Astolat 2016 Review

[by Claudia Krause]

The heart of Surrey, where once King Arthur (supposedly) trod, heard once more the clashing of swords.

The Facebook feed was full of it weeks before. Excitement was rising and with good reason:

Peter Smallridge had teamed up with friends from WSG, SotS and further afield to organise the first international tournament-only HEMA event on English ground. History was to be made! There was a generous spread of weapon disciplines: longsword, sidesword and buckler, arming sword and buckler, sabre, rapier and dagger. Women’s tournaments were available for longsword, sword and buckler, and sabre. The schedule was subsequently tight, and the weather was very, very warm. We took it all with good cheer.13844109_10157446467460122_2054593643_o.jpg

I took part in the women’s tournaments, helped with the rapier judging and at the first aid station. The last duty was thankfully the lightest. A few cuts and bruises, someone needing an icepack or an assessment after a head hit was all that required my attentions. Lizzie from SotS held the fort admirably in my absence

The rapier and dagger judging was an excellent warm-up. We four side judges had to hold our position towards the fighters, and they gave us a run for our money. It was well worth it though. Alexander Makarov did an excellent job of making sense of the scores we indicated. Two judges each observed hits on one fighter only and indicated by hand sign. Sasha started and stopped the exchanges, discussed with judges and both fighters as necessary and gave his final verdict. Best rapier and dagger judging I have ever seen, even if I say so myself.13844084_10157446467395122_1133933609_o

Talking to the fighters in difficult situations and explaining the score briefly was at the heart of all judging at this event, and made it all the better in my opinion. All other disciplines had to make do with one head ref and one assistant judge, and still managed very good judging. Mobility and communication was key. One little obstacle was unforseen, though not entirely surprising. Many fighters had entered multiple tournaments. Others served as judges So the schedule changed several times at short notice. Good job a large whiteboard kept us up-to date!

In the end, all finals were completed only half an hour behind schedule. We had to leave the hall soon after. The medal ceremony was a little hurried. Fortunately, nobody fell of the podium, and I have it on good authority that all winners got their prizes thrown after them, while they were chased out of the hall! All of us from WSG did well, and earned either gold or at least silver, sometimes both, in all categories but the Sabre Open. Do we need to train more sabre? Maybe, but more importantly the fencing was excellent overall and the atmosphere was rad.

I was glad to meet old friends from SotS and other British clubs, from France, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Ireland and even make quite a few new! Fran Terminiello, mother of SotS and WSG, and godmother of HEMA kept our bodies and soul together. Peter kept a remarkably cool head as chief organiser, all the while trouble shooting, overseeing, judging and refereeing tirelessly. It was truly heroic.

This was a great event, and we’ll all do it all over again, once we’ve recovered!

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