F – Fighting in the SCA

I said at the beginning, my blogs would be from the real Middle Ages and the Current Middle Ages. Well, today we’re in the Current Middle Ages.
Fighting in the SCA is based on a system of honor. The person who hits another cannot say, “You’re dead.” It is up to the recipient of the blow to determine if the blow had been delivered by a real weapon, would it have been fatal. Also, if the arm is struck with enough force that a real sword would have severed the arm, the arm is declared to be useless and the fighter must fight with that arm behind his/her back. Yes, his/her. Female fighters in the SCA are considered equal to male fighters. Male/female, tall/short, big/little – it doesn’t matter. You fight who you draw.
If SCA fighters fought with Medieval weapons, they wouldn’t last very long. They definitely would not be able to work the next week. So, they make their weapons out of rattan. Rattan is used because instead of breaking and splintering which causes danger to the fighters, over time, it becomes mushy.
As in any sport, there are rules. Most of these pertain to armor. The minimum armor for an SCA fighter is:
Head – helmets must be 12 gauge or stronger steel lined with closed cell foam and soft foam. The face of the helm must have no opening large enough for a one-inch dowel rod to pass through. (In the beginning, SCA fighters used motorcycle and football helmets. However, it was soon discovered these would not stand up to the rattan weapons.)
Neck – Gorget of hard stiff leather or steel. The distance between the helmet and Gorget must be less than one inch when the fighter’s head is back as far as it can go.
Arms – The three points of the elbow must be covered in hard leather or steel or a combination of both. This piece of armor is called an elbow cup.
Hands – Unless using a basket-hilt sword, the hand must be encased in a gauntlet. (Again, in the beginning, fighters used hockey gloves only to find they did not offer sufficient protection.) If using a basket-hilt sword or on the shield hand a half-gauntlet is allowed.
Legs – Knees are required to be protected just as the elbows are by leather and steel knee cups.
Kidney area – Fighters are required to wear a kidney belt. Some of them use boxing belts while others make their own using hard leather. These can be plain or decorated according to the desire of the fighter.
Groin area – Fighters, both male and female, are required to wear some type of protection to the genital area. An athletic cup is usual.
This is all of the armor that is required to fight. However, most fighters wear some type of lower-arm protection called vanbraces and some type of body armor. The body armor varies according to the period and nationality of the fighter’s persona. I have seen fighters in hard leather body armor, full plate armor, canvas-covered hard plastic, and simple chest armor made from carpet pieces. It depends on the fighter.
As for weapons, as stated, SCA weapons are made from rattan. The swords must be at least 1 ¼ inches in diameter. This is why the face plate on the helm and the opening between the helm and Gorget can be no more than one inch. The rattan is covered with strapping tape to strengthen it and then with duct tape for color. A sword will have a length of either red or black duct tape on one side to designate that side as the cutting edge. If a fighter is hit with a plain silver side, it is not considered a killing blow.
There are several types of swords. There are short swords, long swords, and bastard swords (also called hand and a half swords because of their weight and length.) Some fighters also carry rattan daggers. There are other types of weapons, pole arms such as maces, lances; battleaxes, and even combat arrows. All have their requirements.
The first weapon system in which a fighter authorizes is sword and shield. As you progress in fighting ability, you can become a fyrdman, huscarl, and maybe eventually a knight.
In order to be an authorized fighter in the SCA, you must prove to the satisfaction of the marshals that you are not a danger on the list field, that you are not going to intentionally hurt someone else and are capable of protecting yourself against injury. Temper has no place on the field.
As I said before, the list field is a field of honor. One thing that will get a fighter ostracized faster than anything is refusal to acknowledge a blow. This is called rhino-hiding.
I also stated men and women fight each other. I think the funniest fight I ever saw was between a woman who is five feet, two inches tall and a man who I would guess at six feet, four or five. She was aiming at his thighs and he was backing up.
Oh, yes. Legal targets. The only off-limit targets are the hands and below the knees all other areas are fair game. That is not to say legs and hands never get hit, just that it is against the rules to intentionally aim for those areas. Guy – that means one area is legal and we had one female fighter who would aim for that.
Just remember one thing about SCA fighting – it’s real. The blows are real and no one knows who’s going to win.

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2 responses to “F – Fighting in the SCA

  1. Fascinating! I used to fence, and I loved epee — where the whole body is legal target. Yes, when I fought guys, I might aim below the belt. Of course, for fencing, it’s counted by touches, not by hits that might actually cause damage, and there are impartial judges, rather than relying on honor. So it’s a very different sport. Thanks for the insight.

  2. Interesting post. Hello from a fellow A-Z blogger.

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