During the week we held the annual prize playing which takes place at the LSD, loosely based upon the suggestions put forth by Sir William Hope himself in the New Method:


This is always run as a smallsword pool, although the rules are changed every year for fun and variety.

One factor which often crops up in HEMA rules is how to handle double hits, which are usually frowned upon as being inappropriate in an art which is supposed to represent the use of swords as if they were sharp. Too much attacking without concern for one's safety might even be considered to be too much like the dreaded "sport". As an example of thoughts on the topic, try these:


Our yearly changes in rules are often an attempt to deal with double hits. Usually, there is a significant minority of the class who, for various reasons, rely heavily upon attacking or counter-attacking in a manner that very much resembles what might be seen in sport fencing. Often, but not always, they have a background in the modern sport or in HEMA longsword. There's rarely sufficient time or space in the class to do a lot of individual coaching to try to correct these habits, and in any case once a bout starts it's very difficult for most people to get out of the mindset of being desperate to win above all else, which will cause them to fall into their usual habits rather than pushing themselves to try working on new things. If that bout is part of a tournament then the pressure to fall back to this base line is even worse. So, one way around this is to try to make the rules such that the incentive is to fence in a way of which Sir William would have approved, and to penalise those who don't.

This year, bouts were fought such that the first to score three hits would win. In the following cases no points would be scored, but a mark would be placed against both fencers' names indicating that they’d been involved in something other than a nice, clean hit.

- Exchanging hits by means of a contretemps or hit off the riposte (an 'afterblow'). If there was a long enough period, e.g. > 1 period of 'fencing time' between the hit and the riposte then it was awarded as a clean hit for the attacker.
- Any messy exchange where it appeared that both fencers might possibly have hit, but there was sufficient doubt amongst the judges and referee that no clear hit could be awarded.
- Any grappling(x) which did not conclude with a clear hit, disarm or takedown within an appropriate period of time.

Participants were warned that gaining a lot of these "contretemps points" would be bad, but the precise means whereby they would be employed to penalise fencers was not explained to them, this being left as an exciting surprise. The nature of their employment was as follows:

1. Fencers would be awarded one point per bout they had won.
2. The fencer(s) involved in the fewest contretemps would have their scores left unmodified.
3. The fencer(s) who had perpetrated the next largest number of them would have their score reduced by 1, the next by 2 and so on.
4. Ranking would be by those modified scores.

For example, the two best fencers had 5 victories apiece. However, the fencer who had delivered the most and received the fewest hits had been involved in more contretemps exchanges than the other, and so their score was reduced by one. One particular fencer, who would have rated in third place if it were only on victories, participated in the greatest number of such exchanges and was dropped down to 6th place.

The most-penalised fencer mentioned above resorted to much the same tactics in every bout; primarily rushing forward as quickly as possible to wrestling distance in an attempt to hold and stab, mixed with aggressive beats/battery and thrusting. This often resulted in self-impalement whilst enclosing or grapples which were halted before a clear thrust could be given due to time running out or for safety. In one case an official warning had to be given for a particularly aggressive enclosing which pushed the defender into a wall and knocked their mask off. It's arguable that tactics like these would have been very risky in a fight with sharps.

Clearly, then, if the intent of the rules was to penalise such forward and violent play then they were effective, though better suggestions are always welcome.

(x) Grappling footnote - the following are permitted:

- Controlled takedowns. A success counts as a hit.
- Disarms, a success counting as a hit.
- Striking with pommels, fists, knees, feet &c. Allowed, but does not score and is useful only as an adjunct to disarms/takedowns. Excessive violence will result in warnings.
- Grabbing near the tip of the blade is only allowed if a thrust takes place within one period of fencing time. Otherwise, it will be halted.
- Grabbing nearer the hilt is allowed and the referee will allow a longer period to deliver a thrust or disarm in such circumstances, the nearer the hilt the longer the period.

Therefore, under these rules, a "ground and pound" where both fall over and there's no clear throw or disarm would count as a double. It's possible to score by wrestling/blade grabbing but there's a great risk of being penalised if it goes wrong.
Shared publicly