration form. Complete it as appropriate.

Our staffing scheme will remain the same as last year. Staff will register as normal, and then be reimbursed $10/hour worked within two weeks after the event. This was very successful last year in accurately reimbursing people, and allows us to better select the staff that we can actually use where we need them.

4. I really want to go to Longpoint, but I can't afford to pay the registration fees up front. Do I have any options?

We still have the ability to offer discounts up front, but it comes with additional conditions and restrictions. Email fightlongpoint@gmail.com.

5. When will rules and equipment standards be posted?

We will post draft rules, updated approved sword lists, and equipment standards by February 21st.  However, none of these will be significantly different than 2016's.

Please note that Singlestick will be a low-gear event. It will have a maximum allowed gear standard as well as a minimum.

6. What is the best way to reserve a room for the event?

Our Venue page contains all of the important information for our hotel, our training space, and travel arrangements. Hotel reservations may be made through the direct link online or by calling the hotel and asking for the Longpoint block.

. Help! The tournament I want is full!

Email fightlongpoint@gmail.com to ask to be put on the waiting list.

Longpoint 2017 Preview: Tiers, Sword Length, and One Day from Registration

Registration for Longpoint 2017 opens tomorrow. On the eve of opening the highest registration caps we’ve ever managed, I wanted to put down some of our thoughts about why we’re doing what we’re doing, and maybe a little about where we’re going with it.

About those Tiers of our Enemies...

No aspect of Longpoint has grown more than its tournament scene. Every year we’ve added more slots, more events, or both. It’s easy--in that haze of competition and games--to lose focus on what motivates Longpoint as an event, from the rules we use to the events we host. Most of our thoughts on the role of the Longpoint rules and why the Triathlon is the competitive core of the event can be found here and here. In a nutshell, we want to push the boundaries of the modern application of historical technique, in form, spirit, and practice, so that should the ancient masters walk in on us, they’d look past the black knickers and stripey socks to say, “Yeah, that looks about right.”

We don’t see competition and the medals that come at the top of it as the culmination of the art; they’re just tools and motivators, getting us out of bed and into the training hall. Better competitions and better competitors force us to train harder, evaluate our interpretations more critically, and to improve year over year.

They’re also a ton of fun. So much so, in fact, that not only have the last several years sold out, but 2016’s longsword tournament sold out in just about 24 hours. That left a lot of people out that we wanted in, and we promised to expand for 2017. So, we’ve expanded the open longsword tournament to 160 fighters, split between Tier A and Tier B, the ladies’ to 40, and the the Rookie Training Tournament to 36. Part of what’s made this possible is our move to the Baltimore Downtown Hilton, by the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards, which more than doubles the amount of space we’ve had for the last several years.

Space alone, however, doesn’t make a 160-fighter tournament possible. The greatest hurdle for running large competitions isn’t space or time, but staff. How do we get the requisite 130-plus judges, directors, and table staff necessary to pull such a thing off? This is where Saturday’s post about tournament tiers comes in. Switching to tiers within in the open longsword, effectively splitting it into two tournaments, isn’t about some added layer of sportification; it was the only way to gin up enough qualified judges for a 160-fighter longsword tournament.

It works like this: because Longpoint has always endeavored to be the community’s “most professional” competitive venue, we’ve consistently shied away from allowing competitors to judge any event they are competing in, either through self-judging or by judging a different pool in the same tournament. The latter practice is common throughout the Longpoint Historical Fencing League and other regional events, but has never been welcome at Longpoint prime. Now, when combined with the understanding that all competitors are also de facto potential (nay, probable) tournament staffers, Longsword judges for Tier A can be pulled from Tier B, and for Tier B from Tier A--all without any competitor ever having the opportunity or temptation to influence the outcome of his or her own tournament.

Auxiliary Tournaments

For the past few years we’ve rotated through Sword and Buckler, Messer, Saber, Singlestick, and Rapier as our second (and sometimes third) fencing tournament. For 2017, based on the success (and fun) of the highly informal Longpoint 2016 Saber Invitational, we’ll be running four auxiliary tournaments at Longpoint this year: Sword and Buckler, Rapier, Messer, and Singlestick. Registrants will be able to register for one, and registering automatically enrolls each competitor as a judge or staffer for one of the other events. As this is our first year doing this, the enrollment caps will be somewhat lower than our rotating tournament caps in previous years, but we anticipate these to grow with time and resources over the next few events if all goes well.

Focused Open Fencing, Sparring, Free Play, Bouting, or Whatever You Call It

On Sunday, in addition to generic open sparring times throughout the weekend, we’ll be designating certain times and places for enthusiasts of different weapon types to come together for unstructured free play. For example, there will be a saber focused block, a staff/spear focused block, a rapier focused block, plus sidesword, messer, montante, and whatever else we can fit in. The idea is that if you’ve got something other than a longsword and you want to come fence with it, we’ll tell you when and where to be so that you’re not alone. We’ll also make sure that longsword fencers have a chance to go toe-to-to with those they didn’t manage to face in the open.


This year will also be Longpoint’s most ambitious class and lecture schedule yet. In addition to bringing back several regulars, we’re pulling in new faces. Already-confirmed instructors/lecturers include Christoph Amberger, Francesco Loda, Kristian Ruokonen, Michael Chidester, Cory Winslow, and Tristan Zukowski. We will also be pulling a number of instructors from our open call for class submissions that went out a few weeks ago, something new to Longpoint that I’m very excited about. Interested parties should note that the open call for submission ends at midnight Eastern Standard Time on registration day, Tuesday, January 10th.

One More Thing...

I don’t really know where else to put this, so think of this as a heads-up. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be revising our equipment standards based on the growth of new equipment options and our observations on safety and performance of said equipment. Our goal is to keep as many options open to our fencers as possible without allowing equipment that is less safe or otherwise unacceptable when compared to the community/industry standard. These changes will be announced in a future blog post.

Some of these changes--mostly minor ones--will be in effect for Longpoint 2017 (particularly those that apply to the safety of our fighters). Others will be applied in 2018 or even 2019, such as eventual standardized minimum and maximum measurements for competitive weaponry (feders, etc.). While less restrictive standards may be published for 2017 (any standard models of approved brands will be allowed as in previous years), we recognize that a small number of fencers may need to procure new equipment (generally shorter swords) for 2018 or 2019. We’ll let you know as soon as we have all the information necessary to make the best decision for the event.

In Closing

Longpoint 2017 will be our most ambitious year by about double up from anything we’ve done before. As the event grows our priorities will always be to the arts we practice and the community that we serve, allowing us to grow and stay intimate simultaneously. We’re very much looking forward to having you come and grow with us, and I hope to see tournament registration last at least 48 hours this time...

