Longpoint 2019 Meta Event Results & The Indefinite Hiatus

As usual, Sunday morning is mostly about fog clearing at Longpoint. Half of our attendees are still in bed, and most of those are trying to sleep off whatever happened last night. The ones who are really dedicated are already attending classes. On this morning, we traditionally post the tournament results and our first announcement for the next event. So, here are the results!

Messer Triathlon

1st Place - Stephen Cheney, Medieval European Martial Arts Guild
2nd Place - Casper Ellestad-Andersen, Triangle Sword Guild
3rd Place - Robert Templar, Tosetti Institute

Man-At-Arms Triathlon

1st Place - Luis Torres, New York Historical Fencing Association
2nd Place - Dan Halliday, Liberty Sword Club
3rd Place - Lucas Marra, Laurel City Historical Fencing

Longsword Triathlon

1st Place - Kristian Ruokonen, EHMS RY
2nd Place - Tristan Zukowski, New York Historical Fencing Association
3rd Place - Tim Kaufman, New York Historical Fencing Association

Liechtenauer’s Light Pentathlon

1st Place - Ties Kool, Historisch Vrijvechten Nederland
2nd Place - McKenzie Ewing, Atlanta Freifechter
3rd Place - Eddy Louis, Forte

Liechtenauer’s Heavy Pentathlon

1st Place - Hank McLemore, Virginia Academy of Fencing
2nd Place - Bill Grandy , Virginia Academy of Fencing
3rd Place - Charles Lin, Capital Kunst des Fechtens

Congratulations to all of the fighters in each of our meta events this year. We asked a lot from each of you, pushed many of you out of your comfort zones, but you stepped up and did us proud.

Now, for our future plans.

There currently exist no future plans for Longpoint. Longpoint may return at some point with a slightly different organizing team, or some of the organizers may move on to similar projects, but those aren’t things we can answer at this moment. Because we don’t have the answers.

Last night at dinner, Jake Norwood spoke about the future of HEMA, both in the short term and generations down the line. Many people from about Jake’s generation up to about Ben Michels’ generation are burning out, retiring, or otherwise stepping back for various reasons. He called on the newer generation of leaders to identify where they want to see HEMA, and to act on that vision in constructive ways. He spoke about teaching our students to be active participants in the community, not just consumers of an activity, about encouraging the newer generations to open up the sources early, and about continuing to structure tournaments in a way to support our training and our goals, not to make them the goal themselves.

To those of you who have supported us, whether through attending and being active participants, implementing our ideas in other places (modified or not), being attentive training partners to the fighters who signed up to compete, volunteering to teach a class, or running one of our tournaments: Thank you. We have always appreciated it, and it’s been a good nine years.

Longpoint Technique Event: The Techniques

Techniques List (From Pseudo-Peter Von Danzig)

The techniques listed below will be included in the Longpoint 2019 Technique event that is part of Longsword and Man-At-Arms triathlons and both Pentathlons. The full rules can be found here.

1. Zornhau Ort und Oben abgenomen

Mark, the Wrath-hew breaks all Over-hews with the point, and yet is nothing other than a simple peasant strike, and drive it thus: When you come to him with the pre-fencing, if he then hews at your head from above on his right side, then hew also with him wrathfully from your right side from above, without any parrying, on his sword. If he is then Soft on the sword, then shoot in the long point straight before you and stab him to the face or the breast. So Set-on him.

Mark, that is when you hew in on him with the Wrath-hew, then shoot the long point into the face or breast, as the fore-described states. If he becomes aware of the point and parries strongly and presses your sword to the side, then wrench up over it with your sword on his sword’s blade, off above from his sword, and hew him to the other side, yet on his sword’s blade, into the head. That is called “taking off above”.

2. Krumphau zu den flechen und hauen

Mark, you shall drive this technique against the Masters from the bind of the swords, and it drive thus: when you come to him with the pre-fencing, then stand with the left foot before and lay your sword to your right side in the Barrier-Guard (or hold it on your right shoulder). If he then hews above to the opening, then hew strongly with your long edge with crossed arms against his hew, and as quickly as the swords clash together, then… hew him with your short edge Meanwhile, from the sword to his head or to his body.

3. Zwerchhau und Stoss mit gehiltz und schlag

Mark, the Thwart hew breaks the guard From the Day and all hews that come hewing down from above, and drive the Thwart thus: when you come with the pre-fencing, then stand with your left foot before and hold your sword on your right shoulder. If he then stands against you and holds his sword high over his head with outstretched arms and threatens to hew in at you from above, then come before him with your hew and spring with your right foot well on your right side against him, and in the spring Wind your sword with the hilt before your head so that your thumb comes under, and strike him with the short edge against his left side to the head.

When you hew to him with the Thwart from your right side, if he then parries and binds strongly on your sword therewith then… thrust his sword off to the side from the Thwart with your hilt, and strike him therewith to the other side.

