Longsword martial arts competition comes to Andes

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By Brian Sweeney
The NY Historical Fencing Association host will host a unique martial arts event on June 1 and 2 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Andes Central School gymnasium.

The tournament will feature three types of competition — longsword fencing, cutting resilient targets with sharp swords and wrestling.

Organizer Michael Edelson operates the NY Historical Fencing Association (NYHFA) from his home in Andes. He explained that this weekend’s competition is expected to draw about 25 competitors, most coming from up and down the east coast and one from British Columbia.

Michael emphasized that longsword events are true competitions and that participants are not re-enactors, nor do they attend Renaissance fairs.
“We do study historical aspects of this martial art, but mostly because we want to get it right,” Michael pointed out.
He was quick to add, “There are no costumes. The attire worn is only for protection. This is not a sport, it’s a martial art.”
And the competition is fierce.

While the longsword bouts are just two 90-second battles in the preliminary rounds and a pair of two-minute encounters in the final rounds, the action is fast and furious.

Going to battle
“One of our competitors is an Iraq veteran and he compared the intensity of the fighting to going into combat,” Michael pointed out. “The fighting is very brutal.”

He added, “The fighters experience fear and tunnel vision – it’s addictive for some people.”
There are injuries, he noted, but the protective gear usually limits the severity of the wounds. Broken bones occur on occasion, he said.

Despite the ferocious aspects of this martial art, Michael said that competitors ultimately embrace others in the field as part of a tightknit brotherhood.
“Longsword competitions give participants the chance to meet people from all over the world. It’s a global community,” Michael explained.

This weekend’s event at Andes is divided into three distinct parts —longsword fencing (fighting), timed cutting of patterns with swords against Japanese Tatami mats and wrestling. Winners will be determined in each discipline and there will also be overall winners in the points-based competition.

Another element
Michael explained that wrestling is an actual element of medieval sword fighting and is present to some degree in longsword fencing, but it is also included as a separate competition so that it can be emphasized

An interest in swords led Michael into the realm of longsword fighting and he eventually founded the NYHFA, a non-profit school of historical fighting in New York City. Upon relocating to Andes, he began offering classes in longsword fighting every Sunday at the Cardio Club in Delhi from 1:15-3 p.m.

Big competition
This weekend’s tournament in Andes may not sound like a huge event with 25 competitors traveling from within a 10-hour radius, but it is quite sizable. Michael said the country’s two largest longsword fighting events draw 50-90 male and female competitors. In Europe, where longsword fighting is much more well-known, the world’s largest competition in Sweden attracts about 200 fighting enthusiasts.

“It’s much bigger in Europe, because they don’t have the stigmas that we have,” he commented.
Michael said the optimum time for spectators to get a real feel for art form will be Saturday afternoon when the winners of the early rounds will square off in tests of longsword fighting superiority.

Cutting edge
Sunday morning events will get underway with the cutting competition. Targets are set up and participants are instructed to make a certain pattern with their sword. Then a more complicated pattern is selected.

The competitors are judged on the accuracy and the number of cuts on the target.
“It’s precision and speed,” is how Michael summed up this aspect of the event.
He said that Sunday’s wrestling will be fairly straightforward, with competitors advancing through several rounds and the winner scoring the most takedowns.

In addition to the winners being named in each event, the overall points champion in the triathlon will take home the Grand Prize, an Albion Sword valued at $900.

Admission to the longsword competition is free, but donations are welcome. Michael said if all goes well, it may become an annual event. He said that Andes School officials have been very accommodating in providing the location and assistance for the event.
For additional information, please visit www.newyorklongsword.com or facebook.com/ events/509921722378739/