If number one is shown in red, he was actually the winner of the tournament, otherwise there was no winner (cf. 2.4). People shown in gray did not attend this tournament.
We are interested in fencing arts which predated contemporary competitive sports. However, modern materials (for training weapons and protection gear) make it possible to safely play “full contact” with swords of realistic weight (while the sport weapons of modern western fencing and Japanese kendo are much lighter than the real thing). Our training is not at all targeted at such free fight matches, but they offer a possibility to investigate certain aspects of real sword fighting. And, besides that, it’s just fun.
A major problem of any competitive sport fencing is the treatment of simultaneous hits by both combatants (ai-uchi). In modern western fencing with foil and sabre, the rules give the right of attack to only one of the combatants at any time, so that only one of the hits is valid in such a case.
In western fencing with épée and in kendo, in the case of ai-uchi, both combatants get a point or none gets a point, respectively. This sometimes causes a combatant to actually aim for ai-uchi, e. g., when he is leading by points. This strategy is actually practised in training.
To go for an ai-uchi as a means of defending against a hit would of course be quite an unrealistic attitude in a real fight. Therefore:
A match ends with the first hit. In the case of ai-uchi, the match ends with no winner.
E. g., in foil fencing, the arms and hands are no target area, and in order to avoid that combatants cover legal target areas with their arms, the unarmed hand has always to be held behind the body. This does of course not make sense for a two-handed sword. Therefore:
The target area is the whole body.
In the beginning, we tried to have hits judged by one or more referees, but that turned out to be very difficult. Particularly it is almost impossible to see if a strike to the hand was parried by the crossguard or not. Therefore:
A hit is valid if it was felt by the hit combatant.
When a combatant feels a hit, he stops any action and raises a hand to signal it, and the match is over. Note that only the one who felt the hit should stop the match, not the one who scored (or thinks he scored) it. This may seem impractical for a competitive sport, but as we see the tournament just as a (not even major) part of the training and not as the goal of all efforts, it works pretty well for us.
If both combatants feel a hit before any of them is able to stop the action, this is obviously ai-uchi.
There is no lower limit to the strength of a valid hit. We do not have sensors like in modern sport fencing which discriminate whether an impact is above a certain threshold or not. Therefore, if it was felt, it counts. This may seem to bias the match in favor of weak strikes, however, in practise, this is not really the case, as strikes mostly have to be fast — and thus implicitly strong — to be successful. Anyway, counting even weak hits makes this kind of match somewhat similar to the “first blood” rule, by which gentlemen in the old days tried to avoid killing each other while comparing their skills.
It is interesting to note that counting everything does indeed introduce a significant bias towards weak strikes if two weapons — one in each hand — are used. Then often one of them tends to be used for defending while the other one is just stretched out to score a touch.
We practise free fight (with padded longswords and protection gear) only in tournaments, not outside of a tournament. The idea is to set up a situation where an ai-uchi implies always a disadvantage. E. g., in a single one-to-one match, one of the combatants can force a draw if he (successfully) goes for ai-uchi all the time. In a tournament with more than two participants, we consider ai-uchi to end a match, with no winner, thus this (unreasonable) strategy does not work. The tournament mode is targeted towards providing such a set up for practicing with realistic attitude, rather than being attractive for spectators.
The starting point of the tournament is the ranking list resultant from the previous tournament. If new participants attend the tournament who have not been in any previous one, they are appended at the end of the ranking list, in sequence of decreasing age. Then the tournament proceeds as follows:
The situations addressed in the last two points may be quite unsatisfying for spectators, however, as stated above, the main purpose of the tournament is to provide a set up where the participants are motivated to avoid ai-uchi (like they should do in a real fight).