The New York Times produced a short documentary on a form of competitive sword fighting that uses longswords instead of fencing swords. The short was filmed at Longpoint 2014 in July. The annual European Martial Arts tournament takes place on Ellicott City, Maryland, and its events include Open Steel Longsword, Open Steel Messer, Single Stick and Ringen, a type of unarmed combat.
From the New York Times:
"The longsword specifically is just very accessible," said [Axel] Pettersson, a management consultant from Gothenburg, Sweden, "because that is what the old masters wrote about the most. It was called the ‘queen of weapons' in the old days."
Unlike re-enactors or role players, who don theatrical costumes and medieval-style armor, Longpoint competitors treat swordfighting as an organized sport. Matches have complex rules and use a scoring system based on ancient dueling regulations. Fighters wear modern if sometimes improvised protective equipment, which looks like a hybrid of fencing gear and body armor. They use steel swords with unsharpened blades and blunt tips to prevent bouts from turning into death matches.
On a meta level, how fascinating is it to see something like longsword fighting receive a respectful, thorough piece on The New York Times, free of snark and judgement? In 2014, it feels as if nerd culture has simply become culture culture. Over the past decade, cliché "nerd" interests like Star Wars and Star Trek, Marvel and DC superheroes and online dating have become normalized to the point that history is being rewritten by the newly evangelized, as if these things were always cool and broadly accepted. Naturally, the culture machine continues to trolley forward, to progress deeper into nerd culture, normalizing everything in its path, and so a few couple hundred people replicating historical martial arts isn't an oddity, but a sincere topic of interest. It's wonderful.
Both the text and video illuminate a style of martial arts that has yet to achieve the mainstream popularity of Asian martial arts. After you watch the video, be sure to read the full story at The New York Times.