Xmas informal tournament observations

A bunch of people got some tournament-style practice in on Monday, courtesy of our Southern Historical Fencing League brethren visiting for the holiday. We ran one round of fights, then seeded a double elim bracket. We had 14 people, so the top seeded got some byes.

fight score spreadsheet:


image of tournament brackets:


Major lessons learned/observed
Many fighters put down roots by the 2nd or further action in a single heated exchange. This happens b/c the brain is overloaded with unfamiliar movements, and always ditches foot coordination first. Some people demonstrated the value of instead being able to sidestep and cut around, in that moment. You HAVE to drill footwork patterns beforehand in order to have that reflex under pressure.

Several fighters tended to wing their rear elbow out and/or collapse their wrist in Ochs (crossed or uncrossed wrist). This resulted in weak zwerchhau strikes or covers that meant either no hit or the opponent blasted through. When going to Ochs, push the hands squarely up and away from the center of your chest, in an overhead press motion. This gets your hands off the center line so you don’t trade taking a head hit for a hand hit, and instead cover the head w your sword’s stark (strong). The press also helps straighten the wrist and line up the shoulder and elbow to minimize injury risk.

Saw a BUNCH of exchanges where fighters plowed in like buffel, striking hard repeatedly, until they were tied up forearm to forearm. This happens a LOT, all the time, over the past two decades of WMA/HEMA sparring. Please stop. If you can be the smarter one to see it first, you can:

Quickly step out laterally and snipe him for free as he passes (see footwork above).
Double down and seize initiative to enter even deeper to set up a throw (since our club now has half a dozen people with that skill set) while the opponent is still thinking “I’m gonna git his sword!”


Most longsword people don’t mentally start their cover game until the first strike is thrown. This wastes a great opportunity for a safe entry setup even before the zufechten (Onset). Both fighters throw their first right overhand zornhau to enter, and then upon the bind, they’re all herp-a-derp, maybe i shud close a line and work my guards. Instead, take a page from rapier, and set up an invitation and/or close a line from just OUTSIDE of the Onset. Then as you enter, adapt to the opponent’s response. He will:

Stay still too long like a mook, so just stay the course w your closed line and hit him (typical zornhau, zornort, etc.).
He will commit to closing a line out; when he moves to close one line, he necessarily opens another one. Change and hit him where he opens up, in the krieg (War).
He will strike at you reflexively, ignoring his defense. Close your line (a shallow krumphau or going to Kron can help) and, in the Krieg now, wind against his sword (in order to keep your line closed while striking). This can e.g. mean going from the bind, sliding his upper blade onto your crossguard, and follow with a wind to thrust, or let the tip slingshot wider to strike zwerchhau, sturzhau, etc.

A quick survey of the bout outcomes showed that there was a 1.0 exact correlation between clean hits and winners. i.e. if you got more clean hits than your opponent did, you definitely won on raw points, Nordic net points, AND (certainly) either of the alternate schemes that reward higher point values to clean hits. There was not a single mixed outcome where the person scoring fewer clean hits won more points (only possible if the clean hit leader scored only 1-pt hits, matched by sufficient 1-pt net double hits, and then the clean hit loser scored few but sufficient 1-pt or 2-pt hits to tip the balance).

Ties on clean hits tended to go to the fighter with more experience/skill, but only by a margin of 1-2 pts overall, so very close.

This makes sense intuitively, since more clean hits within a limit of 10 exchanges means you got points while simultaneously shutting your opponent out of the chance per exchange to score points. But it’s nice to have quant confirmation.

Feel free to ponder these observations and devise your own means of addressing them. We look forward to seeing some ingenuity!