Queue up! Registration for Longpoint 2017 opens here at 12:00 PM EST, tomorrow, Tuesday, January 10, 2017.


~Jake Norwood

Longpoint Director, President

Longpoint 2017 - Tiers of Our Enemies

Since Longpoint's inception, we have gradually expanded the scope of our events. Longpoint started with Open Longsword, and we quickly added the Women's Longsword division to meet a demand. In 2015, we added the Rookie Training Tournament to give newer fencers or those simply inexperienced in competition a place to get some valuable training. This year, we are splitting Open Longsword into Tier A and Tier B divisions. A post will be following shortly over the next few days that will include our thoughts on this decision, among many other things. This post simply documents the requirements to enter any of the Longsword divisions.

Remember, registration opens on Tuesday at noon! We have 100 slots allocated to Tier B, 60 to Tier A, 40 to Women's, and 36 to the Rookie Training Tournament.

Longpoint Longsword Tournament Division Qualification

This document exists to make known the full qualification standards for each of the Longpoint longsword divisions. The document will flow from most strict to least strict tournament based on qualifications.

Rookie Training Tournament


  • The fighter may not have participated in the Rookie Training Tournament in a previous year.
  • The fighter may not have progressed out of the qualifying phase (pools or other early rounds) of any regional or greater longsword tournament.

A regional tournament is defined as a tournament with 20 or more fighters made up of at least 50% of fighters from differing schools or clubs.


The Rookie Training Tournament at Longpoint exists as an entry point for those with no or less experience in HEMA longsword tournaments to participate without being overwhelmed. This event is not necessarily a beginner tournament, although it’s usually approached that way, but is an event geared towards easing someone into the pressures of both truly oppositional fencing and judging through coaching and a pseudo-tournament approach.


Women’s Longsword


  • All female fighters are eligible to compete in the Women’s Longsword competition.
  • Longpoint defers to the International Olympic Committee rules, as of 11/2015, in regards to transgender fighters participating in the women’s longsword division. Those who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in the female category on condition of providing proof of compliance with the IOC rules.


The Women’s Longsword tournament at Longpoint exists for two reasons; because there is demand for it and to provide a space for women who prefer to compete against other women, whether currently or forever, the opportunity to do so.


Tier A Longsword


The following documents qualifying placements for Longpoint’s Tier A Longsword tournament:

  • Any placement within the top 16 of Longpoint’s or Swordfish’s Steel Open Longsword Tournament within 2014 or later.
    • After 2017, only the top 8 placements at Longpoint’s Tier B will count as qualifying placements. This ensures that we do not pull too many less experienced fighters out of Tier B. Top 16 is necessary for the first year to populate the division.
  • Any placement within the top 8 of any regional or greater steel longsword event with over 50 participants within 2014 or later.
  • Any placement within the top 4 of any regional or greater steel longsword event with over 30 participants within 2014 or later.
  • Any placement within the top 2 of any regional or greater steel longsword event with over 20 participants within 2014 or later.

A regional tournament is defined as a tournament with 20 or more fighters made up of at least 50% of fighters from differing schools or clubs.

Open, Women's, and Advanced tournaments are all capable of qualifying fighters for Tier A if they fit into the bullet points above. Rookie or Beginner tournaments and Nylon/Synthetic tournaments do not apply. The participant limits apply to the fighters within any given division, not all longsword fighters at an event with multiple divisions.

Note that exceptions exist for the requirements. The Longpoint event organizers reserve the right to refuse or accept anyone’s qualifications. For example:

  • If a highly experienced fighter takes a few years off from competition, they may request to be allowed into Tier A without recent qualifications and the request may be granted.
  • Some events, despite fitting into the rough guidelines above, may not qualify. For example, Broken Plow hosts Broken Point and Blood On The River on opposite ends of the year. Broken Point is a 50 person, standard pools to elims tournament and would qualify for top 8. Blood On The River is a 50 person tournament as well, with many of the same fighters, but a majority of the tournament is unjudged, undirected, and conducted at the discretion of the fighters, with only a judged 8 person bracket tacked on to the end. Blood On The River may only qualify for top 4, if at all.

What follows is who may or must register for the Tier A tournament:

  • Any fighter with only one qualifying placement within 2014 or later may choose to participate in the Tier A or Tier B event.
  • Any fighter with two or more qualifying placements within 2014 or later MUST participate in the Tier A event over the Tier B event.

The may/must rules above allow fighters who exist in the murky gray area between Tier B and Tier A to self-rate and place themselves where they feel they should be while also not allowing those who have demonstrated they belong in Tier A to participate in Tier B.

Note that women with two or more qualifying placements may still choose to participate in the Women’s tournament instead of Tier A. These may/must rules only apply when attempting to register for the mixed gender events.


Longpoint’s new Tiered tournaments exist to provide a space for both more experienced fighters and less experienced fighters to fight against people closer to their own skill level, on top of the Rookie Training Tournament that already exists. They will also allow us to continue to follow our self-imposed rule of not allowing fighters who participate in any given tournament to also officiate that tournament, splitting up our staffing opportunities between multiple events.


Tier B Longsword


  • A fighter must not have two or more qualifying Tier A placements to participate in this event.
  • This event is otherwise open.

On The Training Of Judges In HEMA

Judging in HEMA tournaments is problematic. I think everyone can agree on that. It's been getting better over the past few years, partly because our group of good judges is slowly growing and partly because many events are adopting simplified formats that make the job easier, but it's far from a state that anyone would be happy about.

Stuff to Read

There have been a number of attempts to address this problem head-on; the IGX organizers launched the aborted New England Judges Training Initiative two years ago, and a few other programs have been developed by other parties and may launch soon. But ultimately, a top-down approach to training judges is not going to solve our problems as quickly as we need. Training judges takes a lot of time, and bringing people together to be trained in person (especially on a regional or national level) also takes a lot of money. So while I wish those programs success, and I look forward to the day when there's a judging curriculum and certification program recognized across the tournament community, for now let's talk about what we can do today.

 I'm the guy in the white vest that you sometimes see photobombing the fencers you're trying to take a picture of.

I'm the guy in the white vest that you sometimes see photobombing the fencers you're trying to take a picture of.

Even though it's been years since I fought in a tournament, I've been participating in the HEMA tournament 'scene' on an ongoing basis for quite a while now, and I've served as a judge, referee, and director at events around the country. I'm not the best judge in our community, but I've worked with the best judges and learned a few things about what makes them effective. Based on that, I believe that great judges (like great fighters) are built at their local clubs, not in the thick of things at tournaments.

