So, who impressed you the most? The silver and gold winners of longsword division 1 of the first Nederlandse HEMA Kampioenschappen (NHK), the first national HEMA championship organised by the Dutch federation.
There are two principal aspects to assessing a fencing action - the quantitative (was a hit made) and the qualitative (was the hit good?).
It is a matter of ongoing grief for many fencers when their hits are not recognised on the opponent. Many believe more “objective” measures, such as applying chalk to the blade to leave a mark on the opponent when they are struck, or electric scoring methods, would relieve this problem.
We need to develop beyond the mentality that the physical occurence of a touch is the most useful thing in determining the outcome of a fencing exchange. To this end, more “objective” measures of the touch might prove extremely successful - finally people will stop arguing over what they believe they saw, and the focus can rest where it should be… On the decision making which lead to that point.
A fencing match is not a simulation of a real fight. It is an assessment of the decision making capabilities of a fencer. For example, in the chaos of a real fight, deliberately making a “double-hit” can very well be a risk which pays off for an individual. Objectively, we may well have survived an impalement and gained the advantage of cleaving the opponent’s head in half. But it is not a very intelligent decision to make, so we never reward that decision in a fencing match.
And that is what intent really is - decision making. It’s not often that we explain this - it is usually learned by example, with a junior referee observing a poor strike, hearing the senior referee call the action lacking in intent, and wrongly learn that the strike was not “hard” enough.
We ought to look to reward intentional actions. If a fencer #1 scores a thrust in opposition on her opponent, and the opponent #2’s blade slumps down on the fencer’s hands, this action lacks intentionality. It isn’t the point that the strike wasn’t “hard” enough - it’s that the action of #2 was not intentional. The thrust in opposition may not have been made perfectly - which is something a ruleset or training paradigm may or may not choose to recognise, but this was certainly not due to the actions of fencer #2, whos decision making was barely evident.
A strike landing stoutly can be indicative of intent, but it is certainly not the same thing as intent. To determine the intent of an attack, we would be better off asking the question: What was the fencer trying to do, and did they achieve this? If a fencer blindly undulates their weapon out in front of them, there is a decent chance it might touch part of their opponent. However, we should not reward it as an achievement on the part of that fencer.
We ought to do what we can to correct this. Not just referees, but every fencer needs to understand the meaning of the word intent. Nobody should be incentivised to hit harder to make their point. From a sporting perspective, we would also gain by focusing more on decision making than the simple observation of touch-or-no-touch.
Yes, I’m so behind with updates! Mea culpa mea culpa, I’ll do better… ;)
Moving on, the curse on my latest HEMA trips continues, this time with a mysteriously missed Flixbus connection in Frankfurt with the consequence of my trip being prolonged by many hours when it was already many hours long to begin with. But fear not, I still managed to arrive in Utrecht at a decent time for a good night sleep before tournament day and I had a great time at a truly great event.
Well organised by Zwaard & Steen, professional, and very well attended, in its third edition Dutch Lions Cup has already established itself as a European high level Longsword must do.
Since it wasn’t possible to sign up for both open and women’s longsword and I’ve entered many opens in Italy lately, I went for the latter and really wanted to do well. With three pools, it was a good size tournament and a really tough one. There were a good number of known top fencers in it but also some really talented less known, less experienced women. More and more, it becomes apparent to me how HEMA instructors are getting better at their job and I love that the scene is growing enough in Europe that I knew only one person in my pool, a first.
It’s on! Photo by Manuela Beltrami
I started off a bit tensed, relaxing and focusing as the pool went on. This was my biggest and toughest international tournament this year and I had two goals: in term of results, I wanted to medal and in terms of fencing, I wanted to keep my head well on my shoulders and never give in to rash moves and costly mistakes. I achieved the former winning bronze and I’m happy about how I managed the latter goal too. I felt like I was fencing with my head more than usual and I know I could keep the score against dangerous opponent under control thanks to that. I won all my bouts up to the semi final, where I met the amazing Carla Huvermann from Germany. She’s such a good fencer and I didn’t manage to find the right strategy against her. I could keep the score close but it’s Carla who won and proceeded to the final, eventually taking gold against another excellent fencer that I knew only by reputation but I had never seen in action before, Jane Johnston from Canada.
DLC 2018 Women’s longsword podium
It was a pleasure to watch these two fencers in the final and it surely inspired me to work harder in the hope to meet either or both of them at Swordfish.
Semis and finals were livestreamed so I was happy my homies could watch and cheer. I enjoyed my bronze match, where I fenced Tosca Beuming, who had had excellent pool and elims and had won the semi final against me at Albion Cup in the UK earlier in the Summer. I was determined not to make the same mistakes I made there and I’m glad it worked.
In the end, Zwaard & Steen Dutch champion Michel Rensen won the open for the second consecutive year in a final against Joris Jacobs from Belgium, and Sander van Eijk won against Stefan Brunner, in a whole Dutch bronze final.
My Italian friends Nicolò Gamba and Luca De Sensi from Sala d'Arme “Aquila Gladiatrix” were fencing in the Open too. Both well-known competitors in Italy, this was their first International tournament, so kudos to them for jumping on the International competition wagon!
Team Italia at DLC: Nicolò, Manuela (who coached me), myself and Luca. Go us!
Having silvered two years ago at DLC, I was hoping to make the gold final again but honestly this bronze’s been so hard earned that I’m happy with it and proud I managed it. Now I have a much clearer idea of what I need to work on in preparation for Swordfish, which I expect to be tough and super exciting.
But first, I have another competition coming up in Italy. TaurHEMAchia in Turin is getting close and I signed up for both the open and the women’s longsword, so training is very much on!