Blademasters’ Cup 2017: A review

This weekend was the first leg of the IHFL 2017 season, held in Cork by the Blademasters. There were three pools of six fighters, meaning five bouts each and then a single elimination round for the eight highest scorers across all the pools. This meant that win/loss within your own pool didn’t matter but the number of points scored in each bout was critical. Given the weighting of “deep” targets (head & torso) with 6 points and 3pts for extremities the structure encouraged more significant attacks and did something to discourage sniping at hands. One extra point was on offer if the technique used included “control” of the opponents weapon as the attack was made or following a strike to avoid an after-blow; a decent way to promote high quality technical fencing but slightly hard to judge I’m sure. I really like the model of highest scorers overall going through rather than winners in each pool as it balances out the possibility of a pool-of-death-type scenario.

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Two of the more successful fighters, Mike Nolan (left) and Ken Sot (right)

In general the event was really well run, an excellent (vast) venue allowed for a sizeable, although inexplicably rectangular, ring and lots of space for safe spectators. The fights were well administrated, a nice feature was a flip chart on the scoring table indicating who was fighting next. Only minor issue (and I only offer it as constructive critique) was the way the fights were listed using fighter numbers rather than names was a little clunky and took some cross referencing with the registration lists to find out which fight we were up to.

Having run a couple of events in the past I can totally appreciate the stresses the organisers were under and considering that I was amazed at the calm professional way it was all carried out.

So as I said in the intro to the blog I won’t be giving any commentary on individual bouts other than what I managed to observe of my own performance and I’ll focus on competition as a learning experience. So, as a swift summary, I didn’t place, I did get though to the eliminations but wasn’t one of the best scorers. I collected 49pts in the pools whereas some of the fencers accumulated scores in the mid 60s.

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Me narrowly avoiding getting hit in the head.

Why? Well for one I wasn’t able to reach as many of the deep targets I was looking for and keep myself safe at the same time. That meant giving away double strikes (for 0pts!) or getting blow-afterblow scores. In the blow-afterblow situation the first strike gets 2pts and the follow up scores 1pt. So in some cases I lost 4pts from my potential score whilst adding 1pt to my opponent’s. This happened because I was striking at openings just because they were open and not considering my own safety as much as I could. I realised that I was using quite simple/naive strikes that contained no technique that controlled my opponent nor protected me in the advent of a miss/return. Needless to I didn’t get many +1 bonus technical points (maybe one but it’s all a bit blurry now). I did achieve my goal of scoring at least one clean, 6pt strike in every bout but I should have got more and put the emphasis on the “clean” and not the “strike”.

That isn’t to say that everything I did was bad. I felt more confident with my own skills at this event, probably due to the recent ‘warm-up’ events I have attended, one by my own club the ISHC in February and then also in Leitrim with the Longswords. Both gave me chance to get back into the competition mindset before the league began. I approached my bouts with a determination not to be dominated spatially which has happened to me before and I managed to avoid it this time around. I defended well and even managed to get a few sequences of strikes to work for me. I made opening strikes that which, even though they didn’t always land, set up a following strike which often did.

On a particularly positive note, I did win every single one of my pool bouts and was the only entrant to do so. It may not happen again so I am retro-actively adding it to my list of personal goals, woo hoo, go me!

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All the fighters and judges at the 2017 Blademaster’s Cup.

Free sparring afterwards with the eventual winner (who incidentally was the opponent that put me out of the elims) gave me a chance to get a few pointers and he showed me the relative simplicity of striking in such a way as to displace the opponent’s blade and secure the centre line for your own strike. Also that I wasn’t often using passing steps when making follow up attacks thereby shortening my own reach and weakening my strikes, d’oh!

You can take a look at me getting knocked out of the elims here, (all credit for this and all the images in this post to the Cork Blademasters). I had hoped to show some of my earlier bouts as I didn’t lose them but we’ll have to see…

The next leg will be on June 3rd in Wexford and I’ll tell you how I got on.  There will be more posts before then of course.

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