Here's Why Longsword Fighting Is Now A Popular Sport

If you love sword battles in your fantasy films, then this emerging sport may be perfect for you. Called longsword fighting, it's a revival of a once-forgotten ancient skill.

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There's been a renewed interest in what enthusiasts call historical European martial arts, or HEMA. It includes such things as grappling and several types of swordfighting. But it's the longsword that's getting much of the attention.

An excerpt from the video's accompanying New York Times article:

"The longsword specifically is just very accessible," said Pettersson, a management consultant from Gothenburg, Sweden, "because that is what the old masters wrote about the most. It was called the 'queen of weapons' in the old days."

Unlike re-enactors or role players, who don theatrical costumes and medieval-style armor, Longpoint competitors treat swordfighting as an organized sport. Matches have complex rules and use a scoring system based on ancient dueling regulations. Fighters wear modern if sometimes improvised protective equipment, which looks like a hybrid of fencing gear and body armor. They use steel swords with unsharpened blades and blunt tips to prevent bouts from turning into death matches.

Skill and technique, rather than size and strength, decide the outcomes. Fights are fast and sometimes brutal: key to the art is landing a blow while preventing an opponent's counterstroke. Nevertheless, even the best swordfighters earn large bruises in the ring, which they display with flinty pride.

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The Longpoint tournament, which is one of several, began in 2011 with 60 participants. But now it's now the largest HEMA event in North America; it drew about 200 this year. The open steel longsword division had 55 entrants, eight of them women.

Read the entire article at the NYT.

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DISCUSSION

LaurenShaw
LaurenShaw

Okay. I have to post.

Hi, I'm Lauren, and I've been a HEMA student for three years. I spend my time training, watching videos, reading, and my passion in life is sword fighting. However, I choose it as a martial art and not a sport, so, I don't compete. We spar in class, oh how we can spar, but we're all friends, all on good terms, and first hit means success, stop, reset, start again. In the sport version, there's a chance for a counter hit, there has to be the correct hit, and it has to be changed slightly because safety comes first. Which is as it should be.

Since I devote my life to this, and long sword is my favourite style that we study, some more information:

German is only one style. Italian styles are very popular as well. German wise, we have fight books from Talhoffer, the best known, and we also have Meyer and Lichtenauer. Italians have several masters with Fiore and Vadi being very popular. You can find a few things in English, and there's some great French pole axe stuff (oh pole axe, the real weapon of the later middle ages, and so much fun but damn it's dangerous)

Why is long sword popular? Well, a long sword is around 2 kg or 4 lbs, give or take, and used with two hands. Yes, gamers and role players, a long sword is a two handed sword. We'll get into that another time. Considering an arming sword is probably a kilo and a bit, or 2.5 lbs, you have an easier time using a two handed sword than a one handed sword.

When you watch the video, notice how it is not big and "flourishy" like the movies. It is focused, quick cuts, changing directions, counters, lots of movement, quick thrusts, and on film, most people don't follow it very well.

Also, it cannot be compared with Eastern Martial arts (I studied ju-jitsu and loved that too so I have no bias here) because it is meant for a different culture with different armour and means of fighting.

What we don't see in the video are the half-swording and the wrestling, which were very important skills for armoured fighting. They are also dangerous to try at full speed and probably left out of the sport. So the HEMA move to a sporting event is wonderful, but can't fully capture the battlefield experience of the late 1400s.

Okay, to that end, since I spend my time thinking about this and practising, and as I was just outside practising by Posta di Falcone guard with cuts, if you have questions, ask! I will be happy to answer any questions you have.