4. Schielhau und einschiessen

Mark, when you come to him with the pre-fencing, then stand with your left foot before and hold your sword on your right shoulder. If he then hews above in to your head, then turn your sword and hew long against his hew with the short edge, over his sword with stretched arms above in to his head. If he is then clever and Fails with the hew, and will Change-through below your sword, then let the point shoot in long before you with the hew, so he may not Change-through below.

5. Scheitelhau und Hende Drucken

When you come to him with the pre-fencing, if he then lies against you in the guard Fool, then set your left foot before and hold your sword on your right shoulder in the guard, and spring to him, and hew strongly down from above with the long edge to his head. If he then parries the hew so that his point and hilt both stand over him, that is called the Crown. Then remain high with your arms, and with your left hand lift your sword’s pommel over you, and sink the point in over his hilt to his breast. If he then drives up with his sword and thrusts your point upwards with his hilt, then Wind your sword through under his Crown with the slice in his arms and press. Thus is the Crown again broken, and with the pressing slice fast in the arms, and then pull yourself off with the slice.

6. and 7. Choose Two Techniques from those listed below

• Aussere Mynn

When you come to him with the pre-fencing, then stand with your left foot before in the guard From the Day, and see well how he will fence against you. If he then hews long above in to you, then watch so that he does not reach you, and mark while his sword goes under you against the earth with the hew. Then spring to with your right foot and hew him above into the head before he comes up again with the sword… if he then drives up quickly with the sword and comes below you on your sword, then remain strong thereon. If he then heaves fast upwards with the sword, then spring with your left foot behind his right and strike him with the Thwart… to his head on his right side, and work quickly again around to his left side with the Doubling…

• Absetzen

Mark, drive the Setting-off thus: when you come to him with the pre-fencing, if he then stands against you as if he will stab, then set your left foot before and stand against him in the guard of the Plow on your right side, and give an opening with your left side. If he then stabs to that same opening, then Wind against his stab with your short edge on his sword (and your sword on your left side), and therewith Set-off, and therewith step to him with your right foot and stab him Meanwhile to the face or the chest.

• Durchwechseln von paiden seiten

When you come to him with the pre-fencing, then hew in above strongly. If he then hews against your sword (and not to your body), then let the point go through his sword with the hew, below between you, before he binds on your sword, and stab into the other side to his breast. If he becomes aware of the stab, and drives quickly after the stab with parrying with the sword, then Change-through yet again…

• Durchlaufen erst leibt ringen

Mark, when he runs into you and drives high up with the arms and will overwhelm you above with strength, then drive also up with your arms, and hold your sword by the pommel over your head with your left hand, and let the blade hang down behind over your back, and Run with your head through your arm against his right side, and spring with your right foot behind his right, and with the spring then drive in with your right arm against his left side in front, well around his body, and grasp him thus on your right hip and throw him before you backwards on his head.

• Ersten zwei winden

These are the first two Windings from the Ox on the right side alone, drive them thus: When you come to him with the pre-fencing, then stand with your left foot before and hold your sword on your right side before your head in the Ox. If he then hews from above on his right side, then Wind against his hew on your left side with the short edge on his sword, yet still in the Ox, and stab above into his face. This is one Winding.

If he parries the stab with strength and forces your sword on the side, then remain on the sword and Wind again on your right side over in the Ox, and stab above into his face.

Longsword Technique Event

The Paired Technique Competition has been a part of Longpoint since 2014, and in that time has introduced scores of people to the varied and unique plays of several fencing books. This year we are trying something a bit different. Longpoint 2019’s Technique Competition will be similar in many aspects to the competition of previous years, including competitors performing set techniques from historical sources, but with one big change; it will be a solo event. The decision to make this change came about for several reasons, some logistical, others to fix various problems with past iterations of the event, and still others involving the direction we want to take moving forward. Logistically, the Paired Technique event could not fit into the new event format due to the requirement to sign up with a partner and the fact that the performances required of each partner are not necessarily equal, but each would have been rewarded equally.

Whereas in previous years pairs of competitors would be judged upon their performances of sets of historical techniques, this year’s competition requires a single competitor to perform these techniques alone. Instead of a long list of increasingly complex techniques, only seven are performed by each competitor for the duration of the competition (five fixed and two variable). Competitors will compete against each other in head-to-head matches, two at a time, in an elimination style competition. This format has several benefits, including: competitors’ ability to practice without the need of having a partner present, competitors not having to rely on the skill of a partner, judges’ ability to clearly observe competitors’ actions, simplification of judging and scorekeeping, providing a direct competition aspect lacking in previous years, motivation for competitors to isolate and perfect their technical skills, and emphasis on fidelity to the sources while minimizing subjectivity. 

Yes, one perceived downside of this format is the inability of the competitors to use Fuehlen, however this was already limited in the previous iteration due to the predictability of the partner’s actions, and we think that all of the benefits listed above make this new format preferable overall.

