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Thread: On the Value of Tournaments

  1. #1
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    On the Value of Tournaments

    Greetings, All!

    It's no secret that a number of us in the WMA/HEMA community are actively working on rule-sets for tournaments. In recent threads on this subject (both on US and European sites), I've noticed that there is a certain subset of our community that has a visceral reaction to the idea of tournaments. The common objections tend to be the following:

    • Questions about the legitimacy of tournaments

    • Doubts about the usefulness and functions of tournaments

    • A perception that the fighting in tournaments is not high quality

    • Discomfort with the ego-related issues inherent in tournaments
    • Concern that tournaments will encourage a sports mentality, rather than a proper martial attitude
    • Concern that contestants will be more concerned with gaming the rules and winning than in showing proper technique

    • Concern that tournament formats/rules will either warp or discourage proper technique


    The goal of this thread is to explore these concerns, as well as to present the positive side of tournaments. While I am a strong believer in the value of tournaments, I am also sympathetic to the concerns listed above, and share some of them. Also, I have close friends on both sides of the divide.

    By way of disclosure, I do have a strong background in both sport fencing (university teams in foil and sabre) and kendo (regular participant in tournaments during college). Despite this, I do not consider myself to be "sports-oriented". On the contrary, I am an advocate for tournaments because I am convinced that they add value to the practice of the Historical European Martial Arts. My reasons for this are outlined below.

    Tournaments are an Integral Part of the European Martial Tradition

    I sometimes hear doubts expressed about the legitimacy of tournaments as an element of the Historical European Martial Arts. I find this surprising, since the very word "tournament" is an outgrowth of a French martial tradition which spread to every European country. Competitions of various sorts were integral to the historical martial arts, from the very beginning onward: Wrestling, boxing, and pancration at the Olympic games in Greece; the Roman gladiatorial games; knightly tournaments; the pas d'armes of France and Burgundy; the knightly Kolbenturnier and bourgeois Fechtschule competitions of Germany; the longsword and rapier tournaments of the Belgian fencing guilds; prize-playing all across Europe; English singlestick matches; Breton and Cornish wrestling contests... The list goes on and on.

    The ubiquitous nature of tournaments and similar competitions in the Western martial tradition amounts, in part, to an implicit acknowledgement of their martial value by the warrior classes of Europe. Competitive fighting was used by the very fighters whose historical example we are attempting to emulate. Tournaments have always had their share of detractors, but they have also been a part of every European martial tradition. Thus, their legitimacy as an element of the practice of WMA/HEMA cannot be called into question.

    Tournaments Provide the Best Form of Pressure-Testing Available

    The primary goal of the WMA/HEMA community is to revive the traditional fighting arts of Europe, based on surviving manuals of fence. As we have seen over time, this results in a host of competing interpretations of historical fencing technique. Ultimately, the touchstone for any interpretation must be the following: Can you carry it out under pressure against an unfamiliar, uncooperative opponent? Anyone who is truly dedicated to this pursuit must, at some point, apply this touchstone to his interpretation. (Credit for this "touchstone" goes to Scott Brown; the idea is not my own.) Tournaments provide the best venue for doing this.

    On a more personal level, it's also natural for a swordsman to want to test his own skills under pressure. Sparring and free play are fine, but only go so far: The opponent is often a regular training partner, with familiar movement patterns and a level of trust resulting from previous interactions. Sparring with unfamiliar opponents is better, but there is still a choice of partner involved, giving the swordsman a degree of control over the terms of the encounter.

    The fact is, free play is simply not the same as fighting in a public competition. The level of adrenaline, effort, and concentration goes way up in a tournament. One reason is the presence of a large audience; another is the fact that the fighter's performance is being measured by unfamiliar judges according to pre-set criteria; yet another is the fact that the opponents are generally strangers, typically chosen at random. Finally, social pressures (potential loss of face or reputation) also play a role in increasing the stress of tournament fighting.

    Plenty of research has been done in recent years regarding the physiological and psychological effects of combat stress. (For a great discussion, read Dave Grossman's book, On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace.) This research makes clear that combat stress has a big impact on our ability to perform complex physical actions, such as the techniques that we study in historical manuals of fence. In my view, exposure to the pressure of tournaments is invaluable for learning how we react under stress. In turn, that tells us how likely it is that we will be able to carry out a particular technique in a real fight. While I don't pretend that tournaments fully replicate the stress of real combat, or that they accurately replicate a real fight, they do provide the closest approximation that we are capable of within acceptable bounds of safety.

    This same body of research suggests that regular exposure to combat stress teaches us how to deal with it effectively. A swordsman who is accustomed to the stress of tournament fighting will thus become "immunized" to some extent. He will be able to go about the business of fighting more effectively, and will be less affected by the disturbing effect of adrenaline on his body. For those who truly desire to know if their skills are functional, shunning tournaments amounts to a decision to forego the best pressure-testing tool available.

    Tournament Fighting is an Excellent Reality Check

    Tournament fighting represents a healthy dose of reality for most people. A fighter's own perception of how he behaves while fencing is often highly subjective. At worst, his opinion of himself may amount to pure fantasy. The objective nature of tournament fighting (evaluated by third parties, according to pre-set criteria) forces a reality check on the fighter. This is particularly the case when bouts are videotaped, as is commonly the case in today's tournament scene. There is real value in this, since it disabuses the fighter of false notions about his technique. It also gives him a much clearer idea of what is (and is not) possible when fighting at full speed. This reality check is particularly important for instructors, who bear the responsibility of passing on martially-sound technique to their students.

    Viewed in this light, tournaments can be a very humbling experience. At my first kendo tournament (age 17), I had my ass handed to me by a 14-year old who barely came up to my shoulder. At the same tournament, one of my fellow club-members (with macho tendencies) was thoroughly trounced by a smaller female opponent. We were both crushed by the experience, but went back to train with much greater focus. Not only did the tournament serve as a reality check for us, but the sharp blow to our egos gave us the spur we needed to improve ourselves. This is not an isolated experience; such tales are commonplace among tournament fighters.

    It has become common practice is to video all fights during a tournament, then to post them online, such as on YouTube. This has a positive effect, in that it allows other members of community to see compare themselves to the fighters, serving as yet another form of reality check. It also serves as a visual record of the overall trends and quality of fencing in our community. This will allow the collective progress of the community to be measured over time.

    On the Perception that Tournament Fighting is of Poor Quality

    As mentioned above, combat stress (real or simulated) generally has a negative effect on physical performance. Thus, it should be no surprise that the fighting we see in tournaments is often not as graceful or smooth as the fighting we see when watching free play in a relaxed club environment. As the level of tension increases, the fighters strike harder, move faster, and are extremely focused on their opponent's movements. This nervous tension is clearly reflected in the fighter's movement patterns, and it is not uncommon to see actions that sometimes look almost convulsive in nature. Pretty? Not at all. More representative of a real fight than free play in a fencing salle? Absolutely.

