Swordfish has grown immensely in the last few years, in number of attendees, quality of organization, fighting and instruction as well as in importance in the HEMA community, for which we are very happy and grateful. We have more than doubled our numbers of attendees since the beginning, and the livestream and the international lineup of competitors attracts a lot of attention.
For the tournaments, this means both that Swordfish has grown into an “elite” tournament, and that we are reaching the maximum number of tournament participants we are able to host. While there is no way of measuring this through seeding, most people count Swordfish as the number one arena for the top competitors. Swordfish is also perhaps the only arena available today where top fighters from all over the world actually meet up, as we try to maintain a low cost (this is why you sleep on mattresses, folks) in order not to exclude fencers coming from far away or from low income countries.
We aim to have Swordfish as a tournament scene for the more experienced, as there is a need for this in the community and we want to cater to this need, and there are already a host of other tournaments open for everyone. But here our popularity gives us some problems. We cannot host an infinite number of participants, and we have no way of deciding on who is considered an “top fencers” in any manageable way. If we had a seeding system in place it might be different, but until then we have no way of enforcing a “top fencers only” policy.
The only thing we can do is to appeal to the community and so we ask the following of any participant or instructor going with or sending students to Swordfish:
- Do not allow your student to participate in Swordfish if they have not competed before or you do not consider them to be one of your better students. There are plenty of other tournaments available to gain experience in first.
- Do not enter any Swordfish tournament or allow your student to enter a tournament in a weapon system they do not normally practice.
A Swordfish tournament is not the place to see if you are interested in a weapon system; it is a place to test your hard earned skills in a tough and chaotic environment against skilled and determined unknown opponents. Inexperienced fencers competing in an unknown weapon system brings down the quality of the fencing and damages the reputation of competitive HEMA.
The reason we are unsure of hosting a sword & buckler tournament again is because it has to a large extent been populated by fencers who do not actively train in sword & buckler, and the quality of fencing has suffered because of it. Although one of the primary usages of tournaments is to encourage people to train more and harder (i.e. the tournament comes before the community gains in skill) it is also necessary that people actually do train on a regular basis, not only compete occasionally with the weapon.
This does not mean you have to be a tournament champion in order to compete at Swordfish, but you should have a few tournaments under your belt already, and you should be a regular practitioner of the weapon system in question.
If we had the option we would have a complete open doors policy, but we don’t have neither the time nor space for this and so we have to limit the number of participants and when we do this we run the risk of having to exclude skilled fencers because the roster is already filled with inexperienced fencers who registered first. An example would be that half of the roster immediately fills up with only Swedish fencers of varying quality as we happen to have payday at the day when registration opens. Swordfish would lose its unique character as a result.
But don’t feel you can’t come to Swordfish as a beginner; it is only the tournaments we reserve for the more experienced fencers. As always, Swordfish will have a packed schedule of workshops, lectures and sparring time, and a large part of our participants don’t come for the tournaments at all.