Sunday, 17 July 2016

Tournament fun

"I wish I could say something classy and inspirational, but that just wouldn't be our style. Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory lasts forever." Shane Falco, The Replacements.

So, for my sins, I volunteered to organise our Clubs annual tournament. For the first time, in my experience, we actually have spent the better part of three months preparing for this tournament. Which is why it has been a little quiet on here lately. It's been an interesting learning experience and I'll try and summarise some thoughts here:

1. Format

After experimenting with various formats we decided that we liked a customised ruleset based on the Fechtshule New York rules. This is with:
  • The bout halts after a single exchange
  • Hits to the core score more than a hit to the extremities
  • Each fighter has three lives
  • Line judges call hits
I wasn't initially a big fan of this ruleset but I've come around and will admit that the results are pretty good. The single exchange encourages people to fight more like they are worried about receiving an injury while the fact that each fighter has three lives means that they get at least three fights, often with three different people. Line judges calling the hits means that the polite fighters aren't getting unfairly eliminated and also means people have to focus on delivering more significant blows that are clearly visible to the judges. In short, we've found that relying on judges penalises snipers, as the whole "hit fast and withdraw" approach is hard to judge. Having three lives also means that when there are judging mistakes you still have more fights on the way to make up for it. Finally, this format is fast. You can plough through people really quickly.

2. Judge and Marshall Training

Every year we're like "we should do training for Judges and Marshalls" and every year we pretty much just give people a couple of goes at it. This year we have been doing weekly in-house tournaments for the last couple of months with most people taking a turn. This has worked both ways with fighters giving judges feedback and then the same fighters have a turn at judging and understanding better the issues. It makes a massive difference.

It has also allowed us to work through the nuance of the ruleset. We're fortunate to have some real pedants in our Club and that has been an asset in testing the ruleset, what exactly do we mean by a certain rule. Of course, the flip side has been understanding and developing arguments to ensure that we are not trying to legislate everything.

3. Response to tournament

I'm always up for tournaments and competitions in general. I don't care so much about winning, far more factors than simple skill are involved in winning a tournament, but I do care about being a "serious contender." By this, I mean that when people look at the draw they see my name and go "oh shit" or the like. This is my bar, if people are like "ok, that's not a problem" then I have more work to do.

However, clearly many people find tournaments really challenging and I can understand. I think if you've got serious investment in the idea of being "good" at something then the possibility of going out in the first round of a tournament must be really upsetting. On this basis, I always expect to see some negative reactions ranging from a distinct lack of enthusiasm, to excuse finding to not attend, to outright hostility to the very concept. This is just to be expected. To a certain extent we've taken steps to try and mitigate issues here. By providing quite a few sections, this allows people more chances to shine and the opportunity to raise to the top in a least one section.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Command your temper

"Command your Temper and you will do much better, than if you give way to your Passion; and if you do Command it, and are Engaged with a Person who can not, you will have very much the Advantage of him, for his Passion will make him Play wild and wide, and consequently exposes himself to be Hit very often, wheras your thoughts not being in Hurry and Confusion, you may Defend your self with ease and judgement, and take an Advantage readily when ever you have a mind, you are the more capable of doing this, because your Strength, Mind and Spirit are not Spent or Exhausted." Donald McBain, The Expert Swordsman's Companion 1728

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

John Taylor on footwork for a "real contest"

"Although an extensive lunge is doubtless advantageous to those who can make it easily, yet it will not be found on a real occasion so necessary as a quick recover. For which reason it will be imprudent in gentlemen to accustom themselves to step farther out than their strength or activity naturally admit.

Care must always be taken to place the right foot flat on the ground, and not to make so violent an extension, as to pitch on the heel of that foot.* The proper extent is to bring the left knee
straight, and the right knee perpendicular to the instep.

* It should be considered that in real contest the difference of the ground, and many other circumstances, concur to render any unnecessary extension hazardous ; especially to such persons
as have used themselves to practise on an even floor, perhaps with slippers chalked at the bottom."

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Train the "art" not the ruleset

"One of the great benefits of non-standardization of rulesets is that it keeps us training "the art" as the central study rather than constantly working towards gaming a particular tournament ruleset." - Toby Hall, Fechtschule New York 2016 Open Longsword Tournament Rules

Saturday, 4 June 2016

John Taylor would not recommend practice with sharps

"I would not however venture to recommend the practice with a friend for the sake of improvement with naked swords; since although not attended with danger in the cavalry exercise, yet as the situation of persons engaged on foot does not confine them to one or two particular cuts at commencing the attack, but admits of more various and complicated movements, an error in regard to the parades might prove fatal."  - Art of Defence on Foot, John Taylor 1800

Sunday, 29 May 2016

The path we take

“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” - Socrates

I, like many other people it seems on Facebook, enjoyed the TEDex talk by Devon Boorman's . It was refreshing to see someone talk about HEMA from a personal development perspective which I think is a very compelling selling point for HEMA in general. It's also something I could watch with my Wife and discuss themes that we could both relate to.

My perspective was/is slightly different from Devon's but similar. I was physically capable of "sports" and on school "field" days I did quite well and spent several years being gently harassed by various Coaches to attend games. Now I was never top shelf material and I'm pretty sure I was only seen as necessary to make up a full squad. But they could just never get me to show up for games. 

This was largely choice though on my behalf because I just found them boring. I never wanted to sacrifice the joys of running through the woods with a pretend sword or building immense castles out of straw bales for getting up early on a weekend morning to catch a bus, in school uniform, to stand in the pissing rain in some frozen field somewhere in Scotland to stand around while a bunch of other guys passed the ball to each other.

Fortunately though I never labelled myself as "not sporty" I just labelled myself as someone who was "not into the school Sports thing." The net result was that when life presented me with an opportunity for physical activity that stimulated my interest I've not been loath to take it. From multi-day wilderness hikes, to rock climbing, kayaking, biking, boxing and when I found a bunch of guys fighting with swords in a car park (exactly like Devon's experience) I took it. 

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Marcelli's thoughts on Internet Warriors

"Take care not to be so delicate of spirit, or flighty of will, that at every minimal clash, or trivial occasion, you look to put your hand to your sword; copying the example of the bravoes of our age, who think that by using it often they acquire the reputation of being brave and strong.

The gentleman I deem more gallant than any other, is the one who with the mere presence of his virtue, and credit of his valour, renders himself formidable to enemies, and esteemed by companions; not one who does not pass a day without seeing his brand unsheathed in his hand. He is the most vile, and least regarded of all, since it shows he lacks the virtue to make himself feared, and the qualities to make himself esteemed. Hence he is often given occasion, to have insults to avenge." 
- Francesco Antonio Marcelli (via Piermarco Terminiello)