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Thread: Critical injury at german swordfighting training

  1. #1
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    Critical injury at german swordfighting training

    I don't know these people nor what exactly they're doing but it may be a good opportunity to learn from other people's mistakes - or just be happy that you (we) handle things differently.

    This german newspaper article states that on tuesday a practitioner got critically injured when his opponent's plastic sword found it's way through the eye slits of his helmet. No further details on how and why. At the time when the article was written (wednesday afternoon) the condition of the injured party was still critical.

    Pics of sword and helmet can be found in the article.

    Stefan
    Dar auf dich fasse / alle kunst haben leng / und masse

    Alte Kampfkunst
    Western Martial Arts Academy

  2. #2
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    Bad news Stefan.

    I think HEMA has an inherent problem, there isn't a CE approved protection system as yet, so we make our own rules and sometimes practitioners or coaches miss something that could be seen as quite obvious (eye slits being wide enough to allow this in this case). There is a lesson to be learned for sure.

    But I get the impression it is a HEMA sword used by a re-enactor? I don't know the state of re-enactment in Germany, but here re-enactors tend to be incredibly thrust-shy, perhaps plastic swords convince them such actions are safe?

    Hope he recovers fully.
    Adam Roylance
    KDF International

  3. #3
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    That is truly a shame, I hope the person recovers quickly.

    Thrusts are deadly, bottom line. Even with a blunted weapon a thrust can do some fairly bad things to the human body. Safety gear and armor being what it is, there is a point where safety gear becomes so limiting and restrictive that practice becomes nothing more than frustration.

  4. #4
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    I am shocked at the sentiments expressed above.

    If you are a student:

    Always wear a mask.
    Always wear a mask.
    Always wear a mask.

    If you are an instructor:

    Always make your students wear masks.
    Always make your students wear masks.
    Always make your students wear masks.

    I don't care if it's a Windrose helmet, a Terry T mask, or a fencing mask. Wear it. Saying "oh, well, nothing is sufficient for HEMA" or "it's not authentic" or "we'll be careful" is not an excuse. Look at your house. Look at your bank account. Look at your job. Do you like these things? Do you think you will still have them after the liability lawsuit? Do you not think the first catastrophic injury will not lead to whatever insurer you have dropping HEMA like a hot rock, or at the very least insisting everyone do something like take sport-fencing coach training?

    Catastrophic injury does more than cripple or kill the person it happens to. It removes them from the workforce and creates medical bills. We do not live in a socialist society. Someone will have to pay. Lawyers go after whomever they can. Insurers do not like losing money. They will change the rules of what we can and can't do. More likely, if you were being negligent, they won't even pay the claim. (US Fencing's insurance recently refused to pay in a case where someone injured in the leg wasn't wearing knickers.)

    This doesn't even begin to address the effects on the one injured. I have a friend whose life is forever changed, and not for the better, because he got stabbed through the eye socket and into the brain.

    Remember that most people don't know or want to know a krump from a contratempo from a nylon waster from a Hanwei. We are all weird swordfighting guys to them, and if some of us screw up, perhaps none of us will be able to get insurance or practice space.
    Last edited by Ken Mondschein; 03-22-2012 at 07:50 AM.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis Smith View Post
    Safety gear and armor being what it is, there is a point where safety gear becomes so limiting and restrictive that practice becomes nothing more than frustration.
    I don't think so, in this instance it's someone not thinking through the real modern world safety of a reproduction historic type helmet. Hor HEMA; masks by-pass this and there's no appreciable restriction in them when you are used to them.

    Bottom line is that sacrifices to style and feel have to be made, better to add relatively un-encumbering defence and use facsimiles that allow safe practice. I'm also not a fan of competition - partly because of the effect it can have on safety.

    If you want to wear historical kit, you can't use historical methods (which by nature is definitely not safe, obviously ), re-enactment combat should be about training hard in a system that preserves safety while appearing to fight.
    Adam Roylance
    KDF International

  6. #6
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    Adam,

    There is no problem wearing historical kit and doing historical techniques. Many other groups besides AEMMA have done so for years. We simply have the good sense to make sure the equipment and training of the participants is up to the threat. Many re-enactors and very clearly these guys, do neither.