    For many spectators, especially those who hold a strong vision of what they believe is "proper fencing" (a large percentage of our community), tournament fighting strikes them as a crude, unworthy expression of their art. But let's face it: Brute force plays a role in any form of fighting. Although we should not encourage it, we must also be cautious about unduly penalizing it. Good fencing technique is a way of countering brute force, and making up for differences in size and strength. If we create an artificial environment where those natural attributes play no role, that will result in true "sportification" of our art, and deprive it of martial value entirely.

    The raw, ugly reality of much tournament fighting is apparent not only to the spectators, but also to the fighters themselves. The stress of combat (real or simulated) is inherently unpleasant. Many people have severe negative reactions to combat stress (e.g. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Likewise, many people have lesser, but still negative reactions to the stress of tournament fighting, which is often much faster, harder, and more intense than they are used to. This can make the first exposure to tournament fighting a disappointing and unpleasant experience. Some fencers who take part in tournaments are so discouraged by their performance that they decide competition is not for them, and never go back.

    And yet, some tournament fighters are clearly able to carry out martially-sound technique under pressure. Yes, many fights in a tournament will inevitably involve a certain amount of ugly, force-on-force violence. But every tournament will also include sublime moments when fighters rise to the occasion, and make sophisticated use of timing, distance, and technique to convincingly defeat their opponents. In my view, those moments are becoming more and more frequent. By instituting the right rule-sets (in particular, rules that discourage or even penalize double-hits), I am convinced that we have the ability to shape the behavior of fighters in the right direction, towards good swordsmanship and away from unthinking, convulsive bashing.

    Moreover, the high level of competition involved in tournaments forces fighters to think about their opponent's tactics, and how to counter them. This is precisely how technique must have developed in the historical context -- through a feed-back loop of experience, observation, analysis, and further experiment. I am convinced that as the level of fencing at our tournaments increases, so too will the level of thought and analysis required to defeat the best fighters. This will lead competitors to look to the best source of technical solutions that we have: The historical fencing manuals which we all study.

    On Ego-Related Issues

    Some critics of tournaments are put off by ego-related issues. There is no doubt that ego becomes involved in tournaments. For the winner, there is an ego boost, and the opportunity to brag; for the loser, there is the potential shame and humiliation of defeat. This is unavoidable in any endeavor that distinguishes between winners and losers. While some are uncomfortable with this aspect of tournaments, there is value to be found here as well.

    Also, let's remember that not all tournament fighters are motivated by ego; many take part with a humble spirit, and readily accept the outcome, good or bad. In this regard, tournament fighting is a character-building experience. It is also instructive for others, who get to see the full range of human character -- both the ego-driven fighter and his opposite.

    The speed, violence, and physicality of tournament fighting can be off-putting for some competitors. Yet for those who do go back, there is the great benefit that comes from learning how to cope with the heightened stress levels inherent in a competitive environment. Once they learn how to function effectively in that stressful environment, there is a great sense of pride that comes from being able to master one's emotion and adrenaline and successfully carry out martial technique under pressure. This is especially the case when a fighter can manage to do this consistently enough to win the tournament.

    Is this ego-stroking? To some extent, I suppose. But putting it in those terms sounds a bit like sour grapes. Viewed from a different perspective, what is wrong with pride in hard-won accomplishments? Fighting is inherently a contest of egos. To deny this is to reject the fundamental nature of combat. Generations of generals and warriors have commented on the importance of fighting spirit in combat; a healthy ego is an important part of this.

    Our community is a "big tent" with room for different approaches. But it definitely needs to have outlets for people's natural drives. These include the drive to compete; the desire for attention; and the desire for recognition of one's accompishments. Creating a controlled environment where those drives can be expressed in a positive manner will help our community to grow, and will make it more rounded and complete.

    Let's face it, many people are attracted to our community because they want to learn how to "sword fight." If we ignore or repress that desire, those people will simply go elsewhere. On the contrary, we should recognize this urge and channel it. Creating a system where winners are publicly recognized will encourage others to emulate their performance. It also creates role models, whose skill and accomplishments will serve as an inspiration for others.

    Sports Mentality vs. Proper Martial Attitude, and the Concern that Fighters will "Game the Rules"

    Maestro Sean Hayes recently posted a comment relevant to this topic. Watching a sport-fencing tournament, he commented that a particular technique would not have worked with sharp swords. His fellow spectator responded along the lines of, "Who cares? This is just a game." The evolution of this kind of "sports mentality" is generally repulsive to the WMA/HEMA community, and is something we clearly need to avoid. One way of doing this is to ensure that those involved in developing tournament rule-sets are clearly focused on their goals. Statement of those goals thus becomes critical, since it affects the end-state we strive for. High among those goals must be an explicit statement that we seek to encourage the use of historical technique; to reward the use of skill as opposed to brute force; and to reduce artificiality to the extent compatible with safety and accurate judging.

    One major concern that I have heard voiced, and which I share, is that contestants may become so interested in winning that they focus more on gaming the rules than on fighting with good technique. I have helped stage tournaments in the past where this was clearly evident. For example, one tournament rule-set used weighted scoring for different targets; the head was worth 3 points, the arm worth 1 point. (This rule set is historical in nature, and is described in Manciolino's manual of fence from 1531.) Fighters quickly began using their left arms to block head-blows, a sensible thing to do under the rules in question. The solution? Creation of a new rule, to the effect that covering the target with the arm made it of the same value as the head.

    The key lesson here is that great attention must be paid to constructing rule-sets that are well-thought out, and which contain safeguards designed to minimize such gaming. Any rule-set will contain compromises, whether for the sake of safety, for ease of administration, or for other reasons. Thus, no rule-set will be perfect; but by clearly focusing on the goals to be attained, and the evils to be avoided, the ability of fencers to game the rules can be reduced to a minimum.

    Another example of this are rules dealing with double-hits. Certain rule-sets create the possibility of using double-hits to the fencer's advantage, such as the rules for the epee in modern sport fencing. By rejecting such rules, and adopting other models which discourage and even penalize double hits, the behavior of fencers can be shaped, pushing them in the direction of good swordsmanship. (For a thorough discussion of this subject, see the recent thread, "The Problem of the Double Hit.")

    On the Concern that Tournament Formats or Rules will Warp or Discourage Proper Technique

    A friend of mine once visited a kendo club in Los Angeles. During the evening's practice, one of the senior students instructed him not to parry a blow to his side, but instead to cover the target with his elbow, since the arm was off-target under kendo rules. This anecdote is a classic example of how a sportive mentality can lead to "technique" that makes sense under the rules, but which is antithetical to notions of good swordsmanship. The familiar use of the "flick" in modern sport fencing is another example of this.

