It’s been nearly a month since we closed to book on Longpoint 2016. It seems trite, six years in, to say, “2016 was our best Longpoint ever,” but...Longpoint 2016 was our best Longpoint ever.
It’s encouraging to me (thrilling, even) to feel like that’s true for the second year in a row. So, given that I’m in a self-congratulating mood, what are we congratulating ourselves for?
Behind the Scenes
The biggest impact came from some internal stuff that we changed between this year and last. Instead of quilting together judging teams based on availability, we pre-built director/judge teams that worked together throughout the weekend. They trained together, competed in the staff training tournament together, and then judged together as a cohesive unit for the rest of the weekend. As a result, judges were happier and more alert, directors were able to make course corrections that actually stuck, and fighters complained less and complimented judging quality more than any previous year. Still not perfect (HEMA gods forbid!), but the difference was tangible.
Longpoint, though known for its competitions, is a hybrid competitive/workshop event. This year we put more money and planning into bringing out in-demand instructors and gave each of them two classes so that double-booked participants didn’t have to miss out just because the instructor they wanted to see was scheduled at the same time that they were staffing or fighting. We added two more lecturers, as well. Class attendance went up by an estimated 50% and participants reported that the experience of making classes and competitions was less stressful this year.
On the Media front, we really engaged with Facebook and Twitter, issuing real-time updates all weekend. Standings and scores were published online right away, and our media chief Dave Kaufman streamed about ten hours of the event live on our Facebook page. The weekend live streams saw over 15,000 unique viewers, including 1,700 unique viewers during the finals. Add the roughly 50 participants and staff and the over 250 members of the Turf Valley audience and we estimate about 2,000 people watched the finals live. And then, totally independent of Longpoint itself, Jayson Barrons (our new HEMA Alliance President) saw to the recording of basically every single match all weekend.
Finally, our sponsors (and sponsorship director Tim Kaufman) really came through this year with the most and best prizes and support of any year so far. They all deserve mention, but above all stand Purpleheart Armory, which supplied the custom directors staves, the fancy new competition rings, and many of the trophies and medals; and Albion Swords, which provided one of their beautiful sharps for the triathlon winner for the fourth year in a row. Our other generous sponsors included Baltimore Knife and Sword, Black Horse Blades, Swords.cz (Pavel Moc), Arms & Armor, Castille Armory, Danelli Armories, SPES USA, St. Mark, Sparring Gloves, PBT Historical Fencing, Wiktenauer, and the HEMA Alliance. It’s the most we’ve had in any single year, and it really made a difference.
Stuff We Did Again, and We Do It Well
We ran on schedule this year, in keeping with (most) previous years. Only one or two blips (ahem, grappling finals, ahem) marring our Swiss-watch-like performance. The lion’s share of thanks for that goes to our staff director, Emma Graf, our event/logistics director Ben Michels, our lead ring boss, Jazzy Bucci, our tournament managers (Edelson, Cotter-Reilly, Winslow, Grandy, Bahnick, Runacres, Kool, Norwood), and our directors (Edelson, Widegren, Petterson, Chidester, Parise, Grandy).
The Rookie Training Tournament, one of our major innovations from last year, was an even larger success in its second year. The quality of rookie is going up year to year, for which I credit not our “celebrity coaches” (Petterson, Ruokonen, Strickling, Kool, Edelson, Norwood) but rather all of the regular coaches and instructors out there doing better and better training every year. Beyond just that, the Rookie Training Tournament is just plain fun for everyone, and we look forward to offering more opportunities for rookies through both Longpoint and the Longpoint Historical Fencing League over the next few years.
And then there’s this: we ran a huge tournament, again. It was our biggest year ever with 250 registered from 12 nations. No other HEMA event anywhere in the world matches Longpoint for scope, size, and complexity, though some might in one or two of those categories. We hosted 18 different competitions or divisions this year, including four longsword events, five Grappling divisions, three cutting divisions, a rapier tournament, a saber tournament, paired technique, the armored passage at arms, the team competition, and the triathlon.
Some New Stuff This Year
We tried a few things this year that were more obvious to non-staffers as well. We ran our saber invitational as an informal, partially self-judged affair that was more about bringing saber enthusiasts together to fence then it was about who won (for the record, Matt Easton won, and by a fair margin). It was a pleasant exercise for all involved, particularly on a weary Sunday morning.