We hope that the newly redesigned Technique Competition inspires you to train harder, delve deeper into the sources, and develop a fuller understanding of the fascinating techniques used in Historical European Martial Arts. The techniques that will be included in this event will be released months ahead of Longpoint 2019.

Visualizing Liechtenauer’s Art in Figure and Allegory

Cod.44.A.8 7v & 8r

Cod.44.A.8 7v & 8r

The Zettel is 186 rhyming couplets long (depending on which treatise you choose to recite from), and despite its concise nature and mnemonic intent, it can be quite difficult to hold in the mind as a single item.  Fortunately, medieval people, used to the strain of memorizing large chunks of poetic writing such as the biblical Psalms, devised a variety of methods of memorization to help with this process. One method is to create a “memory palace” wherein one actively creates a visual representation of the material to be memorized, attaching the information to a visual cue or representation of the idea to be remembered.  The palace can then be “walked through” in the mind, allowing for faster and more accurate recall due to the simplified nature of an image when compared to lines of text.

Another method frequently used by medieval scholars were diagrammatical representations of the information.  While memory palaces were unique to the person memorizing the text, these diagrams were intended to be easily understood and recalled by anyone working with the text.  While there are many different types of diagrams used by medieval scholars, for the purpose of this introduction to the idea, we will be sticking solely to the tree-form.  Codex 44 A 8, the so-called Von Danzig manuscript, from 1452 includes for our use one example of such figures on folios 7v and 8r, which connect to and expand upon the structure of the Rossfechten Verse itself, allowing for ease of memorization and more importantly, layers of additional tactical information about the techniques to which it ultimately connects.

Using these tree figures as an invitation to study the verse in a different way, I have begun to create my own figures for understanding the entirety of the verse and gaining from this effort a different way of seeing the techniques for Blossfechten and Harnischfechten as a result.  If we were to look to more complex tree structures from medieval manuscripts, such as Trees of Consanguinity or Trees of Vices and Virtures, we can find inspiration for creating trees which represent the whole art.


This is one example of a way that the verse can be diagrammed.  The connections between the various nodes are not necessarily indicated in this image, however, much like other charts, once you have learned the key to reading the information it becomes quite simple to make meaningful inferences from the structure.

The form need not be quite so obviously tree-like in shape, and a popular example of this which has existed from the middle ages until now might be the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.  If we take that as our inspiration and apply it to the Blossfechten verse, we end up with something that might look like the image below, with it’s obvious connections and interconnections.


Figures, such as these examples, are within the medieval scholastic world and are ways to internalize extensive texts and understand complicated ideas.  It goes without saying that there may be other, more effective, ways to turn Liechtenauer’s verse into a tree but these have already been quite useful to my understanding and interpretation of the art.

Yet another way to explore complex ideas would be to play with it in the realm of the allegory.  If we were to suggest that medieval knights had three main leisure pursuits, they would likely be hunting, fighting, and romancing.  While there are a variety of ways that these pursuits are interconnected, I suspect that, to-date, they haven’t all been fully explored.

Hunting as an allegory for love is a common medieval theme and was quite popular across Europe in general as well as, more relevant to our interests, in 14th and 15th century German-speaking lands.  The Minnesanger and the meaning of their poetry has been extensively explored in literature to date and is a rich source of material for German hunting traditions.  Additionally, much like our familiar fighting treatises, there still exist numerous treatises on hunting, including such diverse techniques as judging and harboring a stag, hunting with and training falcons, trapping, fowling, and zoological treatises.   Despite a wide understanding that hunting was a training ground for war, and an allegory for romantic and carnal love, the symbolic connection between the techniques of the hunt and the tactics of Liechtenauer’s Ritterkunst have been much less understood and explored.

One example from the verse is from the beginning of the Gemeine Lere, where it opens “wildu kunst schauen / sich linck gen und recht mit hawen”, “If you want to behold the art, see that you go on the left and strike with the right.” (translation by Christian Tobler).  The text of the gloss goes on to explain that this means that one should first learn how to strike correctly if you wish to be strong, and further that you should step with the right foot after you strike from your right side if you wish for your blows to be long and straight.  Should we look to information on hunting with a hawk (a ‘weapon’ that flies long and straight), the medieval text called the Avarium goes into detail about hawks and says that one should carry the hawk on the left but loose it from the right.  “Oddly, the Avarium explains this with reference to the Song of Songs 8:3: ‘Leva eius sub capite meo, Et dextera illius amplexabitur me’ [His left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace me].  Hugo [the author of Avarium] says that the left signifies temporal good whereas the right is true eternal good” (from the Tale of the Alerion by Minnette Gaudet and Constance B. Hieatt, page 19).  