    Certainly, this is an area that needs to be watched, and careful attention paid to the effect of weapon simulators, rule-sets, and even attitudes. A weapon simulator that is flexible and whippy (like a fencer's foil) could lead to the intentional use of "flicks", and will force much wider parries by the defender; neither of these would be desirable with real swords. Rule-sets that create no penalty for double hits will create a mind-set that these are acceptable and to be ignored (an idea which should be repulsive to any swordsman). An attitude that "this is just a game" as opposed to "this represents an encounter with sharps" is also of major concern, and needs to be vigilantly guarded against. This concern does not apply just to tournaments, but applies to free-play as well.

    However, this problem is not insurmountable. The most important thing is to recognize that rule-sets have the effect of shaping the fighters' behavior. By tailoring the rules, effects can be created or eliminated. (Although there are often unintended side-effects that must be guarded against.) With this understanding, and a clear idea of what we want to achieve, rule-sets that warp technique can be recognized and corrected.

    For example, one item of concern is the excessive use of one-handed blows with the longsword. This type of attack is historically documented in many traditions (examples can be found in Fiore, Talhoffer, Wilhalm, Di Grassi, and Silver). However, in a tournament environment, there is a temptation to over-rely on this technique, because it works well, and gives the fencer a great reach advantage. The danger is that this technique could end up being over-represented in tournament play, creating a type of fencing that is unrepresentative of traditional longsword fencing (as currently understood). Yet with the proper attention to rule-sets (in particular, the adoption of the "after-blow" concept taken from the Franco-Belgian guild rules), this tendency is slowing down, and the one-handed blow becomes a much less attractive tactical option.

    Bottom line: This is a legitimate concern, but with a clear eye on our goals (e.g., to create a rule-set that reduces artificiality to the extent compatible with safety and accurate judging, and to encourage the use of historical technique), it is a danger which can be guarded against.

    Reputation Issues Associated with Tournaments

    One sensitive issue connected with tournaments is the pressure it puts on those in leadership positions. For instructors, it is an implicit challenge to practice what they preach. It is easy for an instructor to demonstrate technique in a controlled environment, with a cooperative training partner. It is quite another thing to demonstrate those skills under pressure, in public, against an unfamiliar opponent. This puts a lot of stress on instructors, who may worry about issues such as potential loss of face among their peers, damage to their reputation in the community, and the possible undermining of their authority with their students. These concerns are understandable, particularly for professional instructors who make this their livelihood.

    Yet, this is an area where I believe instructors have an obligation to the community as a whole. If we are going to argue for interpretations of historical technique, we owe it to the community to test our theories under pressure. If we are going to pass on technique to our students, and represent it as martially sound, we owe it to them to apply the touchstone described above: Can you pull it off under pressure, against an unfamiliar, uncooperative opponent?

    As instructors, I believe we have an obligation to demonstrate our personal skills in public. In the absence of instructor certifications for WMA/HEMA (which are unlikely to be agreed upon anytime soon), this is one of the few ways we have of confirming an instructor's skill as a fighter. This includes confirmation that the instructor has a solid grasp of key elements of fighting, such as timing, distance management, body mechanics, and the like.

    Conclusion

    In closing, I believe that developing a sportive side to our art, with a tournament format that favors skilled fighting and the use of historical technique, is going to be critical to the growth of our community in the near future. I don't believe this is too hard to achieve; the only real issues are the best choice of weapon simulator, defining the requisite protective gear, and drafting the right rule sets. I think real progress is being made in all those directions.

    Regards,

    - Matt
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Galas View Post
    Conclusion

    In closing, I believe that developing a sportive side to our art, with a tournament format that favors skilled fighting and the use of historical technique, is going to be critical to the growth of our community in the near future. I don't believe this is too hard to achieve; the only real issues are the best choice of weapon simulator, defining the requisite protective gear, and drafting the right rule sets. I think real progress is being made in all those directions.

    Regards,

    - Matt
    Excellent essay, and I agree with your points! Though I have not yet participated in HEMA related tournaments myself, I can certainly see the value of it and plan to in the future. I think as long as we all approach it as an additional way of training for a real encounter with sharps we should be fine.

    Keith

  3. #3
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    Hi Matt,

    Good post, and a clear statement of where you stand. However, there are a few semi-related issues I'd be interested in hearing your thought on.

    The first is really the root of many of the concerns above - ego, quality, mentality- that is, concern for Safety. That a fighter who is aware of safety issues, and controlled enough not to injure their opponent, is automatically at a disadvantage against an opponent who is *not* concerned at all for the safety of their opponent. This is what can lead to the "stick-jock" phenomenon, where the biggest, hardest men win - not because they're really good, but because they can take the most punishment and keep playing. Do you have a "brutality" clause in the Rules, where the Judges can just remove anyone who appears unsafe or out of control, or who causes injury to another player?

    The second then relates to the choice of tournament weapon. Do you go for steel, with it's realistic attributes but high potential for injury given the above concern? Or plastic or shinai, with less (but not zero) chance of injury, but where the weapon itself has decidedly unrealistic characteristics? If you decide on a definitive weapon (eg nylon wasters), does this not potentially encourage people to spend more time practicing with that particular bouting tool, in order to be better at tournaments, and this lead to a widespread "sportification" of the Art by proxy of the tool? (eg the SCA rattan club, the kendo shinai, the fairy-sabre....)

    My third question related to Ian's comment in the other thread, which again I think underlies many of the stated concerns (ego, sportification, game-mentality...) - that is, I guess "Chivalry" or "gentlemanly conduct". As a historical art, we know they *didn't* practice it with a modern ultra-competitive win-at-all-costs mindset - even in a duel to the death, certain levels of good behaviour were observed regardless, or the offending party would be socially outcast, even if they won. While I don't want to overstate this, and I'm sure it's not a problem in the community *yet*, IF the tournament scene takes off and becomes popular with the wider public, you may well start attracting the impolite, highly-competitive types. What do or can you do to encourage a sense of chivalry and fair play to counter to competitive-ego side of things?

    PS A couple of side-notes.

    First, the rules for these things seem to me to be hideously over-written and complicated. All the tournaments I've run have had dead simple rules

    * If you're hit, you're out
    * Double-hit, you're both out
    * If you are deemed unsafe or impolite, you're out
    * Grapples are taken to the point of control, or stalemate after 3 seconds and reset
    * All hits are to be acknowledged

    These have worked really well, and resulted in good, defensive fighting, a fast run through a lot of competitors, and the fact you only need to be unlucky once to be out is understood by everyone and removes a lot of the ego-related issues. The one point I'd draw your attention to is the last one * All hits are to be acknowledged*. IMHO 99% of the time there should be no reason for a judge to get involved - the players should be able to sort out for themselves if a hit was good or not, and behave accordingly. Maybe this mindset is a bit cricket for non-cricket players, but I still find it very odd that anyone expects an external judge to call whether or not a hit happens, or is good or bad, considering the speed of a good sword-fight (which is what makes Kendo appear so messy). The only people who *really* know are the players, and even then they might have to say "I don't know, lets do it again"... why not place the judging responsibilty primarily on the players themselves, and only use the Judges to sort out the very-occasional disagreement?

