Well no, not real metal swords, after all, being ‘cleft in twain’ every week at practice would make it difficult to go to work the next day. We use rattan, the same stuff some furniture is made of! The first thing you’ll notice, if you come out to a fight practice, is that it’s a very relaxed atmosphere with lots of talking and people waving their arms in the air as they discuss the fighting. Watching the fighting, you might think that there are no rules, and we were just clobbering each other, but in fact, there are strict rules in place to keep the fighters and the spectators safe.
If anyone is interested seeing what it’s like to ‘swing a sword' all you have to do is come out to a fight practice and let any of us know that you’d like to try. We all love what we do and we are always happy to talk about and teach fighting. At first you will learn how to throw a sword blow properly. In other words, ‘if it was a real sword and if you got hit like that, you’d be dead’. It sounds easy but takes some practice. Then you will try the same sword blow while holding a shield. A shield changes everything! Next, we’d let you try on some of the Barony’s spare armour and you get to try your first fight.
Nobody will rush you or try to make you do more than you want to do, after all, we’d like you to enjoy this as much as we do, you’ll learn at your own pace. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, tall or short, everyone is welcome. We have men 6 feet tall, fighting women who are much shorter than they are, and the women can hold their own! If being a Knight in Shining armour sounds like fun, why not come out and see us?
Why, yes! They are made of steel and they look pretty sword-like, or in this case, mostly rapier-like. The swords do have dull edges and there’s a big rubber tip on the end to keep us from actually running each other through, as, like our armoured colleagues, we like to be able to do stuff the next day.
Like the armoured fighters, we have regular practices, where we study and learn the Renaissance art of defence. We’re recreating a style of European civilian combat that seems to have got its start around the first quarter of the 16th century and continued until the mid-17th c. We are fortunate in having a large number of fencing manuals from this time period to help us recreate this form of combat. In the SCA this kind of fighting is referred to as Period Fencing, Rapier Combat, or Light Weapons Combat (though the weapons we use are anything but light). Like the armoured combatants, there are strict rules and armour standards for how rapier combat is conducted, in place to keep us safe. Playing with swords has certain inherent risks, but we do our best to minimize them.
The main form of combat uses the rapier, a 16th c. civilian sword found throughout Western Europe. The rapier can be used on its own or in combination with various defensive devices/weapons in the off-hand. These include things like bucklers, sticks, cloaks, hats, daggers or even another full rapier. Attacks are primarily thrusting in nature, but there are also some cutting attacks, but these do not involve actual striking with the blade. Attacks are never performed at full force, a touch that an opponent can feel usually being considered a valid blow. There is an advanced form of rapier combat called Cut & Thrust where blows with the edge of the blade are allowed, but these are nowhere near full force cuts, and there are increased armour standards. Recently there has been exploration of the use of curved blades as well as the use of the two handed sword. Rapier combat has often been described as an elegant dance, with swords. The opponents move about using careful footwork, delivering well timed thrusts, parries and ripostes. It is often a fascinating thing to watch and an even more fascinating thing to do.
There are regular practices in both Cantons of Ramshaven, and both groups have loaner equipment to help get you started. Again, as with armoured combat, both women and men are welcome to play, with the minimum age to participate being 14. Also, like armoured combat, we’re here to have fun and people are welcomed to take things at their own pace. So, if you have an interest in swashing some buckle, you may want to consider giving rapier combat a try.
Archery in the SCA is open to all ages. Children of age 12 and under must have a parent or other responsible adult (designated by the parent), with them on the range. Youth archers (ages 13 - 17 years), must have a parent on site.
Bow styles varies greatly from authentic longbows and cross-bows to fiberglass and re-curves. Bows with a mechanical advantage (compound bows) are not permitted. Arrows in SCA archery must be made of wood, have target tips and use real feathers.
Archery is usually found at outdoor events with plenty of space to ensure safety. A Marshal will be present and conduct the range, making sure people only shoot and collect arrows when it is safe to do so.
Often there are archery tournaments at outdoor events, where you can Team shoot for your Barony or Kingdom.
Thrown Weapons involves knives, axes and spears. Children and adult both enjoy this martial activity. There is no authorization for Thrown Weapons. Knives and axes are thrown at targets at the distance of 10 and 20 feet. Spears are thrown at 20 feet.
At the events where there is Thrown Weapons you will find a warranted marshal running the range. This marshal or any marshal helping that day will be more than willing to give instructions on the proper and safe manner in throwing either axe, knife or spear. Most ranges have loan equipment so those without any can try throwing. To become a warranted marshal there is a program which involves nine steps. To be a marshal you must be 18 years of age.
In our Society's Youth combat program, our efforts are focused
predominantly on fun and safety, while teaching our children the
importance of chivalry and fair play. Our youth combat uses similar
rules to our Armoured Combat, with protection and weapon construction
more carefully geared to the youth in the varying age categories. Strike
calibration is very specific at the lower age groups, focusing much more
on safety and control, eventually reaching an age that is focused on
preparing for a youth to enter the adult armoured combat program.
Additionally, we focus on keeping the equipment as simple as possible as we begin, to avoid a large financial commitment to an activity that has the risk of only keeping our children's interests for a relatively short time. Basic hockey equipment is all that is required at the junior level, although a tabard allows for a more medieval look, and swords are constructed of PVC or shaved rattan cores under pipe insulation. A child goes through an inspection and authorization almost identical to the adult armoured combatant, where Marshals are looking specifically to ensure the child is enjoying him or herself and can play safely.
Parents are asked to take an active role in their children's training by either finding them a mentor, or themselves becoming a Marshal. If you have any questions about youth combat, please contact either your local Marshal or local Senechal, and they can put you in touch with the proper authorities.
The policies and procedures for each of the combat diciplines are available as PDF documents from the Ealdormere Kingdom Website.