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Historical European Martial Arts Open Steel Saber Tournaments at SoCal Swordfight
The Saber is a versatile and popular weapon in Historical European Martial Arts. It is used in a variety of styles, showcasing similarities and differences of cultures and time periods. The Saber is a great choice for beginners and experienced martial artists alike, as it is a versatile and deadly weapon.
SoCal Swordfight 2023 is the perfect opportunity to test your skills with this weapon.
Blackfencer is Provided the Steel Sabers for these events.
Please be sure to review the information below about our Saber Tournament below, and click the links concerning required equipment, rules, and scoring before completing registration.
Based on tournament participation, HEMA Rating, and known performance, you may be asked to participate at a different tier than you register for, we will notify you if this type of situation occurs.
Please register each attendee individually when possible.
When Registering for SoCal Swordfight 2023, please be sure to choose the registration type that fits with the activities you are going to participate in at the event (See below for Details).
If you have selected Full Event Registration, you will be asked which tournaments you would like to participate in. Where applicable select the level that you want to compete at and press the "+add" button to place them in your cart for checkout.
You will have the opportunity to review your selection on the "Cart" page, if everything is correct, please select the "Check Out" button to proceed.
Next you will be asked to complete registration form for the person attending the event, name, contact info, club or school affiliation, and to sign the Release and Waiver of Liability Agreement.
If you are registering for a minor that you are a parent or legal guardian of, please fill out the registration with their name. The waiver will switch to asking for parental consent once you put in their date of birth.
Once you have complete the registration form and signed the waiver, press the "Submit" and "Checkout" buttons to proceed to the payment form.
Once you have paid for your registration, you will receive an email receipt as well as an additional email to access your tickets electronically.
Should you have any troubles through this process please do not hesitate to connect with us either through the chat button or emailing us at email@example.com.
This document provides the rules common to all tournaments. This is meant to serve as a minimum standard. Each tournament will have additional rules covering quality standards, scoring actions, and illegal actions.
At a high level, the goal of SoCal Swordfight tournaments is to showcase fencing which:
- Displays good sportsmanship by everyone involved. If everyone isn’t having fun, then the event isn’t worth running.
- Has a high level of competitive drive and promotes skill development and recognition.
- Showcases historical techniques applied in a modern context.
- Demonstrates a knowledge and familiarity with the use of sharp swords and high quality striking mechanics.
Every year (we) the organizers hear “this is amazing, you have a huge event and yet everyone feels chill as if it is a much smaller community” and we want to keep it this way. We can all fight hard, strive for victory, and still come out better friends than when we started.
Any strike thrown with a complete lack of control on the part of the attacker. Competitive martial arts fighting involves throwing forceful strikes with full intent to make contact, however each competitor is expected to maintain a respect for their opponent’s safety at all times. Should a safety issue arise, a fighter must do everything in their power to arrest their strike in progress.
High amplitude throws are prohibited in all tournaments. A high amplitude throw is defined as any takedown action which raises the opponent’s hips to the level of their head in the execution, or lifts the participant before depositing them on the ground. Directions WILL take into account the size difference between competitors when determining if sufficient control was demonstrated in a throw. If you are much larger than your opponent you are expected to be able to lower them down gently.
The ankle/foot is off target in all tournaments.
Exposing the spine or back of the head to the opponent. Note that if your opponent does expose such targets it is still your responsibility to do what you can to arrest the power of your strike.
Kicks are not permitted. (Raising your leg between you and your opponent to keep or expand separation is not a kick, so long as you don’t have a strong impact or deliver a violent shove.)
Repetitive punching is not permitted. However, mask punches or pushes to control the opponent’s head prior to a valid scoring action are allowed.
‘Mordschlag’ style strikes are not permitted.
Throwing the sword or any other object.
Individual weapon tournaments may have additional rules in place. Be sure to read the rules for any tournaments you are entered in.
Should both of a fighter's feet leave the ring a hold will be called and they will receive a non-safety penalty for a ring out. Should a fighter ring out with such speed that they leave the immediate ring area they will receive a safety penalty.
- All fighters will be expected to fight with both skill and control.
- Fighters are expected to act professionally, and respectful to the officiating staff.
- Fighters are expected to follow the commands of the tournament staff at all times.