    Lastly, I am personally as dead opposed to the "after-blow" concept - we've played with it and I think it does dreadful things to peoples technique, and anything that encourages people to keep fighting *after* they have been fairly struck is IMHO a Very Bad idea. I've never understood why it's gained currency. Your explanation of *why* it started to be incorporated makes perfect sense - but, as a practitioner of a style that positively encourages single-handed use of the longsword, let me say the correct remedy for them is to use the *right tactics and techniques* - you don't need to alter the rules of the fight!

    Paul

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Wagner View Post

    Maybe this mindset is a bit cricket for non-cricket players, but I still find it very odd that anyone expects an external judge to call whether or not a hit happens, or is good or bad, considering the speed of a good sword-fight (which is what makes Kendo appear so messy). The only people who *really* know are the players, and even then they might have to say "I don't know, lets do it again"... why not place the judging responsibilty primarily on the players themselves, and only use the Judges to sort out the very-occasional disagreement?

    Paul
    I have been in enough 'freeplay' and 'tournaments' to know that quite a lot of people don't realise that they got hit, or are unwilling to acknowlege it, or it happened and a counter action swept it away. Frankly I haven't been in that many. One example on Rapier was a full bend of the blade that was swept off with the left hand and considered a non-hit. video replay showed a full bend.

    The common reaction to these people is, "I'll just hit him harder." For whatever reason they don't acknowlege the hit, be it they honestly didn't feel it or they won't admit it so they get a second or third chance, we the fighters are not to be trusted. While self acknowlegement works for small groups and informal tournaments and fights, for a larger scale match that may have some prestiege attached. Don't trust a fighter.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Galas View Post
    Yet, this is an area where I believe instructors have an obligation to the community as a whole. If we are going to argue for interpretations of historical technique, we owe it to the community to test our theories under pressure. If we are going to pass on technique to our students, and represent it as martially sound, we owe it to them to apply the touchstone described above: Can you pull it off under pressure, against an unfamiliar, uncooperative opponent?

    As instructors, I believe we have an obligation to demonstrate our personal skills in public. In the absence of instructor certifications for WMA/HEMA (which are unlikely to be agreed upon anytime soon), this is one of the few ways we have of confirming an instructor's skill as a fighter. This includes confirmation that the instructor has a solid grasp of key elements of fighting, such as timing, distance management, body mechanics, and the like.
    I've seen this thread a million times on fencing.net, and it never ends well, but I still need to speak up and disagree. In living traditions (kendo, savate, fencing, etc.), it is well known that one can be a highly skilled practitioner and an excellent instructor without being a champion. An example from the sport fencing world is Joe Pechinsky, who never stepped onto the piste as a competitor as far as I'm aware, but had a student on every Olympic team from 1968 to 1992. Savate has technical ranks and fighting ranks, etc., etc.

    To say one must be a skilled researcher/interpreter, a technically adept fencer, and have the athletic prowess and je ne sais quoi that makes a tournament champion, is asking far too much of any one person, especially in this fledgling endeavor.

    A better test is if the instructor in question produces good students. If, in 20 years, a superior athlete does not happen through that instructor's hands and gets turned into a successful competitive historical fencer, you might be able to critique them. The lack of any standard of who is a competent instructor is why I am pursuing certification through the USFCA, which is certainly not classical or historical fencing, but is the closest possible analogue.

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    Hi, Ken!

    Quick response before running off to work:

    You make a good point, and I certainly don't expect all instructors to be champions. However, I would expect them to take part in tournaments from time to time, and to do reasonably well. If an instructor is consistently unable to place in the top third, for example, I would begin to wonder, frankly. Alternately, I would expect their students to enter and do reasonably well.

    I realize some have medical conditions that may prevent them from entering tournaments. Age, likewise; but I'm 47, and am happy fighting guys in their 20s, so it's not that big of a problem. (Ask me again when I'm 67.)

    Finally, I realize that in some cases, a guy who has no martial skills can be a good teacher. But that's generally going to be the exception, rather than the rule. Especially in a case like ours, when our art is in its fledgling stages.

    Regards,

    - Matt
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

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    Just to say that I find Matt's article excellent and am in 100% agreement with it.

    I also agree with Ken's point, and Matt's response.

    Matt

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Galas View Post
    Tournaments are an Integral Part of the European Martial Tradition
    The ubiquitous nature of tournaments and similar competitions in the Western martial tradition amounts, in part, to an implicit acknowledgement of their martial value by the warrior classes of Europe. Competitive fighting was used by the very fighters whose historical example we are attempting to emulate. Tournaments have always had their share of detractors, but they have also been a part of every European martial tradition. Thus, their legitimacy as an element of the practice of WMA/HEMA cannot be called into question.
    The problem we face nowadays is that, unlike our historical counterparts, we don't have access to real combat experience with sharps in order to counterbalance our tournament experience.

    That coexistence of real combat and ludic contests yielded results to various levels:
    -Not only more martialy sound rules could be devised, but also real-combat-aware judges enforced them in a proper way
    -The temptation of tunning the practice to the rules was radicaly atoned by the foreseen necessity by the part of the fencer of a martialy sound practice beyond the contest.
    -The importance of victory in a contest was greatly atoned by a clear perception of the relative importance of those contests in the whole martial art picture.

    That is, they had a clear idea of the relative importance of tournaments in the martial art.

    Of course there are historical cases of tournaments or such becoming the whole of the martial art for some people or groups. Those were obviously depissed by the ones who saw in tournaments merely a tool to achieve farther ends.

    We lack the real combat experience, so our view on tournaments, and our tournament experience, compared with that of yore, is tainted by that lack of perspective: that is, our tournaments would never be their tournaments, even if we follow their rules to the letter.

    We are proud of trying to follow such a rich and noble tradition as the western martial art was. But we must be aware that the extinction of real sword combat is a discontinuity that radicaly affects what we try to do today when compared to the original ways we try to retrace.

    So the first question we must address is: What we want tournaments to be today? The substitute of real combat in our practice or the tool it was in former times?

