Longsword Cutting Rules

Tournament participants must follow the directions of the tournament director and staff at all times. Any participant exhibiting behavior that places themselves or others at risk of harm will result in immediate disqualification and possible intervention by local law enforcement.

Rules are subject to change up to the commencement of the tournament.

Tournament Goals

The goal of the Helsinki Longsword Open cutting tournaments is to:

  • Showcase/evaluate/reward sword skills that can not be tested in a sparring environment.
  • Promote an integrated training regiment, with good cutting mechanics in sparring and good fencing behavior in cutting
  • Be creative, educational, and enjoyable for both participants and spectators.

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Safety Regulations

All competitors will be required to assume proper safe-handling procedures for sharp swords. This includes, but is not limited to, swinging the sword when there is the possibility of others in the vicinity, losing control of the weapon, or approaching the cutting area before being explicitly instructed to do so by the tournament staff. Should the tournament officials perceive that there is any safety issue, they retain the right to remove individuals from the cutting tournament or cutting qualifiers at their discretion.

Competitors are forbidden to cut toward their lead leg with Descending Cuts in Round 1

(Competitors in Rounds 2 and beyond may cut towards their lead leg.)

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Round Descriptions

Round 1 – Basic Cuts

(In round 1 you may not cut towards your lead leg.)

Target 1 – Oberhau (single tatami roll)

Competitors will perform 3 descending cuts on each side, in any order. (6 total cuts)

Target 2 – Unterhau (single tatami roll)

Competitors will perform 2 ascending cuts on each side, in any order. (4 total cuts) Should the cut succeed the competitor may attempt a cut back along the previous line with a descending cut for bonus points — provided they do not re-chamber the sword between cuts.

Target 3 – Slow Lightning Cut (hanging paper)

Competitors will perform 2 lightning cuts, 1 on each side. They are permitted to wait up to 5 seconds for the paper to settle down between cuts, but must wait stationary in the ending position of their previous cut.

Example ↓

Top 10 by score will advance to the next round

Round 2 – Reactive Cutting

Target 1 & Target 2 (single tatami roll)

The cut and target will be signaled to the competitor, and they will have 7 seconds to advance to the target, complete, and return to the starting area.

Example ↓

Eligible cuts:

  • Descending Right
  • Descending Left
  • Ascending Right
  • Ascending Left
  • Top 4 by cumulative score advance to Round 3

    Round 3 – Cutting Feats

    Counter-Rotation Cutting (single tatami roll)

    Competitor will perform 6 cuts on a target using a “counter-rotation” mechanic. They are free to use whatever stance/footwork they wish, however a movement of the front or rear foot during the cut must show the counter rotation.

    (A full step isn’t required, but the movement of the foot should clearly show the counter-rotation.)

    Example ↓

    Competitors will be able to choose any of the following for their 6 cuts:

    • Right Descending
    • Left Descending
    • Right Ascending
    • Left Ascending
    • Right Zwerhau
    • Left Zwerhau

    The highest point value for each cut will be taken. (example: You can retry your Left Oberhau 3 times to get one without a deduction, but then you would only get to try 3 other cuts.)

    Paper Cutting – With Feder (hanging paper)

    Competitors will have 80 seconds to perform as many different cuts as possible on a hanging roll of paper. The same cut can be attempted/repeated as many times as the competitor wishes, with the final round score being the sum of:

    1. The highest point value achieved for each cut.
    2. The second highest point value for each cut divided by two.
    3. The third highest point value for each cut divided by four.

    Eligible cuts: L/R descending, L/R ascending, L/R zwer.

    Competitors will roll down their own paper in between cuts. The clock does not stop for this action.

    Parry+Cut+Parry (single tatami roll)

    Competitor will stand in front of a tatami mat, with the feeder standing behind the mat with a long wooden staff. The competitor will signal for a cut to be thrown along one of the four diagonals, and the staff will be swung along the line indicated.

    The competitor must parry the staff, and then respond with a cut of their own on to the tatami mat. This must be done in a fluid motion with no transition delay. While the competitor is completing their cut the staff will be pulled back, and will cut back along the same line to be parried again.

    Competitors will perform 4 cuts. The order is up to the competitor, but they must parry once along each of the four diagonals, and cut once along each of the diagonals. It is up to the competitor to pick what order they wish to be fed the strikes, and in which direction they want to cut after the parry.

    Example ↓

    Final tournament placings are cumulative based on all round scores.

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    Quality Standards

    Base Point Value: A cut with no deductions will be awarded 10 points.

    Deductions: Any of the following will deduct from the final score. In the event that multiple infractions are recorded, only the highest value will be applied.

    Tatami Deductions

    Cut Form

    ‘x’ indicates that no points will be awarded.

    • [-2]: Stepping ahead of cut Example ↓
    • [-5]: Expose Back Example ↓
    • [-5]: Entering Waiting Area as Signal Period Ends* Example ↓
    • [X]: Not In Waiting Area When Signal Period Ends* Example ↓
    • [X]: Leaving Waiting Area Ahead of Signal* Example ↓
    • [+2]: Facing Forward (Bonus Points!) Example ↓

    Cut Quality

    ‘x’ indicates that no points will be awarded.

    • [-5]: Small Mountain Example ↓
    • [-5]: Tatami Landing Distance (yellow) Example ↓
    • [X]: Tatami Landing Distance (red) Example ↓
    • [X] Scallop Example ↓
    • [X] Large Mountain Example ↓
    • [X] Tatami Surface Not In Line With Cutting Plane Example ↓
    • [X] Cut Below Limit Example ↓
    • [X] Failed Cut
    • [X] Wrong Cut

    Paper Deductions

    Paper cutting will be performed on a vertical hanging paper. This is construction paper, and the difficulty of this is expected to be similar in difficulty to cutting a tatami mat. (The paper offers lower resistance, but can rip more easily and tests for a much larger cutting line.)

    ‘x’ indicates that no points will be awarded.

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    Competitor Conduct

    Competitors shall not begin cutting until instructed to do so by the tournament staff. Following the completion of each cut, the competitor must wait for confirmation from the cutting judges before beginning their next cut. After assessing the quality of a cut, the cutting judges will hold up a color-coded card to provide feedback to the cutter and the audience and to indicate that the competitor may make their next cut. A competitor may not address the table to inquire about a score which has been awarded. These cards will be:

    • Green – No point deduction on cut
    • Yellow – Point deduction on cut
    • Red – No points awarded on cut
    • Verbal Warning – Penalty assessed

    Should a competitor request a mat straightening (provided the round allows for it), they must first step out of the cutting area with the tip of their sword pointed toward the ground. The competitor must not move until instructed to do so by the tournament staff.

    Competitors that take excessive time to begin after they have been signaled to cut will be warned by the tournament staff, and may be subject to penalties if there are repeated infractions. While it is not necessary for a competitor to rush after they are prompted, it is intended that they perform the cut in a short period of time without spending considerable time ‘fidgeting’ or ‘psyching themselves up.’

    During reactive cutting rounds, the competitor must wait in an area designated by the tournament staff. Only once the cut has been signaled may they move forward and execute their cut. The competitor must then return to the waiting area before the signaling period has concluded or be assessed a point deduction on the cut.

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    All competitors will use the Albion Earl longsword provided by the tournament.

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    Since the rules explanations might be somewhat heavy as purely text, Sean Franklin has also made these two helpful videos: Rules explanation and Finals

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