Ultimately, when we talk about training judges we're talking about two (related) things: training a judge's eye, and training a judge's memory. A judge needs to be able to watch a fight and understand exactly what he's seeing, down to a high level of detail, and then needs to be able to hold that understanding in mind until the time comes to make a call. That's it really; everything else is just paperwork. And these are both skills that can be developed and sharpened every day, no matter the size and skill level of your club.

Stuff to Do

Below, I will outline three different activities, each with a different scale and difficulty level, that you can build into your HEMA training in order to improve yourself and the members of your club as judges. (I had more than three, but ultimately the others were just variations on these.) If you have ideas that aren't covered here, feel free to post them i the comments so we can maintain this article as a living reference.

1) Judged Free Play

Venue: Any
Participants: 3-5
Difficulty Level: Beginner
Time: As desired
Frequency: As desired

Every club tends to include structured or unstructured free-play in at least some of their training sessions. For many HEMA fighters this is their favorite part of training. The general format is that fighters break when they believe that a strike has landed and then one fighter acknowledges the hit (or the other fighter waves it off and motions to continue). This is HEMA 101, and should sound familiar to everyone.

This activity provides a great opportunity for basic judge training. Break everyone into groups of three instead of pairs, and the one not fighting will act as 'judge' for the match. The fighters still stop and start their own action, but before the hit is acknowledged the judge has to call out what he thinks he saw. The fighters then compare it to their idea of what happened, and action resumes. It's generally a good idea to group people by similar experience level, so that the judge has the best chance of being able to follow the action.

Be careful in this activity to not get bogged down in conversation-- the focus should be on fighting for the fighters and watching for the judge, so keep talking to a minimum. Also keep in mind that fighters don't always realize when and where they hit or are hit, so in the case of disagreement between judge and fighters, simply move on.

Coached Free-Play: As I said above, the skills that make a good judge are also important for coaches. So a variant of this exercise is to use a group of four or five. Two will still fight, but two others have the responsibility of 'cornering' for the fighters and offering feedback after each exchange. This is especially good in structured free-play when the fighters have definite objectives they're trying to achieve. A group of four only has the two coaches (who continue trying to call the action after each exchange, as above), whereas a group of five also has a judge in the middle who is only watching and making calls.

2) Group Training

Venue: Club
Participants: 5-20
Difficulty Level: Beginner
Time: 30-60 minutes
Frequency: Monthly to quarterly

This is the type of training activity that is sometimes scheduled for judges in the beginning of events, but it is much more useful when conducted intermittently at home. Generally you want to set aside a discreet block of time (30-60 minutes) for this during a practice session. You should also mark off a ring.

Two fighters gear up and fence under quasi-tournament conditions, while all other participants act as judges. After each exchange, the judges should compare calls and have a conference if there is any disagreement. Once the exchange has been analyzed to the judges' satisfaction, the fight will resume again. If desired, the person conducting the event can give the fighters occasional secret instructions on ways to fence to further test the judges' perception.

Where the first format was about gaining experience in watching fights, this focuses on understanding them. Judges who saw different things should walk through the exchange and try to understand what happened and why their perspectives only showed them part of the action. If judges disagree about details (such as edge vs. flat), that should be discussed as well. If video equipment is available, that can also be used to replay the fight during the conversation. (This being 2016, we can even have every participant pull out a phone or tablet and take video from their perspective, to see how it matches their memory.)

This was the primary format that we used in the New England Judge Training series, and it worked very well for identifying exactly what mistakes judges consistently made and what situations were consistently hard to judge. If you're planning to devote an entire practice session to training judges, then this format can be used as the intensive training phase in the first hour, and afterward everyone can break up into groups of three or five and spend the next half hour or hour engaging in judged sparring as described above to practice further.

3) Judge Training Tournament

Venue: Multi-club gathering
Participants: 10+
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Time: 2-4 hours
Frequency: Quarterly to semiannually

This is a format that was formalized as part of the Longpoint program for the first time in 2016, though it's intuitive enough that we may not be the first to try it. The format is essentially a full mock-tournament, and can be implemented at regional sparring camps or other gatherings. Because of the amount of fighting involved, this is also a good way for a large club or group of clubs to train all of their personnel for an upcoming tournament (I would love it if non-competitors began feeling like staff roles were a thing to train up for in advance of an event).

The participants should divide into teams of four to five fighters each. During each hour of the event, one team will fight a full card of pool matches while the other team staffs the ring-- one acting as director and the rest as judges. These matches should be conducted under tournament conditions for both fighters and staff; the actual ruleset used is less important, but to avoid the rules being an impediment to the training it's good to use of the simpler rulesets (such as Nordic Rules or the forthcoming Longpoint Basic).

Throughout these matches, the team members not fighting should be acting as coaches in the corners of those who are, and likewise the team staffing should rotate through positions (unless one has a reason to specifically train as a director the whole time). After all of the pools have concluded, it's always fun to put together a small bracket-- such as the top 1-2 fighters from each pool-- and train fighters and judges in how that part of a tournament plays out.

Between each round, take ten minutes to debrief. The fighters should talk to their coaches and get feedback. The judges should talk to each other and compare notes about things that worked and problems they ran into. This feedback will make the training event twice as effective.

Alternately, instead of pool fights you can organize this as a team vs. team event, in which each fighter fights all members of the opposing team while a third one staffs (keep in mind for scheduling that all three teams need to cycle through the positions, so this takes will take a minimum of three hours). This variant is good if several different clubs are present, so that each can form a separate team and fight people they don't often see. The Longpoint Rookie Training Tournament is structured this way, and event instructors are recruited to act as team captains to coach a team of rookies through their fights and direct the ring when their rookies are staffing.


Ultimately, training judging needs to become a part of the rhythm of our community, just as training fencing is. It's a skill that is built up through hours and hours of practice over the course of months and years. It's also a skill that is perishable, and needs to be used frequently to be maintained. If you're in the thick of tournament season, staffing an event every few weeks, then that's probably enough, but during the long droughts it's important to continue training and developing.

As I said above, these are just three ideas that have been tested by various groups and seen a lot of success. If you have other ideas, sound off in the comments!

 All images © 2016 Véronique McMillan

All images © 2016 Véronique McMillan

Longpoint Is Coming

It is December. We are within the period where, at least over the last few years, we open registration for the next year's event. When we originally decided to open registration in December, we had visions of HEMA-significant-others registering their sword-swinging partners for Christmas. However, due to the severe shortening of time in which tournament slots remain open, this is no longer a stable vision. We will be moving registration to January. Registration will open on January 10th at noon, EST, for our July 6th - 9th event.

We do have some information to share, though!