    With "the substitute of real combat in our practice" I don't mean, of course, that real combat may be simulated in a tournament. But, if we look at tournaments as:
    -the best form of pressure-testing available
    -one of the best reality check
    -the best form to demonstrate personal skills in public
    (And I don't mean exactly that tournaments aren't, but one should keep aware that "being the best thing available" doesn't mean necesarily "being useful") and began taking "the best available tool" as "the most important tool", tournaments will become the center of our practice, just as real combat was the center of the historical martial arts practice.

    And hence the slipery slope begins: that no ruleset can't be made malice-proof is a fact(*); that the judges are humans and thus biased and suject to error is another fact; complex rulesets are difficult to enforce and more liable to loopholes; judging consistence is an issue. All that drawbacks, when coupled with the standing of tournaments as the paramount activity of HEMA, will lead to the sportification of the activity, no matter if we aren't able to see now the ways and forms that sportification would take (One just has to compare early XXth century olympic fencing with that of the XXIth century to realize that the departure from the martial art to the sport is not an overnight process)

    All those drawbacks can be assumed, however, if we keep tournaments in the, IMO, proper perspective: they are good stress testers and reality checkers, and they provide some kind of picture about the skills displayed, true, but they can't prove who is the best fencer. And it doesn't matter if we don't want them to do that, because if we go on a path underscoring their importance, obscuring their relativeness, and offering no alternative, they will became that excelence proof (that, IMO, they couldn't be), at least in the eyes of the community.

    Regarding instructors, I'm with mr. Mondschein: the best test for instructors is if they produce good students consistently, and for me is enough proof of the martial skills of an instructor seeing them in his students. But I also see the rationale of mr. Galas, in view of the actual state of the HEMA scene: given the typical small size of the groups and even smaller "researching cores", and the relative short life of the activity, many instructors/researchers still hasn't had the opportunity of forming a coherent cadre of experienced students, so it would not be a bad idea for them to put on display the skills their students can't prove.

    Regards.

    P.D. As I wrote in the former thread, we should try to diferenciate, when dealing with historical martial arts public displays, in which cases we can speak of "competition" and in which we can speak of "free display". With "competition" I mean a contest in which a winner is expressly proclaimed, normaly by the objetive application of a set of rules; because not all the events that had a set of rules were competitions, neirther all that hadn't, weren't. That is, if we want to gain a clearer view of the relative importance of competition and competivity in the HEMA.

    (*) In Spain we have a saying that can be traslated as "The law is done, and so is the loophole".
    Last edited by Miguel Palacio; 08-25-2010 at 06:16 AM.
    De vencer cada uno deseoso,
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    de encaminar el golpe de la espada
    por do diese a la muerte franca entrada.

    Alonso de Ercilla

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    Hi Matt,
    I really loved your essay! It has many, many many interesting thoughts that we will discuss about in our own guild. Your text has more than enough 'counter arguments' to make people shut their mouths in discussing about this matter!
    This summer I participated for the first time in an official tournament (but I had to leave earlier because of a marriage...-sigh-) and it was for me a new experience to feel the 'combat stress' you write about... For some people it does great things e.g. as sharpening their senses, making their focus better... other people are unable to think anymore, forget all their techniques...
    But there is one important remark I have about the technique (cfr. Paul Wagners remark): In Apelern I heard several people complaining about the nylon swords. It is very difficult to use them in certain techniques such as winding... Other problem is: sometimes you block an incoming sword (e.g. from Zornhaw) but still this sword bounced around your own blade and hits you... Off course the judges can solve this problem.
    Anyway, I think another important discussion for the sword fighting comunity will be: steel or nylon?
    Congratulations again for your splendid essay!

  10. #10
    I agree with all of Matt's points. Great article. And, of course, he's right, all of those things are true.

    And that's the problem with tournaments.


    Quote Originally Posted by Miguel Palacio View Post
    The problem we face nowadays is that, unlike our historical counterparts, we don't have access to real combat experience with sharps in order to counterbalance our tournament experience.

    <snip>

    We are proud of trying to follow such a rich and noble tradition as the western martial art was. But we must be aware that the extinction of real sword combat is a discontinuity that radicaly affects what we try to do today when compared to the original ways we try to retrace.
    Bingo.

    I am not a fencing coach, I am a martial arts student, and more relevant to this topic, a teacher. And so it is my responsibility to train martial artists, not athletes. They can be both, certainly, but the former is the emphasis. I do this with Miguel's words in mind, not just about tournaments, but on a larger scale.

    I explain to my students that they are training in way that, I hope, will leave them with the ability to fight with a real sword. I draw heavily from my experience and current training in the Japanese arts to make this happen. They are a people that are not separated from the reality of the sword fight, or at least they have some connection to it that we do not, and in my particular art, that connection led them to adopt some practices that are not "historical" but that make up for modern people's separation from the realities of melee combat (e.g. cutting as part of a curriculum).

    To make this happen, I train them in as holistic a manner as I can; body mechanics, solo drills, paired drills, cutting, free fencing, etc. Because they are human, they need tangible goals, a focus for their training. For this reason, we have ranks and tests. The tests include everything I train them in. We do solo forms, paired techniques, we cut, we have people from other schools come for free fencing, and in this way we solidify the curriculum, make it so that the goals of our training are reflected in the manifestation of these goals.

    Enter the tournament, as we have it today.

    The tournament is everything Matt said it is. It is fantastic, and so much more of a focus than a mere rank test in a small school. And so, now my students have a new focus. The tournament. And the tournament is...free fencing. That's it, nothing more. Cutting, drills, theory, all of these things are no longer in focus. And that is, in a way liberating. Even I feel it. Why must I work so hard to make sure that each movement of my sword is solid, with perfect edge alignment, with the proper drawing arc that makes for a good cut and all the other things that matter with a sharp sword. Why? It won't matter in the tournament.

    Surely some of my students will remain in proper focus, while others are lost to the glory of the tourney. And when they return, victorious, receiving the praise of the community, will it matter if they are no longer well rounded, having given up the other aspects to focus on their tournament training? How will I tell the rest of my students that all the other things are still important, even though there is nothing like a tourney on which to focus their training, that learning to cut, and all the torturous nuances that make clean techniques, still matter?

    And what does it matter if someone wins every free fencing tournament ever held for the next fifty years, but can't cut well with a sharp sword? Does such a person in fact have any martial skill at all, or is he now just an athlete?

    In the Japanese art I practice, they have tournaments. In those tournaments there is free fencing, but there is also cutting, and kata. And you should do well in all three, as each has equal emphasis. This means that everything we do in the dojo has a tangible goal in the tournament, with all the benefits for all aspects of your training that Matt described for free fencing.

    This is, to me, the only kind of tournament that will leave HEMA intact as a martial art. It has been previously suggested that some people avoid tournaments so that they can remain in their comfortable worlds, free of real challenge. I have not yet entered a HEMA tournament (that will change soon), but I was a professional EMA instructor for several years, and I know just how comfortable a world of sparring tournaments can be.