We also held the first-ever Longpoint Historical Fencing League Top Eight Final, where the league’s top eight fencers competed for double points in a last effort to hold or increase their league standings. Kristian Ruokonen won the Top Eight Final and Jake Norwood, who placed third in the Top Eight Final, moved up from second place to first and overall champion in the league standings.
Lastly, we went out of our way to recognize those who work so hard for all of us with custom staffs for directors and special staff patches for all judges, table staff, etc. The patches, initially intended to be sewn to shirts and vests for next year, made an immediate, taped-on showing throughout the weekend.
But That’s Not What Made This Year the Best
So we did a bunch of great stuff (and the stuff we didn’t do so well I didn’t mention). We’re super great. Longpoint is the best! HYPE TRAIN!!!
What made this Longpoint the best yet, though, really wasn’t how super smart and handsome/beautiful/clever Jake and Ben and Emma and Mike and company are (though we totally are, if you can't tell). What made this Longpoint the best was the family that we have become over the years. Even as it grows, it grows like a family reunion and not some soulless corporate event.
Longpoint 2016 was special because, for the first time ever, I got to fence in the open longsword...which I was neither running, director, staffing, nor managing in any way. And I got to get obliterated, out-schielhau-ed (TWICE!) by the mighty Eric Wiggins.
Longpoint 2016 was special because, in the Open Longsword finals, after Kristian Ruokonen defeated his close friend Tim Kaufman for first place, they broke out cans of Coors Light in front of two thousand people. Kristian also went on to win the Triathlon which is significant for many reasons, not the least of which being it's the first time a European has done so. Based on Kristian's performance and that of guys like Arto Fama and Ties Kool, I expect we'll see more of this in the future.
Longpoint 2016 was special because we said goodbye to Turf Valley after four years of fencing, family, and old-fashioned growth to the point of just not fitting in the space anymore.
Longpoint 2016 was special because one club sent its instructor a giant, pink and black knitted sword cozy with fuzzy blue balls...and had me present it to said instructor (Joe Brassey, a Longpoint first-timer) in front of 280 dinner guests and who knows how many live stream watchers.
Longpoint 2016 was special because one of our family, Bill Frisbee, suffered some major losses this year only to have the bulk of his $9,000 harness stolen from his car while driving to Longpoint. He missed competing in the Passage at Arms and had told me that he was giving up harnischfechten altogether as replacing the lost armor just wasn’t achievable...and we, the Longpoint family, pulled together and presented him, through the Armor Fairy Danya Rowden, with $7,000 collected that weekend to get our own “Chief Ironskin” back into his iron skin. I’ve never seen so many grown men (and women) crying all at once. I have never been so blown away by the love that our HEMA family has for its own.
Longpoint 2016 was the best Longpoint so far.
What, You Think I’m Done? I heard 2017’s Gonna Be...
So how are we going to beat that in 2017? How do we plan on making sure that I spend 1,400 words explaining why 2017 was the best Longpoint ever, for the third year in a row? Time will tell, but here’s what we’ve got so far:
Longpoint is moving to the Baltimore Hilton Garden Inn Inner Harbor, July 6-9, 2017. Our new location has more than twice as much floor space, allowing us to double the number of active rings. It has more than double the hotel rooms of Turf Valley, as well, so you run less risk of ending up at some far away hotel. The new locale is sandwiched between the Baltimore Convention Center and Camden Yards (the field is visible from many of the rooms), and is surrounded by restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions (Inner Harbor, historic ships, the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, concerts, and more). It’s reachable by light rail directly from BWI airport as well, making getting to the event easier and cheaper than ever.
We’re going to double the size of the longsword tournaments, implementing an objective divisioning approach for rookies, intermediate, and our most experienced competitors. We’re going to implement focused open fencing times to bring enthusiasts of different weapons and arts an organized (albeit unstructured) opportunity to come together and fence casually without worrying that no one else will be on the floor at their chosen time with their favorite weapon. Plus more classes, more lectures, and more stuff generally. The t-shirts are going to be awesome, too.
And Bill will be there, gleaming in his new armor, facing all challengers in an expanded Passage at Arms. Or he better be!
And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to fight in my own Longsword tournament again.
Thank you all for making 2016 the best Longpoint I’ve ever been to. I can’t wait to see what we do together next year.
Longpoint Director, President