 401 West Pratt Street Baltimore, Maryland, 21201

401 West Pratt Street
Baltimore, Maryland, 21201

The Hilton Baltimore

We have a new fencing hall and hotel this year. We outgrew Turf Valley in 2014, and were contracted through 2015. With 25,000 sq feet of ballroom space and 19,000 sq feet of lobby space at the Hilton, we have over double the space to expand into.  With plenty of bars and restaurants within walking distance, we've solved the food isolation problem we've had. With direct service from the airport to the venue using the light rail, we've solved the transportation problem. And with exponentially more hotel room space in and nearby, we've solved the sleeping space problem. This is a big move for us, but it is a very good move. Baltimore's Inner Harbor is a fantastic location to hold an event like ours.


Here is a list of the events we are planning to run in 2017:

  •  Longsword - Tier 1, Tier 2, Rookie, and Women's
  • Cutting - Advanced, Intermediate, and Beginner
  • Paired Technique
  • Ringen - 5 weight classes
  • Passage At Arms
  • Rapier & Dagger
  • Sword & Buckler
  • Messer
  • Singlestick - Light gear

We potentially have space for, across the 4 Longsword events, 236 fighters. With the addition of the Tier 1 tournament, split out from the Open (now Tier 2), we have three tiers of mixed competition for the longsword. The admittance for the Rookie Training Tournament will remain the same as previous years; you can't have participated in it before and you can't have made it out of pools in any other regional or larger tournament. Registration rules for Tier 1 will be released before registration goes live, but will be based on prior tournament placements or demonstrable experience. This means that we should see some more new faces at the top of the formerly Open bracket, and the more experienced fighters will have to fight even harder to get to those same slots in their own, new bracket.

Classes and Workshops

We are currently working on inviting instructors from around the world, but we have more class space this year than we've ever had before. Within a week, we will be posting a form for instructors who would like to submit a class to Longpoint. This will help us fill out our class offerings, and put classes in front of us that we may be ignorant of. If you have a favorite instructor, encourage them to complete this form!

As 2017 looms closer, we are preparing for another busy season of planning and execution. We hope that you'll join us again, or for the first time, this year. If it IS your first time, as Jake Norwood asks at the opening ceremony each year, "Where have you guys been!?"

Longpoint 2016 Post-Event Wrap-up

 Maestro Francesco Loda and Tim Kaufman in the Rapier and Dagger finals. We saw a lot of Tim this weekend...

Maestro Francesco Loda and Tim Kaufman in the Rapier and Dagger finals. We saw a lot of Tim this weekend...

 Paired Technique competition winners, from third to first: Dustin Reagan & Ben Floyd, Ben Strickling & Casper Anderson, Arto Fama & Ties Kool

Paired Technique competition winners, from third to first: Dustin Reagan & Ben Floyd, Ben Strickling & Casper Anderson, Arto Fama & Ties Kool

It’s been nearly a month since we closed to book on Longpoint 2016. It seems trite, six years in, to say, “2016 was our best Longpoint ever,” but...Longpoint 2016 was our best Longpoint ever.

It’s encouraging to me (thrilling, even) to feel like that’s true for the second year in a row. So, given that I’m in a self-congratulating mood, what are we congratulating ourselves for?

Behind the Scenes

 Emma Graf and Jazzy Bucci... consummate professionals

Emma Graf and Jazzy Bucci... consummate professionals

The biggest impact came from some internal stuff that we changed between this year and last. Instead of quilting together judging teams based on availability, we pre-built director/judge teams that worked together throughout the weekend. They trained together, competed in the staff training tournament together, and then judged together as a cohesive unit for the rest of the weekend. As a result, judges were happier and more alert, directors were able to make course corrections that actually stuck, and fighters complained less and complimented judging quality more than any previous year. Still not perfect (HEMA gods forbid!), but the difference was tangible. 

Longpoint, though known for its competitions, is a hybrid competitive/workshop event. This year we put more money and planning into bringing out in-demand instructors and gave each of them two classes so that double-booked participants didn’t have to miss out just because the instructor they wanted to see was scheduled at the same time that they were staffing or fighting. We added two more lecturers, as well. Class attendance went up by an estimated 50% and participants reported that the experience of making classes and competitions was less stressful this year.

 Rookie Training Tournament Coach Ties Kool instructs his team to act as judges. Each Rookie Team fights two rounds and staffs one, getting to experience longsword competition from both perspectives.

Rookie Training Tournament Coach Ties Kool instructs his team to act as judges. Each Rookie Team fights two rounds and staffs one, getting to experience longsword competition from both perspectives.

On the Media front, we really engaged with Facebook and Twitter, issuing real-time updates all weekend. Standings and scores were published online right away, and our media chief Dave Kaufman streamed about ten hours of the event live on our Facebook page. The weekend live streams saw over 15,000 unique viewers, including 1,700 unique viewers during the finals. Add the roughly 50 participants and staff and the over 250 members of the Turf Valley audience and we estimate about 2,000 people watched the finals live. And then, totally independent of Longpoint itself, Jayson Barrons (our new HEMA Alliance President) saw to the recording of basically every single match all weekend.

Finally, our sponsors (and sponsorship director Tim Kaufman) really came through this year with the most and best prizes and support of any year so far. They all deserve mention, but above all stand Purpleheart Armory, which supplied the custom directors staves, the fancy new competition rings, and many of the trophies and medals; and Albion Swords, which provided one of their beautiful sharps for the triathlon winner for the fourth year in a row. Our other generous sponsors included Baltimore Knife and Sword, Black Horse Blades, Swords.cz (Pavel Moc), Arms & Armor, Castille Armory, Danelli Armories, SPES USA, St. Mark, Sparring Gloves, PBT Historical Fencing, Wiktenauer, and the HEMA Alliance. It’s the most we’ve had in any single year, and it really made a difference.

Stuff We Did Again, and We Do It Well

 The Longpoint Historical Fencing League top eight: (left to right) Josh Parise, Mike Edelson, Travis Mayott, Dave Kaufman, Toby Hall, Jake Norwood, Kristian Ruokonen, and Tim Kaufman. We take no responsibility for Dave.

The Longpoint Historical Fencing League top eight: (left to right) Josh Parise, Mike Edelson, Travis Mayott, Dave Kaufman, Toby Hall, Jake Norwood, Kristian Ruokonen, and Tim Kaufman. We take no responsibility for Dave.

We ran on schedule this year, in keeping with (most) previous years. Only one or two blips (ahem, grappling finals, ahem) marring our Swiss-watch-like performance. The lion’s share of thanks for that goes to our staff director, Emma Graf, our event/logistics director Ben Michels, our lead ring boss, Jazzy Bucci, our tournament managers (Edelson, Cotter-Reilly, Winslow, Grandy, Bahnick, Runacres, Kool, Norwood), and our directors (Edelson, Widegren, Petterson, Chidester, Parise, Grandy).

