Finding the World’s Highest Level HEMA

A curious individual posted the following on Reddit, looking for information:

Answers were what you would expect: it depends on how you quantify it, and there is no definitive way to say. Which is true. While I could come up with a formula that will give me an answer, what it shows would mostly be a result of how I set up the question. What does highest level mean? (The original poster did elaborate more, but without strict mathematical criteria it will always be vague.)

But reading the headline made me think of an even more unhelpful way of quantifying the answer to this question:

Yes, you heard that correctly

Even though I’ve determined that I’m writing about geographic elevation, there are still more questions that have to be answered. What exactly am I quantifying? A simple answer would be to rank all countries by average elevation, and be done with it.

Dutch HEMA is considerably lower level than Ties Kool would have you believe.

Of those, Chile is the first country on the list that I even know of HEMA operating in. But, a quick search of the HEMA Ratings database puts Afghanistan in the leading contender spot for highest level HEMA country in the world.

But Wait!

I’ve given the lazy answer, but we can go a little deeper down this ridiculous rabbit-hole. Let’s not look at the highest average elevation, but the highest specific elevation where people are doing HEMA. There are two ways to approach this problem:

  1. Look through HEMA Ratings tournaments and figure out which one was at the highest elevation.
  2. Acknowledge that not all HEMA exists in the form of tournaments submitted to HEMA Ratings, and instead research every small HEMA study group in the world, and cross reference by the height of their city.

To anybody who thought I would take option 2:

So let’s get down to it.

Methodologically speaking, we’re on pretty shaky ground here. To start, I’ll look through all the HEMA Ratings tournaments with more than 30 longsword fencers. Why that number?

  1. Longsword is the weapon for which we have the best data (by an order of magnitude).
  2. I’m just crazy enough to look through the elevations of that many tournaments, but sane enough to go no further.

After I had the list, I went through and used Google to try and get an average elevation for each location. Taking the first piece of information I found.

Man the internet has gotten good.

But wait, it gets better. About ⅓ of the way through I discovered whatismyelevation.com was a thing! The future is wonderful.

This is it. Literally the whole site.

And if we have a look at the tournaments with the highest elevations:

We see the interior North American tournaments completely dominate this list. Come on Europe, you can do better! I know you have mountains. And as a matter of fact, we as a community really like to fight low.

Of course this is mainly a reflection that most cities happen to be coastal. Which, by definition, means a low elevation. It is also interesting to consider that climbing to the 5th floor tournament hall for the 2019 European Games was more of an elevation change than a whole lot of event cities.

(Editor’s Note: Those stairs sucked.)

Sidebar: What is ‘Sea Level’

Fun fact: figuring out exactly what “sea level” means is not an easy task. If you think about it for a little bit you realize that factoring in such things as waves and tides might be a little tricky. But that is just scratching the tip of the iceberg.Do you know that the gravity of the earth isn’t evenly distributed? While it isn’t so much that we would ever notice it, it is enough to produce an effect on the 1.8 yottaliters of earth’s sea water. So the oceans actually contain “flat” spots, in areas where the gravity is particularly strong.

Want to know more: NASA – Sea Level 101: What Determines the Level of the Sea?

*yotta = 1024 (If you aren’t insulted by me assuming you didn’t know that off the top of your head.)

A Real Mess

What happens if we look not only at the elevation, but quality of competition? This first step, as always, is to get a nice reliable data dump from HEMA Ratings…

I am not deterred!

So how do we go about doing this? In short, I don’t know. I tried several variations and formulas and don’t seem to have one that balances things to produce an interesting result. We see either:

1) Elevation dominates. Anything in Toluca, Mexico or Denver, USA is just so much higher than every other tournament that it doesn’t matter who is even competing there.

That is Andes, New York. I’m still looking for someone to host a high elevation tournament in the South American mountain range.

2) HEMA Ratings dominates. Powerhouses like European Games, Swordfish, Longpoint and Tyrnhaw just have such deep rosters of talent that they rise to the top by sheer depth of field.

And now I am just back to the difficulty of the original question: how would you rate the level of a participant. Even when I’m looking at pure numbers (which are a far cry from a fully encompassing measure of HEMA ability in a region/country) it is a hard problem.

