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:

Changes

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).

Notes

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.

 

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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.

2016 Paired Technique: The Zornhau And Its Techniques

This will be the third year that the Paired Technique Competition has been a part of Longpoint. After each of the previous two competitions, the most frequent request we have received is for us to select one source or another for the following year, as there are many fencers who work entirely with specific sources and not with others. However, limiting the competition to a single source each year dissatisfies some groups while giving advantages to others. The entire purpose of the PTC is to encourage fencers to become familiar with the sources, to notice their similarities and differences, and to gain a better understanding of the Art and its development over time. Selecting just one source a year works towards this goal, but we feel that the process can be improved.

To this end, beginning in 2016, the PTC will now be focused on a single subject, involving a number of sources within the same or related traditions. We feel that by involving multiple sources more fencers will be satisfied with the variety of subject material, and a better understanding of the Art will be accomplished. The Kunst des Fechtens in the tradition of Grandmaster Johannes Liechtenauer has been the focus of the PTC since its inception, and will remain to be so in the foreseeable future. Sources have been selected from those whose translations are readily available on Wiktenauer.

For 2016, the subject of the PTC will be “The Zornhau and its techniques”. These are some of the foundational techniques of the KDF and highly important for every fencer to be familiar with who wishes to gain understanding of the Art. The source material is to be drawn from:

- Pseudo-Peter von Danzig Rome Version (Codex 44.A.8) & Salzburg Version of 1491 (MS M.I.29)

- Hans Medel (Codex I.6.2º.5)

- Paulus Hector Mair (MSS Dresd.C.93/C.94)

Registration Filling - Next Month's Plan

We expected a higher registration velocity this year than last year, but nothing like this. It's been three days, and we have 148 fighters registered before adding a majority of our normal staff and instructors. Open Steel, Women's Steel, the Rookie Training Tournament, and Cutting are full. Given that, here is some important information for those of you who have not yet registered:

  1. We are capping total registration for the event at 230 people. We had around this number last year, and we were just edging up to it feeling too crowded. We do not want it to feel too crowded, so we are not going to allow the event to grow any larger in this location.
  2. We have started putting together waiting lists for tournaments that are full. You must be registered for the event to claim the next spot on the waiting list. Anyone who is not registered and asks to be put on the waiting list will be bumped below people who are registered.  Email fightlongpoint@gmail.com to ask to be added to waiting lists for specific events.
  3. Open Steel Longsword is the key event to enter, if more slots open, if you want to be involved in the Triathlon. You will be allowed to enter Paired Technique and Cutting past their maximum capacity if entering the Triathlon.
  4. We will be spending the next month working on staffing solutions, our instructor list, our class schedule, and hammering out tournament timing. 
  5. We will be, if our staffing solutions allow for it, expanding tournaments before mid-February. If you have registered to be put on the waiting list and you still do not get in, you will know this before the end of the refund period.
  6. We have hinted at this on Facebook, but we have a larger location picked out for 2017, which will resolve our space and capacity issues.
  7. We are discussing the option of moving future registration open dates away from the holidays. Back in 2013, when we shifted to December, we figured it would function as a neat gift for HEMA Spouses to give to their fighters, or for people to pick up with post-holiday gift funds. If our registration doesn't last to and through Christmas, this idea is no longer valid.

Here's a link to the list of our current attendees and what they have registered for. We still have instructors and staff to invite, which will count against the total capacity of 230, so in reality we have less than the 80 slots left that it seems we have. We expect these to fill up surprising quick. Or maybe unsurprisingly quick at this point...

~Longpoint 2016 Crew

Longpoint 2016 Registration Opens

It's December, and you know what time of year that is. Longpoint registration!

Registration for Longpoint 2016 has opened. As usual, we have 40 early registration slots to fill before the price goes up to its normal amount. Registration can be completed through either the Registration page, which contains both the event registration and tournament registration, or the Store page, which contains those two items plus the extras. Every year, both our early registration and our tournament slots fill up exponentially quicker. As our Year of Transition post talked about, we will not be growing this year, but rather putting most of our effort into simply being better.

One of our goals for 'Being Better' this year is to focus more on classes. As you can see on our draft schedule, we have over 30 class slots that we are interested in filling. Some of our instructors will fill more than one class slot to allow our attendees a better chance of working with them in case of scheduling conflicts. So far, our instructor list contains Arto Fama, Cory Winslow, Kristian Ruokonen, Rob Runacres, and Russ Mitchell, with more invites waiting for acceptance. We have a ways to go, and will announce these classes as we finalize them.

Much more information will be released over the coming months concerning classes, tournaments, and event planning as we get the website converted over for the new season. We maxed our the event in 2015, and we expect to max out again this year. The future of Longpoint is bright, and we can't wait to share it with all of you.

~The Longpoint 2016 Crew

Cultural Triangulation: The Triathlon And Its Sport Context

 2015 Longpoint Triathlon Winners

2015 Longpoint Triathlon Winners

Earlier this year, I started occasionally hearing some odd things from newer HEMA people about Wiktenauer and HEMA's source material. It bothered me so much that I wrote a relatively long post on my private Facebook wall about the origins of Wiktenauer, why it was needed, and how it morphed into what it is today as the most valuable HEMA resource online. I think it's time to address the Longpoint Longsword Triathlon in a similar way to realign some ideas that we want to promote, inform newer competitors as to the context and need, and to combat some conjecture coming from outside the competitive HEMA scene.

Back in the olden days, meaning 5-10 years ago, the idea that competitions would take the H out of HEMA may have been a majority opinion, at least in the US. This was even an opinion held by Longpoint Director Jake Norwood and myself until around 2010 at the latest. The first few competitions in the US were dirty, and I would have agreed then that, except for one or two guys in any given competition, you didn't see much of what we want to see from the sources displayed. Every hit, no matter the quality, type, or location, was given one point, and matches were to a set number of points or time.

We needed this. The part of the HEMA community that competed in the US progressed in skill significantly faster between 2010 and 2012 than that same group of people had progressed from 2004 to 2010. Today, we see the upper half of competitors consistently pulling off techniques and concepts from the manuals they work from in competitions. It's still dirty, because fighting is dirty and, as they say, the other team is getting paid to win, too. But it's there. To deny this is to all but admit that you only want to see artificial, partially cooperative drilling or sparring.

There are certainly risks, however. Tournaments are games, and poorly designed games can be easily broken or exploited by unintended behaviors. Over the years, Longpoint, Swordfish, and other event organizers have developed new rule sets, tweaked old ones, and progressed down the path of developing a game that brings out the kind of fighting that we want to see. At Longpoint specifically we update our rules with the goal in mind that the best way to exploit our rules should be to fence technically and correctly.

Do we think this is enough? No. Not at all. Fencing tournaments have their own downsides. Judging is a problem, so the rule sets can't be quite as robust as we would like. Blunt steel swords, while sexy and useful, do a poor job of replicating the bind of sharp steel, changing the usefulness of a surprising number of techniques. While injury can still happen, fighters are often able to rely on their gear to protect them, and are perhaps willing to take some risks they wouldn't take without that protection.

