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.