And In Conclusion

I would normally say that I hope you learned something. But I really hope you don’t take anything from this to heart. At least I sort of answered the original question? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Uh…. I’ll get right on that one next.

The Data

Name Country City  Elevation [m] 
Encuentro de Artes Marciales Europeas 2018 MX Toluca                      2,672
Encuentro 2017 MX Metepec                      2,629
Mid-Continental HEMA Open 2019 US Denver                      1,609
Rocky Mountain Krieg 2017 US Denver                      1,609
Rocky Mountain Krieg US Denver                      1,609
Mid Continental Hema Open – Beta #1 US Denver                      1,609
MCHO Beta 3 Longsword US Denver                      1,609
Anvil 2018 CA Calgary                      1,045
Anvil 2019 CA Calgary                         1,045
Duels at High Noon 2019 US Tucson                          728
Duels at High Noon 2018 US Tucson                          728
Nordschlag 2018 CA Edmonton                          645
Combat Con 2018 US Las Vegas                          610
CombatCon 2019 US Las Vegas                          610
Combat Con 2017 US Las Vegas                          610
CombatCon 2016 US Las Vegas                          610
CombatCon 2015 US Las Vegas                          610
Swiss Gathering 2019 CH Schönbühl                          526
Swiss Gathering 2017 CH Schönbühl                          526
Swiss Gathering 2018 CH Urtenen-Schönbühl                          526
Jihlavský HEMA turnaj 2017 CZ Jihlava                          525
MČR v HEMA Jihlava 2019 CZ Jihlava                          525
Swordtrip – the Gathering 2018 DE Munich                          523
Swordtrip – The Gathering 2019 DE Munich                          523
Fechtschule New York 2016 US Andes                          488
Symphony of Steel 2020 DE Ulm                          478
Symphony of Steel 2019 DE Ulm                          478
Scherma Medievale nella Città Ideale 2018 IT Urbino                          451
Scherma Medievale nella Città Ideale 2019 IT Urbino                          451
Scherma Medievale nella Città Ideale 2017 IT Urbino                          451
Salzburger Landesmeisterschaft 2018 AT Salzburg                          425
Österreichische Meisterschaft 2017 AT Salzburg                          425
Salzburger Landesmeisterschaft 2017 AT Salzburg                          425
Salzburger Landesmeisterschaft 2019 AT Salzburg                          425
Fechtschule New York 2017 US Margaretville                          401
Geselle Fechten 2019 US Oklahoma City                          365
Geselle Fechten 2018 US Oklahoma City                          365
VXT 2018 – Clermont-Ferrand FR Clermont-Ferrand                          358
ÖFHF Austrian Championships 2018 AT Graz                          353
Žilinský Kumšt II SK Žilina                          349
Žilinský Kumšt III SK Žilina                          349
Žilinský Kumšt I. SK Žilina                          349
Sandstorm 2017 US Phoenix                          333
Arizona HEMA League 2018 Event 1 US Phoenix                          333
HEMAICS Dolomiti IT Feltre                          325
SERFO 2018 US Atlanta                          320
SERFO 2019 US Atlanta                          320
SERFO 2017 US Atlanta                          320
SERFO 2016 US Atlanta                          320
Dürer Turnier 2019 DE Nürnberg                          314
Steel City Open 2018 US Pittsburgh                          295
Broken Point 2018 US Pittsburgh                          295
Steel City Open 2019 US Pittsburgh                          295
Broken Point 2017 US Pittsburgh                          295
Broken Point 2016 US Pittsburgh                          295
Broken Point 2019 US Pittsburgh                          295
Study in Steel 2018 US Greenville                          294
Study in Steel 2017 US Greenville                          294
Five Rings Classical Fencing Open 2019 US Kansas City                          277
ÖFHF Austrian Championships 2019 AT Bad Vöslau                          276
Arnold Fencing Classic 2020 US Columbus                          275
Arnold HEMA Classic 2019 US Columbus                          275
Blue Box Open 2019 US Columbus                          275
Blue Box Longsword Open 2018 US Columbus                          275
Blade Master 2020 RU Ekaterinburg                          266
Study in Steel 2016 US Fountain Inn                          264
April Fools 2019 IT Torino                          258
