SwordSTEM Presents: Stats about SwordSTEM

It’s the holidays, and most people probably aren’t going to be reading anyways. And so, for a holiday special I’ll do a super meta stats breakdown of the site itself, and ramble about what I liked and what I didn’t like.

But first and foremost, I want to thank my team of editors. Without them you would have the pleasure of reading so many more incorrect usages of “it’s” and so many more idiosyncrasies of my sloppy writing style. So thank you Jane Johnston (I’m going back on my vow to never give her any public credit) and Karen Black (who isn’t a HEMA person, you don’t know her).

2018, the year that was

Since this is SwordSTEM’s first year, I don’t have anything to compare it to. The page views went up and down week to week, naturally spiking when I posted links to my articles on the HEMA Alliance FB group.

I’m terrible at social media, so advertising my articles isn’t something I’m good at. Seeing as I’m not a fan of spamming every outlet with weekly content updates, articles live or die by how much attention they get from the HEMA Alliance Facebook group. If you love SwordSTEM (and if you’re reading this article I assume you do), you can help out by sharing and spreading the word.

(Another success in 2018: I managed to get a few people saying “Bilateral Exchanges”! I’m on may way to introducing the new term into the HEMA consciousness. 😀 )

Best Performers

1st Place – Physics, Push-Pull with the longsword, bad cuts…. and you!

Total Views: 1,556

I’m not surprised that this turned out to be the overall winner. I knew people would take issue, and with controversy comes page views. My favorite reactions were those of people complaining that there are times when you do want to push-pull on the sword, like feints, maneuvering the point, or not caring that your cut is super effective. Basically calling me out for describing mechanics important for dealing debilitating cuts, and saying that they aren’t important when you aren’t trying to deliver debilitating cuts.

2nd Place – Steel: Why?

Total Views: 1,272

The popularity of this one took me completely by surprise. First I wanted to do an article on failure modes. Then I realized I should probably do an article where I talked about steel grain structure. Then, as I was writing, I realized I could probably pull enough out of that article to get a second article about why steel is used for swords. So there you have it — the second most popular article of the year only came about because I was trying to make sure I had content to satisfy the demanding weekly schedule.

I’m assuming the popularity is due to it being shared outside the ‘normal’ HEMA circles who are aware of my articles. Non-HEMA sword enthusiasts, etc.

3nd Place – What Does Hitting Hard Mean

Total Views: 1,153

This is actually the one I’m probably least happy with out of everything I wrote this year. It was one of the original four articles I wrote to get my backlog started before I opened SwordSTEM’s doors. But the topic kind of got away from me, it was too difficult to get anything concrete down. If you really want to quantify such things it’s immensely complicated, and you definitely need experiments to back up any kind of theory work you think you figured out. So I ended up drawing far too much of it from my experiences, and not nearly enough of an empirical footing.

I kept postponing publishing it, hoping that I could find a way to make it better. But I never ended up touching it. After kicking the can from April to September, I decided to just throw it out there and see if people decided to come after me. Interestingly enough, it seems to have been embraced by both the “you need to hit with intensity to understand your interpretations” and the “people in HEMA hit too hard” crowds…



Biggest Flops

Some of my articles I knew wouldn’t be super popular. Sometimes I get the feeling something will be popular, and it is. And sometimes I am totally wrong, and it doesn’t get much of a reaction at all.

Do they Double a Lot in the Swordfish Finals?

Total Views: 212

You would assume that an article published about Swordfish, the week after Swordfish, that tournament haters and backers could argue about the interpretation of, would do better? Guess not. Perhaps people are sick of talking about these things, or perhaps it didn’t make itself known in the right places.

On the flip side, while it wasn’t super popular, it has lead to me having some very insightful conversations with some smart people who design tournament rules around the world.

Concussion: Not a Normal Injury

Total Views: 173

I had been asked by a number of people to write something about concussions, probably more than any other topic combined. I wasn’t super keen on it, since medical science isn’t my area of expertise. But eventually I needed a big backlog built up for my surgery recovery/European HEMA adventure and I relented. Surprise! No one appears to have cared.

Much like the Swordfish article, I did have a few people contact me directly telling me they liked it. So I guess it couldn’t have been that terrible.

My Favorites


Case Study: SoCal 2018 Sword and Buckler

I REALLY like this one, because I think it is the first time that analytics really has shown its power in HEMA tournament analysis. When Kyle Griswold introduced these rules I was… skeptical that it would be a change for the better. But after the event, the tools were in place to actually do a good analysis of what effect the rules actually had on the tournament. Being the nerd that I am, this is a super exciting step. I sincerely hope other events can do such things as they introduce rule changes in the future.

Non-Zero-Sum Concepts in Tournament Rulesets

As I think more and more about rules, I keep coming to an unavoidable conclusion: If we are running sportive tournaments as martial arts tools*, then we need to do everything we can to get away from a zero-sum mentality. Zero-sum is great for sports, it makes things exciting and definitive.