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    Thanks Matt I can't find anything to argue about. Don't you hate it when that happens

    Quote Originally Posted by Bert Gevaert View Post
    Anyway, I think another important discussion for the sword fighting comunity will be: steel or nylon?

    Both, and shinai and federschwert. None of these simulators are perfect. IMO rules & tools should be randomised from a selection. This makes it much harder to train for competitions, other than by becoming a good all round swordsman, adaptable to changing circumstances. If you can really fight, then the rules & tools don't matter.

    Literally role a dice between each round.

    Role a 5 and you fight with nylon, then role a 3 & we using crazy Belgian authentic rules.
    The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
    Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Nigel Plum View Post
    Both, and shinai and federschwert. None of these simulators are perfect. IMO rules & tools should be randomised from a selection. This makes it much harder to train for competitions, other than by becoming a good all round swordsman, adaptable to changing circumstances. If you can really fight, then the rules & tools don't matter.

    Literally role a dice between each round.

    Role a 5 and you fight with nylon, then role a 3 & we using crazy Belgian authentic rules.
    In the Bartitsu Society we have the notion of "wild card" tournaments in which the rules per round would literally be chosen by fighters drawing cards; clubs = stick fighting, spades = (kick) boxing, diamonds = jiujitsu (submission grappling) and hearts = "all in". As you suggest, and as Paul Wagner suggested in the other thread, the random element means that competitors will be rewarded for proficiency in every aspect of the game.

    Tony

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Mondschein View Post
    A better test is if the instructor in question produces good students. If, in 20 years, a superior athlete does not happen through that instructor's hands and gets turned into a successful competitive historical fencer, you might be able to critique them.
    Odd thing is, I don't think this really counters the initial point. I believe both are talking about results-oriented teaching. A teacher who can practice what he preaches is, in my estimation, no different than the teacher who does not compete but consistently produces effective competitors.

    So, I think you're both right.
    I'm the optimist who plans for when the pessimist is right.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Wolf View Post
    In the Bartitsu Society we have the notion of "wild card" tournaments in which the rules per round would literally be chosen by fighters drawing cards
    Ooo, Tony, I like that! And it presents a *perfect* opportunity to resolve some of the issues about what the best rules are for inter-club/national tournaments - we don't need to agree! We use ALL the rules! ALL the options! ALL the weapons! All of which are represented in a deck of cards, and chosen randomly before each bout! All we have to do is come up with a set of options - totally brilliant!

    Paul

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Edelson View Post

    In the Japanese art I practice, they have tournaments. In those tournaments there is free fencing, but there is also cutting, and kata. And you should do well in all three, as each has equal emphasis. This means that everything we do in the dojo has a tangible goal in the tournament, with all the benefits for all aspects of your training that Matt described for free fencing.

    This is, to me, the only kind of tournament that will leave HEMA intact as a martial art. It has been previously suggested that some people avoid tournaments so that they can remain in their comfortable worlds, free of real challenge. I have not yet entered a HEMA tournament (that will change soon), but I was a professional EMA instructor for several years, and I know just how comfortable a world of sparring tournaments can be.
    Hi, Mike!

    These are good thoughts. I think I mentioned in the other thread that the Polish groups already have a test-cutting competition that runs alongside the tournament at their big events, and they were talking about adding a "forms" competition as well.

    This seems like a good way of rounding out the focus of these events. It may also make a "pure" tournament/competition-based event more of a draw, since there is a greater variety of things for spectators to watch. It may well draw more participants as well.

    Some time ago, I drew up a concept for a HEMA cutting competition. Maybe I'll post that here, and see if anyone wants to run with it...

    Regards,

    - Matt
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miguel Palacio View Post
    So the first question we must address is: What we want tournaments to be today? The substitute of real combat in our practice or the tool it was in former times?
    Hi, Miguel!

    You have hit upon a key point here, one which I intend to address in another thread. However, I will mention it briefly here. The question boils down to two competing views of what a tournament is supposed to represent. Is it supposed to be the closest approximation we can find of a "real fight"? Or, is it a tool for testing specific skill sets?

    The first view holds that tournament fighting is the closest thing possible to "combat stress" that we can recreate. By having simulators that are as realistic as possible; rules that allow as wide a range of technique as possible (including grappling); and stopping the action as little as possible, we can create a realistic simulation of a real swordfight.

    The second view holds that recreating a "real fight" is a pipe-dream, and that there are so many artificialities in tournament fighting that attaining this goal is impossible. Instead, proponents of this view hold that tournaments should be focused not on realism, but on testing particular skill-sets. Although this may mean creating some artificialities in the rules, it would then be a better way of testing whether someone is a good swordsman or not.

    Over the past two years, I have been working with a lot of people in our community to develop tournament rules. This has involved a lot of discussions, and the two views above are very present in our community. (For example, I tend towards the first view; Scott Brown, who I work closely with on these matters, tends towards the second view.)

    It appears that many of the artificialities in historical rule-sets (as well as modern sport-fencing rules) are primarily geared toward the "testing skill-sets" model. For example, the Franco-Belgian guild rules restricted the target area to above the waist and above elbow (ie, no forearms or hands). They also prohibited one-hand technique, and disallowed grappling as well.

    Thus, the Franco-Belgian rules appear to be crafted as a test of two-handed swordsmanship, pure and simple, rather than as a representation of a "real fight". Likewise, the target restrictions require the swordsman to show that he can hit a deep target, not just pick off the easiest, closest target (the forearm).

    Target restrictions were around in Roman times, too; if you look at representations of gladiators, it becomes clear that the armor eliminates every target but the torso. (Retiarus or net-fighter excluded; but that's a different matter, since he represents the pairing of unarmored agility against armored force.)

    Frankly, I'm not sure of the answer, but am interested in discussing this point further. It merits a long, well-considered discussion.

    Regards,

    - Matt
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Galas View Post
    The second view holds that recreating a "real fight" is a pipe-dream, and that there are so many artificialities in tournament fighting that attaining this goal is impossible. Instead, proponents of this view hold that tournaments should be focused not on realism, but on testing particular skill-sets. Although this may mean creating some artificialities in the rules, it would then be a better way of testing whether someone is a good swordsman or not.
    Well, from the view that there are so many artificialities in tournament fighting that we can't speak about real fight recreations does not necesarily come, IMO, that tournament rules shouldn't be focused on realism.

    My view in this case is a little less detailed (a little more philosophical, if you want) and perhaps it can be summed up that way: "as tournament bouts can't be full real fight simulations, let's not look to the tournament winners (or make them look like) as people that have survided N real fights".

    I see developing full realist tournaments rules as a sisyphean task (a task I myself have been engaged on sometimes) and my view now is that there's no problem with fighting in a less-than-real environment if you are fully aware that it is a less-than-real environment and really assume all the consecuences of that fact.