Icebreaker Open 2018 US Minneapolis                          254
Icebreaker Open 2019 US Minneapolis                          254
Icebreaker Open 2017 US Minneapolis                          254
TaurHEMAchia VI Edition IT Turin                          249
TaurHEMAchia 2017 IT Turin                          249
TaurHEMAchia 2015 IT Turin                          249
TaurHEMAchia 2016 IT Turin                          249
Krump Pow 2018 US Appleton                          241
Krump Pow 2016 US Appleton                          241
Krump Pow 3 US Appleton                          241
Pardubický meč 2019 HEMA Tournament CZ Pardubice                          237
Queen’s Gambit 2018 US Charlotte                          232
Queen’s Gambit 2017 US Charlotte                          232
WEIRD Open 2020 US Austin                          229
WEIRD Open 2019 US Austin                          229
Blade Master 2019 RU Chelyabinsk                          225
Open Championship of Ural Federal District 2019 RU Chelyabinsk                          225
Spring Open Duel Fencing Championship of the Ural Federal District 2018 RU Chelyabinsk                          225
Blade Master 2017 RU Chelyabinsk                          225
Blade Master 2018 RU Chelyabinsk                          225
Winter Open Duel Fencing Championship of the Ural Federal District  RU Chelyabinsk                          225
North West Tournament 2017 IT Cortazzone                          225
Pardubický-meč 2017 CZ Pardubice                          224
Pardubický meč 2018 CZ Pardubice                          224
Pardubický meč 2016 CZ Pardubice                          224
Pardubický meč 2014 CZ Pardubice                          224
European Games Invitational Gala Tournament 2019 BY Minsk                          220
Trenčiansky Vorschlag Vol.3 SK Trencin                          212
Trenciansky Vorschlag 2018 SK Trenčín                          212
Clash of Claymores 19 US Shippensburg                          209
Durchschlag 2019 PL Lodz                          206
Durchschlag 2018 PL Łódź                          206
HEMA Turnaj Digladioru 2020 CZ Prague                          205
HEMA tournament Prague CZ Prague                          205
Digladior HEMA tournaj 2018 CZ Prague                          205
The Battle of Buffalo 2019 US Buffalo                          183
Midwinter Armizare Open 2020 US Chicago                          182
Midwinter Armizare Open US Chicago                          182
Great Fight North 2019 CA Welland                          182
LangHEMA 2018 IT Alba                          172
LangHEMA 2019 IT Alba                          172
LangHEMA 2016 IT Alba                          172
6. Herkules HEMA Turnier Kassel DE Kassel                          167
5. offenes Fechtturnier in Kassel DE Kassel                          167
IV Mistrzostwa Polski PL Twardogora                          167
Siberian Cup 2020 RU Novosibirsk                          165
Showdown in No-Town 2019 US Seguin                          165
Brisia 2017 – HEMA Pro Challenge IT Brescia                          149
Big Moscow Tournament RU Moscow                          147
Big Moscow Tournament 2017 RU Moscow                          147
Big Moscow Tournament 2016 RU Moscow                          147
Open Golden Forests Tournament Fall 2019 RU Moscow                          147
Winter Golden Forests Championship 2018 RU Moscow                          147
Clash of Claymores US Carlisle                          146
Tyrnhaw 2019 SK Trnava                          146
Tyrnhaw 2018 SK Trnava                          146
Tyrnhaw 2017 SK Trnava                          146
Tyrnhaw 2016 SK Trnava                          146
Tyrnhaw 2015 SK Trnava                          146
OPEN AMHE Toulouse 4 FR Toulouse                          143
FightCamp 2017 UK Coventry                          139
FightCamp 2018 UK Coventry                          139
FightCamp 2019 UK Coventry                          139
Fecht BA 2017 SK Bratislava                          134
Bratislavský Fecht 4 SK Bratislava                          134
Fecht BA 2016 SK Bratislava                          134
Fecht BA 2015 SK Bratislava                          134
FlowerPoint 2018 US Kutztown                          122
Flowerpoint 2017 US Kutztown                          122
Mid Atlantic Rookie Tournament: Fighty McFightface US Kutztown                          122
Wrath Point 2016 US Shepherdstown                          122
Wrathpoint 2018 US Shepherdstown                          122
Polish Championships 2018 PL Wroclaw                          119