Back in 2012, along with introducing the Longpoint rule set to reward technical fencing, we instituted a cutting tournament with Mike Edelson, who later came up with the idea of the Triathlon. We were the first HEMA event in the US to do this, and we did it with one goal in mind: Promote the handling of and training with sharps within our community. In the past 3 years, we've directly and indirectly put sharps in the hands of more fencers for the purposes of training than we've ever seen before. We've stopped using a loaner sword for our cutting competition, encouraging individuals and groups to acquire their own sharps, further promoting accurate training within clubs. The competition itself, while very useful, is not the main goal of the competition. It is a demonstration and validation of us reaching our goal.

Originally, the third event in the Triathlon was Ringen. In 2014, we introduced Paired Technique to the triathlon as an alternative to Ringen, despite some push back on the idea due to more conjecture. Between the last two events, we've moved further towards replacing Ringen completely in the Triathlon with PT, which will be the case for 2016. Paired Technique is a 'forms' competition, and like the other two competitions in the triathlon, it comes with it's own problems and risks. The main purpose of this competition is not to be the fastest pair, although it is also that. It is not to the the prettiest or the smoothest pair, although it is also that. The main purpose of this competition is to reward fighters for working with the source material.


At the start of each year, we announce the source that the PT competition will be using for that year, and we do not release which specific sections it will be using until we near the event. Yes, this means that sometimes a majority of people will not already be familiar with that source. Yes, this means that some people will have to spend more time on the H in HEMA than they would have otherwise if they want to succeed. This is purposeful. We want to recognize and reward people for spending time with the sources.

The Longpoint Triathlon is a representation of a well rounded Longsword fighter. In the US, due to our initiative, it is very difficult to gain a lot of respect by simply doing well in an open longsword fencing competition. To ensure that you gain the respect you might want, you have to also demonstrate that you can handle a sharp sword. We are hoping that Paired Technique achieves similar success, requiring that a fighter has to demonstrate knowledge of the sources we all love to gain the respect they may desire. The Triathlon is purposefully the highest honor at Longpoint. At our awards dinner Saturday night, Jake brings the top three or four Triathlon winners up in front of 250+ fighters and friends, salutes them, and tells them, speaking for the whole room, that they are what we all aspire to be.

Are there other ways to achieve this kind of triangulation and promote a competitive culture that retains a respect for the art for many, many years to come? Sure. And I'm excited to see them. 

So, given all of this, I take it kind of personally when people who do not regularly compete talk about how competitions may be corrupting HEMA, or how the competitive side of the community may have to split from the artful side of the community because they have different supposed goals. As a general rule, including all of the people I know who consistently win and run these competitions, we are also the artful side of the community. We are not separating ourselves. In fact, we are putting a lot of effort specifically into keeping the competitive spirit and the art one and the same. We spend our time running these events for a love of the art, and we encourage all of our attendees to hold these same ideals.


Ben Michels
Longpoint, Event Manager
Wiktenauer, Founder
Broken Plow Western Martial Arts

Introducing the Longpoint Historical Fencing League

Soon after the Nordic Historical Fencing League formed in 2014, we got back to discussing how to handle leagues in the US. As the standard argument when trying to apply something Scandinavia does to the US goes, we are just too big and too heterogeneous to make it happen. Realistically, when considering a land mass as large as our continent, these kinds of things need to be individual efforts that later merge.

The Longpoint Historical Fencing League (LHFL) is a series of events serving roughly the Mid-Atlantic region of the US. The league events are tied together by an overall scoring system based on an accumulation of points across any given season, with finals being held at Longpoint, separate from the main events, as the close for every season. Our league has four main directives:

  1. Provide a cheap opportunity for regional fencers to come together and compete multiple times per year. These events should be relatively easy to afford for most fencers who have the time to make the weekend trips.
  2. Be non-intrusive to the larger events that we all love. Along with being cheap, these events should not overlap large national events that many fighters in our region attend, allowing fighters who are active in national events to attend both.
  3. Provide an opportunity to train under multiple rules. The LHFL will host at least two different rule sets in any given season. Hosting clubs are free to choose which rules they would like to run. Longpoint rules, Nordic rules, 2011-style Longsword rules, modified versions of all of these, historical rule sets, reasonable experimental rules, etc.
  4. Encourage the growth of judging ability within our community by requiring that all participates in any given tournament also judge that tournament.

For our first half-season, our test season, the following clubs will host league events in these approximate time periods:

  1. Early February - Broken Plow, Pittsburgh PA
  2. Mid-Late March - CKDF, Baltimore-Washington Metro Area (Shortpoint)
  3. May - NYHFA, Andes NY (Fechtschule New York)
  4. FINALS - July - Longpoint

Pre-emptive FAQ:

Can I attend and compete if I train outside of your region?

Yes. You will be scored under the league scoring system just like everyone else.

What if I can't attend every league event?

Attending every event is not required to participate, although it is likely that you will not get to the finals if you do not attend three.

How many events will be held within any given season?

Four

What are the finals?

Instead of the last event in the season simply contributing points to your total, which means that you know if you have a chance to win the season or not based on Doing Math, the top X number of people from the league will compete in a final tournament at Longpoint.

Will there be Women's tournaments?

Yes, provided that enough women are interested to justify running it.

Is it only Longsword?

For now.

Will it always be these events hosted by these clubs?

No, our goal is for the event hosts to change throughout seasons so we can all share the labor.

Why is it only in the Mid-Atlantic?

For a league to be successful, it needs to have relatively consistent participants. We figure that events need to be within what most people would consider a Weekend Roadtrip to be feasible, which means the events should all be within about 6 hours of each other. We hope to see several other leagues pop up throughout the US, either as part of the Longpoint leagues or independently.

What if I want a league in my own region?

Great! We are happy to provide information about how we set things up, especially once we get through the first initial test season.

 

More information will be posted upon the opening of registration for the first event in February, and some items are probably subject to change.  The first true season will begin after Longpoint and contain four events throughout 10 months, with Longpoint hosting the finals for each season.

Longpoint 2016 - Year Of Transition

Longpoint 2015 is now more than three months behind us, although it still feels like it was only a month ago and next year's registration opening shouldn't be something I need to consider yet. Jake Norwood's and my attitude towards Longpoint drifts through cycles over the course of a year. From opening registration to the end of July, our levels of excitement and dread fly up and down the scale, sometimes in synchronicity and sometimes not. Then August hits. We start to think about how much time this sucks out of our lives, and vaguely question each other as to if we want to continue doing this.

2011 was the first year that both Jake and I made it to Swordfish, and it followed our second year running a small event, which had just transitioned over to the Longpoint name and included competitions for the first time. We came back from Swordfish 2011 invigorated. Convinced that we needed an event of equal caliber in the US with the same kind of camaraderie and spirit that Swordfish exudes, we started working on a much larger Longpoint 2012. In this same way, for many of the same reasons that the HEMA community saw this past weekend on the Swedish livestream, Swordfish lifts us out of our August to October Longpoint slump every year. It couldn't come at a more important time of the year for our event.

