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HEMA Ratings Beta Released

by Meg Floyd

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Petter Brodin and Markus Koivisto have finally released a much-anticipated beta of their HEMA Rankings system, which ranks fighters globally according to the submitted statistics of several events, dating all the way back to Swordfish 2011.

Fighters are ranked by weapon and tournament. Currently the system has data for the following weapons: steel longsword (open and women’s), rapier and dagger, saber, sword and buckler, and sidesword. If some of the ratings seem a bit off for American fencers, keep in mind the data for Longpoint 2016 and Longpoint South are missing, which will likely bump everyone around some.

Fighters are ranked using a number generated by a Glicko-2 algorithm, a math algorithm for ranking players’ strengths in games of skill, which you can read about in detail here. It’s also used notably for chess rankings and online game servers.

How does it work? The About page says, “The key assumptions here are at work are the following:

The performance of each player in each match is a normally distributed random variable. Although a player might perform significantly better or worse from one game to the next, we assume that the mean value of the performances of any given player changes only slowly over time.

Performance can only be inferred from wins, draws and losses. Therefore, if a player wins a game, he is assumed to have performed at a higher level than his opponent for that game. Conversely if he loses, he is assumed to have performed at a lower level. If the game is a draw, the two players are assumed to have performed at nearly the same level.

Suppose two players, both rated 1700, played a tournament game with the first player defeating the second. Suppose that the first player had just returned to tournament play after many years, while the second player plays every weekend. In this situation, the first player’s rating of 1700 is not a very reliable measure of his strength, while the second player’s rating of 1700 is much more trustworthy. Our intuition tells us that that

– (1) the first player’s rating should increase by a large amount (more than 16 points) because his rating of 1700 is not believable in the first place, and that defeating a player with a fairly precise rating of 1700 is reasonable evidence that his strength is probably much higher than 1700, and

– (2) the second player’s rating should decrease by a small amount because his rating is already precisely measured to be near 1700, and that he loses to a player whose rating cannot be trusted, so that very little information about his own playing strength has been learned.”

Brodin said in a recent Facebook post that there’s plans to add search functionality, as well as profile pages for each fighter, etc.

If you’re a tournament organizer and would like to submit your event, please use the Contact Page. For a full list of events used in the data set, see the Events Page.


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Leon Paul Titan Pro Jacket: Becoming a Tank

by Peter Smallridge

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These professional looking shots are by LP. Amateur looking ones are by me. Semi-professional are from bystanders at tournaments.

Review Methodology

I was given this jacket in exchange for writing a series of HEMA-related articles for Leon Paul. The Titan Pro is their latest HEMA jacket. It’s 800N tested, and it looks like the mutant lovechild of a bomb disposal suit and a sports fencing coach’s jacket.

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How does it feel in use?

 Construction

Form

This jacket has a back zip, and a cuissard (“diaper strap”) to minimize the risks of a thrust getting inside the jacket. The collar is not just a turned-over blade catcher but has an insert running inside, protecting the Adam’s apple and acting as something of an in-built gorget. The upper fastening, where a velcro patch secures the collar over the top of the zipper, is highly secure. No fear of the zip slipping down.h360-2.jpg

 Base Material

I’m no expert on fabrics, but this is a heavy jacket. My first thought on picking it up was “I wonder if this could stop bullets.”

Inserts

Without the inserts, it feels like a heavier coach’s jacket. The distinctive feature, though, is 10 removable HDF (that’s blue foam to you) inserts around the torso, collar and upper arms. They’re held in internal pockets, and sit securely when you move – no shifting or opening of velcro.

It does not have in built elbow or forearm protectors, but does have a loop to help attach external elbow guards.h360-3.jpg

I rapidly decided that since I had a throat guard that covered the traps and collar bone, I’d remove the collar and shoulder pieces. The rest go in or out depending on the contact level I’m fencing at.

Performance

Putting the Jacket On

It took me a stupidly long time to get used to a back zip. I can put it on myself, courtesy of the zip strap, but it feels awkward and can be a test of mobility and coordination during a long tournament or hard training session. However, it’s comfortable once on. This jacket was custom fit, and it feels it. The only limitation on mobility was raising both arms vertically while the shoulder pieces were in*, and bending the torso forwards against the front panel insert. That’s it – and neither of these is common in fencing.

Fencing in this Ferrari Armoured Fighting Vehicle

The downside of the thickness is heat and sweat. The fabric doesn’t absorb sweat anything near as well as my old SPES AP jacket, and I feel distinctly hotter and damper when fencing in it.

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Testing shoulder mobility in the St Petersberg FechtTerra tournament

On the other hand, mortal weapons cannot hurt me now. I’ve had sideswords bent to right angles on the thrust to my belly and NOT NOTICED. I’ve had Russian Battle of the Nations-trained fighters club me with SPES solid dussacks and picked myself off the floor without bruises.

On the other hand, I discovered that the seams on the arms, where the insert pouches are on the outside rather than inside of the jacket (to avoid having to invert the sleeves to access them) catch blades. No harm done, since there’s still a full layer underneath the top pocket one, but the stitching tore on a thrust to the bicep that spun me around.

