Monday 17th July 2017
If you asked me my views about the judging of swordfighting tournaments, I’d say this.
I’d tell you that judging is hard, that you are trying to watch fast moving pieces of metal going in all directions. I’d tell you how your mind isn’t sure what you just saw. Was it person A stabbed person B, or was it the other way around? And by the time you’ve seen something and decided whether you actually did, things have moved on.
Judging is hard, and it’s easy to make a mistake. This is why you have a lot of judges. I’ve judged and I’ve made all those mistakes. I don’t expect anyone to be any better.
So I tell people that the trick is to ignore it. You and your opponent fight, and the judges play a different game where they try and guess what happened. You concentrate on your fight and let them play their game. And if your fight differs from the results of their game – and it will – you just shrug and ignore it.
You don’t let it get to you. You shut the judges out. Sometimes the points will go against you and sometimes they will be in your favour. And if, for some reason, the points go consistently against you… well that’s a sign that you are not doing your moves clearly enough.
You don’t strop. You don’t argue. You don’t let it get to you. You focus on your fight and block out all the judging.
That’s what I’d tell everyone. That’s what I’ve told people in the last couple of weeks. It’s solid good advice.
And I totally ignored it tonight.
I got frustrated tonight with the judging. And that was a first for me. On a logical level I know all the things above. I can rationalise that my friends were doing the best job they could, that I’d do no better. But I was so fucked off with the judging.
It didn’t help that I was fighting Jay to start with. He’s a difficult person to fight as he’s all over the place, but in recent weeks I’ve beaten him.
And I got thrusts on him, once, twice, which never got seen. OK, I thought… sometimes it happens, but it kept happening and I could feel myself getting wound up to the point that I was fuming by the end of the fight. Seriously, you noticed the littlest of taps he made on me, and you didn’t see the solid thrusts I got on him?
This just continued through all my fights. And I got more and more pissed off. Yeah, I knew it wasn’t deliberate. Friends saw I was wound up and apologised, and I totally accepted that it was nothing personal… but fuck, was I mad about it.
By the time it got to my last fight against Matt, I was so pissed off with them not seeing my cuts, I basically beat him up. I slammed a cut into his side that had him hobbling off and then finished the next bout with a similar cut to his leg. I felt a bit of a dick but as I said, it was the only way to make the judges see any of my attacks. (I bought Matt a drink afterwards to say sorry)
I wasn’t the only person who had a bad mock tournament tonight. I suppose I should take some solace in that. After all, as I said, it’s often the case that people who do well are crap the week before.
Pim left early, pissed off at being beaten by Stewart… and I was almost close behind.
Did I fence well? No, if I’m honest. I was flaily tonight and I don’t think that helped me. I was definitely sharper yesterday.
Part of me wonders if there’s a subconscious bias. That a judge expects fighter A to hit fighter B and so therefore is more focused on hits to fighter B. People disagreed with me, but I suspect there’s something to it. I also except that part of this is just me being bitter. I just worry that people who will be judging me – if this is true – will only remember that I fenced shit a week ago.
I said that I’d be frustrated around this time of year and I certainly am right now. Despite trying to hold myself accountable for my own bullshit, I was still fuming on the drive home tonight.
I know that my focus wasn’t what it was yesterday. Was that because I wanted to do well, or because other things had dominated my day and therefore my thoughts? Would it have made any difference though?
I’m even wondering if the tape I put on my tip is playing a part?
Of course, a logical explanation could be that the judging was fine and that my perception of my abilities is inflated, and this is a realism check. I know some fighters like that, but I’ve usually been pretty good at analysing myself.
Whatever it is, I’m pissed off tonight. Judges are dicks. And that includes me when I’m judging.
I just hope this is the curse of HEMA, that everyone who does well in tournament always has a shit week before. I want to take this as a good sign. At least I wasn’t the only decent fighter this happened to.
However, after today, I feel anything but good!
If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels. Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.
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