    There is no way the HEMA community can do anything more than enforce safe practice within our own groups. Any idiots can buy HEMA training equipment and jump around the backyard in Tshirts and goggles deluding themselves they know what they are doing. They might even wear some sort of armour and pretend to be historically accurate re-enactments. We can't do jack about it.
    Kel Rekuta
    Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts
    Toronto, Canada

    "il a grant difference entre preu home et preudomme",
    (St.) Louis IX, called 'the Pious" by his people

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kel Rekuta View Post
    Adam,

    There is no problem wearing historical kit and doing historical techniques. Many other groups besides AEMMA have done so for years. We simply have the good sense to make sure the equipment and training of the participants is up to the threat. Many re-enactors and very clearly these guys, do neither.

    There is no way the HEMA community can do anything more than enforce safe practice within our own groups. Any idiots can buy HEMA training equipment and jump around the backyard in Tshirts and goggles deluding themselves they know what they are doing. They might even wear some sort of armour and pretend to be historically accurate re-enactments. We can't do jack about it.
    Hey Kel,

    I agree - my post was sloppy, I made an assumption that there was some sort of free play affair (which is just that, an assumption) and my comments were meant within that context. I use all manner of levels of protection depending on what is being done: kit, weapon choice and training methodology and the people involved are all considered to find an "acceptable" level of risk.

    Indeed, I have kitted up in harness and without and used historical technique with rebated weapons - but the context was adapted to provide the safety.

    So, to amend:
    If you want to wear historical kit, you can't use historical methods (which by nature is definitely not safe, obviously) in a free-play scenario without ensuring the nature of the circumstances (rules) and/or the protection is suitably adapted, re-enactment combat should be about training hard in a system that preserves safety while appearing to fight.
    Last edited by Adam R; 03-22-2012 at 08:49 AM. Reason: clarity
    Adam Roylance
    KDF International

  8. #8
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    Guys,

    What Ken said, x3.

    I agree with Kel - we really need to police via our clubs, and our global control is extremely limited. OTOH, Adam is also right - we all use a combination of modern gear or adaptations to historical gear, plus restrictions of technique to allow free-play. Even so, there is always a risk in this activity for serious, even lethal, injury, and the truth is that if you do martial arts long enough, you *will* get injured. But broken fingers, a cracked rib or a sprained ankle ain't a sword through the eye. But be it a mask, a bit of perforated steel welded inside an eyeslit, or what have you, there are ways to prevent *needless* injury. Sadly, I've also been a poster-child for that, which is no secret. As Ken said about his friend, it didn't improve my life for the better. I'd really like to encourage others not to learn safety lessons (of equipment or pedagogy) through halos, physical therapy or surgery.
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

  9. #9
    Thats a bad thing, I hope the injured person recovers!

    However, stuff happens; I dont think anyone is really to blame here - its Murphy´s law.
    If there is some way a plastic sword might fit through the narrow eyeslit of a helmet - it will happen. And obviously it did with sufficient energy to cause a life threatening injury.

    Stuff like this has happened in modern sports fencing, in Kendo and several arts, with well-established saftey standards and experienced people. No protection exists against bad luck.

    So.. no matter technique and safety equipment - its control and responsibility for the people you train/freeplay *with* (and not *against*) that keeps you safe in the long run.

    Oh and yes, wear a mask.

    Regards, Thomas

    Btw: Adam - good to have you back here
    Erschrickstu gern /
    Keyn Fechten lern.

  10. #10
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    Let's keep in mind that we do not know the circumstances which lead to the accident.

    I don't think generalizations are helpful.

    Who of the people envolved in armoured combat has the eye-slits of his helmet covered by mesh or something similar?

    Would have a fencing mask prevented what happened to Greg?

    Putting on a fencing mask does not necessarily mean that it's still there at the time when it's needed.

    There are always ways into the mask.

    This accident is horrible. Let's find out what went wrong and make sure that this doesn't happen again.

    It turned out that I know a wittness. Tomorrow I'll find out about the circumstances and share them here.

    Stefan
    Dar auf dich fasse / alle kunst haben leng / und masse

    Alte Kampfkunst
    Western Martial Arts Academy

  11. #11
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    Gentlemen,

    As said above, we don't know the full circumstances of what happened. Here's what we *do* know: someone - and on some level, no matter what their affiliation, one of our own - has been greviously injured. This merits our compassion and best wishes for them.

    I've made safety mistakes, as have many of us. There may or may not be an object lesson to be gleaned here in the future. But for now, without further evidence, let's concentrate our thoughts on hoping for the best for a fallen comrade.

    Yours in arms,

    Christian
    Christian Henry Tobler
    Selohaar Fechtschule

    The Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Author, Captain of the Guild, DVD: The Poleaxe, In Saint George's Name

    "Though I love the stout blow and the cunningly placed thrust, my greatest joy when crossing swords lies in those rare moments when Chivalry herself leans over and takes one into Her confidence."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stefan Dieke View Post
    Let's keep in mind that we do not know the circumstances which lead to the accident.