I deliberately chose this example to introduce the idea of connection in a very theoretical way. This provides us no more information about how to strike properly or what is a “good cut” than we had without it.  What it does provide, however, is a wonderful example of how very layered the medieval mind might be — that carrying on the left and striking from the right is “proper” with both sword and hawk, and that the bible is ultimately used by the medieval scholar as the reasoning for why this might be so — a very different conclusion than what we might come to when reading the same text!

For my more practical friends out there, however, we can explore another connection between hunting texts and Liechtenauer’s Art.  Vier Leger or Vier Hütten, what some translate as the Four Guards, Four Wards, or Four Liers, are the main positions from which Liechtenauer tells us we should fight.  This is very clear and everyone has a sense of what these are in physical manifestation and use. However, when we want to make more connections between these and how a medieval person may have thought of these ideas, the hunting terminology can be exceedingly useful.  

A Leger is the lair or resting place of wild animals.  It is also the nesting-place of wild fowl. So with this image we can understand that our opponent will begin the fight in their resting place, one which is protected and within which they are covered and enclosed.  The Hütte, in contrast, is the hunter’s blind, the fowler’s hut, the place from which traps are operated.  The hunter is hidden from the quarry, protected from the elements, and ready to spring a trap upon their unwary prey when they are flushed from their lair.  So now we can visualize the fight not as a chess match or as a mathematical equation (if x then y), but instead, as both combatants being simultaneously prey and hunter, fleeing and chasing each other.

Whereas the tree diagram allows us to make practical connections between fight techniques, the hunting allegory allows us to imagine the fight in a creative way.  One provides structure, the other creativity, and where these two overlap we can gain new insights into a lost art: creating the mental realm of the medieval fighter, perhaps less of a memory palace and more of a Jagdweide.

This is the subject of my lecture at Longpoint 2019 and I look forward to discussing these topics and so much more with you all in March!

Jess Finley

Announcing Our Instructors (So Far)!

Here is a list of the instructors who have accepted our invitation to teach one or more classes at Longpoint next year. We are still waiting for more responses, class descriptions will be released later, and we are asking some instructors to write blog posts for us to publish, so there is a lot more information to come!

2019 Instructors, in no particular order:

Arturo Camargo - Krigerskole, Mexico

Jack Gassmann - Goats Head, Ireland

Jake Norwood - Capital Kunst des Fechtens, New Jersey

Kimberleigh Roseblade - Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts, Canada

Michael Chidester - Wiktenauer, Massachussetts

Tea Kew - New Cross Historical Fencing, United Kingdom

Adam Franti - Lansing Longsword Guild, Michigan

Bill Grandy - Virginia Academy of Fencing, Virginia

Bob Charrette - Forteza Historical Swordwork Guild, Virginia

Cory Winslow - Medieval European Martial Arts Guild, Virginia

Jay Vail - Meyer Tallahassee, Florida

Keith Cotter-Reilly - Atlanta Freifechter, Georgia

Kit Smith - Sweden

Kristian Ruokonen - EHMS, Finland

Ties Kool - Historisch Vrijvechten Nederland, Netherlands

Michael Edelson - New York Historical Fencing Association, New York

Sean Franklin - Michigan

Tristan Zukowski - New York Historical Fencing Association, New York

Bart Jongsma - Historisch Vrijvechten Nederland, Netherlands

Nathan Clough - The Oakeshott Institute, Minnesota

Philippe Charlebois - Canada

Charles Lin - Capital Kunst des Fechtens, Washington DC

Jake Priddy - Fenris Kunst des Fechtens, West Virginia

James Reilly - Wisconsin Historical Fencing Association Kenosha-Racine, Wisconsin

Sigmund Werndorf - Los Angeles Historical Martial Arts Club, California

Stephen Cheney - Medieval European Martial Arts Guild Bucks, Pennsylvania

Travis Mayott - Maryland Kunst des Fechtens, Maryland

Bill Frisbee - New Hampshire Kunst des Fechtens, New Hampshire

Jason Cook - Exiles New England, Connecticut

Jay Tsulis - New York Historical Fencing Association, New York

Kiana Shurkin - XKDF, Maryland

Jessica Finley - Ritterkunst Fechtschule, Kansas

Ringen Tournament Training and Safety

In these final few days leading up to Longpoint registration, it may become easy to get lost in the flood of important information regarding changes for this coming year’s event. The meta-event format is a new and exciting way to demonstrate prowess with the weaponry of Liechtenauer’s Art, but in considering your preferred meta-event, please be aware that three of the five tracks include registration into the Ringen tournament. Those tracks are:

  • Messer Triathlon - Messer Blossfechten, Messer Cutting, Ringen

  • Liechtenauer’s Light Pentathlon - Longsword Blossfechten, Messerfechten, Longsword Cutting, Longsword Technique, Ringen

  • Liechtenauer’s Heavy Pentathlon - Passage at Arms, Longsword Blossfechten, Longsword Cutting, Longsword Technique, Ringen

Before registering for an event that includes Ringen please review the recommendation below to assess your preparedness for participating in a full contact wrestling competition. If you do not meet the recommendations to a level you are comfortable with, we strongly advise that you do not select a track that includes Ringen. Those who do not wish to participate in the Ringen tournament can register for the Longsword Triathlon or Man-at-Arms Triathlon. If you decide that you are prepared for the Ringen tournament, but then feel unsafe day of, you may forfeit each match individually in the ring.

