Swordplay – where it’s just not fun and games until someone gets stabbed in the face.
Saturday brought with it the start of the formal tournaments, meaning that results were counted towards the National as well as International HEMA rankings. After a safety briefing and walkthrough of rules, marshalling guidelines and other notices it was also announced that people could vote for the event’s Most Sportsmanlike Fighter, Most Entertaining Fighter and Most Technical Fighter. The fighting then kicked off anew with the Women’s Open Tournament, Rapier, Rapier & Companion and Sword & Buckler.
For those not feeling up for full intensity, there was also ‘Medium’ versions of most tournaments which was great for those interested in more technical fighting. Personally, I always enjoy watching the dual-wielding events. In Rapier & Companion, the ‘companion’ can be a dagger, buckler, armoured gauntlet or a cape – all options based on instructions from historical treatises, as this was how people would fight back in the day. Makes for fascinating fights. It was equally stimulating to see some of my fellow members from Collegium in Armis compete for the first time.
The Women’s Open category was also interesting, as the fighters would agree beforehand what weapon they would both fight with. Having the option to choose your weapon based on the opponent would make for a very dynamic tournament. Sadly, it looks like I’ll have to keep waiting for a mixed weapons tournament as the risk of injuries was deemed too great.
There is a lot more where that came from – click here for all Saturday recordings
As the Saturday went on, the sheer number of fights made it clear that the finals for Sword & Buckler would need to be pushed out to the next day. The day was wrapped with a dinner at the nearby markets, which unfortunately I could not attend – which was frustrating, as Swordplay provides a great opportunity to socialise with other people in the HEMA community.
Sunday, being the fourth and final day, went full steam ahead. This day probably saw the highest number of participants due to the Sabre and Longsword tournaments (due to a wealth of source material, longsword is the most commonly taught weapon in HEMA). As for yours truly, I went competing in the longsword competition with mixed results. Some good exchanges, some less than stellar. I know I can do better, so the pursuit of perfection continues.
As the top competitors all fought fiercely for a spot in the finals, spectators got to enjoy quality swordsmanship. Although a far cry from the cinematic, flashy sword fights you see in movies (much like their Kung Fu equivalents) watching trained fighters apply their skills is captivating. The level of precision, speed and power is inspiring, as is the level of sportsmanship – it is a common sight to see a fighter point out to the fight marshal that he (the fighter) just got hit, essentially ‘giving’ a point to the opponent. It’s also not unusual for a fighter to refuse an awarded point by saying that the hit was too light or ‘tippy’, as few competitors want to win on cheap points.
Click here for all Sunday recordings
After the conclusion of the fighting, results were recorded and votes were counted. Meanwhile, people started packing up and getting ready to leave. This was not a sign of disrespect; between 90+ HEMA practitioners, there is a literal mountain of weapons, shields, protective gear and whatever else people had brought with them; not to mention the luggage from participants that travelled interstate to attend the event.
A number of high-profile HEMA companies had sponsored the event, so as medals were awarded there were also plenty of products given to the top placing competitors such as a brand new longsword, heavy duty gloves and a fancy duelling cape. There werealso awards for those voted as Most Technical, Most Entertaining and Most Sportsmanlike during the event. For a bit of fun, titles were also given for remarkable feats – such as Skye Hilton being titled ‘The Emasculator’ for stabbing the opponent in the groin during a dagger grapple. As for yours truly, winning the dagger tournament scored me a pair of the daggers that had been used. I was also voted as the Most Entertaining Fighter and given the title ‘Hero of Swordplay’. Not bad for my first time competing at this event, though it’ll be hard to top next year!
As a closing note, I had a great time at Swordplay. It was a clear improvement over last year’s event with more participants, more tournament diversity, more workshops, more fights – all provided in a spacious indoor facility with all amenities one could wish for. The rule-set had also been amended, with the ultimate aim of promoting skilful exchanges and fair play. The atmosphere stayed positive throughout the weekend, with members from all schools volunteering as marshals, safety officers, flag judges and scorekeepers; very much an event by the people, for the people. Judging by the posts that have been popping up on the event’s Facebook page, everyone is already getting looking forward to Swordplay 2018!
Meanwhile, the overseas guests went on to conquer New Zealand…
Interested in Swordplay, Brisbane Swords or HEMA gear? Contact James Wran for more information.