Every year since 2010, our event has grown by 40% - 65%, with this last year having the highest percentage of growth. Although this doesn't necessarily mean that our workload grows by 50% every year, it does require a higher level of organization, space, money, and time. Despite this, we've managed to satisfy our desire to emulate the community feel of our brothers over in Sweden. We've also managed to find time to innovate and build our own community over the years in the form of distinct rules, cutting competitions under Mike Edelson's hand, pushing steel competitions in the US, being the first large event of our type to include a harnischfechten competition under Jessica Finley, instituting a wildly successful Rookie Training Tournament, and encouraging source material work through Cory Winslow's Paired Technique competition.

So, given this, 2016 feels weird. We signed a contract with Turf Valley for both 2015 and 2016 two years ago, which means we knew we'd be holding Longpoint at this venue at least through this coming year. We've run out of space at this venue without doubling our hotel room pickup, which definitely is not something we can commit to for 2016. This means that Longpoint will not grow for the first time in its history, but be limited by the same maximum attendance we had for 2015.

We see this as an opportunity; an opportunity to do all of the things we're already doing better without also having to worry about scale. We reached a milestone of over 100 fighters in Open Steel Longsword this past year, but we gave up important floor space to do it, so we will be returning to two rings and around an 80 person max. We will be dropping one of our rotating competitions, which this past year were Rapier & Dagger and Sword & Buckler, to make room for running a proper Staff Tournament on Thursday to better help prepare our judges and directors than we've been able to manage for the past couple years. The Rookie Training Tournament will also move to Thursday. Knowing exactly how many staff we will need for the first time ever, we will be exploring some new solutions to accommodate these needs. 

So what of 2017? Well, we wrestled with this for a couple months. Do we want to continue holding Longpoint at Turf Valley, which would either require us to just limit attendance as an open event or turn it into an invitational? Or do we want to move to a larger venue to allow our growth and community to continue, even though this will require even more financial risk? 

We've decided on growth. We do not want to tell people they can't come to Longpoint because registration is full, or the tournaments have filled up. This makes us feel horrible every time we have to do it. All of the items we're scaling back in 2016 to optimize organization will be scaled back up in 2017. We are exploring a host of different options that are inside of major cities, which resolves the few complaints we get every year about Turf Valley.

Turf Valley has been good to us. We were flabbergasted when we realized that we could hold our event there back in 2013 rather than in a gym with a hotel that requires a shuttle or car rentals. Thanks to you guys, we are one of their favorite clients, and they will be sad to see us leaving. Some of these things make it more difficult to find locations for 2017, because we expect a certain aesthetic and certain accommodations now.

Longpoint 2016 will be July 21st to 24th and registration will open in December. We hope that you will join us in our year of transition. 

Ben Michels
Longpoint Event Manager
Broken Plow Western Martial Arts, Pittsburgh

When the Smoke Clears: Longpoint 2015 in Review

 Ben Floyd ( blue)  and Axel Pettersson (Green) face off in Open Longsword finals.

Ben Floyd ( blue)  and Axel Pettersson (Green) face off in Open Longsword finals.

Longpoint 2015 was a complete success. 

That seems like the kind of thing that the guy who runs an event would say about his event, so I need to back up a little. Longpoint as we know it started in 2011, on the heels of something called the Mid-Atlantic HEMA Gathering in 2010, which had also been a complete success in its 30-attendee glory. In 2012 we premiered the Longpoint Rules in their first incarnation and that year, too, was a complete success. 

2013 was harder for us. The event grew considerably, becoming a real international attraction, and we went from being this fun, modest event into something bigger. More attendees, more competitions, and more organizational challenges. The changes to the rules that year were a step in the right direction, but judging struggled. We had attendee drama for the first time. While reviews were generally good, it just wasn't much fun for the Bens and me. 

Then came 2014, another year of massive growth. Some of our experiments worked, others didn't, and we had finally reached that size where people start griping about the event online--not because they didn't have a good time, but because it's easy to complain about an institution (particularly an imperfect one). I didn't enjoy myself in 2014, and Ben and I had started to question if all the effort was worth it. 

In its fifth year, however, Longpoint brought the joy back to me. 

 Dustin Reagan, Longpoint 2015 Champion

Dustin Reagan, Longpoint 2015 Champion

I think 2015 was Longpoint's best year yet. The obvious reasons are plentiful. We broke our record for attendees (over 220 without counting spectators). At 100 fighters, we held the largest open steel Longsword tournament in the world (and that's not counting over 30 ladies and 30 rookies). We had a dozen countries represented, including the absolute best fighters from the US and Northern Europe--guys like Axel Petterson, Ties Kool, Dustin Reagan, Nathan Grepares, Eliisa Keskinen, Kiana Shurkin, Ben Strickling, Kristine Konsmo, Bill Grandy, and Kristian Ruokonen (to name just a few). We also held our first rapier tournament, first armored passage at arms, and first Rookie Training tournament. 

And then Dustin Reagan broke the proverbial sound barrier. He won cutting, he took second in his weight class in Ringen, and he triumphed in the open longsword. Not only was he the first (US) American to win Longpoint's triathlon, but he was the first American to win a major, open longsword tournament which a European champion had entered. Rumor has it Dustin was thinking about retiring this year, having earned a reputation as one of the US's best fighters (but one who had never managed to pull off gold in the longsword). I suspect he's reconsidering that. 

But that's the obvious stuff. The less obvious stuff is what really made 2015 a complete success for me. The rules this year, while not yet 100 percent where we want them, were the best iteration of the Longpoint rules yet (with no small thanks to Mike Chidester, who drafted most of this year's changes). After-event surveys suggested higher-than-usual satisfaction with the judging. We also pulled off the most logistically complex Longpoint yet with a fraction of last year's stress. Success!

 First Annual Passage at Arms

First Annual Passage at Arms

The greatest victory of them all, however, was that despite Longpoint's growth, it remained a family event. I was quite concerned that, since almost doubling last year’s attendence, Longpoint's closeness and sense of community would be diminished; that Longpoint would become an event of competing strangers. But the opposite happened instead. The family just grew. Old friends made new ones. Our shared, communal love of the historical European martial arts and, yes, SWORDS!, was the dominating theme. It's a wonderful thing to be surrounded by those who understand ones passions, and Longpoint 2015 was the best place in ages to feel that.

I hear 2016 will be even better. We're going to change less next year than we have in past years. We have one more year at Turf Valley, so the emphasis is going to be on doing what we did this last year...only better. We are in the process of selecting our rotational tournaments and refining our logistics, judging, and rules based on 2015's feedback. In just a few weeks we'll be testing our first round of rules modifications at Pittsburgh's Blood on the River. For the first time in a few years, I'm thrilled with the prospect and potential of next year's Longpoint. I hope you'll join me.