Örebro Öppna Långsvärdsturnering 2013 SE Karlskoga                          118
Swordplay Serbia 2018 RS Belgrade                          117
Swordplay Serbia 2019 RS Belgrade                          117
Swordplay Serbia 2017 RS Belgrade                          117
Frühlingsfechten 2018 DE Dortmund                          117
Frühlingsfechten 2019 DE Dortmund                          117
OstFecht 2019 SK Michalovce                          114
W3 2018 PL Warsaw                          114
W3 2019 PL Warsaw                          114
W3 2016 PL Warsaw                          114
W3 2017 PL Warsaw                          114
9. Dresdner Fechtschul 2019 DE Dresden                          113
X. Budapesti MHS Torna HU Budapest                          107
IX Budapest MHS Kardvívó torna HU Budapest                          107
VIII Budapest MHS Kardvívó torna HU Budapest                          107
Flower of Battle 2019 US Wyomissing                          103
HEMAC Hemathlon 2018 GR Athens                          101
HEMAC HEMAthlon 2017 GR Athens                          101
HEMAC Hemathlon 2019 GR Athens                          101
Albion Cup 2018 UK Dorking                            90
SoCal Swordfight 2020 US Los Angeles                            87
Féile na Gaiscígh 2018 IE Dublin                            85
Féile na Gaiscígh 2017 IE Dublin                            85
Swordplay Australia 2016 AU Samford Valley                            85
Points North 2018 CA Ottawa                            72
Points North 2019 CA Ottawa                            72
Black Horns Cup 2018 PL Poznań                            65
Black Horns Cup 2019 PL Poznań                            65
Wessex League 2019: Oxford Chapter UK Oxford                            62
A Midsummer Fight’s Dream 2019 UK Oxford                            62
II Torneo 100Tolos HEMA de Coruña ES Coruña                            58
Rose City Classic: 2017 US Oak Grove                            56
Longpoint 2017 US Baltimore                            55
Longpoint 2015 US Baltimore                            55
Longpoint 2016 US Baltimore                            55
Longpoint 2019 US Baltimore                            55
Longpoint 2014 US Baltimore                            55
Longpoint 2013 US Baltimore                            55
VII Torneo de Naron 2018 ES Naron                            55
VIII Torneo Cidade de Naron ES Narón                            55
Winter’s End 2017 US Newberg                            55
Ram Point 2018 US Richmond                            52
Falcons Cup 2016 PL Oborniki                            51
Falcons Cup 2017 PL Oborniki                            51
Summer Sword Clash 2020  AU Adelaide                            49
1st HERA Event AU Adelaide                            49
Axel Pettersson Challenge Tournament 2018 AU Adelaide                            49
World Broadsword Championship 2019 AU Adelaide                            49
Astolat HEMA Open 2017 UK Guildford                            47
IFHEMA Cup 2018 PT Lisbon                            46
Capitol Clash: Washington DC HEMA Open 2017 US National Harbor                            46
Mutinænsis II IT Modena                            45
MUTINÆNIS – Torneo Nazionale delle Discipline HEMA  IT Modena                            45
Wessex League: Reading Chapter 2017 UK Reading                            45
Iron Gate Exhibition 2018 US Boston                            43
Boar’s Tooth 2018 US Boston                            43
Sweden Open 2017 SE Kristinehamn                            43
Örebro Open 2015 SE Kristinehamn                            43
Sweden Open 2016 SE Kristinehamn                            43
Örebro Open 2014 SE Kristinehamn                            43
Festival of the Sword ’17 AU Melbourne                            43
Festival of the Sword ’19 AU Melbourne                            43
Oktoberfecht 2019 AU Melbourne                            43
Wessex League 2018: Cardiff Chapter UK Cardiff                            41
Hematolia 2019 TR İstanbul                            40
Wessex League 2018: Winchester Chapter UK Winchester                            39
Paris HEMA Open 2017 FR Paris                            37
La Voute de Fer FR Paris                            37
Paris HEMA Open 2015 FR Paris                            37
Paris HEMA Open 2018 FR Paris                            37
Paris HEMA Open 2016 FR Paris                            37
Montpellier Hema Tournament 2018 FR Montpellier                            35