This is a martial arts tournament and all fighters are expected to conduct themselves with respect for the weapon, their opponent, and the tournament staff. Any fighter that is deemed to pose a danger to themselves or others will be addressed at the discretion of the tournament director.
The tournament director will serve as the ultimate authority within the ring. The disciplinary procedure will generally constitute first a warning, then a penalty, then an expulsion from the match or tournament; however it shall remain at the discretion of the director. Fighters who have been banned from attendance of previous SoCal Swordfight tournaments, or from other major HEMA tournaments, must contact staff before attempting to register for any tournaments.
Fighters are able, and encouraged, to self-call attacks received; however this is not required. A fighter who self-calls is only able to provide information to the match director, who may choose to use or discard the information as appropriate (e.g. if the attack was flat). A fighter may only self-call in a manner which rewards their opponent. Valid self-calls are:
- Indicating they were struck if judges missed the call.
- Indicating they were struck in a higher value target than the judges are indicating.
- Indicating that they did not strike the opponent.
- Indicating that they struck the opponent in a lower value target than indicated.
Penalties will be assessed as Safety or non-Safety. Safety penalties are escalating in nature, and follow the following escalation:
- Verbal warning - Yellow Card
- Point(s) deduction - Red Card
- Forfeit of the match - Black Card
- Expulsion from the tournament
Based on the severity of the infraction a director may choose to skip steps of escalation. Safety penalties are tracked across all tournaments and the director will base the escalation of the first offense based on the fighter’s prior safety record.
Non-Safety penalties are point deductions, and do not result in any escalation or disciplinary action.
All fighters are expected to be ready to fight as soon as their match is called. This includes:
- Being queued up behind their corner.
- Having all their gear on.
Not being ready when your match is called will result in a penalty. It may only be a few seconds to you, but it adds up over hundreds of matches! Be courteous to everyone's time and be ready to start with no delays.
All matches will be conducted until a point cap of 7 points is reached.
Should a match exceed 3 minutes of fencing time the match will go to sudden death.
After the conclusion of the pools the fighters will be ranked by indicator score. The top 50% will be advanced into a single elimination bracket.
(You can click on "How are the standings calculated?" at the bottom of the Pool Standings to see the ranking algorithm for any tournament.)
Points will be awarded for cuts/thrusts/slices/etc. in accordance with the rules of the individual tournaments. Scoring actions must display:
- Deliberate intent and targeting on the part of the attacker.
- Sufficient depth. Cuts with the tip of the sword or shallow thrusts are not scoring actions.
Cuts must be delivered with sufficient cutting plane, body structure, and blade arc.
- Cutting plane is defined as the blade moving in line with a deliberate plane (edge alignment) and the sword moving along such a plane for the position of its movement immediately before striking the target. Special attention will be paid to horizontal strikes, as these typically display poor cutting plane and edge alignment.
- Sufficient body structure, which is not indicated by how hard the cut hits, but in demonstrating connection between the body and sword at the time of impact.
- A sword must display rotation before contact with the target, typically in excess of 60 degrees. Arc should not be considered the only determinant of quality, as some strikes may be acceptable given a very good cutting plane and body structure with shorter arc, and cuts with no structure/cutting plane will not be valid no matter how large the arc.
Thrusts must demonstrate the ability to penetrate into the target beyond a superficial depth. This is at a bare minimum of at least 3” into the target and can be demonstrated by a bend of the blade or visible force reaction at the point of contact. Should a fighter deliberately shorten the extension of their arm to lower the force of a thrust it will also be considered as a quality attack.
It is understood that due to the design of HEMA masks a thrust to the mesh will have a high instance of being deflected on contact. It is further understood that the movement of a fighter may allow them to ‘roll out’ of contact from a thrust. A thrust that ‘glances off’ is a product of our protective gear, real sword points stick! (Though a thrust that misses and is pushed against the target with the flat is of course not valid, no matter how much the blade bends.)
Slices will only be considered as valid when performed against the upper opening and the arm below the shoulder (slices to the off-arm in 1h weapons do not count). The slice must show purposeful placement of the edge with sufficient force to display a clear reaction from the target. This may be demonstrated by pushing the target back at the point of contact, or simply preventing the target from being able to move freely. Drawing motion is not required, however note that this push requires a high degree of commitment, and is not simply sawing a blade back and forth on the body.