Jake Norwood

Longpoint Director

Post Script: It would be impossible to thank everyone who deserves it to the degree warranted for their help in making Longpoint 2015 happen. The lion's share of credit for eveything goes to Ben Michels and Emma Graff. Mike Edelson and "Evil" Ben Jarashow are indespensible. Mike Chidester (with Edelson's help) convinced me to go the direction we did with the rules, and I'm incredibly grateful. Jess Finley, Keith Cotter-Reilley, Tim Hall, Cory Winslow, and Mike Edelson made any tournament that didn't say "longsword" on it happen, almost completely independently. Dave Kauffman ran our Livestream and Tim Kauffman (no relation) managed our sponsors. The members of NYHFA, CKDF, MKDF, NHKDF, MEMAG, and Broken Plow provided hundreds of hours of labor in running registration, judging, the medical table, scoring tables, ring bossing, and so forth. Erin Baezner, Rob Runacres, and Ties Kool helped manage the tournaments and made my life easier than its been since 2011; I pray daily that you all come back next year. The VAF crew helped run a thing that doesn't happen and which we don't talk about. A shout out to our sponsors and vendors is in order, but most especially Albion Swords, Baltimore Sword and Knife Works, Purpleheart Armory, SPES USA, the Arte of the Booke, and the HEMA Alliance. Longpoint is a community event--almost a hundred people volunteered in some capacity for some period of time to make Longpoint happen. It is quite literally not possible without you all, and I thank you. 


Longpoint 2015 Longsword and Sword and Buckler Rules

Click here to view the rules.

This is my first year as part of the Longpoint team; I was forcibly onboarded after publicly expressing my criticisms of the results of implementation of the Nordic League rules I saw at Purple Heart Open, which were similar to the problems I saw in the 2014 Longpoint tournaments and that I predicted in the more recent draft of the 2015 rules. Jake Norwood challenged me to do better, so I took a hard look at several rulesets and pieced together a document that became the core of the official 2015 Longpoint rules. I attached a version of this editorial to the initial document laying out my rationale, and I’ve updated it now that the rules are finalized to explain in part the reasoning behind some of the design. If you don’t care about my thoughts on the state of HEMA tournaments, just skip down to the targeted system-centric formats section.

* * * * *

I first became involved with the wider HEMA community in 2008-2009 when a schism within ARMA resulted in my study group of many years becoming newly independent; before that, I was only vaguely aware that such a community might potentially exist. This timing roughly corresponded with the growth of tournament-based events and the rising profile of the tournament in HEMA. Despite the initial misgivings I had, as I’ve watched the tournament circuit come into its own over the past six years the results have been incredibly positive: a sharp increase in the level of skill and technical excellence demonstrated by the top echelon of historical fencers, an increased attention to and capacity to perform (under pressure) the more sophisticated techniques and tactics of the various Medieval and early Modern systems, and a general explosion in the number and quality of practitioners and organizations worldwide.

Part of the maturation of HEMA tournaments has been in creating ever more sophisticated structures and rule-sets in an effort to discover the ideal tournament format for each particular art. When it comes to early Modern fencing systems, especially Kunst des Fechtens and Armizare with their focus on cut and thrust swords, there have been three primary approaches used to reasonably good effect, which I will call the purely modern formats, the reconstructed historical formats, and the targeted system-centric formats. Each has, however, also faced significant problems.

A purely modern format was the obvious first choice when organizing a HEMA tournament. While general knowledge of and skill with Medieval and early Modern dueling weapons may have been lost over the intervening centuries, the practice of holding tournaments and sportive fencing matches with the swords of the day—as well as wrestling matches, boxing matches, etc.—has persisted to the present. While some of this knowledge is surely useful, modern sportive rules are not without many problems. For example:

  • Easily-abused Rules: Unlike a boxing match or a wrestling match, which can be allowed to continue until the natural conclusion of the fight (knock-out or tap-out), the natural conclusion of a sword fight is often injury or death, neither of which can be tolerated in sport. This means rules have to be implemented to simulate these win conditions, and the rules that have evolved in modern Olympic fencing are very easily gamed in such a way that the match no longer resembles sword-fighting. (For example, rules of right-of-way allow a fencer to earn a victory on an intentional double-touch, and awarding points only to the first strike removes the need for a tactical withdrawal at the end of a bout.)
  • Difficult to Judge: Classical fencing judges dedicate enormously more time to learning their trade than HEMA judges are willing or able to devote, but even then and with a much more limited set of legal techniques than in longsword, judging in an accurate and consistent manner across a whole tournament is a difficult task.
  • Empty Vessel: Most modern sportive rules seek to create a container in which fighters can fight, nothing more. This means defining starting conditions, ending conditions, and usually certain banned techniques, but beyond that all tactics and techniques are treated equally. Without strong incentives offered to reward specific high-risk techniques—such as those prized by early Modern fencing masters—such techniques are rarely seen, and instead fighters rely on superior athleticism coupled with simple strikes to easy targets.

Of course, there have been many tournaments conducting using modern sport rules, and I would be very interested in assisting with a HEMA tournament designed by hybridizing rules from living traditions (e.g. classical fencing, academic fencing, and something like glima for grappling).

  

The historical formats that some have attempted to reconstruct include Franco-Belgian rules compiled from fragments in guild archives, German Fechtschule rules gleaned from tournament descriptions in literature, and Bolognese school-fencing rules extrapolated from comments in the treatise of Antonio Manciolino. These seem on the surface to be ideal tournament formats for an art that is equally a modern construct based on historical sources, but in practice there are a number of problems:

  • Asymmetry: The historical solution to problems of gamesmanship in fencing matches and difficulty in judging was often to abandon any pretext of equality and create steeply asymmetrical encounters that eliminate any ambiguity. For example, a Franco-Belgian solution to resolving double-hits and near-double-hits was to declare one fencer the automatic winner in all such exchanges, placing the burden firmly on the other fencer to prevent them from happening.
  • Technical and Target Restrictions: It was not uncommon in these contests to ban whole categories of actions, such as disarms, throws, or thrusts. This was, presumably, partly for safety and partly to isolate some specific skill-set which they wished to put on display. In a similar vein, historical formats often limited the target area, ranging from penalties for striking to the hands (a reasonable safety precaution when neither fencer was wearing gloves) to only scoring strikes to the top of the head. Both of these classes of restrictions are incompatible with the presumptive goal of a HEMA tournament, which is showcasing as much of the “complete art” as possible.
  • Incomplete Data: A major drawback in historical formats is their fragmentary and largely speculative nature. There simply isn’t enough information available to establish more than the most basic concept of how these tournaments were executed. The historical rule-sets that have been proposed to date do not represent the format of any specific tournament known to have ever been held, but are rather the amalgamation of many scraps of information stapled together by considerable guesswork.
  • Irrelevance: Ultimately, the connection between the known historical formats and the reconstructed martial arts from the early Modern period is tenuous at best. For example, it does little to advance the practice of historical fencing for a fencer trained in the Germanic tradition of Johannes Liechtenauer as it was recorded in the 15th century (or even the coeval Italic tradition of Fiore de’i Liberi) to then fence under the house rules of 16th century Bolognese master Antonio Manciolino (using weapons he didn’t even teach, no less), and it does even less to fence under rules used by fencing guilds in 17th century Belgium, even if either rule-set were reconstructed perfectly. It is no less anachronistic than fencing under rules designed for classical fencing in the 19th century or rules designed specifically for HEMA in the 21st.