The Rookie Training Tournament, one of our major innovations from last year, was an even larger success in its second year. The quality of rookie is going up year to year, for which I credit not our “celebrity coaches” (Petterson, Ruokonen, Strickling, Kool, Edelson, Norwood) but rather all of the regular coaches and instructors out there doing better and better training every year. Beyond just that, the Rookie Training Tournament is just plain fun for everyone, and we look forward to offering more opportunities for rookies through both Longpoint and the Longpoint Historical Fencing League over the next few years.

 Veronique McMillan sporting the Longpoint staff patch. Veronique also took all of the photos in this post.  Click here to see her whole collection of Longpoint 2016 photos.

Veronique McMillan sporting the Longpoint staff patch. Veronique also took all of the photos in this post. Click here to see her whole collection of Longpoint 2016 photos.

And then there’s this: we ran a huge tournament, again. It was our biggest year ever with 250 registered from 12 nations. No other HEMA event anywhere in the world matches Longpoint for scope, size, and complexity, though some might in one or two of those categories. We hosted 18 different competitions or divisions this year, including four longsword events, five Grappling divisions, three cutting divisions, a rapier tournament, a saber tournament, paired technique, the armored passage at arms, the team competition, and the triathlon

Some New Stuff This Year

We tried a few things this year that were more obvious to non-staffers as well. We ran our saber invitational as an informal, partially self-judged affair that was more about bringing saber enthusiasts together to fence then it was about who won (for the record, Matt Easton won, and by a fair margin). It was a pleasant exercise for all involved, particularly on a weary Sunday morning. 

We also held the first-ever Longpoint Historical Fencing League Top Eight Final, where the league’s top eight fencers competed for double points in a last effort to hold or increase their league standings. Kristian Ruokonen won the Top Eight Final and Jake Norwood, who placed third in the Top Eight Final, moved up from second place to first and overall champion in the league standings. 

Lastly, we went out of our way to recognize those who work so hard for all of us with custom staffs for directors and special staff patches for all judges, table staff, etc. The patches, initially intended to be sewn to shirts and vests for next year, made an immediate, taped-on showing throughout the weekend.

But That’s Not What Made This Year the Best

So we did a bunch of great stuff (and the stuff we didn’t do so well I didn’t mention). We’re super great. Longpoint is the best! HYPE TRAIN!!!



What made this Longpoint the best yet, though, really wasn’t how super smart and handsome/beautiful/clever Jake and Ben and Emma and Mike and company are (though we totally are, if you can't tell).  What made this Longpoint the best was the family that we have become over the years. Even as it grows, it grows like a family reunion and not some soulless corporate event. 

Longpoint 2016 was special because, for the first time ever, I got to fence in the open longsword...which I was neither running, director, staffing, nor managing in any way. And I got to get obliterated, out-schielhau-ed (TWICE!) by the mighty Eric Wiggins.

Longpoint 2016 was special because, in the Open Longsword finals, after Kristian Ruokonen defeated his close friend Tim Kaufman for first place, they broke out cans of Coors Light in front of two thousand people. Kristian also went on to win the Triathlon which is significant for many reasons, not the least of which being it's the first time a European has done so. Based on Kristian's performance and that of guys like Arto Fama and Ties Kool, I expect we'll see more of this in the future.

Longpoint 2016 was special because we said goodbye to Turf Valley after four years of fencing, family, and old-fashioned growth to the point of just not fitting in the space anymore.

Longpoint 2016 was special because one club sent its instructor a giant, pink and black knitted sword cozy with fuzzy blue balls...and had me present it to said instructor (Joe Brassey, a Longpoint first-timer) in front of 280 dinner guests and who knows how many live stream watchers.

Longpoint 2016 was special because one of our family, Bill Frisbee, suffered some major losses this year only to have the bulk of his $9,000 harness stolen from his car while driving to Longpoint. He missed competing in the Passage at Arms and had told me that he was giving up harnischfechten altogether as replacing the lost armor just wasn’t achievable...and we, the Longpoint family, pulled together and presented him, through the Armor Fairy Danya Rowden, with $7,000 collected that weekend to get our own “Chief Ironskin” back into his iron skin. I’ve never seen so many grown men (and women) crying all at once. I have never been so blown away by the love that our HEMA family has for its own. 

 Not a dry eye in the room. Proof!

Not a dry eye in the room. Proof!

 Dayna Rowden, "The Armor Fairy," Bill Frisbee, and $7,000. #HEMAfamily. Proof!

Dayna Rowden, "The Armor Fairy," Bill Frisbee, and $7,000. #HEMAfamily. Proof!

 More proof.

More proof.

Longpoint 2016 was the best Longpoint so far.

What, You Think I’m Done? I heard 2017’s Gonna Be...

 Longpoint's new home. Veronique didn't take this pic, so I guess I lied earlier. #NotAllPics

Longpoint's new home. Veronique didn't take this pic, so I guess I lied earlier. #NotAllPics

So how are we going to beat that in 2017? How do we plan on making sure that I spend 1,400 words explaining why 2017 was the best Longpoint ever, for the third year in a row? Time will tell, but here’s what we’ve got so far:

Longpoint is moving to the Baltimore Hilton Garden Inn Inner Harbor, July 6-9, 2017. Our new location has more than twice as much floor space, allowing us to double the number of active rings. It has more than double the hotel rooms of Turf Valley, as well, so you run less risk of ending up at some far away hotel. The new locale is sandwiched between the Baltimore Convention Center and Camden Yards (the field is visible from many of the rooms), and is surrounded by restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions (Inner Harbor, historic ships, the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, concerts, and more). It’s reachable by light rail directly from BWI airport as well, making getting to the event easier and cheaper than ever.

We’re going to double the size of the longsword tournaments, implementing an objective divisioning approach for rookies, intermediate, and our most experienced competitors. We’re going to implement focused open fencing times to bring enthusiasts of different weapons and arts an organized (albeit unstructured) opportunity to come together and fence casually without worrying that no one else will be on the floor at their chosen time with their favorite weapon. Plus more classes, more lectures, and more stuff generally. The t-shirts are going to be awesome, too.

And Bill will be there, gleaming in his new armor, facing all challengers in an expanded Passage at Arms. Or he better be!

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to fight in my own Longsword tournament again.

Thank you all for making 2016 the best Longpoint I’ve ever been to. I can’t wait to see what we do together next year.