But that’s not why we are here. We are running tournaments to learn.

* I think a goal for 2019 might be to popularize that phrase, likely in acronym form. STMT? STMAT? More work for the year ahead, indeed.


The thumbnail for the SoCal Singlestick article was when I realized I could take an MS Office plot, make the background transparent, and stick it on top of an image. I really like the effect, and have used it many other places.

I had a good chuckle to myself when I imagined this one for the tatami ballistics article… Mainly because it’s crazy, but not so crazy that it could never happen.

And my Data Mining icon, which I will be using until the end of time.


I hate writing conclusions, so since this is the holiday one, I’m not going to!

Enjoy or hate the season in whatever way your personal preferences and beliefs compel you to.

Stuff For Nerds

Pageviews Unique Pageviews Avg Time on Page
OVERALL: 21,223 19,266 0:03:01
1 2,462(11.60%) 1,900(9.86%) 0:01:05
2 physics-push-pull-with-the-longsword-bad-cuts-and-you 1,556(7.33%) 1,424(7.39%) 0:05:52
3 steel-why 1,272(5.99%) 1,218(6.32%) 0:04:51
4 what-does-hitting-hard-mean 1,153(5.43%) 1,097(5.69%) 0:05:31
5 the-myth-of-control 989(4.66%) 932(4.84%) 0:04:40
6 rotational-spinny-translational-straight-ey-motion-swords 982(4.63%) 888(4.61%) 0:04:20
7 center-of-percussion-vibration-node-balance-point-what-does-it-all-mean 851(4.01%) 806(4.18%) 0:05:08
8 hema-ratings-does-it-actually-mean-anything 745(3.51%) 691(3.59%) 0:05:19
9 is-it-important-to-weigh-target-values 711(3.35%) 664(3.45%) 0:03:30
10 force-vs-pressure 696(3.28%) 661(3.43%) 0:03:21
11 non-zero-sum-concepts-in-tournament-rulesets 485(2.29%) 459(2.38%) 0:04:43
12 doubles-per-exchange-and-the-afterblow 482(2.27%) 447(2.32%) 0:03:47
13 how-much-does-initial-point-value-discourage-safe-attacks 442(2.08%) 410(2.13%) 0:04:26
14 how-fast-do-swords-move-try-1 431(2.03%) 396(2.06%) 0:03:39
15 scalability-why-bugs-are-small-and-tournament-rulesets-are-hard 424(2.00%) 399(2.07%) 0:05:39
16 sword-cutting-and-how-the-target-pushes-back 401(1.89%) 350(1.82%) 0:07:05
17 what-is-force-dispersion-and-how-it-keeps-you-safe-from-swords 392(1.85%) 351(1.82%) 0:02:56
18 for-the-paranoid-and-the-pansies-what-is-real-risk 357(1.68%) 337(1.75%) 0:05:20
19 control-theory 334(1.57%) 311(1.61%) 0:03:58
20 hanging-targets-is-cheating 332(1.56%) 316(1.64%) 0:02:14
21 introduction-to-material-properties 306(1.44%) 290(1.51%) 0:03:55
22 impact-impulse-and-momentum 283(1.33%) 255(1.32%) 0:03:11
23 case-study-socal-2018-sword-and-buckler 265(1.25%) 259(1.34%) 0:03:21
24 force-vector-more-than-a-science-ey-sounding-name 257(1.21%) 246(1.28%) 0:05:26
25 how-much-does-participant-skill-affect-overall-behavior 256(1.21%) 239(1.24%) 0:02:21
27 do-they-double-a-lot-in-the-swordfish-finals 212(1.00%) 199(1.03%) 0:03:30
28 case-study-socal-2018-singlestick 209(0.98%) 192(1.00%) 0:03:56
29 tatami-ballistics 208(0.98%) 198(1.03%) 0:02:01
30 concussion-not-a-normal-injury 173(0.82%) 163(0.85%) 0:05:08
31 does-bracket-seeding-mean-anything 166(0.78%) 163(0.85%) 0:02:26
32 what-makes-a-sword-stiff 162(0.76%) 157(0.81%) 0:04:02
34 geometry-grab-bag 152(0.72%) 142(0.74%) 0:04:28
38 thibault-vs-modern-anthropometry 98(0.46%) 91(0.47%) 0:02:40
39 are-double-hits-and-afterblows-related 93(0.44%) 90(0.47%) 0:05:46
41 survive-the-pools-and-fence-the-finals 88(0.41%) 87(0.45%) 0:03:44
43 what-are-tournament-stats 77(0.36%) 67(0.35%) 0:02:23
44 data-mining-combatcon-longsword 73(0.34%) 68(0.35%) 0:03:02
46 why-does-my-gear-crack-in-half 58(0.27%) 56(0.29%) 0:03:22
54 data-mining-socal-swordfight-longsword 28(0.13%) 28(0.15%) 0:03:44

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About Sean Franklin 119 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. For non-STEMey coaching topics Sean posts on https://www.swordstuff.blog/