To self-evaluate your readiness for the Ringen Tournament, please review the items below. An ideal candidate will be able to truthfully make the following statements:

  • I can maintain appropriate physical and emotional control to avoid acting in a way that would endanger myself or others while participating in a wrestling competition.

  • I am in good physical condition, without injury and illness that would affect the safety of myself or others.

  • I regularly train safe falling skills, and trust that I can reliably employ those skills in a competitive wrestling environment.

  • I am able to perform basic offensive and defensive wrestling techniques (e.g. trips, leg grabs, hip throws).

  • I regularly train a form of medieval wrestling and have recent experience wrestling an opponent at full speed and full resistance.

  • I will be familiar with the Longpoint Ringen Tournament rules and will read the updated 2018 ruleset when released.

Please understand that although proper precautions are taken, and all fighters are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that promotes safety, there is still significant risk of injury to participants who are not physically and mentally prepared for a wrestling competition.

Please feel free to reach out to Longpoint staff with any questions or concerns.

-Tim Hall, Ringen Tournament Manager

Longpoint 2019 Passage At Arms Armor Standards

Bill Grandy, the Longpoint 2019 Passage at Arms organizer, has released his armor standards for this year. The tournament rules draft will come at a later date, but this information will help you decide if you can compete in the Man-at-arms’ Triathlon or the Heavy Pentathlon.

Longpoint 2019 Passage at Arms (Armored Combat)

Equipment Regulations, v. 1.0

IMPORTANT: All competitors intending to participate in the Longpoint 2019 Passage at Arms must submit a photo of the armor they intend to wear for approval no later than March 1, 2019. Earlier is better in case the event organizers require that you modify your armor before approval. Also note that initial pre-approval via photo does not guarantee that your armor will pass the required in-person inspection.


The goal of the Longpoint Passage at Arms is to promote the accurate but safe revival of period-correct fencing in armor in a one-on-one duel, referred to in German fighting treatises as harnisfechten.

-Participants are expected to wear historical European-styled armor contemporary, or close to contemporary, of a person of rank as seen in the time periods of the treatises that detail armored combat techniques. The armor can be styled after historical armor from approximately the late 14th century to early 16th. Despite the wide range of time period allowed, combatants should do their best to keep their own harness cohesive to a single time period and not “mix and match” elements of different eras. Ideally, armor should not have elements that would have existed more than 20 years before or after any other element on a person’s harness. (E.g. a 16th century armet should not be paired with a 14th century coat of plates) Combatants are expected to wear a complete harness suitable for fighting in the lists of judicial combat rather than one specialized for warfare or other forms of combat.

-Safety always trumps authenticity. If a combatant does not have period-styled protection where it is required, modern safety gear must be worn in its place (see Requirements below). Combatants should try to conceal modern elements as much as is reasonably possible (e.g. boots to cover plastic shin guards; modern throat guards hidden under fabric or mail, etc.) These safety elements will be treated as “unarmored” for scoring purposes. Visible authenticity should still be striven for whenever possible.

-Metal components of armor should be made of steel or iron (stainless steel is acceptable). Aluminum, titanium, or any other modern alloy is only allowed in the same way that other modern rigid defenses are: As safety equipment that should be hidden when possible. As with other non-period safety gear, these elements will be treated as “unarmored” for scoring purposes.

-Armor is treated “as worn”. E.g. a person who chooses to wear only mail on the shoulders will be scored on differently than a person who wears steel pauldrons. This means that different armor configurations may have slightly different targets (see below for scoring). All modern protection is treated as “unarmored” for the sake of scoring.

- Combatants are not allowed to wear blatant fantasy armor or armor that is blatantly non-European or non-historical in style. Although this is not a Living History event, and therefore strict historical accuracy is not the intended goal, this is still an event directly rooted in the revival of history, and the armor usage should be treated as such.

-Tournament organizers have the right to fail an armor on the basis of suitability. This not only includes safety issues but also blatant historical inaccuracy issues as well. For example, a historical Japanese suit of armor is not suitable for the goals of this tournament.


-A combatant is expected to wear predominately steel plate armor which covers the head, front of the torso, limbs and hands. Optional areas to cover with plate are the back of the torso, the shoulders, the underside of the arms, the back of the legs, the feet and the shins (though the shins need rigid plastic if not covered by plate).

