All Swords All The Time – Updates Tuesdays and Fridays

Review of SoCal Swordfight 2013

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by Richard Marsden, Instructor at the Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship


This is the second SOCAL event the Phoenix Society has attended.

Short Version – This event was good. When they host another one, you should come.

Long Version-

The last time, myself, John Patterson, and Randy Reyes descended upon SOCAL we enjoyed the experience. We took first in rapier and longsword, second in longsword, and third in rapier. The event was a grand time! We were excited to show up again, and this time do things a a bit different. I decided not to participate in the tournament and instead unleashed my minions. This felt more appropriately villainous. This was the fist time I’d get to sit back and watch how my boys would do while I could engage in free sparring and teaching which are things I enjoy. I brought, myself, Kyle the Cimmerian, Randy Reyes, Tomas (one of my High School kids) and Chris Nelson. Adam Simmons is an adoptee who also came. He is from many groups and we like to call him ours when he wears red socks and black pants and deserves special mention.

This event was just so much BIGGER than the one before. More classes, more instructors, more space, more people – including those from outside of California. The Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship (Arizona), Seven Swords (Washington), Blood and Iron (Canada), and the Noble Science Academy (Nevada) were all from outside of California and attended the event. And many locals, from Tattershall to Chivalry Today to organizations I had just met.

Friday – Kron hosted a beach-party and photo-shoot. I finally was able to meet many people I had not met face to face. Ken D, Tracy Mellow, Lee Smith (My first words to him, “Aren’t you kind of short for a storm-trooper?”) Nicole Smith, Michael-Forest Meservy, and many familiar faces as well. One of my students had never seen the sea, and it was great to let him experience it. Some attempts were made to marry off a Kron-ite to Randy and thus solidify our strong bonds. This attempt failed, but we’ll keep meddling in the lives of others and try to revive marriage contracts.

I too enjoyed the sight of the great, gray, beyond.

Saturday – I had only one class to teach and so I spent that day free-sparring till then. My students took classes or, if you’re Kyle, sat brooding and awaited any challengers. Much sparring occurred! Everyone has different desires at these events. I like free-sparring and teaching. So this was a great! What was a little unnerving however was how Kron members were fighting much, much better than before. (More on that later)

Lee Smith asked to see how the Polish sabers handled. When he picked one up, I instantly attacked him. He was able to back-flip, and his wife threw his protective gear in the air. Which he merged with. We fought through the event-space, up a stairwell, atop a roof, and went crashing through a glass ceiling, rolled out into the mud and fought in the rain. Needless to say it was good fun and we hope we can throw up some video. Lee and Nicole are great people and meeting face to face allowed us to discuss HEMA philosophy, trade stories, and so forth. Lee assisted in training with Kyle the Cimmerian, and Randy Reyes, while Nicole gave personal attention to Randy, Chris and Tomas. This was all constructive criticism. Chris, with only 2 months experience with us- was very appreciative.

More than a few others wanted to try their hand with the sabers I brought and I hope they enjoyed the experience.

Jeff Jacobson had a class of what had to be an army of people! The event had to switch locations (not the planner’s fault) at the last moment and the new venue was large, but a bit noisy. Jacobson and Chelak worked the masses, and I mean masses, like the old pro’s they are, and the class had rave reviews from one of my minions.

Did I mention my name-tag said ‘cult leader’ on it? Funny enough for the people at the event- but when we bought water for everyone, the convenience-store clerk saw all these guys in the same black t-shirts buying water. And my name-tag said ‘cult leader’. I assume he thinks we are all dead now, having poisoned ourselves in the name of Eric Wiggin’s Beard.

I forget at times that our community is so tight-knit and that among the HEMA crowd I am mildly famous. However- one cannot control their fame. I shall give some quotes.

“You’re that guy.” Emphasis on ‘that’.

“Oh no.” (No kidding)

“The super-villain!”

And a Kron-ite introduced me as, “Yeah, this is Mr. Marsden, he’s a Hema-slut with all those videos.” He did not hesitate with the word ‘slut’, meaning he’s been using it to describe me for some time.

And a surprise, “I’ve read your writings.” Wow- finally. Someone read my stuff and knew me for it! In this case, my personal economic musings. Thank you Joerg van Corva. The last thing I expected to discuss with anyone were my thoughts on investing and how my portfolio is doing!

The Polish PDF, which we are working on becoming a book, was able to tap into resources! Eric Atikson brought fabrics and other materials we wish to use. He also was amused by my mild color-blindness in trying to pick out colors of fabrics.

My class that day was Fiore and the Left hand. I was blessed. How I teach is dynamic, because it’s what I do for a living. My class had those who knew little of Fiore, but I also had Kyle the Cimmerian, Tracy Mellow, Jesse Easton, and a member from Schola san Marco. These guys already knew their-stuff, so I handed out the paperwork, modeled a few techniques, asked if the experienced guys knew what to do, and they said yes. Thus, my class had around five instructors and each group of students had much more personal attention. One dragooned instructor said he does things differently than I, was it ok for him to teach it that way? I said yes. So long as they do the technique as you, a qualified guy, understands it and it accomplishes what the text and picture says- you’re golden. Merrily he went off to teach others. When teaching in a HEMA crowd, some people already know stuff- I say use them! Then monitor and adjust. Be flexible for interpretation. It’s just one class. Thanks to all of my dragooned instructors.