Montpellier HEMA Tournament 2017 FR Montpellier                            35
Montpellier HEMA Tournament 10 FR Montpellier                            35
Montpellier HEMA Tournament 2016 FR Montpellier                            35
Albion cup 2019 UK Marlow                            34
Battle of the Bridge 2018 SE Örebro                            34
Battle of the Bridge 2019 SE Örebro                            34
Battle of the Bridge 2017 SE Örebro                            34
Swedish Championships 2016 SE Örebro                            34
NHFL Championships 2019 SE Örebro                            34
AIMA ROMA 2019 IT Rome                            34
AIMA Roma 2017 IT Rome                            34
Trofeo ARA 2018 IT Rome                            34
AIMA Roma 2018 IT Rome                            34
Sword Fight III AU Burleigh Heads                            33
Purpleheart Open 2018 US Houston                            32
Purpleheart Armory Open 2016 US Houston                            32
Purpleheart Open 2019 US Houston                            32
Purpleheart Open 2017 US Houston                            32
PNW 2016: Swordsquatch US Seattle                            32
Copenhagen Open 2015 DK Copenhagen                            31
Copenhagen Open 2016 DK Copenhagen                            31
Copenhagen Open Longsword 2014 DK Copenhagen                            31
IFG Spring Fling 2019 US Portland                            31
Wessex League 2019: Exeter Chapter UK Exeter                            27
Bergen Open 2014 NO Bergen                            26
Bergen Open 2013 NO Bergen                            26
Longpoint South 2016 US Orlando                            26
Longpoint South 2017 US Orlando                            26
SoCal Swordfight 2015 US Torrance                            26
Wessex League: Bristol Chapter 2017 UK Bristol                            25
Swedish Championships 2018 SE Stockholm                            25
Queen’s Gambit 2019 US Concord                            23
PNW HEMA Gathering 2015 US Coupeville                            23
Wessex League 2018: Taunton Chapter UK Taunton                            23
Victoria Highland Games Open 2019 CA Victoria                            23
Victoria Highland Games Open 2018 CA Victoria                            23
Clash of Steel 2019 TW New Taipei City                            22
Clash of Steel 2018 TW New Taipei City                            22
Oslo Penguin Cup 2019 NO Oslo                            22
Oslo Penguin Cup 2018 NO Oslo                            22
Norway Open 2017 NO Oslo                            22
Norway Open 2016 NO Oslo                            22
The Plough Tournament 1st CN GuangZhou                            21
Hema Ianua 2019 IT Genova                            20
Hema Ianua 2018 IT Genova                            20
The Might 2018 FR Istres                            20
III Torneo de Esgrima Historica de Pontevedra ES Pontevedra                            20
I Torneo Vila de Redondela 2017 ES Pontevedra                            20
HEMA Open Leioa 2019 ES Bilbao                            19
Eleonora 2019 RU Krasnodar                            19
Wessex League: Bath Chapter 2017 UK Bath                            18
Edgebana 2017 UK Dundee                            18
Edgebana 2016 UK Dundee                            18
Edgebana 2018 UK Dundee                            18
Vasaslaget 2018 SE Uppsala                            18
Vasaslaget 2019 SE Uppsala                            18
Vasaslaget 2016 SE Uppsala                            18
Vasaslaget 2017 SE Uppsala                            18
Vasaslaget 2020 SE Uppsala                            18
Vasaslaget 2015 SE Uppsala                            18
Baton Rouge Open 2018 US Baton Rouge                            17
Wessex League 2019: London Chapter UK London                            16
Wessex League: London Chapter 2017 UK London                            16
Wessex League 2018: London Chapter UK London                            16
Montréal Sword Meisters 2019 CA Montréal                            16
3º Torneo Vila de Redondela 2020 ES Redondela                            16
2º Torneo Vila de Redondela 2018 ES Redondela                            16
Long Island Point 2018 US Uniondale                            16
International Lowlands HEMA Gathering 2017 NL Amsterdam                            15
Iron Gate Exhibition 2019 US Danvers                            15
Iron Gate Exhibition 2017 US Danvers                            15