All of which is not to say that these tournament efforts should not continue, either. Even if they are not ideal for the practice of early many Modern systems, they still provide invaluable historical context and insight into the culture of fencing (and can be quite fun, to boot).

This brings us to targeted system-centric formats, tournaments that are constructed from the ground up around the particular details and constraints of a certain fencing system (or cluster of systems). Though it is not without its own problems, this experimental category has been the most successful tournament format in North America in recent years. Longpoint is an example of this, and here is how the 2014 Longpoint Rules describe the approach:

  • A Game: The rules are constructed so that using historical techniques which demonstrate all the criteria listed in the assumptions above [hitting the opponent without also being hit at the same time or shortly thereafter; movements that are measured, balanced, and stable; good technique that ultimately leads to a wound to the head or torso; skill demonstrated by techniques which actively interrupt and control the opponent’s weapon while striking] score more points than those who simply fence using the simplest approach to the easiest target. Sadly, this also brings many of the limitations inherent in all games.
  • A Pressure Test for Interpretations and Skill: By rewarding specific styles of fighting without forbidding others, fencers seeking to improve or refine their training and interpretations of historical technique will be rewarded against fighters who might use a more basic, attribute-based style of fencing.
  • A Feedback Tool: The judging process is more time consuming than in most HEMA competitions before 2013. Each of the four criteria is scored separately to provide fighters with more detailed feedback on their performance. As such, we expect that fighters training for the LP rules will improve as fencers over time.
  • Focused on Certain Skill Sets at the Expense of Others: No rule set currently in use can safely simulate all the eventualities and possibilities of a violent encounter with swords or other historical weaponry. LP rules focus on certain aspects of historical fencing, and ultimately favor certain historical techniques over other equally legitimate historical techniques. In building these rules, we have tried to emphasize what we feel is the next step in our skill development as a HEMA community. We reward less for techniques that we see more, and reward more for techniques that we see less…sometimes arbitrarily so. We also acknowledge that—as a side effect—the rules may favor some historical sources, techniques, schools, or traditions over others.

This approach appeals to me as the best way forward, but unfortunately, I feel like the rules have strayed from this vision a bit over the past few years. In an effort to address staffing concerns and to seek more consistency in judging, some of the core components of the system have been discarded. Most notably, the idea that the sequence of strikes is one of the most important defining features of an exchange. While discarding sequence and scoring all strikes by both fighters equally (the so-called “judged after-blow”) is admittedly much easier to judge, it has caused the resulting rule-set to slide into some of the same shortcomings seen in modern-inspired formats (rules exploitation, technical shallowness, etc.) In my revisions, I’ve attempted to reintroduce the concept of sequence/priority of hits without increasing the burden on less experienced judges (though it will fall to Directors to pick up the slack).

Additionally, I think it’s necessary at this stage to revisit a concept that emerged from Matt Galas’ research into the Franco-Belgian guilds, namely the Naerslag (commonly translated “after-blow”). The Naerslag is a rule in this format whereby a fencer, once struck by his opponent, is allowed a brief moment for a “revenge strike”, representing the fact that your opponent will not always be disabled by your first hit and you must continue to defend yourself. While this device has been broadly, almost universally, incorporated into HEMA tournament formats, and has been enormously effective in promoting proper defensive behavior during fencing matches, it is ultimately alien to the fencing systems that the Longpoint rules in particular are attempting to address. It also shifts the focus at the end of an exchange from the attacker to the defender in a way that seems unconstructive and unintuitive.

Thus, in my revision below I do not speak of “after-blows”, but rather the behavior that the after-blow is intended to promote—a clean and effective Abzug (Withdrawal) vs. a messy and ineffective one. If a fencer strikes his opponent without sacrificing his defense—ideally by achieving a Control point, but alternatively with a guard or parry—then he is Withdrawing from the engagement correctly. If he strikes his opponent but leaves himself exposed—demonstrated by his opponent striking to the opening if he can—then the fencer has failed to Withdraw effectively.

The type of exchange (Clean Hit, Failed Withdrawal, Double-Hit, Grapple, or no exchange) thus becomes the key to determining how the match will be scored, replacing the old first scoring step in the Longpoint rules (Contact)—a call of Clean Hit or Grapple can reach up to six points, whereas a call of Failed Withdrawal can earn only one (and a call of Double-Hit or no exchange results in no points at all). In essence, this integrates the “after-blow” fully into the scoring pyramid: Contact alone ends the exchange but awards no points; Quality is worth one point (regardless of Abzug); Target is worth two additional points, but only with a proper Abzug; and Control combines both offense and defense into a single action and is worth a further three.

To further simplify scoring and align the rules, we took a hard look at special actions this year. Special awards for ring-outs and different grappling actions bogged down the process and were just more things for judges to keep in mind. So this year, grappling is scored in the same fashion as fencing: an intentional ring-out earns a Quality point (encouraging fencers to remain in the ring without rewarding “shoving” as a tactic too strongly, since it also endangers staff and spectators), a standard takedown or throw with dominance earns Target points, and a throw or takedown rises to the level of a Control technique if the dominant fighter retains his weapon and the ability to use it. Other special grappling actions (such as disarms) are non-scoring but will likewise award Control points if followed by a suitable strike.

* * * * *

Final note: These rules, which have now been picked over by several leading fencers and successfully field-tested at Fechtschule New York last month, are not without their own flaws and we don’t pretend otherwise. There are two ways to add a revenge strike mechanic to a tournament, which I’ll call the Naerslag approach and the Abzug approach, and each has a critical flaw that we haven’t managed to solve yet.

  • The Naerslag approach scores the revenge strike by the same metric as the initial strike, allowing both fighters in an exchange to score points.
  • The Abzug approach instead reduces or negates the score of the initial strike if a revenge strike lands, only allowing the fencer who hits first to score points.

The key problem scenario is one where a fighter lands a shallow or otherwise low-value strike, only to receive a deep/high-value revenge strike. In this case, the Naerslag awards net positive points to the fighter who struck second, whereas the Abzug approach awards positive points to the fighter who struck first. Either fighter can “game” this situation very easily: under Naerslag, a fighter may offer a low-value target as bait to an opponent, intentionally soak up the hit, and then return a high-value strike; under Abzug, a fighter may offer a high-value target as bait, speed in a sniping strike to an arm or other low-value target, and thus negate the high-value strike that lands moments later.