    I don't think generalizations are helpful.

    Who of the people envolved in armoured combat has the eye-slits of his helmet covered by mesh or something similar?
    Every single person that fights in armour with AEMMA and our affiliates. Or they don't even walk on the field in that helmet. Simple and necessary because we stab each other in the face with rebated steel weapons, without reservation. Stefan, you know us, we don't screw around with potentially lethal situations without due consideration.

    http://www.aemma.org/misc/equipment_...#hard_armoured
    Detailed Harness Requirements

    Over and above the general harness considerations & requirements listed above, the combatant's harness must conform to the six requirements listed below. These form the basis requirements for harness for most tournaments held by AEMMA, including tournaments which may include different types of bouts such as à plaisance bouts and à outrance bouts.
    <snipped for brevity>

    5 Helmets must be no less than 16g construction with occularia not wider than 1.27cm (1/2 in). Segmented occularia described below is strongly recommended.

    6 Helmets intended to represent historically open-faced helmets are permitted provided the open-face is covered with hardened, perforated steel which is consistent with historical evidence. Note: Blows to the "open-face" visor will be considered potentially lethal and will be viewed as an unprotected face.
    Kel Rekuta
    Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts
    Toronto, Canada

    "il a grant difference entre preu home et preudomme",
    (St.) Louis IX, called 'the Pious" by his people

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Christian H. Tobler View Post
    Gentlemen,

    As said above, we don't know the full circumstances of what happened. Here's what we *do* know: someone - and on some level, no matter what their affiliation, one of our own - has been greviously injured. This merits our compassion and best wishes for them.

    I've made safety mistakes, as have many of us. There may or may not be an object lesson to be gleaned here in the future. But for now, without further evidence, let's concentrate our thoughts on hoping for the best for a fallen comrade.

    Yours in arms,

    Christian
    Repeated for emphasis
    Compagno, Northwest Fencing Academy

    "Axe-play is honorable and profitable for the preservation of a body noble or non noble" - Le Jeu de la Hache

    "Fights are won with basic technique performed at a high level of skill." - Maestro William Gaugler

    http://bunkaijuju.blogspot.com/

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stefan Dieke View Post
    Who of the people envolved in armoured combat has the eye-slits of his helmet covered by mesh or something similar?
    I do. AEMMA does.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stefan Dieke View Post
    Would have a fencing mask prevented what happened to Greg?
    No, but training in how to grapple safely would have likely helped.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stefan Dieke View Post
    Putting on a fencing mask does not necessarily mean that it's still there at the time when it's needed.

    There are always ways into the mask.
    This doesn't mean one should not wear the mask. And training on how to use a mask and strike and grapple safely (i.e., stop if it looks as if the mask will come off) contribute to overall safety.

    This accident, if it happened the way the newspaper implied (nylon sword into ocular) was preventable. It underscores the need for professionalism and standard safety protocols.

  15. #15
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    And that's the point of the thread isn't it? On the one hand best wishes and sympathy, on the other, an opportunity to reflect on whether such an accident is possible in what we do, or whether we have measures in place to cover it. The consensus being that everybody thus far involved, does. That's cool then - it's unlikely more detail will add to that because the fact is the circumstance + protection + weapon combination in the accident isn't one that we would use, albeit the actual way we would approach preventing this kind of thing from happening may be different.
    Grand.
    Adam Roylance
    KDF International

  16. Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis Smith View Post
    Safety gear and armor being what it is, there is a point where safety gear becomes so limiting and restrictive that practice becomes nothing more than frustration.
    But that is far preferable to crippling injury or death - at least in my school. Safety is a paramount concern. We recognize that we may pick up bangs and bruises, and some of us have worn those for weeks on end. But they heal with no more medical intervention than icepacks and aspirin. Broken bones and bleeding are simply unacceptable. Skull trauma is simply unacceptable. Loss of eyes is simply unacceptable.

    Kit for full contact assaults in our school:

    • Steel helm, such as a Tindall, Windrose, or similar.
    • Gorget of steel or 1/4 inch hard leather.
    • Steel gauntlets (we are prototyping an in-house leather gauntlet of 1/4 inch hardened leather).
    • Gambeson, such as the Revival Clothing linen, cotton, or similar.
    • Blunted steel sword.

    All bouts are overseen by a senior student who has absolute authority to stop the bout if he or she feels there is any safety concern. All students are trained to fence in a careful and controlled manner, and not make wild swipes, snipes and buffalo charges.

