Competitive HEMA

Judges are worth your money

By Eliisa Keskinen

Organizing judges for any tournament event is vital for their success, and one should very carefully mind the varying quality of the judges they hire. I have never seen any tournament marketing that they have this or that judge working for them, like one would market an event’s instructors. I know many fencers who avoid certain tournaments because they know that the judging is unacceptable. If you are organizing a tournament, judges is key; only the venue is more important to your success. (more…)


NHFL – I lost every bout and I loved every minute

Guest post by Markus Koivisto

The first season of The Nordic Historical Fencing League is over. The first Nordic (and at the same time the first international) historical fencing league has reached it’s conclusion at Bergen Open, and we have our winners. I participated in three out of the four tournaments, lost every single bout in each of them, and can’t wait to get back in the ring. (more…)

Results of the women’s tournament surveys

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. (more…)

Why the weighted afterblow?

By Matias Parmala

Tournament rules get a lot of attention, and for good reason. While tournament prowess is not the only goal in HEMA, successful tournament strategies do influence the way people train, and thus the direction the movement as a whole takes. In this text, I wish to present some arguments in favour of the fully scored, weighted afterblow, and applying similar rules in double hit situations.

To begin with, I should state that I do not think using a tournament as a simulation of a swordfight is realistic. We have no way of knowing the damage each strike would do in reality, and the psychological situation is likely to be wildly different. Likewise, no reasonable modern ruleset can even begin to simulate the risk-reward profile of mortal combat. Hence, my premise in this post is that tournaments should be seen as a training game, designed to hone and test the skills of the participants. It can be a very open-ended and relatively high-stakes training game, sure, but fundamentally a game. (more…)

Women’s tournaments: Meaningful challenges

By Eliisa Keskinen
Author’s note: The following text is already published elsewhere , but I wanted to publish it also here. Many thanks to Matias Parmala who helped me editing the article. 

As long as I have been involved in competitive HEMA, the discussion on whether there is a need or if it is even ethical to hold women’s competitions has continued. I wish to bring up some of the practical reasons to have women’s tournaments, both for women’s sake and for HEMA’s popularity’s sake. I am aware that some people have ideological objections, but I will not discuss them here. I will also approach tournaments as an integral part of HEMA, and so will not directly discuss the more general reasons for or against tournaments.

It is often said that this is a martial art, and you should be able to fight anyone. However, tournaments are by nature an artificial game, not a fight, and that the best way to learn to fight anyone is not necessarily to fight everyone. If one sees tournaments as training, as many do, it is important that this training offers meaningful challenges (more…)