The bulk of my rapier training, before moving into full-time teaching, was for tournament fighting. At my peak, I think in a two year period I hit about 70 tournaments. Never won one, but towards the end I had a consistent habit of second place or at least in the finals. The preceding years saw greater and greater participation. My life was focused around competing and training for competing, and my marriage(s) and work history do reflect that. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time to make a five hour round trip to Seattle for a chance to spend half an hour sparring new people, and then head to Oregon that weekend for what amounted to about two minutes of sword time in a tournament.
I admit to getting a little burned out on tournaments. I no longer have the fire to compete, and have found new challenges to keep me focused on improving. My interest in rapier competition cost me a lot, but I also clearly recall the benefits. They’ve carried me firmly forward in life with no regrets on that score.
Vancouver is an interesting city. We have a deep history of Western Martial Arts practice, with many exceptional practitioners. But the tourney scene has sort of died stillborn each time something was tried. Part of it is a sense of wariness about other schools and reputations, same as in any martial art. Another aspect is a sense of sameness. The community feels small and there is no fun or adventure in competing against the same people all the time.
The problem is competitions are, and always have been, the best way for schools to meet each other. It’s the best way to share what we know, without the ego of arguing who knows better. We fight, and win or lose, we adapt to each other. We are changed by the experience and we walk away a different person, carrying some part of the others style with us. Without this exposure, each school becomes more and more of an isolated and entrenched island, and protectionism becomes an insidious aspect of teaching.
It’s time for Valkyrie to host a tournament, and I hope we can get the tourney scene in Vancouver kicked back into life. I want for my students all the benefits that competition taught me. Our first tournament is tomorrow.
Choosing a format took some thinking. I’ve fought in almost every tournament format imaginable, as have most SCA fighters. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. For our tournament, I wanted to try something new.
The tournament rules are built around the fighters having the best possible experience. The initial assumption is that all fighters are either mature adults, or willing to act as such. The adjudication in bouts is intended to support this, not overrule.
A bout is won when a blow is landed to the satisfaction of both fighters. Both fighters must feel that the telling blow was one they were happy to win with or lose to. Fighters will call blows that landed on them, and the fighter that landed the blow is responsible for declaring misaligned cuts or other invalid attacks. Fights will be to assumed first blood, and the blow calling standard will be assumed to sharp swords against light cloth. Fighters that have not had a chance to try using a sharp against an appropriate carcass will be calibrated before the bouts begin.
Ignoring shots landed, refusing to call back bad shots, excessive force, and other bad behaviour will result in ejection from the tournament. There may or may not be a warning issued first.
The referee/judges exist to provide necessary feedback to the fighters, and to ensure a smooth flow of action. If the fighters are unsure of what happened, or have different opinions of what happened, they will either receive clarification or direction to re-fight. The gold standard for a good blow is that a spectator from across the room should immediately know who won and who lost.
Fighters will be fighting with their best weapon combination, or single sword as preferred.
Aside from the conventions of the fight, the tournament format is designed to showcase not just the fighters, but there struggles and accomplishments over their fight career. It’s my hope to have quarterly tournaments under the same format, and the results of the previous tournament determine initial ranking in the current tournament. I want to create fans of rapier fighting, so I hope to give them the tools that fans of other sports have…anticipation of good match ups, win/loss statistics to track, ability to recognize when someone is on a tear, or when a major upset has happened and when to cheer for an underdog. I’m heavily inspired by the Sumo Basho’s for this.
Fighters have been sorted into categories based on their tournament experience rather than their technical ability. Each category of fighter will fight amongst themselves. Fighters with majority wins will be promoted up the ranks in their category, and majority losses will be demoted. Exceptional performance will be rewarded with promotion up a category, and a poor showing may result in a fighter being demoted a category. New categories will be added as more fighters join the tournament series. There will be a winner for each category as well as an overall winner.
The first pairings have already been announced on Facebook:
1. Holmfeld vs. Olmedo
2. Nelson vs. Kittel
1. Persad vs. Chiu
2. Ring vs. Both
3. Van Humbeck vs. Sadowski
4. Fernandes vs. Rice*
1. Chan vs. Grassick
2. Smit vs. Wemyss
3. Litchfield vs. Hoffman
1. Nelson vs. Cat2Winner1
2. Kittel vs. Cat2Winner2
3. Olmedo vs. Cat2Winner3
4. Holmfeld vs. Fernandes*
1. Loser1 vs. Loser2
2. Loser3 vs. Chan*
No fights this round.
Pairings will continue this fashion for a total of 15 rounds. Category One and Two fighters will fight 15 fights, Category Three fighters will fight 8. There will be a winner in each category, the fighter with the most victories, and if need be there will be playoffs.
Winners and next round pairings will be announced on social media as they happen, and I’ll post the full results here afterwards.