-Hardened leather is an acceptable alternative to plate as long as it is worn in a historical manner (NO FANTASY LEATHER ARMOR!). The overall harness should still be predominantly steel, however. (see Other Plate Requirements below) Please note that if the leather shows signs of breakage, Longpoint staff is allowed to reject the use of that armor.

-Areas of the torso that are uncoverable by rigid protection (such as the armpits) should ideally be covered by mail, and if not mail, then puncture-resistant cloth such as a linen arming doublet. A competitor who chooses not to wear mail on the torso is strongly encouraged to wear modern fencing underarm protectors underneath their shirt in the event of a blade breakage. Absolutely no bare skin is allowed to be showing.

-Combinations of plate and fabric/leather (such as a Coat of Plates or a splinted vambrace) is equal to plate armor provided there are no obvious gaps. If such defenses show significant gaps between the plates so as to make the armor exceptionally flexible, the Staff may rule that this armor is to be treated as “light armor” (equivalent to mail) for the purposes of scoring. Combatants will be notified ahead of time if this is the case.

-Shins, throat and, for male combatants, the groin, must be covered by rigid protection, even if the combatant must use modern protection such as impact resistant plastic. Combatants should attempt to hide modern protection as best as possible.

-All armor is expected to be in good working condition. Tournament organizers have the right to reject any armor due to damage or anything where there is a safety concern to either the wearer or opponents.


-Helmets must be of at least 16-gauge thickness or thicker (preferably thicker if mild steel), lined with a suspension liner (period or modern) or else padded with a minimum of 0.5” of closed cell foam or equivalent. This requirement is in addition to an optional arming cap (i.e. less protection is not allowed even if the combatant is wearing an arming cap).

-A helmet must completely enclose the face so that the point of a weapon may not slip inside. Use of an “open faced” helmet is only allowed if the full opening is covered by perforated steel plate (and the perforated plate will be considered “unarmored” for scoring).

-Openings for vision, breathing, or any other gaps in the face of the helmet absolutely may not allow penetration to the wearer from a 0.25 inch x 0.5 inch bar. Any opening larger than this must be covered by perforated plate (and that opening will still be treated as “unarmored” for scoring).

-Other openings of the helmet may not allow penetration to the wearer from a 0.5 inch bar. This includes the opening at the base of the helmet.

-A moveable visor must be firmly held in place during a match. This can be via spring pin, latch, buckled strap or tying it into place. If the visor can move enough that an opening appears which allows a 0.25 inch x 0.5 inch bar to enter, the helmet will not be allowed.

-Solid neck protection for the cervical area, clavicles, and larynx must be worn, regardless of its historical suitability for the armor style chosen, and the throat in particular must be covered by rigid protection. A modern throat guard is acceptable, although combatants are encouraged to hide this if possible. Wearing mail alone for the throat is not enough, although a mail standard (pisane) with a hidden trauma plate is acceptable, as is wearing a rigid throat protector hidden by a mail aventail. Please note that a mail aventail worn with a 14th/early 15th century-styled bascinet will always be treated as “light armor” (i.e. mail) for scoring, even if the combatant wears a steel gorget underneath (since the use of a steel gorget is anachronistic for that style of armor).


Hands and wrists must be covered by steel plate gauntlets of at least 18-gauge steel or thicker (preferably thicker if mild steel) so that the back of the hand and fingers are protected. The palm-side of the hand must be completely covered in leather or heavy fabric such as canvas so that no skin is showing.


All other plate armor must be at a minimum of 18-gauge steel or thicker, although thicker steel is strongly encouraged for the joints and the torso protection if made of mild steel. Hardened leather of at least 3 mm thickness is allowed in place of steel for the upper and lower cannons of the arms, the cuisses, greaves and breastplate. Note that equally thick but unhardened leather will be treated as “light armor” for scoring, just as mail armor. Steel must be used for elbows, knees, gauntlets and head.

Since limbs cannot be completely covered by plate, such as at the armpit, all exposed areas should be covered by heavy fabric (such linen or canvas) or puncture resistant fabric such as that used for modern fencing.


The use of mail armor is highly encouraged to cover gaps and openings of the upper body. This is not just for the sake of accuracy or simulated protection, but for actual puncture resistance of a broken blade. If the combatant forgoes mail for unarmored areas, heavy material or puncture resistant fabric should be worn (such as a modern fencing under arm protector underneath the shirt).

Mail links should be rivetted, welded, or a combination of rivetted and solid rings made of iron, steel or brass. Absolutely no aluminum or titanium mail. Butted mail is not allowed.


Combatants are encouraged to wear period shoes. However, if modern shoes are worn, they should be athletic shoes with a light tread (no combat boots or similar, which can cause knee damage during wrestling), and the combatant is encouraged to either use shoes that are a solid dark color to make them less noticeable, or else covered by sabatons of mail or plate.


Combatants are not required to wear period clothing underneath the armor. Pants, if not period hosen, should either be athletic pants or fencing/HEMA pants, though it is encouraged that combatants not wear pants that blatantly visually stand out as modern from a distance.


