Valkyrie had it’s first tournament just a little less than two weeks ago. Results can be found on our facebook page, and I talked about the format in a previous blog post. It’s been enough time that I’m able to put together some thoughts about how it went, and what we will change with the next one.

We had 214 or so fights, and no injuries beyond the usual colourful bruises, scrapes and occasional bit of blood from a scratch. There was no conflict or bad feelings to be noted in the entire tournament. We only had three problems surface around the bouts themselves. Two where resolved on the spot to the satisfaction of both the fighters and the audience, and the third caused some mumbles afterwards but didn’t affect the fight at the time. One fight missed being tallied and included in the fighters totals at the end, and unfortunately meant they missed an opportunity to have a playoff for the championship of their category.

Moving forward as organizers, we will make some changes.

Tallying the fights will be done in a quiet room away from the fighters. Apparently people wanted to check the results can make the person counting the fights feel like they are under a bit of pressure, and that can result in making mistakes.

Now that we have a better sense of how long the fights will last, we will slow the pace down a little to allow for smoother reporting and a little more time for announcements of winners online and to the audience.

We’ll also be changing the wording of our rules, and how we explain them ahead of time. The rules were close enough to how some schools normally do things that some of the fighters didn’t pick up on an essential difference, and because of that we wound up reversing the decision of one fight after video review. I don’t know if we were lucky it only happened once, or unlucky that it didn’t happen more frequently which might have given us an opportunity to clarify things on the day.

Things that really worked?

Fight cards. Having each fighter have a printed “dance card” at the records table, and having each fighter initial the results of their bouts immediately after helped immensely in cutting down on errors. Going over the cards the next day and seeing the crossings out and rewrites made me smile, as I’ve suffered before from a list person miss-reporting a number of my fights in a tournament. It’s a sucky way to lose.

Calling on the fighters at the beginning of the tournament to behave like mature adults, call their own shots received, re-fight at the slightest doubt around the outcome, and call back bad blows worked extremely well. Having the top competitors being very experienced SCA fighters made a big difference, as they were able to provide excellent examples of the behavior I wanted to see. The referees and single judge (me) were able to swiftly answer and doubts the fighters had about what had happened…which mostly meant a swift answer of “Re-fight!”

Splitting fighters into categories based on tournament experience, not on technical ability. Because tournament fighting is a skill. This worked really well. There were no real blowouts or people getting stomped. Each category showed tight clustering of wins/losses, and it was very apparent watching the bouts that the fighters were all universally well matched to each other. This made for interesting bouts and lots of involvement in the bout itself. It was also really fun to match lower categories against upper categories for some of the bouts, because when the surprise upset came…as it did on occasion…it was a really cool thing that people enjoyed.

Not punishing double kills. Without punishment, the double-kills ceased to have any effect on the tournament, and as such stopped being any sort of tactic or back-handed reward. By not putting much attention on the double kill, fighters seemed to be better able to get their game in order after and work to put in a clean shot.

Single pass, single touch to win. I don’t believe any tournament can replicate all the facets of a real duel, so it’s worthwhile having formats that specialize in different aspects. Single pass, single touch puts an immense amount of pressure on the fighter to not get touched, no matter what. You don’t have a pass or two to throw away in order to get a sense of your opponent, either. You have to judge what you see in front of, make a decision with haste, and then decisively act on that decision. In this case, it made for very clean fights with very clear winners.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. We will definitely be running these tournaments regularly, and keeping an updated an ongoing roster of fighters, results, and videos. And a few other fun related things will be announced in the next month or two.