There is no way out: one of those two scenarios is going to happen, and the further band-aids we explored for one or the other not only make the rules much more difficult for staff and for fighters, but also open new avenues of gaming ad infinitum. Given that, and after long debate (including hundreds and hundreds of Facebook posts), we find the latter scenario to be the lesser evil and marginally more martially-sound. If you have an idea on this front, feel free to send it to us and it might just appear in the 2016 Longpoint Rules.

Michael Chidester
Wiktenauer Director

Rules Laboratory: Draft Rules for Fechtschule New York Longsword Up

Things are busy over here so this will be short.

The Draft Longpoint 2015 Longsword Rules are available here. These are the rules that will be tested at Fechtschule New York this weekend. We have also prepared a cheat sheet for Directors and Judges here.

These rules are very much still in draft format, so typos, etc., are to be expected. The format is a hybrid of what we saw in 2013 and 2014, with a few additional changes for ease of use, clarity, or to attempt to deal with artifacts that we feel have become common in competitive fencing over the last two years.

These rules are something of a departure from previous Rules Laboratory entries this year in that they do not use NHFL-style weighted afterblows. More discussion will follow Fechtschule New York, with the final rules published at least 30 days before Longpoint 2015 begins.

Thanks,

Jake & the Longpoint 2015 Crew

Rules Laboratory Part Three: Shortpoint After-Action Review

Shortpoint went off last Saturday without a hitch, with about 75 fighters showing up for a day of informal sparring, a handful of classes, and the first real pressure tests of the rules variations posted in Rules Laboratory 2.

The first round of testers were primarily complete beginners to HEMA tournament judging, forcing a quick training session. Throughout the training session I was reminded how hard it is to accurately watch two fencers at the same time, identifying targets, evaluating blows for quality, and generally trying to maintain the feedback resolution that defines Longpoint’s CQTC rules. Shortly after teaching these new judges the “basic” Longpoint rules (think 2013), we shifted to testing Shortpoint Option #1:

German Quality Priority. All strikes are judged independently, without regard to doubles or afterblows. All points are counted for each fighter (i.e., no subtraction).

We tried this with four judges watching all of the action, but it was a disaster. Then we shifted to Longpoint 2014-style judging with two judges watching one fighter each and the fight director (referee) adjudicating the calls. Rather suddenly the quality of calls improved. Significantly.

We continued the tests with sword and buckler, and again with more experienced judges. In each case, this approach worked better than every other. After only a short amount of testing of the other three options from the rules laboratory, fighters, observers, and judges unanimously agreed to continue working on the two-judge-per-fighter, quality-over-priority model. The next several hours, then, were devoted to working out the bugs.

Before I go into detail outlining how these rules will work for Fechtschule New York (and probably for Longpoint 2015), I want to discuss why we’ve moved in this direction at all, as it’s quite a bit different from where the Longpoint rules started and the general state of US HEMA tournaments in their early years. What drove us this direction?

  1. Zee Germans. The introduction of the afterblow, based primarily on Matt Galas’s research and best known from 16th-17th Century Franco-Belgian rules. We know that rules calling out some kind of afterblow were pretty far reaching, showing up in the Italian states and elsewhere. Many Germanic Fechtschulen, however, seemed to operate under a different model: matches were broken down into a series of Gänge, or “goes,” each lasting a finite number of strikes. At the end of each Gang the fencers were inspected for highest bleeding wound; the fencer who delivered said wound was the winner. Under this model, priority of strike was subordinate to quality of strike, judged by objective criteria. Longpoint’s competitions—though open to all traditions—has always skewed Germanic in flavor. Taking this approach seemed a natural progression.
  2. The Vikings. Or, more specifically, the Nordic Historical Fencing League, which has been running on a similar model for the last two years…and with good effect. Compare the longsword finals for Swordfish 2014 to previous years for cleanliness of fighting and of judging, and you’ll see what began to persuade us.
  3. And Judges. Judging accuracy in competitive HEMA is a challenge—one that’s rued, begrudgingly accepted, and frequently mocked by the competitive populace. After six-plus years of fighting in HEMA competitions, judging HEMA competitions, reffing HEMA competitions, and running HEMA competitions, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grasp on our challenges in this department. The greatest of them (after the quality of fighting) is a judge’s limitations of attention. Watching two fighters for an hour (or six) is difficult. Noting who hit who…in what order…and where (for both fighters)…is even more difficult. This paradigm eliminates these issues almost entirely. It’s easy to judge, less fatiguing, and significantly more accurate than any previous method we’ve used.

So What’s Different, Exactly?

CQTC Point Values

  • Contact—intentionally striking your opponent—is now called but not scored. Incdentally, caroming, ricocheting, or otherwise accidental strikes will not be considered contact.  Contact alone is worth 0 points.
  • Quality has now been more objectively defined. All quality strikes must be performed from stabile posture or movement. Cuts must be made with the last 50% of the sword (the “weak”), using the edge, with at least 45 degrees of rotation; blows made with the strong or with the flat will not earn the point for quality. A thrust must make solid contact, though the blade need not bow. A slash/draw cut must drag at least 50% of the edge along the target. A quality strike is worth 1 point.
  • Target, meaning the prioritized target area, has been narrowed slightly. While a strike to any allowed target area can earn contact and quality, earning the bonus points for target require landing a thrust to the torso or head, or a blow with the edge to the head or upper openings above the seam of the shoulder. Slashes are counted as blows. Pommel strikes, as always, are only counted against the mask. The target bonus is +2 points, for a total of 3 points.
  • Control has changed the least and maintains 2014’s definition, paraphrased as active control of the opponent’s weapon in the time that your attack lands. A standardized (but non-comprehensive) list of techniques which, if properly executed, earn the control point bonus will be published prior to Fechtschule New York. Unlike the 2011-2013 rules, a blow or afterblow landed by your opponent does not necessarily cancel out your opportunity to earn the control point, though the fight director (aka head judge) may still cite such a blow as evidence that control was not sufficiently maintained. The control bonus is +3 points, for a total of 6 points.

Afterblows, Doubles, and Clean Hits

All of our early tests indicate that rules systems which don’t penalize doubles and afterblows lead to sloppier fencing among beginners but have the opposite effect at higher levels. Rewarding clean hits (instead of punishing poor ones) pushes skilled fencers harder and promotes better technique. We feel it’s time to hold our fencers to a higher standard—but we also believe that reward systems are more effective at promoting such behavior than punishments are.

The accuracy of this judging system led to some interesting observations. Most noteworthy was that many blows which would have been scored for only one fighter (aka a clean blow) under any other rule set often came out as a scoring blow for one fighter and contact without quality for the other fighter. This irritated some fencers (including me) at first, but on further reflection it became apparent that we rarely fence as cleanly as we imagine. The effect on the score in such situations is marginal (just the “clean hit” bonus point); the effect on our egos has been more lasting…

Two judges will focus on each fighter. Last year this resulted in some confusion of the priority of landed blows, and led to the nice-sounding but inconsistently applied “Double without defense” ruling. The planned 2015 rules eschew the concept of afterblows and double-hits altogether, taking cues from old German Fechtschule rules. Every blow is evaluated independently of its priority in the action. When a judge for either fighter sees their fighter land a hit, the judge will call “Point.” The fight director will follow a moment later with “halt.” The best blow landed before the director calls halt is scored by the judges.