Pommel strikes are only valid to the front of the mask and must demonstrate both deliberate action and control of force.
- Pommel strikes do not need to make contact to be considered valid, provided there is an unambiguous path from the termination of the strike and the target.
- Pommel strikes which do make an impact must demonstrate control of force and respect for your opponent’s safety.
- The motion of the sword must be in line with the pommel. Wildly pushing your sword hilt back and forth in a high bind does not constitute a pommel strike.
Target Area Definitions
“Upper opening”, for the purpose of these rules, includes both the head and cuts landing on the top of the torso, in an area from shoulder seam to shoulder seam. This is to both reduce judging error for head strikes, and reward fencing based on intention (fencing for high targets) rather than luck (they moved their head out of the way). Should there be any lack of clarity if a blow struck the “upper opening” or arm target area a default of arm shall be taken - because you already missed the head by a wide margin.
Arm strikes will also include hand strikes. A strike to the handle of the sword will be considered as a strike to the hands. Note that full quality requirements are also in place for strikes to the hands.
Torso is the remaining area above the waist, Leg is below the waist. (Typically indicated by the bottom of the jacket.)
The foot/ankle is an illegal target in all tournaments
In the event of disagreement from the judges on the target area struck the point value will be decided at the discretion of the director. Typically this will take the form of an average point value.
Blade Grabs & Disarms
Disarms are (intentional or accidental) not scoring actions. A fighter must follow up a disarm with a valid scoring action. Should a fighter lose their weapon they may also concede a maximum point strike instead of attempting to enter distance for a grapple. (Running away is considered conceding.)
A blade may only be grabbed if it is not in motion, otherwise it will be counted as a scoring action to the hand. If the sword was in the process of attacking a high point value target, Target Substitution rules will apply.
If an arm is struck and
- It is not currently holding the sword,
- The strike was likely to be a high value strike had it not hit the arm (cut/thrust head, thrust torso),
the attack will instead be registered against the higher value target. This is a point substitution, and not a warning/cardable offense.
Timing Of Actions
A double hit is defined as any time both fighters land valid scoring actions that were “in-flight” at the same time. It is possible for the hits to not be simultaneous, so long as the later hit was already moving forward when the first hit landed.
- Example: [A] is circling their sword around to chamber when the strike from [B] lands, after which [B] swings the sword forward and strikes [A]. The attack from [B] was not started before they were struck, and it is not a double hit. (See the section on afterblows.)
- Example: [A] see’s [B] circle their sword back to chamber, and launches an attack into the opening. By the time [A]’s strike lands the attack from [B] has already begun moving forward, and the attack from [B] lands shortly after. This is a double hit because both attacks were in flight at the same time.
Double Hits are recorded as no match score for each fighter, and are factored into the overall indicator score. There is an increasing deduction for each double hit, cumulative over the entire pool. (-1/-2/-3/ etc).
If 3 double hits are recorded in a match:
- Pool matches: recorded as a loss for both fighters.
- Elimination match: the match winner will start with a penalty of -1 in their next match, and an additional -1 for every subsequent double.
If a double hit is very obviously the result of one party ignoring the threat of the opponent’s weapon an additional penalty will be assessed to this fighter.
- Example: Attacks to the lower torso or legs when the opponent is chambered to cut to the upper opening.
The afterblow is a valid scoring hit landing as the next action after a clean (aka non-double) hit. Any attack, step, or feint consumes the chance for an afterblow.An afterblow will deduct -1 from the point value of the initial attack’s score.
Pulling of Attacks
In just about all cases an attack that is “pulled” before it makes impact is not a valid scoring action. To be awarded points you must strike your opponent! (Though it is certainly considered good sportsmanship to strike as softly as possible when presented with an opening your opponent has no hope of defending.)
The exception to this rule is if their opponent has created an unsafe situation through their own actions (eg: expose back of the head, fall down). Should there be any risk to safety, for any reason, a fighter is expected to make every effort to pull back a strike in progress and/or not launch a strike to begin with. However, if a fighter can demonstrate they retained the wherewithal and capacity to launch an attack they will receive the maximum allowed point value for the exchange.