    That is, for example, why I don't see the ego-related issues you expossed in your original post in the same light as you: I think that, while a tournament winner can and should feel satisfaction by his performance on that day (and only on that day), IMO he has actually few to brag about if his aim is to become the best martial artist he can be, not out of false modesty, but out of the awareness about the relative weight of his achievement on the whole of the martial art practice.
    De vencer cada uno deseoso,
    buscaba nuevo modo, industria y arte
    de encaminar el golpe de la espada
    por do diese a la muerte franca entrada.

    Alonso de Ercilla

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    I find that my views on many of these matters have changed a lot from fighting under many different rules at different events. I think that decisions on how to run tournaments is best decided through experience, trial and error - we can't really agree these things based on internet forum discussions.
    I strongly encourage those of you engaged in this discussion who have not taken part in many competitions to go out there and do it - under as many different rules and conditions as possible. It is a real eye-opener.

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  20. #20
    Hey Paul!

    I'm going to both agree and disagree with you mate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Wagner View Post
    Do you go for steel, with it's realistic attributes but high potential for injury given the above concern? Or plastic or shinai, with less (but not zero) chance of injury, but where the weapon itself has decidedly unrealistic characteristics?
    I'm not yet sold on the nylon wasters, although (full disclosure) I've only fought with the Purpleheart ones you had Paul, and only handled a Knightshop one-hander which I wasn't able to swing around or test out (it was at a stall at the Abbey tournament this year).

    FWIW, for now my preference is still for steel. Over the last couple of years 'fechtschule-like' foils have been refined and improved to the point where I believe steel (foil) bouts with a decent set of PPE are the way to go with longsword contests, for me at least. Leather dussacks are really great (we love em), and I'm open to nylon or other modern materials for things like baton and staff bouting (due to the risks associated with most timber ones). EMMV.

    First, the rules for these things seem to me to be hideously over-written and complicated.
    Agreed! KISS is a good principle when it comes to tournament rules. If we can't explain and have our competitors and judges understand, adhere to and consistently apply our rules after a 5 minute briefing (even if they're coming in cold), the rules are too complex IMHO.

    Part of the issue, I feel, is related to the division Matt has posted on: the difference between those who want to use tournaments as the closest possible simulation of real (let's call this antagonistic) combat and those, such as myself, who see tournaments as their own separate and worthwhile activity. Namely, friendly (let's call them agonistic) contests performed to test specific skill sets and display the art in an entertaining way for fun, fame and fitness - just as it was historically.

    More on that here (I've a feeling this is a topic rich for debate for many years to come).

    Once we acknowledge tournaments are (and throughout history have also mostly been) agonistic, and not truly antagonistic (if our tournaments become so, something is very wrong!) we are free to see them and enjoy them for their own sake, just as fencers from ages past did.

    Relieving tournaments of the heavy responsibility to simulate antagonistic combat also removes much of the motivation behind well intentioned but overly long, legalistic and complex rules. The Franco Belgian guild and Germanic fechtschule rules are great historical exemplars of this openly and proudly agonistic competitive sentiment IMHO.

    All the tournaments I've run have had dead simple rules

    * If you're hit, you're out
    * Double-hit, you're both out
    * If you are deemed unsafe or impolite, you're out
    * Grapples are taken to the point of control, or stalemate after 3 seconds and reset
    * All hits are to be acknowledged
    Sounds ok. I'd personally add the Franco Belgian after-blow and ask the fencers to acknowledge hits only after the engagement, i.e. only once the fencers are separated well out of distance and the result of the after-blow (if any) is clear.

    Otherwise, the rest would just be tinkering at the edges (things like changing the on-target areas and permissible attacks to keep people on their toes).

    The one point I'd draw your attention to is the last one * All hits are to be acknowledged*. IMHO 99% of the time there should be no reason for a judge to get involved - the players should be able to sort out for themselves if a hit was good or not, and behave accordingly.
    I also really like the idea of the 'honour' tournament where the competitors call hits on themselves (and judges are only resorted to when the fencers can't agree on an outcome).

    This has a dramatic impact on the nature of the tournament, but it requires competitors with the maturity and humility to 'play cricket' and not take advantage. As the stakes are upped, and as the competitor base expands, I'm not sure if honour systems will be sufficient for everyone.

    Lastly, I am personally as dead opposed to the "after-blow" concept - we've played with it and I think it does dreadful things to peoples technique, and anything that encourages people to keep fighting *after* they have been fairly struck is IMHO a Very Bad idea.
    Here my friend, I must respectfully disagree with you. The after-blow, in proper context, is a brilliant (and historically authentic!) way to encourage good, defensive fencing habits, especially attacking with cover and an exit strategy. From the way you describe the after-blow Paul, I'm wondering if there isn't some basic misunderstanding or major difference of application here.

    Just to be clear (as I understand it and implement it) the after-blow does not really equal "fighting on after being fairly struck" - it is one single immediate riposte permitted with one single step executed immediately by the fencer who was struck or it simply doesn't count.

    This is hardly a brawl where people wail on one another whilst ignoring blows all over. At most it equals two hits or, against a successful defensive fencer, one initial hit and one missed or parried after-blow!

    Anyway, the after-blow actually encourages good fencing because it shuts down the suicidal buffalos; the aggressive, risk-taking one-trick ponies who like to commit everything into a single attack, with no thought to their own defence should they miss (or their attack not finish the fight), just to get the touch first.

    In all seriousness, how can this *possibly* be a bad thing? If we, as good students of Silver (for one e.g.) are obeying our grounds and governors, gaining and striking from the true place and flying out diligently (what Meyer calls the Abzug or withdrawal), we shouldn't be struck with the after-blow - should we?

    If we find that we are, with some consistency, striking and then being immediately counter struck with after-blows, surely we have identified a defensive deficiency in our approach, right? Shouldn't the sensible thing be to examine why *we* are so vulnerable and incapable of defending ourselves after executing an attack? Aren't we failing in our 'art of defence'?

    One of the worst symptoms of the modern "stop fencing (defending yourself) immediately in distance so you can acknowledge any hit right away" bouting approach is it develops precisely those *bad* defensive habits. That is, upon being hit, people are conditioned to stop fighting immediately, stop defending themselves and start indicating where they were hit! This would be a disastrous response in an antagonistic encounter, and is best avoided if effective self defence is among our training goals. Personally, I'm still trying to train this very bad habit out of myself after years of doing it because that was how everyone did it.

    Anyway, see you soon in Bris Vegas mate, where we can play with staves (my favourite)!

