History of Fencing Competition

Competition has long been recognized as an important, albeit imperfect, venue to hone skill and demonstrate one’s abilities. Throughout the 15th through 18th centuries in Germany and across Europe, competition with the lonsword, dussack, rapier, and assorted staff weapons played a major role in the training of fencers and fighters.

Historical German Fechtschulen, or public school-fencing exhibitions, featured fighting with steel and wooden weapons with the winner determined by the highest bleeding wound. This seemingly brutal competitive tradition was tempered with strict rules of etiquette and lists of disallowed techniques which forbade many integral components of life or death combat, such as grappling, thrusting, striking with the pommel, or even releasing one hand from the weapon’s hilt.

The historical record lends some insight to the connection between the historical masters we study and contemporary school fencing competitions. Hans Talhoffer, a well known historical master most commonly associated with Ernstfechten and judicial duels, is recorded at a Fechtschule as early as 1454. And perhaps the best known 16th century German master, Joachim Meyer, arranged for at least six Fechtschulen in Strassbourg between 1560-1570; his works show the link between serious combat and competitive fencing with one of the most comprehensive collection of techniques for both approaches to the art.

Positive and negative references to competitive fencing can be found throughout the historical sources, sometimes both in a single source. Codex Döbringer (MS 3772a) decries the wide movements of Leychmeistern, or false masters, as useful for competitive fencing and for practice, but as a waste for Ernstfechten, or serious fencing. Later, however, the author makes frequent reference to fencing in play, suggesting that “practice is better than the art, [for] your practice may very well be useful without art, but your art is useless without practice,” and that such play better prepares a fighter for serious fencing.

Like the masters of old, we see competitive fencing as a tool to improve and hone the skills necessary for Ernstfechten, not as a end in and of itself.

Recent Competitive Successes

  • Longpoint 2014 – Gold, Women's Steel Longsword
  • Longpoint 2014 – Bronze, Singlestick
  • Fechtschule New York 2014 – Gold, Triathlon
  • Fechtschule New York 2014 – Gold, Open Longsword
  • Fechtschule New York 2014 – Gold, Women's Longsword
  • Fechtschule New York 2014 – Gold, Cutting
  • Fechtschule New York 2014 – Silver, Women's Longsword
  • Fechtschule New York 2014 – Silver, Paired Techniques
  • SoCal Swordfight 2014 – Silver, Singlestick
  • Purpleheart Open 2014 – Silver, Open Longsword
  • IGX 2013 – Gold – Wrestling
 

Modern Competition

The modern HEMA competitive scene is thriving and varied. The first modern HEMA tournaments began as a minor feature of major workshop events in the early 2000’s in Western Europe. Their popularity and quality quickly grew, however, and now major tournaments take place throughout the year on an international stage. The modern HEMA tournament scene came to the US fairly recently, with the Hammertertz Forum Open in March 2010. Since that time, several major US competitions, including Longpoint, Iron Gate Exhibition, Fechtschule America, Pacific Northwest HEMA Gathering, and the Purpleheart Open have joined the big-name European events such as Sweden’s Swordfish, Germany’s Worldwide Open Championships, and France’s annual HEMAC tournament in Dijon as destinations for international competitors.

Modern HEMA tournaments take many forms, and the worldwide community is in no hurry to set uniform standards. Some competitions use historical rule sets, based on those practiced in the 16th and 17th centuries. Others use modern rules meant to allow the greatest range of Earnstfechten techniques or to emphasize good form. Most competitive events hold a number of different tournaments using different rule sets or weapons at a single venue, allowing fighters to try their hands at the longsword, saber, dussack, rapier, staff, dagger, sword and buckler, wrestling, cutting with sharps, or other disciplines under the HEMA umbrella.

xKDF clubs have been participating in the US competitive HEMA scene since its inception in 2010, and jumped into the international circuit that same year. Our members consistently reach the podium, having earned medals in regional, national, and international competitions for Longsword (steel, synthetic, historical, open, and women’s), wrestling, dussack, military saber, dagger, paired technique, and cutting with sharps.

Our training philosophy regarding competitions is simple: train to fight for real, using serious techniques, and let the judges sort out the rest. We view competition as a high-quality pressure test to refine technique, apply training under stress, and to experience the phenomenal camaraderie of the international HEMA community.

