Tournament 2017 Thoughts

So, my Club has just completed their 2017 open tournament. This post is a summary of my thoughts around this experience and follows from this post from 2016 tournament.

A bit of background, the tournament is open to all other Clubs or individuals in New Zealand and sometimes further afield. It usually attracts around 30-40 people. Many of those are from my own Club but there's usually about a third comes from other Clubs. Last year I organised the tournament and spent most of the time marshaling and judging. This year I managed to duck out of organising altogether and spent most of the time training in the run-up. I also did a small amount of judging at the event.

The rules for the tournament are based on the Fechtschule New Year ruleset, or a round-robin style with each engagement limited to the first blow. You have three lives and different weapons have slightly different scoring and restrictions. Given the need to cater for a wide variety of practice in terms of safety equipment and experience most of the tournament was done with synthetic weapons.

Tournament format thoughts

A couple of our guys have worked on the previous year's computer system and developed an app to run the competitions, so once the names were entered all the score keeper had to do was enter the outcomes of the bouts. This seems to work a charm this year and I don't recall any technical issues. The computer selected the pairings, calculated the scores and this was all displayed in real time on a projector so everyone could see what was happening and who was up next. All up this was the smoothest tournament I've ever been involved with in terms of the actual functioning of the competition. In fact, it went so fast that we were running considerably ahead of schedule at several points in the competition.

The ruleset worked well, again, and while people grumbled a little about the speed with which the fights were often over with on the flip side I don't think anyone was waiting around for a long amount of time between fights. Personally, I think I prefer shorter fights more often than a few longer fights.

This time around there were four judges for each bout rather than two that we've previously used. This seemed to make a big difference and while there are always issues of quality and of blows being missed, participants seemed to be kept at a lower level of frustration than previous years.

I judged for two of the seven competitions during the event: steel single sword and the beginner'sfighters therefore hits were well signaled and easy to call. The beginners were the complete opposite with bouts being either extremely scrappy with blows that were virtually impossible to distinguish or so fast that you had no idea if they connected or not.
tournament. Of these two the beginner's tournament was, to my surprise, by far and away the hardest to judge. Steel was, perhaps unsurprisingly, slower and more controlled with more experienced

In the rapier scoring was heavily bias to reward thrusts however to my surprise this did not seem to have a noticeable impact on people's fighting. On the flip side the rules making it harder to grab the blade seemed to have a big impact on the amount of blade grabbing and I can only recall two instances of people grabbing the blade.

Tournament participation thoughts

I did well in the tournament and placed second overall and won the Longsword and Rapier sections. On this basis I could consider this a success, however I also had some moments of quality technique which I'm more proud of than the wins. I took out two pretty troubling competitors with properly timed Scheilhau's in the longsword. I won a left-handed rapier bout (we both fought left-handed) and managed to stick well to my rapier technique, scoring with pretty textbook lunges. Given that I'm relatively new to the later Rapier style as opposed to cut and thrust I'm pretty pleased with this.

Disciplined training for the last couple of months seems to have paid off well. Largely this was thanks to not spending so much time training beginners. Partly this is due to having more experienced people to do the training and partly this is about having those same people for intermediate training with a focus on refining theory, technique, and fitness. The benefits have been profound, from a physical perspective the tournament was certainly less intense than our regular training sessions so I wasn't feeling tired with dropping guards or slow movements and my reaction capacity throughout the tournament was much better than previous years: certainly, I can only recall a couple of occasions of being overloaded. In fact, in certain occasions it actually felt like the other person was moving in slow motion while I was calming operating at "normal" speed. I think this is a good testiment to fitness and speed training, it didn't matter how complicated and fancy the intentions of my opponent at this point, I could just move past them with the simplest of moves for a direct strike.

Finally, my personal training "win" outcome for the tournament (separate from any actual achievement, which has a large luck element in a tournament) was to:
  1. Have the smallest number of doubles possible - I was either going to score a clean hit or take a clean hit. Doubles were not options. Primarily this involved keeping the technique simple: all blows with the proper opposition and no false edge thrusting, no multiple intention feinting. Finally extra respect for the randomness of new people and no rushing in, instead properly gauging my opponents tactics. 
  2. Score as much as possible by striking to "core" targets - this meant hitting only the high-value targets, i.e. the head for cuts or the torso for thrusts. Basically this was an extension of point 1, to be patient and wait with until I had good opposition to strike to the core. 
I think this worked out well. 


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