Why you should not lie to HEMA Ratings

The HEMA Ratings team made an announcement yesterday that may sound confusing without some additional context.

After some research, they found out that a few tournaments in Greece did not meet the criteria to be included in the HEMA Ratings and removed them. It’s not one or two tourneys, but a handful, spanning the last few years.

The HEMA Ratings team had to confront the organizer – Greek instructor George E. Georgas – and he admitted that he had willfully submitted the results, knowing he was breaking the rules.

The key rules he broke are these ones:

  • There must be members from at least two different clubs competing.
  • The event should be open to all eligible fighters.

There were two clubs on paper participating in a total of 16 tournaments, but both clubs are actually both part of the same organization – and the same people train in them. And most of the tournaments were not announced officially or opened to fighters from Greece or abroad. HEMA Ratings indicate that a couple of them might have been legitimate, as there were outsiders participating.

You can imagine what an ‘island effect’ this creates. And due to the way HEMA Ratings work, in a few years Georgas, who won practically every fight and every tournament against his own students, was suddenly 22nd in Steel longsword.

“The discrepancies are of such a magnitude that we’ve decided along with Georgas that while some of the results he submitted are legitimate they will always be viewed in the light of our discoveries, and so we have agreed with Georgas that it’s for the best that we remove those events as well. “

The ratings for most other weapons are still on shaky ground, but 22nd in longsword usually indicates a very capable fighter – around that spot are people like Lee Smith, Jake Norwood, Thomas Nyzell, Ivan Novichenko. Great fighters like Thomas Lobo, Jack Gassman, Jacopo Penso, are ranked lower. Yet, due to the specifics of how HEMA Ratings work, a guy who only fights his own students can outrank them after enough fights.

Now the HEMA Ratings team are promising to check details when people send them tournament data – specifically, to check if the tournament even happened.

“This can include, but is not necessarily limited to, photos, social media links and rule sets just to prove that a tournament actually took place. If someone fails to convince us about a tournament’s legitimacy, we will simply refrain from including the results.”

They also promise to make a more streamlined process for this in time. However, there is one key point:

“The HEMA Ratings project has always been based on trust, and since it’s impossible to travel to every tournament or validate every match outcome, to a certain extent that’s where it still needs to be grounded.”

What happens now?

Well, George Georgas may never organize a tourney or send results to HEMA Ratings again, around 15 or more fighters were deleted from the records (only one of them had fought outside his school – twice, and he did not make it out of the pools in one of those occasions).

I knew of this before HEMA Ratings announced it. It was quite obvious when you know how sports clubs are made in Greece (they can’t have multiple chapters, they have to make different clubs) and when seeing that there are no announcements for any of George’s tourneys.

Why did I not report it? I thought about it, but it felt kind of wrong. It has been in the back of my head for some time, and recently I gave a small nudge to HEMA Ratings, without naming anyone in particular:

What is really bad is not that the HEMA Ratings have been compromised. That is easily fixable and with these results affecting a dozen and a half fighters among nearly four thousand, that will not be a problem.

The breach of trust is a more serious issue. As the HEMA Ratings team explains, George Georgas did that knowingly, without caring that his ranking was fake and that he is practically using his students to boost himself for Internet fame and nothing else. An explanation and an apology to the community – and mostly to his students, who lost their ratings as well – should be made publicly, in my opinion.

Don’t lie to HEMA Ratings and to your community. Lies like that tend to come out sooner or later and hurt not just you, but everyone who took the dive with you on this bumpy ride we call HEMA.

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