Jake Norwood
Longpoint Director, President

Longpoint Results and 2017

Longpoint 2016 is about to end and it's time for a quick post. We have tournament results and our initial announcement for Longpoint 2017 to share.

Longpoint 2017
July 6th - 9th
The Hilton in Baltimore

A few minutes walk from the Inner Harbor, between the convention center and Camden Yards, surrounded by bars, restaurants, and activities at all price levels.

Longpoint Historical Fencing League Results

  • 1st: Jake Norwood, Capital KDF
  • 2nd: Kristian Ruokonen, EHMS
  • 3rd: Travis Mayott, Maryland KDF
  • Honorable Mentions: Josh Parise, Broken Plow - Mike Edelson, New York Historical Fencing Association - Toby Hall, NYHFA - Dave Kaufman, NYHFA - Tim Kaufman, NYHFA - 

2015 Team Event (This is awarded for the previous year)

Virginia Academy of Fencing - Head Instructor: Bill Grandy

Rookie Training Tournament

  • 1st: Brian Brunsman, Maryland KDF - Coach: Axel Pettersson
  • 2nd: Leonid Timashev, New York Historical Fencing Association - Coach: Ties Kool
  • 3rd: David Peters, Atlanta Freifechter - Jake Norwood

Passage At Arms

  • 1st: Jake Norwood, Capital KDF
  • 2nd: Bill Grandy, Virginia Academy of Fencing
  • 3rd: James Anderson, Order of the Marshal


Light Weight

  • 1st: Britta Ottesjö, GHFS
  • 2nd: Amanda Trail, Iron Crown
  • 3rd: Daniel Ramos, VAF

Welter Weight

  • 1st: Zachary Springer, Schola St George
  • 2nd: Mikael Widegren, GHFS
  • 3rd: Dustin Reagan, Redlands Fencing Center

Light Heavy Weight

  • 1st: Tim Hall, Virginia Academy of Fencing
  • 2nd: Casper Andersen, Triangle Sword Guild
  • 3rd: Eric Guay

Middle Weight

  • 1st: Casper Anderson, Triangle Sword Guild
  • 2nd: Kevin Comer, Virginia Academy of Fencing


  • 1st: Tim Hall, Virginia Academy of Fencing
  • 2nd: Hank McLemore, Virginia Academy of Fencing
  • 3rd: Mikael Widegren, Gothenburg Historical Fencing Association


  • 1st: Francesco Lodà, Accademia Romana d'Armi
  • 2nd: Tim Kaufman, New York Historical Fencing Association
  • 3rd: Kristofer Stanson, Stockholms Stigmän



  • 1st: Jim Brooks, Broken Plow
  • 2nd: Samuel Ross, Krieg School Denver
  • 3rd: Kit Smith


  • 1st: Dave Kaufman, New York Historical Fencing Association
  • 2nd: Matt Easton, Schola Gladiatoria
  • 3rd: Ben Floyd, Krieg School Denver


  • 1st: Karl Bolle, Capital KDF
  • 2nd: Jake Norwood, Capital KDF
  • 3rd: James Clark, Capital KDF

Paired Technique

  • 1st: Arto Fama & Ties Kool, Historisch Vrijvechten Nederland & Zwaard and Steen
  • 2nd: Ben Strickling & Casper Andersen, Triangle Sword Guild
  • 3rd: Dustin Reagan & Ben Floyd, Redlands Fencing Center & Krieg School Denver

Women's Longsword

  • 1st: Katy Lehman, Wisconsin Historical Fencing Association
  • 2nd: Kristine Konsmo, FKDF
  • 3rd: Nicole Green, Wisconsin Historical Fencing 

Open Steel Longsword

  • 1st: Kristian Ruokonen, EHMS
  • 2nd: Tim Kaufman, New York Historical Fencing Association
  • 3rd: Arto Fama
  • Honorable Mentions: Eric Wiggins, Ordo Procinctus - Casper Andersen, Triangle Sword Guild - Sigmund Werndorf, Kron - McKenzie Ewing, Atlanta Freifechter - Ben Strickling, Triangle Sword Guild

Longpoint 2016 Triathlon (Open Steel Longsword, Cutting, and Paired Technique)

  • 1st: Kristian Ruokonen, EHMS
  • 2nd: Casper Andersen, Triangle Sword Guild
  • 3rd: Tim Kaufman, New York Historical Fencing Association

Ringen Tournament Update Post

Longpoint is just around the corner and there are a couple of changes to the Ringen competition for this year.  Below is a summary of changes and general notes about this year's Ringen competition:


1. Bill Grandy will be running the event this year.

Look to him for information on-site. Please contact HALL@FIGHTLONGPOINT.COM with any questions or concerns prior to the event.

2. Rule change: Sacrifice throws when positioned behind your opponent will no longer be allowed. These techniques do not appear in any medieval wrestling source and eliminating them from the allowed techniques opens up opportunity to use many other techniques that do appear in the sources.

3. Rule Change: Advantage points have been added to determine the winner if the score is tied when the timer runs out. If fighters are tied in advantage points as well then they will fight in an overtime match. Advantage point will be awarded if a fighter is driven out of bounds, as a partial score for unclean actions, or as a penalty for minor rule infractions(ie illegal actions, stalling).


1. There will be two available weigh-in time for the event. The first will take place Thursday afternoon at 1600(just before the opening ceremony), and the second Saturday morning at 0800. Competitors only need to weigh in once and are recommended to do so Thursday afternoon. Saturday is available for those who arrive late to Longpoint, or need to cut weight to meet the requirements of their weight class.

2. Fighters are encouraged to use a purpose built Ringen jacket. Gambesons and fencing jackets will be allowed if needed, but with the increased availability of Ringen jackets we will phase out gambesons and fencing jackets for future competitions.

1. http://histfenc.com/productcart/jf-ringen- jacket

2. http://www.revivalclothing.com/medievalwrestlingjacket.aspx

3. http://boutique-historique.fr/94- vestes

3. The Heavy/Open weight class is open to all fighters, though priority will be given to those not already signed up for another weight class. If spaces are available fighters can wrestle in a lighter weight class, and then again in the Open.

Please email HALL@FIGHTLONGPOINT.COM for more information.

Longpoint 2016 Longsword Rules and Rules Video Posted

Official Longpoint 2016 rules for the Open Steel Longsword, Ladies' Longsword, Staff Invitational Longsword, and Rookie Training Tournament have been posted on the Event Overview and Triathlon pages, along with a video explaining some of the most recent changes and demonstrating this year's semaphores.

As noted in the video, if you're new to Longpoint, you want to read everything. If you're a competitor coming back, please read the General Information section and the Cheat Sheet at the back. You may also benefit from reading the detailed scoring criteria in the Judges' section. If you're staffing please read the entire document in great detail.