    Can serious injury still occur? Yes. We've had a partial distal amputation of a finger in our school that resulted in the banning of hockey gloves etc for steel assaults. That accident happened between two careful and skilled fighters who were using proper technique.

    There is a risk - but it is a risk that can be minimized with sensible precautions, proper training and proper gear.

    Sean
    Last edited by Sean Hayes; 03-23-2012 at 08:21 AM.
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    One should never confuse the rules of a competition with the rules of an art.

    People talk a lot about speed, but not very much about control, safety, tactics, and trying to get close to the reality of sharps. When simulating sharp fights, how fast one charges in depends on how quickly one would like to die.


  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Mondschein View Post
    No, but training in how to grapple safely would have likely helped.
    Not really. Remember, at the time of my accident, I already had a long background in aikido and jujutsu. The problem there was someone deciding to win an exercise - after the exercise was already over - and then panicking. It was more a flaw in the student himself, and a poor choice on my part to have worked with someone I was about to put on probation, literally at the end of that class.

    This accident, if it happened the way the newspaper implied (nylon sword into ocular) was preventable. It underscores the need for professionalism and standard safety protocols.
    I agree, and agree this was avoidable - but I also agree with Stefan: let's acknowledge that, talk about it as necessary, but also keep track of the injured and hope for a positive recovery. This is a grim injury and we need to first and foremost hope for his recovery.
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gregory Mele View Post
    Not really. Remember, at the time of my accident, I already had a long background in aikido and jujutsu. The problem there was someone deciding to win an exercise - after the exercise was already over - and then panicking. It was more a flaw in the student himself, and a poor choice on my part to have worked with someone I was about to put on probation, literally at the end of that class.
    I know—I meant for the guy who threw you.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam R View Post
    I'm also not a fan of competition - partly because of the effect it can have on safety..
    Seconded.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam R View Post
    re-enactment combat should be about training hard in a system that preserves safety while appearing to fight.
    I'd perhaps word it as: re-enactment combat should be more focused on the recreation of the training for combat in that progress should be very, VERY gradual as it would have been for our ancestors (no point in unneeded and rushed exposure ot danger, there'll be plenty of that later on). More time spent on polishing basics and as mentioned above, distancing oneself emotionaly and mentally from a competitive mindset as completely and early as possible.
    Speaking personally of course. I'm sure others are much better at this than I am on a lot of points made in this thread already.


    (speaking very generally here. I barely know one end of a longsword from the other)
    Last edited by Ian Brackley; 03-24-2012 at 04:06 PM.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Mondschein View Post
    I do. AEMMA does.
    As do we.

    I'm sorry to hear about this grave accident, and while it's horrible, let's use it as a reminder to always stay safe.
    ... above all, you should feel in your conscience that your quarrel is good and just. - Le Jeu de la Hache

    Jason Smith
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    Secretary, Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

  21. #21
    I agree that safety is paramount, and I also agree that proper safety mitigation procedures are vital. Statistically, I imagine it is far more likely that this incident was cause by some kids playing in a park, rather than from a martial endeavor. (An obvious supposition on my part as well)

    But, as this is a good opportunity to remind ourselves that risks should be mitigated, I would like to put forward a slightly different viewpoint to ponder. (Not necessarily tied to this, but consistent with the discussion)

    We are exploring the techniques, and arts of a Culture of warriors in the purest sense of that word.

    Safety is, of course, paramount or we would run out of people to study with. That being said, I truly believe one cannot fully comprehend, or internalize what it truly means to be the inheritors of this martial culture if one never puts their body to the hazard.

    I’m not talking about idiotic risk. I’m talking about action with intent.

    One can possess the finest and most accurate form, a veritable dance of grace and poise. But if the modern equivalent of an untrained peasant can cross check you into the dirt and slit your throat than all you have learned is a very beautiful dance. (a worthy goal to itself, but not martial).

    Further than that. Our forefathers trained to stand and deliver, as it were. If there is never any point in one’s martial training where courage is tested, where stout blows are given and received, where the fist crunches into soft flesh, then one will never understand either the kind of men who used these arts to forge the fates of their families and nations, or truly why reclaiming those martial insights are so poignant to the 21st century.

    I am obviously not condoning stupidity, and Dr. Ken, Greg, and others are right. Safety is overarching, but it is not an absolute. We do a disservice to ourselves and our students if we neuter our martial practice to the point that risk of any kind is a distant thought.

