SCA fencing is the style of fencing practiced by the Society for Creative Anachronism
In 1979 the Society for Creative Anachronism
) introduced rapier
rules, allowing fencing
within the organization. Since that time, fencing has gained a significant following in the SCA and tournaments with over one hundred competitors are not uncommon at larger events. The ultimate goal of SCA fencing as stated by the rules is to safely simulate fencing "with a real blade, extremely sharp on point and edge."
SCA fencing usually entails bouts between a pair of combatants but the rules also allow competition between groups of fencers. "Battles" with over one hundred fencers on each side are common at large gatherings.
As fencing in the SCA is intended to be first and foremost fun, safety is the primary concern. All fencing practices and tournaments in the SCA are run by fencing marshals who are warranted to watch for unsafe behavior, inspect equipment, and authorize others to fence. The authorization process includes a test of knowledge of fencing rules and bouts fought with previously authorized fencers under the marshal's supervision; the goal is to not to prove the fencer's ability to win bouts, but his or her ability to participate safely and courteously in both tournaments and casual sparring. No fencer may compete in an SCA tournament until he or she has passed authorization.
The Fencing List Field
SCA fencing is conducted "in-the-round," rather than back and forth on a linear strip as in conventional sport fencing. The fencers may move freely within a designated fighting space called the "list field". These fields may be any size and are often outdoors.
As in sport épée
, the entire body is considered a valid target, and priority (right-of-way) plays no part in the rules.
Both the point and edge of the blade may score touches. The edge is used for draw-cuts (placing the blade and pulling or pushing it on the opponent's body) or percussive blows with the edge of the blade. Percussive blows are only legal under the "cut and thrust rapier" rules.
Although regional variations still exist, the rules defining a valid blow are specified in the SCA Rapier Rules. Before competing against fencers from other kingdoms, it's a good idea to discuss rules and attack calibrations in order to ensure a fair and courteous contest. The SCA provides a basic set of rules governing all fencing within the SCA and these are used as the standard in multi-kingdom gatherings. Kingdoms are allowed to make their own rules more restrictive but may not relax any restrictions outlined in the SCA's rapier combat rules.
Within the SCA, it is the responsibility of the fencer being hit to acknowledge a valid attack from the opponent. The SCA does not use fencing directors or judges. The fighting is overseen by a marshal who monitors the bout for safety and fair play from both participants. The marshal has the ability to warn or remove a fighter from the bout and may stop the bout at any time.
Bouts usually continue until one fighter strikes a "fatal" blow. A fighter may also yield (concede victory to the opponent) at any time during the bout. A "fatal" blow is defined as a valid attack to the head, torso, or major artery.
Attacks to the legs or arms are considered "disabling". A disabled fencer loses the use of the disabled limb.
Participants generally cannot wear the protective gear of conventional sport fencing as it often does not pass the SCA safety requirements. This is because conventional sport protective gear is designed to protect the front of the body and uses lighter material on the back whereas SCA safety standards require equal protection on the front and back of the torso.
Masks, Helmets, and Rigid Protection
SCA fencers wear a mask that will withstand a 12 kilo punch test or the equivalent. Steel recreations of late period helmets have also been used. Gaps that might permit a blade are filled with perforated steel plates.
A male fencer is required to wear a protective cup (UK: box).
When using heavy rapiers fencers are required to protect the throat with a gorget (protective collar) of either steel or thick leather.
An SCA fencer is not allowed to show any bare skin when entering the list field. The torso, head, neck, and groin must be covered by "puncture-resistant" material (4 oz or 110 g leather, four layers of trigger cloth, or the equivalent). To protect the back of the head a fencer must wear a fencing coif or hood of "puncture-resistant" material covering all of the head not covered by the fencing mask itself. "Puncture-resistant" material must pass either a commercial 550 newton
garment punch test devices or a standardized SCA test device designed to deliver 1.5 joules
of energy to a 4 mm circle.
The extremities are protected by "abrasion-resistant" (one layer of trigger cloth or the equivalent thereof) material.
The hands are protected by gloves of at least "abrasion-resistant" material.
Feet shall be protected by boots, shoes, or sandals, comprised of at
least "abrasion-resistant" material. In many kingdoms, footwear must completely enclose the foot; in some, such as the Midrealm, boots above the ankle are required.