Note: Pommels strikes are an exception to this rule, and may be presented IF it is unambiguous that there is no obstacle to the target. (ie no hand in the way).
- Example: A fighter turns the back of the head during an exchange and their opponent stops their blow in mid-flight. The fighter who was able to arrest their attack will be awarded points, and the fighter who exposed the target will be penalized.
Should a dangerous situation arise due to an action outside of the fighters control (eg: gear failure) both fighters should immediately stop fighting and any actions delivered during or after the safety hold will not be valid scoring actions.
- Example: A fighter’s elbow pad falls off and they hit their opponent in the next action. It will be assumed that their opponent was attempting to withdraw at the sight of the equipment failure, and therefore they were not fully committed to the fencing actions occurring.
All of the tournaments are considered to simulate ‘blossfechten’. In the interests of promoting a professional HEMA image, and to encourage fighters to respect the weapon simulators, heavy armor (breast plates, etc.) or fantasy-styled armors are not permitted.
All protective equipment and weapons must be inspected prior to competition. A fighter must show up to gear check wearing their equipment.
The following equipment is required for all sparring tournaments:
- Masks with back of the head protection are required.
- Trachea protection that protects the throat from a direct thrust is required.
- Testicle protection is required.
- Rigid breast protection is recommended but not required.
- Hard elbow protection, that covers the 3 points of the elbow.
- Hard knee protection that covers the knee.
- No exposed skin will be permitted.
The equipment standards for the following are dictated by the weapon tournament:
This document provides the rules specific to the saber tournament. All rules outlined in the General Tournament Standards also apply to the saber tournament, and offer more depth on the criteria for scoring actions.
Rules are subject to change up to the commencement of the tournament.
The goal of the saber tournament is to both showcase and help develop skill in utilizing the saber for the purpose of unarmored combat, as outlined in military saber traditions. This includes the use of the saber as a sharp sword. Tournament rules and judging standards are meant to advance fundamental skills, such as integrating cutting mechanics into antagonistic sparring. A match is not a simulation of a sword duel.
In the use of a saber there are times when you would wish to use more or less debilitating striking mechanics, but if you don’t demonstrate high quality strikes when asked to, it shows you are not capable of them. It is the goal of SoCal Swordfight to stress test high quality striking interpretations and push the fighters to achieve these. There are many other existing venues which test a fencer's skill and ability to achieve touches as quickly as possible.
- All illegal actions from the General Tournament Rules apply to this tournament, including but not limited to: lack of control/excessive force, high amplitude throws, or anything else that has a high chance to hurt somebody. Refer to the General Tournament Rules for more details.
- Exposing the spine or back of the head to the opponent. Note that if your opponent does expose such targets it is still your responsibility to do what you can to arrest the power of your strike.
Matches will be fought until a fighter reaches a score of 7 points.
Additional Scoring Actions
- Pommel Strike to Mask 1 pt
- Standing Takedown 1 pts
Afterblow and Double Hits will be scored in accordance with the General Tournament Rules. (Afterblow is -1 from initial score. Don’t double.)
All protective equipment and weapons must be inspected prior to competition. A fighter must show up to gear check wearing their equipment.
All equipment from the General Tournament Standards is required, in addition to the following:
- Heavy HEMA Gloves (Sparring Gloves, SPES, Koning, ProGauntlets, Superior Fencing, Etc). Lacrosse & Red Dragon Gloves explicitly not allowed.
- Heavy padded HEMA jackets.
- Shin protection is required.
- Forearm protection is recommended but not required.
Blackfencer 1796 Sabers will be provided for use in the tournament.
SoCal Swordfight is dedicated to providing a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment for everyone. If any guests or staff violates this code of conduct, the event organizers may take any action they deem appropriate, including expulsion from the event without refund and a ban from all future SoCal Swordfight events.
We do not tolerate harassment or abuse of any kind. Harassment includes, but is not limited to, offensive language related to gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, religion (or lack thereof) or physical appearance, as well as deliberate intimidation, stalking, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.
Violations of safety include severely injuring another person due to an intentional action or neglecting to follow safety protocols given to you by staff, instructors, or vendors.
Report violations to one of our lead staff immediately. If you don’t know who they are, ask anyone wearing a SoCal Swordfight volunteer shirt.