    Cheers

    Bill

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Galas View Post
    On the Perception that Tournament Fighting is of Poor Quality
    [...]
    But let's face it: Brute force plays a role in any form of fighting. Although we should not encourage it, we must also be cautious about unduly penalizing it. Good fencing technique is a way of countering brute force, and making up for differences in size and strength. If we create an artificial environment where those natural attributes play no role, that will result in true "sportification" of our art, and deprive it of martial value entirely.
    [...]
    While I agree with you that tournament figthing should not need to be nice, just effective (I feel that there's beauty in clean-cut effectiveness, but form follows function, not the other way arround), my views on brute force are somewhat different.

    Brute force plays a role in any form of fighting, granted, but what we try to do in tournament bouts is a sharp-sword fight simulation, and brute force in this scope creates a, IMO, undesired side effect:

    In a tournament bout we try to replace, to an extend, the physical fear of being hurt or killed by sharps, by the rule-driven will to win. So far, so good. But if we endorse the use of brute force in tournament bouts, we add a new emotion to the scene: the real, physical fear of being hurt by a blunt/shinai/synthetic waster wielded with unrestricted force. We aren't speaking of emotions on the same level: because the fear of being hit, and thus loose, is some kind of role-playing: we try to think that our blunts are sharps, and the set rules aim to that, but we won't feel the physical fear we would feel if they were really sharps; but the fear we feel from a brute force wielded sword simulator is real, and that fear is an advantage for the one who instills it.

    Put in a simpler, illutrated way: nobody feels real fear of receiving a properly done drawing cut with a longsword simulator, but I supose that everybody have some contemps regarding a full force zornhau landing on whatever part of his body (even with shinais). But both are disabling actions when done with sharps.

    Wether the fencer is consciously aware of this advantage or not, it doesn't matter: he will tend to provoke it, and soon he'll tend to use his blunt more as a giant truncheon and less as a sharp sword simulator, not necesarily out of malice, but out of perceived effectivity. And a fencer who confronts another fencer already set on that path, has only two choices to reequalize the situation:
    -To ask for real sharps
    -To engage in the same fear-inspiring mechanics
    Given the insaneness of the first choice, many will resort (again, perhaps unconsciously) to the second choice while others will try to cope with that disadvantage with technical superiority, that is laudable from the personal growth PoV, but unfair when we are speaking of competitions: I'm not sweaking against big bad rude fellows that scare me with their supposely unswordmanshiplike manners and ways: I want them to feel the same as I in order to be on equal footing, but I realize that, in order to do so, I have to focus on the real potential damage (pain) I can cause with my simulator instead of the supposed potential damage my simulator might cause it it was a sharp, and I find hard to think about that as proper swordmanship.

    To sum up: the real fear of the pain that a sword simulator (any sword simulator, IMO) can cause when wielded with unrestricted force emotionaly contamines the real-fight-with-sharps simulation that the tornament bouts are aimed to be.

    Regards.
    De vencer cada uno deseoso,
    buscaba nuevo modo, industria y arte
    de encaminar el golpe de la espada
    por do diese a la muerte franca entrada.

    Alonso de Ercilla

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Easton View Post
    Hey Miguel, which group are you with? Have we met in Dijon?
    I'm from the AEEA. We haven't actually met, neither had the pleasure of crossing swords, but I think we saw each other back at Brighton-BFSH 2005 and at Dreynshlag 2008.
    De vencer cada uno deseoso,
    buscaba nuevo modo, industria y arte
    de encaminar el golpe de la espada
    por do diese a la muerte franca entrada.

    Alonso de Ercilla

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Miguel Palacio
    To sum up: the real fear of the pain that a sword simulator (any sword simulator, IMO) can cause when wielded with unrestricted force emotionaly contamines the real-fight-with-sharps simulation that the tornament bouts are aimed to be.
    If I understand that right, I do not agree that there is any real fear of pain. In actual practice, fear for the most participants start to develop when there is a real chance of mutilation or death. Only the most psychologically unstable will develop fear of being hit before that.
    The pressure to win is in most cases mistaken for fear of pain, etc. But if you are not really caring for such nuisance wrt winning, you will be psychologically as stable in tournament as in friendly sparring at your regular training session. So saying that tournament would simulate real fight stress is, as Matt put it, a pipe-dream.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gregor Rozman View Post
    If I understand that right, I do not agree that there is any real fear of pain. In actual practice, fear for the most participants start to develop when there is a real chance of mutilation or death. Only the most psychologically unstable will develop fear of being hit before that.
    I disgree with that: fear of pain is on the human nature. If you know that the pain will be bearable and you concentrate on that, you may easily overcome the fear, true, but that's not the same than saying that there wasn't fear.

    Simple test: lay your palm on a table and tell another to punch it: you will have to apply a deliverate effort (not great, true, but you have to) for not to draw back your hand when you see the punch coming.

    However, you can have a point here: given foreseable relative light pain, and no risk of serious injury, perhaps an habit of disregarding those lesser forms of pain can be developed; even it can be said that, by our common day, regular practice, that habit has already been created to a given extend.

    But, even with the safest simulators, that may remove at all the risk of serious injury, hits can be rather painful, even when wearing protections that nullify the chance of serious injury. And then, we began again to move on the path I exposed before.

    So you may say: "learn to ignore the pain", and I'll say: "I'll will accept as lawful the pain provoked by a sword simulator when used with no more force as to provoke a disabling wound if it was a sharp sword, and nothing more: above that, I will treat it not as a lawful behaviour in a real combat simulation, but as a real aggression, and I will act accordingly" I'm not the kind of man to really implement the second part of that declaration, you know, but I hope you'll agree with me that it would be rightful to do so. Also, I'm not as intransigent as that phrase make me seem like, but I have overdone it in order to make the point clearer.

    Since that "force that make a disabling wound with a sharp" is rather difficult to gauge, and since I'm aware about the effect on fencing that tournament-driven stress has (I agree with mr. Galas on that), I believe that some allowance on the matter of force should be implemented. But that allowance can't constitute a shelter to the gratuitous hard-hitters, and I prefer to get wrong on the conservative side on this matter.
    Last edited by Miguel Palacio; 08-26-2010 at 07:23 AM. Reason: Adding of further thoughts
    De vencer cada uno deseoso,
    buscaba nuevo modo, industria y arte
    de encaminar el golpe de la espada
    por do diese a la muerte franca entrada.

    Alonso de Ercilla

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Galas View Post
    This seems like a good way of rounding out the focus of these events. It may also make a "pure" tournament/competition-based event more of a draw, since there is a greater variety of things for spectators to watch. It may well draw more participants as well.
    Hi Matt,

    I hadn't even considered that aspect of it, but of course it's quite true.

    Some time ago, I drew up a concept for a HEMA cutting competition. Maybe I'll post that here, and see if anyone wants to run with it...
    I'd be very interested in seeing it.

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