To reward fencers who land clean blows with no afterblow or double-hit, a clean hit bonus point will be awarded to fighters who score a quality (or better) strike without their opponent scoring contact. Note that blows which make contact without quality cannot earn the clean hit bonus point.

This means that a fighter can earn up to seven (7) points in a single blow, assuming the blow is assessed for quality, target, control, and is a clean hit.

Other Bits and Pieces

The updated rules for grappling and ring-outs followed the model published in the second Rules Laboratory post. To recap:

GRAPPLING

  • Grappling with no resolution after a 5-count: 0 points (equivalent to Contact)
  • A throw or take-down resulting in one fighter in a dominant position or remaining standing: 1 point (equivalent to Quality)
  • A throw or take-down resulting in the dominant fighter planting the point against the opponent’s torso/head: 3 points (equivalent to target)
  • A throw where one fighter remains standing and armed while the other fighter is disarmed or unable to use his weapon due to position: 6 points (equivalent to control)

RING-OUTS

  • If a fighter leaves the ring for any reason during the fight, his/her opponent will be awarded 1 point.
  • If a fighter leaves the ring under their own power before the halt, any points scored before the halt will not be awarded and the fighter’s opponent will still be awarded 1 point.

Win Conditions

Matches will end when one fighter has a lead of 9 points on the other, or at time. We have reduced this from 2014's 14 point margin to partially regain the fear of being hit and losing quickly from 2013's rules, where one hit could get you all the points you needed to win. 

Questions?

We’re sure you’re going to have questions and comments. We invite you to discuss them on the Longpoint Facebook Page. Questions posted to other locations may not be noticed or answered; we will do everything we can to address your questions on our official page, however.

One More Thing: What About the Baltimore Sword and Knife Co. Feders at Shortpoint?

I got to use and abuse the heavier of the two feder models during our rules tests. These tests will be continuing for a few weeks. Initial impressions are positive—the weapon handles well and appears resistant to breaking. The temper on this initial model may be a bit soft, but not by much, and Kerry over at Baltimore Sword and Knife Co. seems genuinely interested in tweaking this thing until it’s right. This isn’t an approved blade for Longpoint yet, but if things continue moving in this direction, it will be.

One Last Thing…

Oh yeah. I had a really amazing time at Shortpoint this year. Everything went great, the fights were a blast, and it was wonderful to see 75 of my closest friends for eight hours of mayhem. We should do this more often.

--Jake

 

Ringen Rules Laboratory

A few days ago, the draft rules for each competition were made available on the website. We will be addressing notable rules changes to each competition in this series of posts, and we are starting with Ringen.

The purpose of the Ringen competition at Longpoint is to provide a venue for practitioners of medieval wrestling styles to safely test their training in a competitive scenario. We believe that providing practitioners the opportunity to compete against opponents from around the world will help the development of the unarmed arts in much the same way it has for the sword arts. Longpoint strives to improve our event every year, and in doing so will make changes which we believe will better align our competitions with the event goals.  Below are the two most significant changes to the Ringen competition format and a brief explanation of our decisions.

For reasons both functional and aesthetic we have decided to remove martial arts gis from our list of allowed gear for this year. Not only does the loose fitting style of a gi makes it a poor simulator for the clothing seen in the medieval sources, but there were also a number of complaints last year that the gi was significantly different in grips than the other allowed jacket styles. Many competitors believed this difference could provide an unfair advantage to those using a gi. Considering the expected publicity for this year’s event, following the New York Times article from last year, we would like to present a more cohesive, western look to distinguish medieval wrestling styles from other unarmed arts of the world and avoid viewer confusion. (Note: Medieval wrestling jackets are available from a number of online retailers and are highly encouraged for this competition.)

We have also changed the way points are scored, particularly in consideration to knees touching the mat. Under last year’s rules in some circumstances competitors were attempting to force an opponent’s knee to the mat rather than using their skillset to complete a throw or takedown. To avoid this in future events, a single knee down will not count as a scored point. Instead three points of contact (between hands and knees) with the mat are required to score a point. Otherwise throws and takedowns will be counted much the same way as they were last year. Please read the posted rules for a more detailed description of scoring actions and information on how non scoring knee down situations will be handled. 

Thank you for your participation, and we look forward to seeing you at Longpoint 2015!

Tim Hall
Virginia Academy of Fencing
Longpoint Event Board, Ringen

Rules Laboratory Part Two: Testing Rules for Longsword and Sword & Buckler

With Shortpoint just over two weeks away, it’s time to present the rules modifications that we will be testing prior to application at Fechtschule New York. The final feedback from FNY will be the prime determinant in what changes stick, what gets tossed, and what needs to be redesigned from the ground up. The Rapier, Ringen, Passage At Arms, and Paired Technique draft rules are also available on the website in their respective locations.

At its core, the Longpoint rule set isn't changing. Fighters are still judged based on the “CQTC” criteria of contact, quality, target, and control. The basic procedures and roles of tournament staff won’t be much different, if at all, either. The changes proposed this year are aimed at incorporating the last three years’ feedback, continuing to raise the bar on the fencing quality we demand of our competitors, and reflecting community-wide best practices where appropriate. Beyond all that, we want to simplify things and reduce the number of exceptions that both fighters and staff are required to track. You can see Longpoint’s 2014 rules here.

Also note that these rules only apply to the Longsword events (Open, Women’s, and Rookie tournaments) and the Sword and Buckler tournament. The other events will all operate under different rules, which are available in draft form in their respective locations on the website.

Key sections

Equipment Standards
Scoring
Priority Rules
Penalties

Equipment Standards

Most of last year’s rules will hold with a few anticipated changes:

  • No lacrosse gloves will be allowed unless significantly modified and reinforced. 
  • Masks must fit snugly. 
  • Fighters who circumvent the equipment standards will be disqualified from the tournament immediately. Fighters disqualified in this way from two events will be ejected from the event completely.


Approved Swords for Competition

Fighters will provide their own sword from this approved list, all of which have seen extensive use in international longsword competitions (or comparable events) and have reputations for durability, safety, and quality. Fighters wishing to use a sword not on this list must inquire with contact@fightlongpoint.com at least one week before the tournament date. The Tournament staff and administration will not review off-brand/off-model weapons on-site at Longpoint unless previous arrangements have been made. All models of longsword or arming sword/short sword not featuring an integral safety tip/button/rolled tip must be tipped with a metal washer (or equivalent) and sturdy leather or arrowhead blunt properly secured with strong tape.

