I’m now in Portugal after my first fightcamp, which coincidentally is my second tournament both for this year and ever. I came away with some real learning points which is what I want to talk about here.

First though I have to say that I had some of the best exchanges I’ve had in a long time in that top field at the Grange. Especially with Sam Booth, Christophe Loyce and Adrian Faulkner who I fought extensively as part of my rapier qualification pool. The technical fencing, judging and sense of sportsmanship was hard to beat – so much so that Sam, who’s a member of the London Historical Fencing Club, awarded their Fencing Award to us – which was really humbling.

I came away from the tournament having been knocked out in the finals – so a good result BUT crucially I feel I could have done better – and will do better – if I focus on two points. One, technically my thrusts were not strong and that’s something I need to work on and two, I need to take my chances. Three times in my fight with Sasha I felt I made an opening but didn’t take it. I have the same with Reinis Rinka in an informal exchange where he said a couple of times to me – you could have thrust then. I find that I default to a defender’s posture even after I technically make good openings for attack and I’m going to focus on getting that right over the next three months before we get to Swordfish. I think the latter point is the more important of the two because I know I’ve got there in my sidesword and buckler and feel pretty much unstoppable in that discipline right now (so you can imagine how downhearted I was that I had to head off before the Eggleton Cup began – although props to Jay Maxwell, another School of the Sword member, who won Silver and who I’d love to have fought in a competition setting).

Having only done two tournaments for anything ever, both this year and delivering what I think were solid performances in both I am both still disappointed with my achievements but also aware that coming out of Fightcamp I can look at what I did there and see how tournament experience is critical in performing well – I look back at my fight with Alexander Makarov and see where I believe I went wrong, what i could have done to make it better and what he did that i should have taken advantage of. It’s a fascinating position to be in and something I’ll be reflecting on hard in the weeks to come.

Finally I want to write about the judging. It was mixed. I saw a number of missed hits, some hits that never existed and a good deal of inconsistency among judging at all levels. It was most disheartening to see it in the finals of each of the competitions I watched. I’m not a longsworder or sabreist so I can’t really speak with authority there but I can say that i think there are better rule sets for producing good fencing in Rapier. In particular I’d prefer to see rules that promote rapier exchanges that are about the technique not the hits nor the vicissitudes of what people think is historically appropriate. I’ve seen it run really well elsewhere – it’s intensive judging because of the speed but I think other rulesets can help judges produce more consistent results while also promoting more beautiful fights. Having said that I also think inconsistency is most often down to judging. No one is EVER going to get it right every time BUT I think judges should at least be practitioners of the specific discipline they’re judging and they should also have plenty of experience in judging. To that end, as part of School of Sword, we’re going to look at some opportunities for judges to train (and fight too) to be as good as they can be.

It might be that judging feels somehow less important than exchanging – but when a poor judging decision impacts the outcome of an exchange it should be a responsibility for us all to get right because we owe it to each other to help fighters get the outcomes their fencing deserves.