Continuous-fight ruleset for Swordsquatch 2018

This weekend, I got to spend a little bit of time watching my old club, Lonin, preparing for the 2018 Swordsquatch event. They were running a “Teeny Tiny Tournament” to test a new ruleset for the open steel and women’s steel longsword tournament. Details here. I watched a couple of pools and had good impressions overall. I look forward to fighting this format in the fall.

It’s clear to me that this format is going to demand an extraordinary level of fitness from the participants, which is a good thing in my book. It’s a reason for us to get off our butts and get in some cardio this summer.

One of the problems that I see with HEMA is that it is a poor spectator sport. Fights are interrupted frequently by the judging staff. The action stops, and points are assessed. Often, the judges are drawn together to discuss an idiosyncracy, further delaying the action. The goal is to as precisely as possible, calibrate scoring for what some may consider as a reenactment of a historical duel.1

Who got hit? Where, and when? Was the blow sufficient to cause injury? Was the attacker’s hit followed immediately by a debilitating strike from the defender?

For spectators, it’s boring. The judging takes longer than the action. This is why I think this new format may have merit. Not only does the action run continuously for two 45-second rounds, but the individual matches are run one after another, with assessment done at the end of the pool. Because individual match outcomes aren’t immediately communicated, the format places a great deal of trust on the part of the corner judges. I think that is a positive. Judging is difficult and imprecise. The new format might increase accuracy and honesty for judges, who will be less subject to bias and pressure from the peanut gallery.

Another aspect I found interesting is that the center judge is the only one calling halts. The center judge halts the action if he feels that an exchange has resulted in blows landed, but the participants have not yet broken distance. This results in a sort of flowing halt; the fighters just break measure and then continue. He will also halt the action if dangerous things are happening. For grappling, it’s great because there is no 5-second grapple rule. The grapple can go to the end of the 45-second interval as long as nobody is doing silly things.

One negative aspect I noted was that it appeared that multiple times, substantial blows were landed without the participants breaking distance or halt being called. I appreciate blows being acknowledged; even a tippy tappy hit of an edge on an exposed arm or hand could be a fight-ending event in Bloßfechten. All dolled up in armor, we often ignore these strikes and continue on as if we are still whole. The center judges will need to stay on top of this, to help the scoring judges do a good job of noting the exchanges.

  1. I emphasize the above because nobody will honestly make the claim that sparring with blunts in modern body armor is at all an authentic reenactment of the Bloßfechten of yesteryear, in which slights were settled with sharps and without armor, before witnesses who were unlikely to stop the action. To say the stakes were higher is an understatement. It is a different fight when you might actually die. ↩︎