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Sizing

 Custom-sized, it was perfect. I haven’t needed to use the adjustment straps.

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Price

As mentioned, this was payment for some writing I did for LP. The RRP is £280 inc. tax, less than the SPES Hussar and equal to the Garjadoni 800N jacket. Subject to the whims of exchange rates, of course…

 Conclusion

If you’re in need of a really solid jacket, this is the one for you. If your group doesn’t fence hard, it may well be overkill.

*Editor’s note: If you’re tall like the reviewer. If you’re short like the editor, perhaps buyers beware. **

**Author’s note: It’s custom fit. It’s not really a tall/short thing, just the inevitable fabric bunching above shoulders (even with this good cut of seam) plus semi-rigid insert. Removing the inserts made handstands much more comfortable.


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Free Goodies for the Commonly Aching Joints of the Historical Fencer

by Meg Floyd

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I hope everyone has limped into the holiday season with health and only moderate to severe belly grumbles from excellent Thanksgiving Day feasts. (My condolences to our European counterparts who lack such bounty in their lives this time of year.) Today I wanted to share a few videos that I’ve found helpful for relieving my own joint pain, since lately it seems to be a question of which joints are hurting moreso than if I’m in pain or not. (This may not be universal–I’m dealing with weight problems, which certainly don’t help, and I may just have a predilection for bad joints.) However, I think my issues of common joint pain are far from rare. Chief complaints tend to be elbow pain (tennis elbow), knee pain (of every variety), and foot pain (be it a grappling injury, plantar fasciitis, or what have you.)

So! Here are a few videos, mainly of self massage, that have often served me to get range of motion back in the middle of class when a joint has decided no, it’s not going to work anymore today.

Disclaimer:  I am not a medical doctor or physical therapist of any kind. I cannot vouch for the medical expertise of the people in these videos. All I know is loosening up/stretching/self-massaging in these ways makes my joints hurt less and improves my function. If you’re actually injured, GO SEE A DOCTOR. Employ self massage of any type at your own risk, and don’t be an  idiot. If something hurts you, then stop. 

#1) Guy Windsor’s Free Footwork Course — his videos are about 40 minutes total and include a gentle warmup, some balancing exercises, and a 20 min self massage routine for the knees. I completed it today and my legs feel lovely, so I highly recommend you check it out.

#2) Self Massage for Tennis Elbow

#3) Self Massage for Plantar Fasciitis

#4) Self Massage for Ankle Pain/Shin Splints

#5) Self Massage for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome/Tingling and Numb Fingers

 


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Cyber Monday Manual Deals

by Meg Floyd

It’s Cyber Monday, which means those of us in the States too smart opposed to capitalism lazy to do any Black Friday shopping can order goodies online without need for leaving the house, or wearing of pants.

There’s currently an excellent sale going on over at Lulu.com for some fencing manuals, which I thought I’d post here for those looking to acquire these while they’re cheap.

According to Lulu’s website, you use the code “CYBER40” and can get 40% off. 

Rapier Manuals

  1. Fabris

 

(Actually, there’s a bunch of titles you can pick up from Van Noort on various rapier sources listed here.)

Longsword Manuals

Later Period Works


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Op/Ed: Who Is HEMA For?

by Meg Floyd

In the wake of the Presidential election and many of the conversations I’ve been seeing on social media lately, as well as disturbing news stories, it’s useful for the community to ponder the question–who is HEMA for?

Everyone. Full stop.

Everyone. 

Trans people, atheists, Christians, Muslims, gay people, women, white people, brown people, pagans, cisgender people, Jews, men, polyamorous people, monogamous people.  Weak people, tall people, strong people, short people, fat people, skinny people. Democrats and Republicans. Even people who like to wear those silly pumpkin pants. People from more than a dozen nations who speak more than a dozen languages. All of them. I’ve fenced at least one person who fits every single descriptor I just listed, and guess what, it makes not a damn difference when they’re fencing. We’re here to fence, not engage in identity politics. Or at least we should be.

I can think of one group of people not welcome in our essentially anti-authoritarian, egalitarian community, however. Racists are not welcome here. People who believe that their subgroup of people (whatever that group may be) deserves more air time, more privilege, or has somehow a more legitimate claim to the historical legacy of European manuals than anyone else because they somehow have stronger or closer ties. First off, that’s a crock of shit. Second off, fuck off with the identity politics. If you want to engage in some kind of romantic destiny-fulfillment of your ancestors, do it on your own time, not inside of HEMA. By the same token, if you want to engage in name-calling witch hunts via social media, don’t do that here either. No one elected you the morality police because you disagree with someone else’s politics.

I believe this community is mostly made up of good people–foul-mouthed and anti-establishment as we may be. May we ever remain the wild west of fencing, where you can hit hard and wrestle, where authority does not outrank fighting ability, and where soap-boxing does not overcome a free and open dialogue in the scholarly pursuit of historical study of fencing manuals. (I appreciate the irony of me soap-boxing here when I say that, but indulge me. It is an op/ed.)

Be strong, HEMA. Our community shall endure.