The SCA allows a wide variety of different blades. Each kingdom sets its own rules regarding which types of blades are or are not legal. The length of a blade is not regulated, but "heavy rapiers" may not be used in the same bouts as epees and foils.
The Society as a whole is moving towards the use of reproduction rapiers (originally with schlagers but now more commonly with reproduction practice rapiers), usually tipped with an archery blunt. Everything from French foil and epée grips with theatrical ambidextrous bells to 16th Century swept-hilts and 17th Century cup rapier hilts are seen. The more realistic historical reproduction hilts are greatly preferred and there is a general movement towards more accurate weapon simulators. Foils and épées, being too light (less than 0.5 pounds, as opposed to the approximately 1.5 to 2.5 pounds of period rapiers and the 2 to 3.5 lbs of cut-and-thrust swords) and lacking enough mass and length for even semi-period technique, are gradually being abandoned.
Although not uncommon in period, rapier hilts that are likely to catch, break or damage an opponent's blade are forbidden in use against foils or epees.
Some of the most common blade types are listed below:
Épée & Foil Blades
- Fiberglass blades
- Reproduction practice rapier blades such as those produced by Del Tin, Darkwood Armory or Hanwei.
In SCA fencing, the dagger may be employed for offensive, as well as defensive, purposes.
Daggers may both thrust and cut. Although the dagger is most commonly carried in the off-hand and employed primarily as a parrying implement, bouts between dagger-armed fencers are far from unknown.
Case of Rapiers
The SCA also allows fencers the option of fighting with a case (pair) of rapiers (often shortened to "case"). The off-hand rapier may be employed for both offensive and defensive purposes. Although a powerful combination in the hands of a skilled fencer, case of rapiers is perhaps the most difficult style of SCA fencing to master.
The use of a shield, buckler, or target in the off hand is allowed by SCA rapier rules. Some groups restrict the size of the shield. The historical usage of the shield or buckler as an offensive weapon is forbidden.
Cloaks and Capes
The cloak or cape is often used in the off-hand to parry
or beat away blades. Unsafe period techniques such as throwing the cloak in the opponent's face are forbidden.
Many other items have been used as off-hand weapons in the SCA and the rules provide the marshalate with a great deal of flexibility.
Aside from bucklers and shields, common rigid parrying devices include batons, canes, and scabbards. Fencers have been known to take the field carrying large tankards (usually plastic), rubber "bread loaves," and numerous other "silly parrying devices."
Pistol simulators may also be used as off-hand parrying devices once their single rubberband projectile has been fired.
As in the case of the buckler, all defensive offhand items are prohibited from striking any part of the opponent's body.
Competitions and Format
SCA tournaments are usually conducted in rounds with winners of each round advancing towards the finals.
Some common tournament formats are:
- Single or Double elimination
- Swiss five
- Passe de Armes
- Scenarios (including group combat, terrain, obstacles, and more)
Mêlées between groups of fencers often take place at SCA events; these can be merely mock-brawls between disorganized "factions," but sophisticated small unit tactics are often seen. At Pennsic
or the Gulf War it is not unknown for more than two hundred fencers to take the field for a "battle".
The SCA also allows simulations of period firearms to be used under certain conditions in fencing mêlées.
These simulations fire large "rubber bands" made of surgical tubing looped around and securely joined. "Wheel lock" pistols are most common, but muskets are not unknown.
This ammunition has enough mass to allow the target to feel its impact through fencing armor, but is light enough to prevent injury. Some SCA fencers have even built light cannon firing as many as fourteen rubber bands at a single shot, thus simulating the effects of grape shot.
The first set of SCA fencing rules was published in the Kingdom of Ansteorra by Tivar Moondragon. Tivar is the premier member of the Order of the White Scarf which was created in March 1979.
SCA Fencing Timeline
- May 1, 1966 - The SCA is founded in Berkeley, California.
- November 1975 - First event. 7 fighters with no armor requirements other than the mask.
- March 1977 - Society Marshal, Andrew of Seldom Rest issues a ban on all "kendo, wrestling, fencing and archery at human targets". A letter campaign was issued to lift the ban.
- June 1977 - Duke Andrew issues the first (as far as I know) set of SCA rapier fighting rules. They are about 3/4 page long, and extremely primitive.
- March 1979 - The Kingdom of Ansteorra creates the Order of the White Scarf.
- October 1987 - The Kingdom of the Outlands signs a treaty to create an Order of the White Scarf.
