For Longsword, a Comeback Ages in the Making

By Mac William Bishop | Sept. 15, 2014

A hotel ballroom in Ellicott City, Md., seemed an unlikely setting for a four-day competition involving ancient martial arts, Longpoint 2014.

“Fight!” the referee called out.

Axel Pettersson, 29, raised his sword above his head and waited. When his opponent drew near, the two exchanged a rapid set of blows. At last, Pettersson landed a vicious cut across the torso of his opponent’s body armor, winning the open steel longsword competition and adding another championship to his collection.

Longpoint, held in July, is one of several annual tournaments around the world, manifestations of renewed interest in what enthusiasts call historical European martial arts, or HEMA. It includes events like grappling — similar to Greco-Roman wrestling — and several types of swordfighting. But the focus is on the most iconic medieval weapon, forged from cold, lustrous steel: the longsword...

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