Longswords  

  • Regenyei Feders
  • Pavel Moc Feders  
  • Ensifer Heavy or Long Feders
  • Chlebowski Feders
  • Pavel Moc Feders  
  • Albion Meyer  
  • Arms & Armor Fechterspiel or Fechtbuch Sword  
  • Comfort Fencing “Dobringer” Feder  
  • Mac Arms Feder
  • Darkwood Armory Feder

Not Allowed: Albion Liechtenauer, Darksword Feder, Hanewei Feder, Regenyei “light” blades from 2012 or earlier

Other models that are currently in production which we have not yet tested, including Baltimore Knife Company and Castille Armory. We will update our list once we have had the opportunity to evaluate these swords. The disallowed list above is based on the most current tests of those items, and is subject to change if new tests become available.

Short Swords (for Sword & Buckler)

  • Albion I.33
  • Arms & Armor Scholar
  • Darkwood Arming Sword

Messers or short swords designed for HEMA sparring (e.g., not stage combat or Battle of Nations style bouts) by the following makers will be allowed:

  • Regenyei
  • Ensifer
  • Szymon Chlebowski Swords
  • Mac Arms
  • Darkwood Armory
  • Arms and Armor
  • Pavel Moc

Not Allowed: Albion Marxbruder, Hanwei (any model), any longsword, saber, rapier, etc.

Scoring

Up to 4 points may be scored in a single exchange.

Matches are fought to time (90 seconds or 2 minutes); the clock stops on “halt” and starts on “fight.”

Leading an opponent by 7 points results in an instant win (aka, the Mercy Rule).

Strikes are judged via the following criteria, in order (I.e., you cannot earn quality without first earning contact, nor control without first earning target).

  1. Contact (0 pts): strike your opponent with a cut using the weak half of the blade, or a thrust with the point, or a pommel strike to the mask, or a buckler blow to the mask. An inconclusive throw or takedown. (Note: The big change is that while judges will call these events, they will not receive points. Therefore a fighter will know if the judge didn’t see the hit, or simply didn’t consider the hit to be of sufficient quality).
     
  2. Quality (1 pt): The strike is delivered solidly, with stable footwork, hip rotation (where appropriate) and presence in the blow.

    - Cuts are clearly with the weak part of the edge, not just the tip, not the flat, not close to the cross, and with at least 45 degrees of rotation.  
    - Thrusts are firmly placed; the blade does not need to bow or flex.
    - Pommel and buckler strikes are likewise firmly placed; the head does not need to be displaced.
    - A throw or takedown which puts your opponent on the ground while you remain standing or finish dominant.
    - Driving your opponent out of bounds, including throws that put the opponent out of bounds.
     
  3. Target (+1 pt): strikes with the edge or point to the head or upper openings above the shoulders. Thrusts with the point anywhere on the torso from the bottom of the abdomen up (I.e., not the arms or legs). Pommel and buckler strikes do not earn Target points. Throwing an opponent so that you remain standing, or asserting dominance at the end of the grapple with the weapon (e.g., finishing in half-sword with the point against the opponent’s torso). (Note: The change here is that cuts that do not land on top of the shoulders or the head will not be awarded Target points.)
     
  4. Control (+2 pts): cuts and thrusts made which constrain the opponent’s weapon as the scoring blow is made. Also cuts or thrusts which immediately follow hende trucken or a Talhoffer kick. Cuts or thrusts against an opponent whose weapon is bound through grappling techniques. Retaining your weapon against a disarmed or thrown opponent when you remain standing and armed. Strikes and thrusts made “under cover” with sword and buckler (opponent’s weapon must be actively engaged against the defense).

Priority Rules: Doubles and Afterblows

Halt is called immediately upon a judge calling “point,” allowing the time of a single step for a response/afterblow. 

The following options represent the greatest potential changes being tested at Shortpoint 2015, with the best result (or a hybrid result) used for Fechtschule New York 2015, and the final version applying at Longpoint 2015. 

  1. Shortpoint Option 1: German Quality Priority. All strikes are judged independently, without regard to doubles or afterblows. All points are counted for each fighter (i.e., no subtraction).

    - Option 1.1: Clean hit bonus. In any exchange where points are only called for a single fighter, that fighter receives +1 points.
     
  2. Shortpoint Option 2: First Hit Priority/2013 Point Cap. The first blow is scored. Afterblows cap the first blow at Quality (1 pt total possible for fighters who receive an afterblow).
     
  3. Shortpoint Option 3: First Hit Priority/High Target Nullifies. Afterblows are only counted if they a qualify for “Target,” I.e., strikes to the upper openings above the shoulders or thrusts to the torso or head. This nullifies the original hit entirely. Afterblows to other locations are not counted.
     
  4. Shortpoint Option 4: High Target Priority/Franco Belgian. Afterblows delivered to the head not only nullify the original hit but also earn the afterblow-deliverer 1 pt. Afterblows to other locations are not counted.
     

Penalties

Running out of bounds. Fighters who run out of bounds under their own power will be penalized by awarding their opponent 1 pt (Quality). Fighters who run out of bounds following a scoring attack will receive no points for that attack and 1 pt will still be awarded to their opponent. 

Throwing equipment. Equipment may not be thrown. Any equipment thrown at an opponent or any other person in or out of the ring will result in automatic forfeiture of the he match. The Director may, at his discretion, remove a fighter who throws equipment in a dangerous manner from the venue entirely. Fighters may toss equipment to their coach or another helper between bouts without fear of reprisal. Dropping equipment (e.g., sword, buckler) is permissible as part of a attempted grappling action.


What About Complete Rules?

A complete form of draft rules will be provided for Fechtschule New York to test and posted here after Shortpoint helps us narrow down what changes we would like to make.


~The Longpoint 2015 Crew

Wiktenauer Fundraiser

http://igg.me/p/2015-wiktenauer-fundraising-drive/x/1789830

The Wiktenauer is the most important online presence within the historical European martial arts space. It serves the thousands of us who don't have direct access to museums or skills in transcription or translation by providing the source material we use to validate our art and theories. It also serves as a professional, legitimizing resource to show the public and the media that we're not making this up as we go.

I am confident that without Wiktenauer, all of our groups and events would not have seen as much growth we have seen over the last five years. Even when I stopped being directly involved in the project a few years ago, we were seeing thousands of unique visitors a month. A notable portion of these visitors were authors, gamers, historians, reenactors, and simply people with an interest in history who found the wiki through Google searches. This material excites people, especially when they have no idea it exists.

Last year, the wiki fundraiser brought in more than expected, providing an excellent avenue for acquiring and making available new material. This year, Michael Chidester has ambitious plans to keep moving down that path with an impressive list of targets. He is providing desirable rewards all through the donation levels to reach this.

Growing Wiktenauer grows HEMA. This is about more than just keeping the servers running, which I have no doubt the generosity of the HEMA community will provide. Open and easy access to all of the source material currently available to the community was the original goal of the wiki. Michael has blown through that milestone and is now offering opportunities that used to take years of careful maneuvering and contacts, ignoring the thousands of dollars usually required. Please consider helping us barrel through his initial goal, making it deep into the stretch goals.

Thanks,

Ben Michels 
Longpoint Event Manager
Wiktenauer Founder


http://igg.me/p/2015-wiktenauer-fundraising-drive/x/1789830