Looking forward to seeing you all on the 21st!

~Jake and Crew

p.s. for the lazy:

Link to download the rules

Link to the video

Longpoint South: A Longsword Tournament at the International Martial Arts Festival, October 13-16 @ ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort!

Longpoint South: A Longsword Tournament at the International Martial Arts Festival, October 13-16 @ ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort!

Longpoint has partnered with the International Martial Arts Festival (IMAF) to host what we hope to be an annual event at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, October 13-16, 2016.


Read More

Cutting In Perspective: 2016 Qualifier Round

In my previous article in this series, I talked about the dangers of sportification as they apply to cutting in HEMA, and mentioned that I would alter the Longpoint 2016 tournament to better serve the community in addressing the issues I see cropping up. I will now explain some of the changes and goals as they apply to the Longpoint 2016 cutting tournament qualifier round (post qualifier rounds will be explained in later articles). This will allow you to begin preparing for the tournament now, when there is plenty of time left, and more importantly, allow you to understand why you are training in a specific way and how that applies to cutting as part of a martial art rather than a competition.

This article will discuss the Advanced Tournament’s qualifying round only. The elimination rounds and the finals will be introduced in later articles. Keep in mind that the scoring described below also only applies to the qualifying round.

The pattern for the advanced qualifier if very simple. Four oberhau—two from the left, and two from the right, alternating sides. The pattern itself is a lot simpler and more basic than the pattern for either the Basic Tournament or the Intermediate Tournament. What has changed are the standards for the cuts.

There will be two types of penalties. The first type is a standard or full penalty. In terms of severity, think of this as the penalty you would have received for a complete failure to cut in 2015 (sword not getting through the mat). However, this year, they will be applied to cuts that would have received no penalties at all under last year’s scoring system.

The second type is the major penalty. Think of this as a catastrophic penalty, the sort you would have received for striking the stand, or cutting off your own leg.

The full/standard penalty will be reserved for only one type of failure. When you cut the mat, the severed piece must fall cleanly to the floor and not go flying. If it does go flying, it means that your energy/structure/follow-through is not directed along the trajectory of the cut. Instead of all of your force and support being behind the sword, pushing it along its path, some of your energy is misdirected. That misdirected energy manifests as a lateral force that acts on the severed piece and sends it flying. In a cut against your intended target (clothed human being), such a misdirection of force would rob your cut of significant energy and may cause it to stop in the target rather than passing through the target, which will result in a weaker cut and possibly a stuck sword.

We will allow severed pieces that fly along the trajectory of the cut. Anything more will result in a full penalty similar to a complete failure in 2016. Judging the cut in this manner a simple way to evaluate a trajectory beyond the confines of a single mat, though it is not as effective as the multi-mat targets that you can expect in later rounds (more on that in future articles).

Anything that does not result in a perfect cut, for example a scooped cut, an angle deviation, a mountain, spraying debris, severed piece launched into orbit, stand knocked over and so on, will receive a major (catastrophic) penalty. The justification for this is as follows. Tatami is not representative of any sort of realistic target. It is not like an arm or a leg or anything else. Think of tatami as a calibration gauge that, if you know how to use it, will tell you how your cut would have performed against your intended target (a clothed human being). A bad angle means you can’t control your trajectory. A mountain means your aim is bad. A scooped/scalloped cut means that your trajectory isn’t straight and would fail against the intended target and may even result in a stuck and/or bent sword. And so on. I am giving you a very simple task, and I expect you to be good enough to carry out that task flawlessly and consistently. If you cannot do so, you should instead compete in the Basic or Intermediate tournaments.

There are two additional actions/failures which will lead to major (catastrophic) penalties. The first of these has to do with stopping the sword after every cut. Some people like to cut by allowing the sword to stay in motion, come around, up and back down. This is a martially valid way to cut under many circumstances and later rounds of the Advanced Tournament will require such motions. However, it is also critical for a fencer to be able to stop the sword after every cut with the point forward (or at least mostly forward). In the qualifying round, I am stipulating that you must stop your sword in an Alber/Wechsel position after every cut. If you do not do this, it can only be assumed that you cannot do this, and so you will be penalized accordingly.

Finally, and this is very important, any sort of preparatory motions, be they shuffling of feet, shifting of weight (there and back), hesitation, cocking back, moulinet, and so on will result in a catastrophic penalty. The aim here is to completely eliminate such actions from cutting in HEMA.

If you do not shuffle your feet before striking your opponent in a fencing match, don’t do it when cutting. If you do not walk up to your opponent, take a breath, shift your weight around a bit, then strike at your leisure, then don’t do this when cutting. Part of what we hope to accomplish with Longpoint’s Triathlon is the triangulation of training. Cutting, fighting and historical techniques, with each informing the others to create a holistic and balanced training regimen. If you move in completely different ways when cutting and fighting, then your cutting is not informing your fighting and vice versa. With regards to the moulinet, whether you consider it a valid action or not, you should be able to cut without it. Thus, once again, failure to comply will result in the assumption of inability to comply.

In my previous article, I talked about the sportification of cutting in HEMA. Part of that is the fixation on a single tatami mat as a demonstration of cutting ability. Cutting through a single mat is not an accomplishment. Cutting through it in a very specific way, a way that meets standards that map directly to the historical context of fighting in earnest (i.e. killing), is an accomplishment. The trend in tournaments so far has been to add dimensions of challenge to the cutting of a single mat. But if everyone who participates in such a tournament does not cut that single mat in a way that maps to earnest fighting, then they are cutting poorly. And asking people to cut poorly in a fancier and more challenging way is the opposite of what we should be trying to accomplish in HEMA. My goal with the Longpoint 2016 tournament is to move away from fixating on a single mat and to demonstrate how to measure and achieve historically relevant cutting performance.

All the information in this article is subject to change, and I will provide notice of any changes as early as I can. As I mentioned in the previous article, I will release a series of videos showing each round and explaining some of the failure types and penalties. Until then, if you have any questions about the qualifying round, feel free to contact me. Please do not ask about the later rounds, as I have not finalized them at this time.

Mike Edelson
New York Historical Fencing Association
Longpoint Director

Longpoint Cutting: Three Tournament Options

There will be three cutting tournaments at Longpoint this year. Which of the three you compete in is completely up to you, though I urge you to honestly evaluate your skill and experience and proceed accordingly. It will be up to you, the participant, to tell the judges which tournament you are competing in as your name is called in the qualifying round, or it will be assumed that you are competing in the main (advanced) tournament.