IGX 2015 US Danvers                            15
Iron Gate Exhibition 2016 US Danvers                            15
Third National Historical Martial Arts Tournament CN Shanghai                            15
The Winter’s Flail 2020 UK Southampton                            15
HEFFAC 2015 NL Tilburg                            15
Heffac 2018 BE Antwerp                            14
Sword Fight IV AU Gold Coast                            14
Sword Fight V AU Gold Coast                            14
FechtTerra 2018 RU Saint Petersburg                            13
Level One Dueling Sabre and Longsword 2018 RU Saint Petersburg                            13
Wessex League 2019: Cambridge Chapter UK Cambridge                            12
Swordfish 2017 SE Gothenburg                            12
Swordfish 2015 SE Gothenburg                            12
Swordfish 2016 SE Gothenburg                            12
Swordfish 2013 SE Gothenburg                            12
Swordfish 2012 SE Gothenburg                            12
Swordfish 2014 SE Gothenburg                            12
Swordfish 2018 SE Gothenburg                            12
Swordfish 2011 SE Gothenburg                            12
Swedish Championships (qualifiers) 2017 SE Gothenburg                            12
SoCal Swordfight 2019 US Huntington Beach                            12
SoCal Swordfight 2018 US Huntington Beach                            12
SoCal Swordfight 2017 US Huntington Beach                            12
Scania Open 2017 SE Malmö                            12
Savannah Historic Longsword Open 2017 US Savannah                            12
Helsinki Longsword Open 2020 FI Helsinki                            11
Helsinki Longsword Open 2019 FI Helsinki                            11
Helsinki Longsword Open 2017 FI Helsinki                            11
Helsinki Longsword Open 2018 FI Helsinki                            11
Helsinki Longsword Open 2014 FI Helsinki                            11
Helsinki Longsword Open 2016 FI Helsinki                            11
Helsinki Longsword Open 2015 FI Helsinki                            11
Long Island Point 2017 US New York                            11
New Amsterdam HEMA Open 2019 US New York City                            11
Villeneuve Hema Tournament 2017 FR Villeneuve-Loubet                            10
Villeneuve Hema Tournament 2018 FR Villeneuve-Loubet                            10
Swordplay Australia 2017 AU Brisbane                              9
Swordplay Australia 2018 AU Brisbane                              9
Nederlandse HEMA Kampioenschappen 2019: Evenement 3 NL Breda                              8
Villeneuve HEMA Tournament 2016 FR Nice                              8
Nederlandse HEMA Kampioenschappen 2019: Evenement 4 NL Rotterdam                              8
HEFFAC 2016 NL Groningen                              7
3rd Annual Tosetti Institute HEMA Tournament US Redwood City                              5
Dutch Lions Cup 2018 NL Utrecht                              5
Dutch Lions Cup 2016 NL Utrecht                              5
Dutch Lions Cup 2019 NL Utrecht                              5
HEFFAC 2017 NL Oegstgeest                              3
Nederlandse HEMA Kampioenschappen 2019: Evenement 1 NL Oegstgeest                              3
Nederlandse HEMA Kampioenschappen 2019: Evenement 2 NL Oegstgeest                              3
DC HEMA Open 2018 US Washington                              3
Capitol Clash: Washington DC HEMA Open 2019 US Washington                              3
DC HEMA Open 2016 US Washington, D.C.                              3
Black Sea Cup 2019 RU Sochi                              2
Dutch Lions Cup 2017 NL Utrecht                              1
Dutch Lions Cub #2 2017 NL Nieuwegein                              1
Dutch Lions Cub #2 2018 NL Nieuwegein                              1
Dutch Lions Cub 2 2016 NL Nieuwegein                              1
Dutch Lions Cub 1 2016 NL Nieuwegein                              1
About Sean Franklin 89 Articles
Sean has a Bachelor's Degree in Mechatronic Systems Engineering, and is currently employed as a Controls Engineer. He is passionate about developing more analytical ways to view sword fighting, wishing to develop evidence based standards for protective gear and rule sets informed by tournament statistics. His martial arts history includes competitive success, medaling in international competitions for Longsword, Messer, Grappling, Rapier, and Cutting. In addition to competition Sean has been invited to instruct at a number of events across North America and Europe.