By Eliisa Keskinen
Below are selected results from the two-part women’s tournament survey conducted in the spring of 2014.
The raw data with the open text answers removed is available at here.
There were 92 responses in the first survey, and 104 in second. Respondents were located in 18 different countries. Most answers came from USA, United Kingdoms, The Netherlands and Sweden.
Weapon of choice
In the first survey respondents were asked to choose two weapons of choice from longsword, sword & buckler, rapier and sabre. Longsword is unsurprisingly the clear winner, with sword & buckler second. Rapier and saber appear to be roughly as popular with female HEMA practitioners.
The “other” field included weapons or systems such as dagger, wrestling, sidesword (and its sidearms, such as rotella) and different kinds of pole weapons.
Reasons for choosing tournament type
Respondents were asked to choose from a list of preferred reasons to fight in open and women’s tournaments. The options were based on open-question answers from the first survey.
The most popular reason is simply the opportunity to get more tournament experience, and it is followed closely by the learning experience of facing many larger and stronger opponents.
Risk of injury is rather low on the list; much more common is wanting to fence opponents of similar built for either a different learning experience or for a greater chance of success. It’s noteworthy that both the learning experience of facing bigger and stronger opponents in the open tournament and the learning experience of facing opponents of a more similar build in the women’s tournament were popular among the respondents.
Effect of a women’s tournament in overall interest in events
The next question asked the respondents if a woman’s tournament at an event affects their likelihood of wanting to go to said event, regardless of if they are participating in the tournaments.
No effect is a fairly common answer, and a women’s tournament increasing interest is the most common one. A small part of the respondents also stated they might feel less inclined to go to an event with such a tournament.
Tournament experience compared to tournament preference
The next table compare the answers of one question (would you rather fight in an open or women’s tournament) to the respondent’s tournament experience.
Of the respondents who would rather fight in an open tournament, the largest portion have only fought in open tournaments, but a significant amount either have no experience or experience from both.
The most noticeable difference between those who prefer the open and those who would prefer a women’s tournament is that a much smaller portion of respondents who would prefer the women’s tournament have participated in only an open tournament. 8% of the difference is from people who have been to a women’s tournament (either exclusively or both women’s and open), and 18% from people who have no tournament experience at all.
Overall very few respondents had taken part in only women’s tournaments, which is not surprising given their scarcity – thought as this is being written the situation might be different because of recent large tournaments.
Amount of active women in HEMA clubs
Active women in the clubs of the respondents. Note that the replies are likely to be biased high, because clubs with more women also create more replies. Clubs with over 15 women were located in Canada and Germany, next largest (10-15) in Finland and Canada.
“Competitive fencing is a high performance sport. I’m in with ambition for success and progress, not for a mission impossible.”
“There are challenges fighting those bigger and stronger than us and we have to be able to deal with them. It’s funny, fighting other women offers just as many challenges, just different!”
“The purpose of HEMA is to recreate a historical art as accurately as possible without major injury – I simply don’t see how this is served by artificially restricting the opponents you fight.”
“I think it’s a great experience to fight against men and women, because there are so many different types of fencers and fencing; but honestly, I would be more worried about getting hurt in an Open tournament, than in a women’s.“
“I would always prefer to fight in an open tournament. There is no need for a women’s tournament. I think it’s sexist: Any woman can be as good as any man.”
“Not anymore [would take part of open tournament], when even the club tournament was too scary and painful experience. I’m really short, so I wouldn’t stand a chance against guys, and that frustrates me.”
“I think more categories will appear as HEMA grows – by weight especially. It makes sense that separating by gender is the first place where this would take place. It is interesting to compete in an open tournament, but I can think of very few open LS contest where the three on the podium were not strongly built, young and male.”