IHFL 2017 is Starting Soon

Last year I competed in the IHFL (Irish Historical Fencing League) and I will be doing the same again this year. The first event is the Cork Blademaster’s Cup this Saturday. In 2016 I was still awaiting the arrivall of my tournament quality gloves so I missed this event. I am going to do my best to get to every event in the schedule, maybe this year I’ll achieve my personal targets of:

  • Improving my league ranking of 8th overall from last year
  • Actually placing at any competitive event.

Not too big an ask I hope but watch this space for more!

One of my motivations for starting this blog is to detail my experiences, thoughts and feelings about the league. I won’t be going into blow-by-blow accounts of the bouts themselves as that would be far to dry and frankly beyond the scope of what I want to achieve here. I will, however, be reviewing the events, how they are organised, how the scoring and ranking systems work and more juicily what I take away from the events as a fencer. This last will involve looking an overview of my performance in my bouts and how I dealt with both my opponents and the pressures of fencing in a competitive setting.

My favourite picture from last years League.

My intention is not to detract from the value of ‘line work’ drilling or slow sparring or any other methods of learning to fence, but rather to foreground the learning potential of competition. It’s my opinion that one of the best ways to get better is to fight against as many varied opponents as possible and specifically those who are better than you. They will teach you more about the particular areas that you need to practice and improve than any amount of drilling and reading treatises will. As you improve it is your duty to fight against many opponents, to act as their training aid and to continue to develop your own skills. Sparring in your own club setting is of course irreplaceable as a training tool but it is easy to get stuck in the trap of just getting better at beating those few you have available on a weekly basis.

Besides the technical benefits of competition I personally find them a great deal of fun, the nerves and excitement of competition are an enjoyable buzz. You get to meet like-minded people and talk to them about techniques and relative benefits of one glove over another without their eyes glazing over or having them simply walk off; something any fencer will surely value. There’s often a bit of a social after the event which is never a bad thing either.

I’m really positive about the benefits of the league and more people involved in HEMA in Ireland should take part if they are up for it. No pressure, of course, but your worries and anxieties about the whole concept are largely unfounded, anyone can compete. You might not win but you’re definitely going to improve as a fencer and have a good time to boot!


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