Combatants will use weapons provided by the Longpoint event. Combatants may choose to use their own dagger if desired, and may carry the dagger as a back up weapon in Round 1 (Spear) and 2 (Sword). Round 3 may not have a back up dagger since it is the primary weapon of that round.

DAGGER: Daggers will be the synthetic COLD STEEL Rondel Training Dagger. Daggers will be provided by the event for matches that go to Round 3, but a combatant may choose to use their own if desired. Combatants who wish to carry a dagger as a back up weapon in Round 1 or Round 2 must provide their own. If a combatant chooses to carry their own back up dagger, daggers should be tucked into the combatant’s belt in a position where it can be carried and drawn, or else have some kind of sheath suspended from the belt that allows them to be easily drawn. Daggers brought by competitors cannot have any modifications to the design beyond cosmetic, and must be in good working condition.

SWORD: Swords are specially designed armored combat weapons by Jesse Belsky Stageswords. These will be provided by the event. These swords use hard rubber fittings to allow safer use of strikes and grappling actions with the hilt.

SPEAR: Spears will be the Armored Training Spear by Darkwood Armory. These will be provided by the event.

Longsword Tournament Structure

We have fielded a few questions around our Longsword Blossfechten tournament for 2019. Will there be tiers? Where is the Women’s event and the Rookie Training Tournament? How will progression work? We are still working out many of the details around this event, but we have a functional plan for the general structure.

The Structure

This coming year’s tournament will function similarly to a swiss pairs tournament, but fairly heavily modified. Everyone will start off in a pool of fighters who are similar to them using an as-yet-to-be-decided combination of height and weight. Each fighter will fight a number of people in this pool equal to half of the total fights we can fit into the schedule. Once this round is complete, the pools will be restructured. Fighters who perform well will be moved into a general pool of fighters who also performed well from across the categories. Fighters who do not meet this threshold will remain in their original category. Every fighter will then complete the rest of their matches in these new pools. We are working on how we will match up fighters within the pools, especially in the second round, to provide meaningful fights.

The Theory

With our move to a focus on meta-events, we wanted to drop the necessity of elimination brackets anywhere we thought it made sense. We no longer need to determine who gets 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in direct fights against other people who battled their way through a bracket. Instead, everyone will be assigned points towards their meta event based on their relative placement after the tournament has finished.

We believe that this pushes us back towards looking at tournaments as training tools. Participants do not need to worry about if they are going to make it out of the pools, or that any given fight in the bracket could end their day. Each fight is individual, and has no effect on how far you get in the tournament. Fighters can then focus on each fight as an opportunity to train.

What about Women’s and the Rookie Training Tournament?

Rookie Training Tournament: Unfortunately, with the changes we have made this year, this type of a tournament is out of scope and we do not have time for it. This tournament model in HEMA was pioneered by Longpoint back in 2015 and was Emma Graf’s baby. We have seen multiple events pop up in the last two years that focus on and follow a similar tournament model, and we hope that these continue and spread.

Women’s Longsword: Due to multiple factors, we decided not to offer Women’s Longsword this year. With the shift to meta events, a discrete women’s event does not fit well into the structure. What we would like to do, however, is allow women to either opt in or opt out of a Women’s category within the overall structure of our main longsword tournament. This means that, alongside the height/weight categories, there would be a Women’s group. However, just like the weight categories, the women who perform well will move into the general category in the second round with the rest of the fighters who perform well. Fighters in this category who do not meet the threshold will remain in the category for Round 2.

Well what about Tiers?

We haven’t decided yet.

More information about the various events will be posted over the next 5 days as we lead up to registration. Follow the Longpoint page to stay updated.

Longpoint 2019 Announcements and Registration Information

It's been over a year since the last Longpoint, and now we are five months away from the next one, bringing the planning team to that point where we can make some announcements, talk about how registration is going to work, and set a very quickly approaching date for said registration.


As usual, Longpoint will host a large set of classes. Those of you who submitted classes may hear from us over the next week or two, if you haven't already. From what Jake has told the planning team, the options this year are the most exciting and highest quality set of classes we've had offered to us yet. Choosing has been tough, and we're confident you'll feel the same way when you have to pick.

Meta Events

First, some bad news: Due to issues with finding a covered arena within a reasonable range of Turf Valley by this point, we cannot commit to offering a horsemanship competition. We have reconfigured our meta events to remove it. The good news is that we are continuing to look for a suitable location to host some horsey HEMA classes, which will be added at a later date.

Second, to allow people who may not be able to attend and compete in the event with a training partner, the Paired Technique event will be transitioning to something that does not require registering with a partner. Cory Winslow has drawn up a couple ideas and will be publishing a draft later. The goals will be the same as Paired Technique, and participants would train for the event in a very similar way, but the format of the competition will be different.