- June 1992 - The Kingdom of the Trimaris signs the White Scarf Treaty.
- Spring 1994 - Atenveldt and An Tir Sign the White Scarf Treaty.
- January 1996 - Atlantia signs the White Scarf Treaty.
- November 1996 - Caid signs the White Scarf Treaty.
- October 1997 - Æthelmearc signs the White Scarf Treaty.
- January 1998 - Artemisia signs the White Scarf Treaty.
- July 2002 - Lochac signs the White Scarf Treaty.
- October 2004 - Northshield signs the White Scarf Treaty.
- January 21, 2006 - The SCA Board of Directors approves new rapier rules including percussive cuts for "cut and thrust" rapier.
- March 25, 2007 - The West Kingdom hosts its first kingdom rapier championship and creates an Order of the White Scarf.
Fencing Titles and Awards
There are many different awards for fencing within the Society.
- The Order of the Laurel - Some fencers have been elevated to the Order of the Laurel for research into historical fencing technique.
- The Order of the White Scarf - The White Scarf is an interkingdom award recognizing excellence in SCA fencing. It is recognized in 12 different kingdoms. More information is at: http://cunnan.sca.org.au/wiki/White_Scarf
- Courtier to the Crown of the West - This is a Kingdom of the West award for excellence in rapier combat as well as striving to display chivalric qualities. It carries with it a Grant of Arms. Members are inducted into the Royal Company of Courtiers. This order was closed with the creation of the West Kingdom's Order of the White Scarf on March 25, 2007.
- Order of the Golden Rapier - This is the East Kingdom order for excellence in rapier combat.
- The Company of the Bronze Ring - The Midrealm order for fencing skill.
- The Meridian Order of the Blade - The Meridies order for fencing skill.
- The Order of the Queen's Blade
- The Order of The Dragon's Steel - This award is given in the Kingdom of Drachenwald to "those members of the foil, epee and schlaeger fighting community, who exemplify courtesy, chivalry, dedicated patronage to the arts and sciences and show continual service to local branches and the Kingdom of Drachenwald and who shall have displayed superior abilities in light weaponry". It carries with it a Grant of Arms. Before creating a new member of the Order, the Crown must consult with the Order.
Cut and Thrust Swordplay
Not long ago, an experimental project began with the goal of legalizing percussive cutting actions in some forms of SCA rapier combat. Percussive cuts allow fencers to accurately recreate a broader range of the techniques discussed in late period (1500-1600) manuals. This experiment was halted pending review by the SCA's Board of Directors and was approved for permanent addition to the rules in January 2006.
Historical Fencing and the SCA
Along with their practice of fencing, many SCA fencers also study period fencing manuals such as those by Ridolfo Capoferro
, Giacomo di Grassi
, Camillo Agrippa
, and Carranza
. However, the safety rules and weapon simulators used by SCA fencers prevent many of the concepts in period manuals being implemented. This is not necessarily a criticism; the need to maintain a fun atmosphere, minimize the cost of equipment, and encourage fencers to continue participating in the SCA makes it impossible to demand the level of training needed to safely practice true period technique, as done by stricter historical fencing groups.
Adjudication of Wounds
Fencers in other groups have argued that the SCA's system for wounding and disabling limbs is an unrealistic portrayal of combat.
It is possible within the SCA's rules to refuse to acknowledge a valid hit in order to win a bout. This occurs often enough that the slang term "Rhinohide" is used to describe an SCA combatant who fails to accept a valid attack. In extreme or obvious cases, a marshal can warn the offending fighter or remove him or her from the tournament. In some rare cases, repeat offenders have had their fighting privileges temporarily or even permanently revoked.
At the very least, the offending individual quickly acquires a reputation for being a dishonorable combatant, with the attendant social stigma.
SCA fencing has been criticized for not accurately recreating the art of fence as practised during the stated pre-1600 period.
Some fencers argue that draw cuts are not martially sound techniques and make cutting a due tempi ("double time") action, whereas a percussive cutting action would be in stesso tempo ("single time").
SCA Rules and Information
SCA Fencing Households
- The Tadcaster Militia - An academy of the East Kingdom League of Rapier Academies located at the Bhakail Baronial Fencing Practice
- TEΔ - An East Kingdom academy that is affiliated with the Tadcaster Militia (currently, however, there is only one member)