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xKDF Competitive History

  • Gold, Women's Steel Longsword – Kiana Shurkin – Longpoint 2014
  • Bronze, Singlestick – Jake Norwood – Longpoint 2014
  • Technical Excellence (Synthetic Longsword) – Paulo Negro – Longpoint 2014
  • Gold, Triathlon (Event Champion) – Jake Norwood – Fechtschule New York 2014
  • Gold, Open Longsword – Jake Norwood – Fechtschule New York 2014
  • Gold, Cutting – Jake Norwood – Fechtschule New York 2014
  • Silver, Paired Technique – Jake Norwood (with Mike Edelson) – Fechtschule New York 2014
  • Gold, Women's Longsword – Susanna Pyatkovskaya – Fechtschule New York 2014
  • Silver, Women's Longsword – Kiana Shurkin – Fechtschule New York 2014
  • Bronze, Ringen am Schwert (Heavyweight) – Josh Yeager – Fechtschule New York 2014
  • Bronze, Ringen am Schwert (Lightweight) – Kiana Shurkin – Fechtschule New York 2014
  • Technical Excellence Runner-up – Jake Norwood – Fechtschule New York 2014
  • Technical Excellence Runner-up – Kiana Shurkin – Fechtschule New York 2014
  • Silver, Singlestick – Jake Norwood – SoCal Swordfight 2014
  • Bronze, Invitational Longsword – Jake Norwood – SoCal Swordfight 2014
  • Silver, Open Longsword – Jake Norwood – Purpleheart Open, Mar 2014
  • Bronze, Invitational Longsword – Jake Norwood – Purpleheart Open, Mar 2014
  • Bronze, Open Longsword – Jake Norwood – Shortpoint, Feb 2014
  • Bronze, Paired Technique Competition – Josh Yeager & John Crum – Shortpoint, Feb 2014
  • Gold, Wrestling (Heavyweight) – Ben Jarashow – Iron Gate Exhibtion, Sep 2013
  • Technical Excellence, Wrestling – Ben Jarashow – Iron Gate Exhibtion, Sep 2013
  • Gold, Women’s Longsword – Kiana Shurkin – Longpoint, Jul 2013
  • Bronze, Cutting – Dan Stuart – Longpoint, Jul 2013
  • Gold, Ringen am Schwert (Heavyweight) – Ben Jarashow – Fechtschule NY, May 2013
  • Gold, Technical Excellence – Ben Michels – Fechtschule NY, Jun 2013
  • Gold, Technical Excellence – Ben Jarashow – Fechtschule NY, Jun 2013
  • Silver, Open Longsword – Ben Michels – Fechtschule NY, Jun 2013
  • Bronze, Ringen am Schwert (Heavyweight) – Chris Workman –  Fechtschule NY, May 2013
  • Bronze, Open Longsword – Jake Norwood – Fechtschule America, Mar 2013
  • Silver, Open Longsword – Dan Stuart – Capital HEMA Open, Jan 2013
  • Bronze, Open Longsword – Ben Jarashow – Capital HEMA Open, Jan 2013
  • Silver, Military Saber – Jake Norwood – Swordfish, Nov 2012
  • Gold, Open Longsword – Jake Norwood – Boston Sword Gathering, Oct 2012
  • Gold, Folk Wrestling (>200lbs) – Ben Jarashow – Boston Sword Gathering, Oct 2012
  • Silver, Dagger Defense – Jake Norwood – Boston Sword Gathering, Oct 2012
  • Silver, Women's Longsword – Jess Rozek –  Boston Sword Gathering, Oct 2012
  • Bronze, Open Longsword – Ben Michels – Boston Sword Gathering, Oct 2012
  • Gold, Open Longsword – Jake Norwood – Pacific Northwest HEMA Gathering, Sep 2012
  • Gold, Cutting – Jake Norwood – Pacific Northwest HEMA Gathering, Sep 2012
  • Bronze, Dussack – Jake Norwood – Pacific Northwest HEMA Gathering Sep 2012
  • Gold, Open Longsword – Ben Michels – Longpoint, May 2012
  • Bronze, Women’s Longsword – Kiana Shurkin – Longpoint, May 2012
  • Silver, Cutting – Jake Norwood – Swordfish, Nov 2011
  • Bronze, Military Saber – Jake Norwood – Swordfish, Nov 2011
  • Gold, Franco-Belgian Longsword – Jake Norwood – Fechtschule America, Mar 2011
  • Bronze, Dussack – Jake Norwood – Fechtschule America, Mar 2011
  • Silver, Open Longsword – Jake Norwood – Fechtschule America, Mar 2010
  • Bronze, Dussack – Jake Norwood – Fechtschule America, Mar 2010