From Shawn Fackler:
Swordsquatch 2017…wow…what an event!
I attended last year’s and did well in the tournament, taking home the silver medal, but I was much more introverted being new to the HEMA scene after a very long hiatus. This year I was much more relaxed, having made friends with most people over the past year, friends that are all amazing people…more like a family.
The organizers of Swordsquatch 2017: Hold My Beer put together an awesome event this year and really made it revolve around having fun. So I let loose and focused on having fun…maybe a little too much fun. But hey, fencing with a mean hangover can be a good, yet miserable, test of skill.
I was able to help the folks with Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assemblyrun a fun and fast-paced rapier tournament that everyone seem to really enjoy. Two of my club mates, Alfredo Velez and Adam Triplett, won the gold and silver medals in that tournament, respectively. My heart sings out to them!
I was able to teach a couple of rapier workshops that were well received. I am very grateful to of had my very knowledgeable club mate, Nicholas Chase, helping me as an assistant instructor in both of those. Deryk Moorewas again instrumental as my “second” in the Open Steel Longsword tournament where I was able to pull off winning the gold medal somehow.
All of my opponents throughout the tournament were very challenging. I owe special credit to a few: Chris Hobbs is one of the most technical and formidable fencers I have ever crossed swords with, and in my opinion, is a far better fencer than me. As always, Caleb Switzer was a champ and picked me apart. Mitchell Allen is a force to recon with and I had to fight him a very tiring three times…he has great talent, boundless energy, and can literally do perfect cartwheels in front of you. Last but not least, the Ring Beast, Brent Lambell, who if he didn’t injure his knee, without a doubt would have completely changed the results of the finals.
I have to say that one of the biggest highlights of the weekend was being able to meet David Rawlings, whom I am a huge fan of, and knowing that he enjoyed watching my fencing and that of my club mates…and loved our puffy pants!
Thank you, Swordsquatch…I’m already looking forward to next year’s!
We spent a few minutes breaking in the new Castille sidesword blade rapier and sail dagger.
I see people asking at times “what kind of sword should I get?”… the sword in question could be of any “period” or “model” from rapier to broadsword to sabre, etc.. My thoughts on this, which are basically as important or useful as opinions and we know the old saying about opinions, are as follows:
It is my thought that if you are going to buy a sword, buy one that can be sharpened and used in a real fight. What does that mean… well if you are going to “cut” someone with your rapier for instance, be sure that rapier will actually be able to cut.. as opposed say to a cut and thrust type blade. I have both, a rapier that is thin and pointy but is also very, very sharp. My friend Alex can attest that I used to slice wedges from lemons still on the tree with the tip, so tip cuts to unprotected body part, say like a face, would be very effective. And as my roommate Joe can attest, as he grabbed the blade one day (it was hanging on the wall of the staircase) as he stumbled on the stairs, the length of the blade was also sharp enough to almost make him lose two fingers. And I have a cut and thrust from Darkwood which Scott sharpened for me. It is strong enough to chop down a small tree or split a head or easily sever tendons, ligaments, fingers, etc..now will it cut through heavy clothing or leather jacket.. mm not really, at least not on he first cut and draw and unless there is something solid beneath. But unprotected flesh…yeah.
So I like to buy stuff I can practice with then sharpen and use real if I have to. Now if your goal is to fight and win tournaments..that is a different story.. realism and usefulness become two different things, although “judges” at tournaments will make judgement (haha) calls regarding what is a good and effective cut, the blade being used probably is not actually able to make that cut, if it is say a 45 inch rapier striking a leg with the last 25 inches or so of the blade. You will get a point but realistically.. not much damage probably.
So buy something that can be used for real, or get a really good guard then switch in a tournament winning blade for the real one when you want to do some make believe.
So it has been my thought over about the last 25 to 30 years always to strive to be as realistic as possible when sparring, over the years we have gravitated to more and more actually usable swords. For me that means a blade length which I might be comfortable with in a true combat situation.
For me that is about 35 to 38 or so inches. And a width and heft sufficient to chop into, say …a head. A couple of my favorite actual weapons are “modern era” sabres such as the Patton sabre. A double edged and pointy sword with a nice big bell guard. So some awesome hand protection. In fighting with any sword, hand protection is of BIG importance so I love bell guard sabres. Plus this particular sabre can be used ambidextrously. All that being said, and somewhat on topic, go realistic and functional, but scale the weapon to you. If you are unable to heft a cut and thrust type sword, get a smaller one and focus on speed, agility, and finesse. All of which can be taught
And on a side note, winning tournaments does not make someone a good fighter, or even knowledgeable, it just means they know how to get points to win a make believe situation. What we in Loyal Order of the Sword want to do is create good fighters, who can apply what they learn in a combat situation. Not just someone who can “outpoint” an opponent in a tournament.
EDIT: A note here from Shawn Fackler about blade widths from Castille. “I decided to make a little figure for referencing Castille Armory blades because it can be difficult to compare blade sizes. Definitely don’t go with a “Basic Rapier Blade” since they’re basically the same as the old schlager blades we used years ago.”
One of the common sayings in the HEMA community and in other martials arts is that technique always goes out the window during sparring or in tournament. Some of that may be true and could be due to the tournament rules and focus on how points are awarded or how certain things are handled.
One of the techniques that helps reinforce good technique is the partnered drill with critiquing and guidance from the instructor while practicing. This is just one approach we use at Loyal Order of the Sword Augusta.