The three tournaments will be as follows:

Basic Tournament: this tournament will consist of only the qualifying round. However, the qualifying pattern will be different from that of the main tournament. The pattern for the Basic tournament will be similar to the qualifying round last yet, except that there will be no mittlehau cuts. Thus the pattern will be two alternating side diagonal oberhau, followed by two alternating side diagonal unterhau. One or more mittlehau can then be used as a bonus, but it will be a very small bonus only used for tie breaking purposes. This tournament is intended for people who are relatively new to cutting and don’t believe they have a chance at winning either the Advanced or Intermediate tournaments. The winners (1st, 2nd and 3rd place) for this tournament will be calculated and announced as the qualifying round scores are processed.

Intermediate Tournament: this tournament will consist of the qualifying round, with the same pattern as last year (including mittlehau), and a final round for the top four scoring participants. The details for the final round will be posted later, but it will be similar in nature to challenges faced last year during the elimination rounds (no “feats”). This tournament is intended for people who were not quite good enough to make it to the finals last year but otherwise did well.

Advanced (main) Tournament: this is the main Longpoint tournament and will, like last year, consist of one qualifying round, two or three elimination rounds, and one final round. The standards for this tournament will be unlike anything most of you have seen before.

All three tournaments will be counted as part of the Triathlon. However, your placement in each will be weighted accordingly. Placing 1st in the Basic tournament will be weighted lower than placing 1st in the Intermediate tournament, which will in turn be weighted lower than placing 1st in the Advanced tournament. Furthermore, placing 4th, 5th (etc.) in the Advanced tournament may be weighted higher than winning the Basic or Intermediate tournament.


Keeping Cutting In Perspective

When people talk about the sportification of HEMA, they are usually talking about how people fight in tournaments. They rarely talk about cutting, but sportification can creep in to that as well. I continually take steps within my own school and the tournaments I manage to encourage real martial application in cutting, and I will be making further changes to the Longpoint tournament this year to continue aligning competitors towards that goal.

When I set out to bring cutting to US HEMA, the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was convincing people that cutting was relevant to historical European fencing. The second biggest obstacle was making cutting something that people actually wanted to do. My priority was to get people doing it and then worry about the details later. As part of that plan, the cutting tournament at Longpoint is constantly evolving to address the problems I see cropping up in the community. Thus, the tournament in 2016 will be designed to bring an enhanced awareness of how cutting tatami translates to what would have been effective cutting technique in the middle ages. Also, it will attempt to weed out sport cutters.

Sportification in cutting is simple to understand if you know the purpose of cutting practice and how it applies to the art of fencing. For those who don't, I'll provide a simple explanation. Sport cutting is focusing on the medium in the competitions, tatami, rather than on using that medium to demonstrate effective martial cutting technique, just like sport fencing is focusing on training to use a feder or blunt to fence in protective gear, rather than to use a historical weapon in a historical context. For example, consider the stacked tatami feat in the Longpoint 2014 and 2015 cutting tournament finals, where double rolled mats were stacked on top of each other. Competitors had to strike down into the mats and maintain a straight trajectory, with the object of severing as many mats as possible without allowing the sword to turn. This demonstrates your ability to not only deliver sufficient power and velocity to cut deeply into a dense object, but your ability to maintain that power, along with an even grip and proper structure throughout the cutting arc (this is called follow-through).  If you've seen the livestream for either of those years, you saw how much mental preparation was required by every competitor and, most importantly, how people who were effortlessly cutting through single standing tatami mats and making it look easy faltered when faced with this challenge (particularly in 2015 when no one did well).

What do you think is closer to a clothed human body? A single tatami mat, or the stacked mats feat? And even then, do you think a double rolled tatami mat (which is what the stack consisted of) is nearly as thick or as dense as a human torso? And why did people who are so good at single mats falter so badly when faced with a more realistic challenge?

The trend in cutting tournaments has been to add fancier and more difficult cuts using single tatami mats. On the West Coast, they focus on random patterns signaled to the competitor with semaphores. On the East Coast, the trend has been to follow along with Longpoint, but to skip the more complicated multi-mat feats. The problem with this trend is that focusing on increasing difficulty using a single mat creates a training focus on cutting single tatami mats, and single tatami mats are not representative of any portion of a historical cutting target (a clothed human being).

In the past, I have used the Longpoint cutting tournament to steer change in cutting practices without providing much of an explanation as to the how and why. But cutting tournaments have proliferated to such an extent that cutting in HEMA is completely out of my control. Longpoint is still the premier cutting tournament in the world, but it alone can no longer dictate the direction that cutting in HEMA takes. I hope that event organizers and tournament managers will make an attempt to understand the nature of the changes I will be making, and why I will be making them. Some of the new challenges will focus on measuring consistent trajectory and follow-through in a way that single mats cannot. I will release details as the challenges are tested and perfected, along with video demonstrations and explanations. More importantly, this will be the first in a series of articles designed to impart a greater understanding of the role of cutting in martial training and how competition can drive that training in the right direction. A lot of material for these articles will come from my cutting mechanics book, which I hope to have finished before Longpoint.

Individual practitioners can also make positive changes in their own training. The key thing to keep in mind is that cutting is not separate from general fencing practice. Cutting tatami is not a distinct skill. Every time you swing a sword, you should be practicing cutting. If you train for cutting tournaments by ordering a ton of tatami mats, if you overswing (or otherwise allow your form to suffer) when you cut tatami, or if your body mechanics (how you move) are different when you're cutting than when you're fighting, you're probably a sport cutter or at least solidly on that path. Cutting physical targets is supposed to be calibration, not practice. It is best to practice in air, using the sound of edge alignment as your guide, and then calibrate using tatami to identify and correct mistakes while maintaining the same exact body mechanics that you use in fencing.

There are assorted reasons for training based on the sound, "sword wind" or tachikaze in Japanese, that are far too complicated to get into in a short article, but simplest is that it allows you to practice a full cutting stroke with a straight trajectory as opposed to the sort of short cutting stroke you need to get through a few inches of wet straw. There is also simple human nature to consider. When faced with a concrete task (in this case cutting single tatami mats) and practicing for that task, we will, consciously or otherwise, gear our body mechanics toward that task.

When you do calibrate, don't use swords that are too easy to cut with unless you're just starting out, and don't ever use swords that are too hard to cut with. Tatami is only useful as a calibrator if it provides the full scope of feedback of which it is capable. Using something that is inappropriate to that task compromises this feedback and hurts your development.

The most important thing is, for the sake of the art, please don't train for tournaments. Don't train to cut tatami. Don't use swords that you know are too easy to cut with, or too hard. Stay true to your art, and train to use your sword in a historically correct manner. Let the cutting tournaments be tests of your technique, not an avenue for you to earn fleeting and baseless glory.