My First HEMA Tournament

I participated in my first HEMA (longsword) tournament this weekend. It was wonderful, and I learned so much (even though my time was very short).

The rules system is such that everyone would get at least 9 matches, but unfortunately I got injured in my second fight and withdrew myself. I’ll include the injury story at the bottom of this post for anyone interested.

I got to watch 4 fights before it was my turn. I watched all the fights thinking how I would handle each fighter, counter the tactics, adjust to the guards, etc. Although I’ve been training longsword for less than 2 years, I felt pretty confident that I could represent myself decently. I had no delusions of grandeur, but I had hope to achieve my goal of the day: win at least one of my nine matches. Watching the first fights, I started thinking I might win a few more.

Then my first fight. In my sparring, I tend to go offensive/aggressive. I feel this lets me control the engagement. I don’t completely trust my reflexes to respond fast enough, so I feel safer in the vor. Well, my first opponent came right in on me swinging for the fences! I have never sparred with anyone who was so 100% on the offense and hitting so hard. I tried to parry and riposte, but we ended up doubling, constantly. He was about my size, but it felt like I was parrying or being hit by a steel girder. After the fight ended, the referee warned him about hitting hard. He won by split decision (2 of 3 judges); I take it (hope) a split decision maybe means the fight score was close? After we went to the sidelines, my opponent came to me and apologized for hitting so hard. He seemed honestly sorry, and I forgave him. It wasn’t till the next day (now two) that I felt tenderness from the hits. [For the record, I have no complaints about this fight or my opponent. It was very fun and I learned, and he was nice and honorable.]

Then my second fight. Completely opposite compared to the first fight. I didn’t immediately go in hard on my opponent, but she kept stepping back from my advances to the point where I felt like I was constantly pushing her back to the edge of the fighting area. I’m on the low end of average height, but she was shorter than me, and I think my sword is longer, so thinking back on the fight I feel I had a serious advantage with reach. There were two thrusts I scored where she also had her sword thrust directly at me but it didn’t reach me (granted, I also was contorted like a parenthesis to avoid the thrust). It was this fight that I took the hit on my thumb, but I finished the fight (not realizing in the fight how bad the injury was). I won this match, so I had achieved my basic goal for the tournament 🙂 My opponent apologized for the injury, but I told her it wasn’t her fault, it was my glove’s fault (and really my own for not defending better). [For the record, I have no complaints about this fight or my opponent. It was also very fun and I learned, and she was nice and honorable.]

Every single person I met, the other fighters, the event staff and organizers, everyone was very nice. (“Nice” is such a basic word, I know, but it covers a lot of other adjectives, like honorable, polite, caring, professional, etc.) And the event nurse, I give two gnarly thumbs-up.

Even though it got cut short, I thoroughly enjoyed my first tournament. This may also be my last tournament; I’m 56 years old, so I don’t know if it’s wise to continue letting strangers hit me with steel rods. How old is the oldest HEMA competitors?

Thanks for reading. I’d appreciate your thoughts on what I experienced.

Injury –

I got hit on the thumb under the plastic (SPES heavy gloves with foam thumb tip; I have now ordered a new pair with the full thumb protection). I finished the fight, and once on the sideline, I removed my gloves. My thumb was quite bloody. As I wasn’t wearing my glasses, all I saw was a “bloody thumb”. I went to the event nurse to get checked out.

My family (wife, two sons 18 & 22) were near the nurse’s station, so when I walked by them, I said, “I’m having fun,” and gave them a thumb’s up. They all gasped at my bloody thumb, and I laughed. I showed the nurse, and she said, “Oh, that’s gnarly.” She told me to go to the restroom and wash it as best I could, then come back to her for treatment. I’ll restate that without my glasses, all I saw was bloody thumb (no pain).

I went to the restroom to wash my hands. While washing, I felt my thumb and realized what my poor vision had saved me from seeing. The nail was split across the middle and folded up 90 degrees. I’m glad I couldn’t see it. My sons came into the restroom to check on me, and when my oldest saw my cleaned thumb, he said, “Oh god!” then to his brother, “Don’t look at it!” My youngest son saw it but wasn’t bothered. Isn’t it weird how we all have different limits to what grosses us?

Back at the nurse’s station, she examined it and my face. Holding my hand, she said, “This is going to hurt.”

I said, “You’re going to fold it down?”


“OK, just please do it fast.”

It did, indeed, hurt. But she fixed it, bandaged it, and gave me a chair and ice (under my arms and behind my neck) so I could cool down and recover. The event leader came to check on me, and to see if I would be rejoining the fighting. The nurse gave her permission to continue if I felt like it, and the leader said he had already moved my name to the bottom of the list order so I’d have time to recover. But between already being very hot, grossed out by my injury, and now coming down off the adrenaline, I was feeling woozy. I wasn’t sure I’d be recovered enough even given many minutes, so I voluntarily withdrew from the event. I then went to a hidden area and laid down on the floor with my ice packs. My wife and sons watched over me. By the time I had gotten out of my gear, said my goodbyes, and gotten outside to the car, I was feeling fine again. I’m disappointed that I only got two fights, but I’m sure withdrawing at that point was the right decision.

The Old Adventurer

The Soldier

Mixing and matching various pieces of my armor collection, with a new weapon (the fauchard) to create a new character kit: The Soldier.

Kit is mail shirt, steel brigandine, mail coif, kettle helm, fauchard, and arming sword.

The Old Adventurer

Halloween Viking(ish)

Last Halloween I dressed in my full plate armor. It was a hit in the neighborhood. I wanted to wear some of my kit again the next year, but wanted to look completely different. So I decided, instead of 15th century knight, how about 10th century Viking? I started to let my hair and beard grow for the whole year, and this was the result:

viking double

This kit was again a success in my neighborhood, and also won the best costume contest at my work. Yeah, I know it’s not historically accurate. I’m fine with that, and everyone else seemed to be fine with it, too — that is, few people know historical accuracy from fantasy.

I shaved off the beard November 1st, and cut back my hair a few days later. I did really like the look of the long hair and long beard, but it’s such a bother to maintain and live with on a daily (hourly!) business. I’m now back to my normal look.

The Old Adventurer.

Mercenary Color Decision

I’m deciding which color gambeson to wear under my black brigandine for my Mercenary kit. Blue is my favorite color, but the red, I think, looks better in this concept. Without the helmet on, the red is much better for my complexion. The blue makes my face look sickly, the red makes my skin look more alive.

Mercenary in brigandine, plate, gambeson
Mercenary in brigandine, plate, gambeson
Mercenary in brigandine, plate, gambeson

Looking at the two colors side by side, in character, I’m thinking I’ll go with the red for the Mercenary, and keep the blue for the Knight.

The OId Adventurer