The new meta events are...

Longsword Triathlon - Longsword Blossfechten, Longsword Technique, Longsword Cutting

Messer Triathlon - Messer Blossfechten, Messer Cutting, Ringen

Man-at-Arms’ Triathlon - Passage at Arms, Longsword Cutting, Longsword Technique

Liechtenauer's Light Pentathlon - Longsword Blossfechten, Messerfechten, Longsword Cutting, Longsword Technique, Ringen

Liechtenauer's Heavy Pentathlon - Passage at Arms, Longsword Blossfechten, Longsword Cutting, Longsword Technique, Ringen


Registration this year will open by Meta Event. We are going to be opening registration for the events based on the events we would like to see populated first and our guesses of popularity. This means that the Pentathlon events will come first, on November 7th, followed by the Triathlon events that we think will see the lowest numbers of competitors.

We are approaching registration this way mainly to make sure that the events that we know are available to a lower amount of people, for various reasons, get filled up first. The events inside of each meta event are not separate entities. The people who are fighting Longsword Blossfechten within the Light Pentathlon, for instance, are going to be fighting the people in the Longsword Triathlon. Because of this, the number of people who register for each meta event directly affects the number of slots for every other meta event. This will have to be manually tracked and reconfigured over the course of the registration period.

We will be opening registration for each event on a specific day, with all previous registration options remaining available if there are still slots. The Longsword Triathlon, as the most popular event, will open last at Noon, US Eastern Time on Saturday, November 10th. Each other meta event will open individually over the 3 days leading up to the to the 10th.

The order of registration will be...

Liechtenauer's Heavy Pentathlon - Noon, Wednesday November 7th

Liechtenauer's Light Pentathlon - Noon, Wednesday November 7th

Man-at-Arms Triathlon - Noon, Thursday November 8th

Messer Triathlon - Noon, Friday November 9th,

Longsword Triathlon - Noon, Saturday November 10th

All times are US Eastern Time.

Each registrant will only be able to sign up for one meta event. There are no separate registrations for individual events (e.g., Longsword Blossfechten or Messer Cutting). Waiting List registrations for each event will be available from the registration as a "free" add-on to base registration once each event fills up. We will be requiring people who select any meta event that includes armor to send us a picture of them wearing their armor to be approved for safety.

More information will be available on the website by the time registration opens and on the registration item / forms. Please read and make sure you understand all of the information through the registration process. The best place to ask questions is our Facebook page.

See you in March 2019!

~The Longpoint Team

Longpoint 2019: Your Qs and Our As

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

Why is Longpoint switching fully to meta events?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paired Technique costs nothing but time. 

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


How the heck are the horses going to work?

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

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

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


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

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


How are the Meta Events scored?

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

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


You said this event is KDF specific? 

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

We are considering including a few classes from other traditions. 

Longpoint 2019: Event Evolution and Dates


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

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

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

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

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

Wrestle well, grappler.

 lance, spear, sword, and knife,

Manfully handle,

 And in others’ hands ruin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Messer Triathlon - Messer Blossfechten, Messer Cutting, Ringen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks always,

~The Longpoint Team

The Next Longpoint

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

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

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

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

~The Longpoint Crew

Longpoint 2017 Welcome Letter and Packet

Dear Longpoint 2017 Attendees,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jake Norwood
Alexandria, Virginia
June 2017

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

Longpoint Planning: Dimensions in Time, Space, and Length

Real Dimensions in Time and Space

Click on this image to enlarge it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Long

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

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

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

Go Large

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

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


Longpoint Registration: Forward from the Frenzy

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

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

Tournament Capacity

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

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

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

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


It's Not All About The Tournaments

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

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


In Conclusion

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

Ben Michels
Longpoint Director


Longpoint 2017 Registration is Open!

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

Pre-emptive FAQ

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

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

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

2. Where do I go to get questions answered?

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

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

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

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

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

We still have the ability to offer discounts up front, but it comes with additional conditions and restrictions. Email [email protected].

5. When will rules and equipment standards be posted?

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

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

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

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

. Help! The tournament I want is full!

Email [email protected] to ask to be put on the waiting list.

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

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

About those Tiers of our Enemies...

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

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

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

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

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

Auxiliary Tournaments

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

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

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


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

One More Thing...

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

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

In Closing

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

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


~Jake Norwood

Longpoint Director, President

Longpoint 2017 - Tiers of Our Enemies

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

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

Longpoint Longsword Tournament Division Qualification

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

Rookie Training Tournament


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

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


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


Women’s Longsword


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


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


Tier A Longsword


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Tier B Longsword


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

On The Training Of Judges In HEMA

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

Stuff to Read

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff to Do

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

1) Judged Free Play

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

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

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

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

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

2) Group Training

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

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

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

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

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

3) Judge Training Tournament

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

All images © 2016 Véronique McMillan

All images © 2016 Véronique McMillan