Dinner that night consisted of talking with President Mayshar, and listening to stories of times of old with Lee, Nicole, Myles, and Ken D. It was nice seeing the large community together in a social environment. Sitting at the far end of the table, draped in shadows, it seemed fitting!

Sunday – I awoke in poor health. These things happen and after a bit, aspirin solves lots. Thanks to Mayshar and Chelak for noting that I wasn’t functioning properly and ensuring I stayed watered. I sometimes forget these things. Also thanks to Gary and Jeff for giving me insight on Giganti!

Polish saber class. Lee, the others, and myself sparring helped get more people to my class and it went great! This time I was on my own, so we went through the basics, and after that, sparred. Amazing! Film-later. The students all learned rapidly and with some minor coaching, used more and more of the techniques I taught. One fellow had NEVER sparred before. He looked much better. Everyone behaved as well. I had some guys in my class who were just combat-gifted and figured out how the saber works, and fast. They did not demolish those new to sparring and scaled as only professionals can. Thanks Tattershall fellows who were in my class.

After my class, we ate, and then it was tournament time. I had no more time to spar, because I had to watch my lads. My apologies to those I could not fence. I did direct you to my minions, who I know, made you work. I was also a touch ill, so the lesson is- catch me on the first day when I’m far more lively.

Rapier Tournament- Like last year! Same judges, same rules. Everyone did fine. However- Kron’s game was much better. Brian Frick, whom I specifically trained Randy Reyes to fight against- came on wayyyyyyyyyyy better and different than before. He defeated my lad, but he did it right and clean. Brian deserves high praise, because its rare I see a person change that dramatically. We came close to getting in the finals, but Brian thwarted us and took second. I’ll admit, the vile part of me wanted to have the Phoenix Society run away with the SOCAL tournaments again. Not to be. Highlights? Kyle the Cimmerian using a custom German rapier like a beast. We DID warn the judges ahead of time to make sure there would be no surprises and understanding. Another highlight was Nicole from Blood and Iron taking third, bouncing back after a year or so from active sparring. It’s hard not to get mushy to watch her fence while Lee is on his haunches off to the side with that hopeful look on his face the entire time.

Longsword Tournament – There were more competitors this time, but not a lot of time in the open longsword tournament. Things had to move fast. Mayshar warned the participants to manage their expectations, since the SOCAL event was still- very much new. It was to be single-elimination and go-go-go time. The fencing was good. The rules awarded points for targets and some techniques, while removing specific hand-strikes, geislings and light hits. A similar system that LongPoint used and I liked.The judges did their best, and I saw plenty of light strikes that were not counted, but confused the fencers who though it should count, some strikes that did hit and weren’t counted, and some tangling whose action the judges couldn’t follow. This is normal from every tournament I’ve been to in my time with the HEMAA and before during my mysterious past. No judge was malicious, or willfully blind, and the rule-set in of itself was just fine. The judges were hard pressed and it is part of what happens when in a tournament and not a freeplay. The tournament did not allow fencers to debate blows or hits- judges made the call, and that was that. This kept the fights moving. I had three minions in the tournament. Easton of Kron ate Randy, fair, quick and clean. Tomas was 17 and in his first tournament. RJ of Kron introduced him to the higher intensity of such things. The boy bounced back in the end and tried grapples and what-not, but was too far behind, and RJ is clearly no slouch. Out- clean and fair. Kyle the Cimmerian had to face Gary. Gary’s game had very-much improved from last time. He went toe to toe with the Cimmerian and though Kyle moved on- this wasn’t a sure thing. Gary then sat next to me and we watched later as Kyle danced with Jesse Easton. This was a very fast, in and out, match where measure mattered and every point as well. I had a heart-attack just watching it. Kyle came out on top. The final match came and Joerg and Kyle fought as only two men of clearly barbaric stock can.

Kyle came out ahead again. So intense was the Cimmerian that when I went to pat him on the back, I could tell he was still in ‘all must die mode’. The crowd parted and I did not get too close, I told him, “Crom gave you strength and ice-cream.” Which is all Kyle can expect. For me, its wonderful seeing people I started on the path- get somewhere. It’s why I teach High School and it comes out in HEMA as well. I am unabashedly delighted for Kyle and happy with the performance of the Phoenix Society. We like to spar, we like tournaments, and most of us like teaching- which is part of our philosophy of making students grow beyond their cult-leader.

We rolled in later to dinner and in my suit and formal attire President Mayshar demanded a match with me, spear and shield- of which neither of us had much experience. I pretended I was Achilles- and the crowd was amused. Thank you, Mayshar.

Kron – You are all better. The challenge was much harder and that was clear to see. We hope to see you all again soon.

Ok that said! Any bad things? Some of the issues I knew ahead of time were going to happen. The change in venue meant things had to juggle a bit. The Freesparring area had to keep moving, for example, and steel/aluminum was only allowed in some places.

There were too many instructors. I know, it sounds strange, but there really were so many of them and so many unique classes that people had to pick and choose painfully. These instructors are ALL valuable, but they could be managed differently.

Lack of water. Before going off and buying a case of our own, we had to either spend 2 dollars, or , drink out of the restroom faucet. Beyond all that- it was a nice pair of days and I think most of the people were happy most of the time.

Beyond that, our experience was positive and we hope to come back and in particular spend more time with Kron and they with us.


One thought on “Review of SoCal Swordfight 2013

  1. My group felt that they needed more classes on Sunday. Those of us who weren’t participating in the tournaments would have loved to take repeats of the classes that we missed due to scheduling conflicts.

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