When the Smoke Clears: Longpoint 2015 in Review/
Longpoint 2015 was a complete success.
That seems like the kind of thing that the guy who runs an event would say about his event, so I need to back up a little. Longpoint as we know it started in 2011, on the heels of something called the Mid-Atlantic HEMA Gathering in 2010, which had also been a complete success in its 30-attendee glory. In 2012 we premiered the Longpoint Rules in their first incarnation and that year, too, was a complete success.
2013 was harder for us. The event grew considerably, becoming a real international attraction, and we went from being this fun, modest event into something bigger. More attendees, more competitions, and more organizational challenges. The changes to the rules that year were a step in the right direction, but judging struggled. We had attendee drama for the first time. While reviews were generally good, it just wasn't much fun for the Bens and me.
Then came 2014, another year of massive growth. Some of our experiments worked, others didn't, and we had finally reached that size where people start griping about the event online--not because they didn't have a good time, but because it's easy to complain about an institution (particularly an imperfect one). I didn't enjoy myself in 2014, and Ben and I had started to question if all the effort was worth it.
In its fifth year, however, Longpoint brought the joy back to me.
I think 2015 was Longpoint's best year yet. The obvious reasons are plentiful. We broke our record for attendees (over 220 without counting spectators). At 100 fighters, we held the largest open steel Longsword tournament in the world (and that's not counting over 30 ladies and 30 rookies). We had a dozen countries represented, including the absolute best fighters from the US and Northern Europe--guys like Axel Petterson, Ties Kool, Dustin Reagan, Nathan Grepares, Eliisa Keskinen, Kiana Shurkin, Ben Strickling, Kristine Konsmo, Bill Grandy, and Kristian Ruokonen (to name just a few). We also held our first rapier tournament, first armored passage at arms, and first Rookie Training tournament.
And then Dustin Reagan broke the proverbial sound barrier. He won cutting, he took second in his weight class in Ringen, and he triumphed in the open longsword. Not only was he the first (US) American to win Longpoint's triathlon, but he was the first American to win a major, open longsword tournament which a European champion had entered. Rumor has it Dustin was thinking about retiring this year, having earned a reputation as one of the US's best fighters (but one who had never managed to pull off gold in the longsword). I suspect he's reconsidering that.
But that's the obvious stuff. The less obvious stuff is what really made 2015 a complete success for me. The rules this year, while not yet 100 percent where we want them, were the best iteration of the Longpoint rules yet (with no small thanks to Mike Chidester, who drafted most of this year's changes). After-event surveys suggested higher-than-usual satisfaction with the judging. We also pulled off the most logistically complex Longpoint yet with a fraction of last year's stress. Success!
The greatest victory of them all, however, was that despite Longpoint's growth, it remained a family event. I was quite concerned that, since almost doubling last year’s attendence, Longpoint's closeness and sense of community would be diminished; that Longpoint would become an event of competing strangers. But the opposite happened instead. The family just grew. Old friends made new ones. Our shared, communal love of the historical European martial arts and, yes, SWORDS!, was the dominating theme. It's a wonderful thing to be surrounded by those who understand ones passions, and Longpoint 2015 was the best place in ages to feel that.
I hear 2016 will be even better. We're going to change less next year than we have in past years. We have one more year at Turf Valley, so the emphasis is going to be on doing what we did this last year...only better. We are in the process of selecting our rotational tournaments and refining our logistics, judging, and rules based on 2015's feedback. In just a few weeks we'll be testing our first round of rules modifications at Pittsburgh's Blood on the River. For the first time in a few years, I'm thrilled with the prospect and potential of next year's Longpoint. I hope you'll join me.
Post Script: It would be impossible to thank everyone who deserves it to the degree warranted for their help in making Longpoint 2015 happen. The lion's share of credit for eveything goes to Ben Michels and Emma Graff. Mike Edelson and "Evil" Ben Jarashow are indespensible. Mike Chidester (with Edelson's help) convinced me to go the direction we did with the rules, and I'm incredibly grateful. Jess Finley, Keith Cotter-Reilley, Tim Hall, Cory Winslow, and Mike Edelson made any tournament that didn't say "longsword" on it happen, almost completely independently. Dave Kauffman ran our Livestream and Tim Kauffman (no relation) managed our sponsors. The members of NYHFA, CKDF, MKDF, NHKDF, MEMAG, and Broken Plow provided hundreds of hours of labor in running registration, judging, the medical table, scoring tables, ring bossing, and so forth. Erin Baezner, Rob Runacres, and Ties Kool helped manage the tournaments and made my life easier than its been since 2011; I pray daily that you all come back next year. The VAF crew helped run a thing that doesn't happen and which we don't talk about. A shout out to our sponsors and vendors is in order, but most especially Albion Swords, Baltimore Sword and Knife Works, Purpleheart Armory, SPES USA, the Arte of the Booke, and the HEMA Alliance. Longpoint is a community event--almost a hundred people volunteered in some capacity for some period of time to make Longpoint happen. It is quite literally not possible without you all, and I thank you.