Swordsquatch. What is it? A shy, reclusive HEMA creature who resides in the wilds of Seattle and can only be spotted in the Fall when the summoning circle has been taped out on the floor. (Note: Some claim that the ‘summoning circle’ is somehow related to rapier, but we know better)
AHWG was lucky enough to have two of our own invited to teach classes so they made the trek north to this unique as well as action-packed event that took place at School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts sponsored by The Lonin League HEMA school. Quirky doesn’t begin to describe the feel of this tournament and seminar from start to finish; the graphics, the class assortment, and the extracurricular activities (which included flaming toilet paper tetherball, spears for beers, and flying trapeze) served to create a unified backdrop of weird that any Austinite can fully respect.
The fantastic part of this event is the extreme focus on learning. There are SO many classes, it’s hard to narrow down a set schedule between lectures, technique, and the constant sparring going on in the Bigfoot Brawl ring. (more on that later...unicorns are involved). Some of the highlights for interesting classes were…
The Violence Ladder: A Stress Testing Model for Realistic Training (Dagger/Wrestling) Lead by Kaja Sadowski of Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly
Breath, bones and gentleness: Coaching, Teaching and Creating Martial Arts for Clients with Disabilities, Limitations and Chronic Illness Lead by Jon Mills of Academie of Duello
Introduction to Jousting Lead by Robert Odekirk of Lysts on the Lake
In addition to classes and an open sparring pit, there were of course tournaments. Swordsquatch features a ‘continuous fighting’ ruleset which focuses not only on hitting and not getting hit but also being able to get back out safely. The judging and reffing staff were all coached on safety and they handed out pre-emptive warnings to avoid injuries and were incredibly successful with this. In addition to the longsword events (Synthetic, Women’s, and Open), they also had a Ringen tournament (run by Stewart Sackett) and a new-to-them Cutting tournament (run by Matthew Roche). Both of these events ran smoothly and had plenty of support as well as organization despite being what are generally considered ‘second class’ events. Videos of both events are already uploaded and available to view online here (be sure to check out Anthony in the Heavyweight Ringen and the Cutting tournaments)
But of course, no HEMA event is complete without some sort of free sparring option being available. Here is where Swordsquatch delivered in spades with their very own Bigfoot Brawl. Located in the loft that the Lonin League calls home, fighters are permitted to gather and schedule a fight with an opponent of their choice. Matches were limited to 2 minutes to help keep things moving smoothly and people were allowed/encouraged/forced to hang out together and watch other fights, and *gasp* talk to each other. And as if standing in close proximity to other sword nerds AND sword fights wasn’t enough of a motivation to start talking, this year the Brawl featured a Bingo game. Participants were encouraged to pick up a Bingo card covered with random sparring scenarios to be collected, such as “spear vs dagger”, “2 vs 1”, “boffer time”, and more. Ever the conscientious hosts self-care was emphasized by including slots for “drink water” and “take a break”. Winners who got a bingo were allowed to pick something off the prize table, while people who went for a full blackout (and there were 4 of them!) got prizes such as a custom knife from one of the local vendors or 100 Euro to Neyman Fencing. We won’t say who, but someone may have returned to Austin with fancy unicorn socks and a unicorn rubber ducky.
As anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows, AHWG is always focusing on community, how to grow it, and how to build it. Swordsquatch manages to do this with a larger scale event, but not lose the welcoming feel of a smaller, more intimate event. There are noticeable efforts towards keeping the competition friendly and creating a space to learn.
HEMA is a unique and strange community that brings together a Venn diagram of folks ranging from tabletop gaming enthusiasts, martial arts jocks, and history nerds. A common thread, however, is that a lot of the folks HEMA brings together tend to be outliers in normal society, and yet when we all gather to hit one another with swords something awesome happens. We belong.
Thank you Lonin League for an amazing event, we had an amazing time and look forward to visiting you again.