    Our forefathers used competition, Deeds of arms, and “friendly” matches to find out what they had truly learned. I think it is short sighted of us to think we can claim their martial inheritance without risk.

    I’m not necessarily talking about the risk of a broken bone, or bloody nose because somebody accidentally slips. That can happen walking to the bus stop.

    I’m proposing that one can never really understand Mensur without the scar, as it were.

    You cannot sharpen a knife with a stick of butter.

  22. #22
    ^^^ What he said.

  23. #23
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    For my own part, I think the risks are great enough and the injuries inevitable enough even with all the precautions one can reasonably take.



    Quote Originally Posted by Robert D. Roach View Post
    I agree that safety is paramount, and I also agree that proper safety mitigation procedures are vital. Statistically, I imagine it is far more likely that this incident was cause by some kids playing in a park, rather than from a martial endeavor. (An obvious supposition on my part as well)

    But, as this is a good opportunity to remind ourselves that risks should be mitigated, I would like to put forward a slightly different viewpoint to ponder. (Not necessarily tied to this, but consistent with the discussion)

    We are exploring the techniques, and arts of a Culture of warriors in the purest sense of that word.

    Safety is, of course, paramount or we would run out of people to study with. That being said, I truly believe one cannot fully comprehend, or internalize what it truly means to be the inheritors of this martial culture if one never puts their body to the hazard.

    I’m not talking about idiotic risk. I’m talking about action with intent.

    One can possess the finest and most accurate form, a veritable dance of grace and poise. But if the modern equivalent of an untrained peasant can cross check you into the dirt and slit your throat than all you have learned is a very beautiful dance. (a worthy goal to itself, but not martial).

    Further than that. Our forefathers trained to stand and deliver, as it were. If there is never any point in one’s martial training where courage is tested, where stout blows are given and received, where the fist crunches into soft flesh, then one will never understand either the kind of men who used these arts to forge the fates of their families and nations, or truly why reclaiming those martial insights are so poignant to the 21st century.

    I am obviously not condoning stupidity, and Dr. Ken, Greg, and others are right. Safety is overarching, but it is not an absolute. We do a disservice to ourselves and our students if we neuter our martial practice to the point that risk of any kind is a distant thought.

    Our forefathers used competition, Deeds of arms, and “friendly” matches to find out what they had truly learned. I think it is short sighted of us to think we can claim their martial inheritance without risk.

    I’m not necessarily talking about the risk of a broken bone, or bloody nose because somebody accidentally slips. That can happen walking to the bus stop.

    I’m proposing that one can never really understand Mensur without the scar, as it were.

    You cannot sharpen a knife with a stick of butter.
    "Free speech is an act of desperation. It is a last resort, an onslaught of quiet fury, and -- in most cases -- an insult to, and abandonment of, vital social norms. Men who murder have usually lost their inhibitions only for a moment; but men who speak freely have lost them forever, and are thus as dangerous to a society as a mad dog. "-John "Birdman" Bryant

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    You've got leaders sitting on top of nuclear arsenals who can't even pronounce the word "nuclear", and what, my sword is a threat?!? Give me a break.

    It is my contention that you should be able walk down the streets of any city in America with any weapon you choose (longsword, revolver, machinegun) at your side, open or concealed. If mankind is too stupid or evil to be trusted with arms, then let us be wiped away to make room for a better race of beings.

  24. #24
    I agree that intensity and receiving a few hits is part of anyone's martial career, but there are types of injury that are not acceptable. I can live with bruises, occasional minor bleeding and even fractures and concussions if they are extremely rare, but eyes are not replaceable.

    Eyes are also the most vulnerable place in the human body and relatively easy to protect adequately, so I really don't understand this type of accident.

    In a controlled environment some things can be done without masks, but nothing with too much intent and obviously not thrusts to the face... And using a mask that allows hard hits to the head but leaves the most vulnerable bits uncovered is asking for trouble. That sort of mask was good for actual combat back then but for today's training environment it is very dangerous.

  25. #25
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    Finally I received some information.

    In the environment where the accident happened a ruleset called 'Codex Belli' is used. AFAIK it's quite popular in the european reenactment scene. This is not HES but a different approach to swordfighting. From what I learned the head is not a legal target nor are any thrusts allowed.

    A real lot of things must have gone wrong for such an accident to happen. As unlikely as it seems, it obviously happened.

    At the moment the injured person is kept in artificial coma.

    Stefan
    Dar auf dich fasse / alle kunst haben leng / und masse

    Alte Kampfkunst
    Western Martial Arts Academy

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