SCA Combat

Discussion in 'Historical European Swords and Sword Arts' started by kegage, Jan 13, 2008.

  1. kegage

    kegage Green Belt

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    I hope you guys don’t mind, but I want to reopen the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) Combat thread. I really wish I had been on the forum when the original postings were done so you could get the perspective of a long-term member, and serious marshal practitioner, from another area.

    Sounds like most of the stories related were from the mid-realm area (American mid- west). I am from one of the southern areas, and we have also heard “horror” stories about the mid-realm, and all of the other kingdoms (there are 19 of them) for that matter. And they have probably heard “horror” stories about us. Some are true, and some are not. We have our jerks, idiots, and self-important big heads just like any other organizations, including the martial arts world. Unfortunately they are some of the ones that are remembered most by those not in the SCA.

    The history and evolution of the SCA, in many ways, emulates world history, but in a much shorter time span. It literally started as a going away party in 1966, in Berkley CA., for a medieval studies graduate going into the Peace Corp, and has evolved into a worldwide historical medieval recreation/ reenactment organization with over 40,000 members and over 100,000 non-member participants.

    The SCA overall has evolved from a mostly medieval themed weekend fun activity with just a bit of a serious side to a very serious hands-on academia research organization that also has some parties, and stills lets the less serious folks play too.

    The combat in the SCA has evolved in a similar manner. From “What can I do to come up with something that looks kinda right for this party?” to a complex manual of rules covering, head to toe armor requirements, weapons construction and use, legal and illegal target areas, blow calibration standards, rules of engagement, and field etiquette for all types of combat from one-on-one bouts to multi-thousand participant battles.

    The evolution of the serious martial arts practitioner in the SCA has also evolved from the “hey this is cool crowd” to the consummate serious researcher who wishes to recreate everything as accurately as they can. The main problem for most in the SCA who wish to do the European styles is the lack of written manuals and the complete lack of oral traditions for the different weapons forms known to exist in the 1,000 years and over 250+ cultures the SCA covers. A second problem is that some methods used in the known manuals violate SCA safety rules and are therefore not allowed. It is the same for weapon construction. Safety is the first and foremost thought. Armor and weapon construction rules are the ways they are for that reason alone, historical accuracy is a secondary consideration.
    There is much more, but I will let this suffice for now. Comments and questions are welcome

    Kevin
    Baron Uilleam MacUilleam of Garloch
    Barony of Grey Niche (Memphis, TN.)
    Kingdom of Glenn Abhann (MS, LA, AR, West TN. and a little bit of KY.)
     
  2. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Master Black Belt

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    Not that I've seen. There are some serious practicioners in the SCA, but the rulesets limit what's useful on the SCA field. Historically, the most important part of swordsmanship is the ability to grapple. If you can't wrestle well, you can't fence well in lethal combat, period. Swordsmanship in a historical, lethal context requires grappling and throws and disarms to be "accurate". Hands and lower legs are non-target zones in SCA combat, whereas for "real", the hands are a MAJOR target, and one of the best openings against a sword and shield combatant is under his shield, at the calf.

    Also, the head to toe armour drastically affects the accuracy of movement. Essentially, SCA combat uses unarmoured sword techniques while wearing full armour. Movement in and out of armour is completely different, as are the weapon techniques used. Simply, you don't use a longsword to "cut" at full armour. You half-sword and thrust, or throw your opponent to the ground and finish him with a dagger.

    Mind you, I've seen some SCA rapier that looked quite good. Also, I'm not saying that the SCA doesn't put out some badass fighters. Nor am I saying that it's not a worthwhile activity. And true enough, many WMA practicioners would get thrashed under SCA rules. The SCA teaches range and timing, and how to hit HARD. All good things. The revival of WMA had a good part of its beginnings in the SCA, as they were among the first to dig up the old manuals.

    But is SCA combat accurate? Not by a long shot. Could it be made so? Absolutely, but then it would become much more dangerous. There are some within the SCA who are trying to institute more realistic practices. And good for them, if that's what the SCA as a whole wants (which it doesn't). If not, then they should form their own group or join an existing WMA group.



    True enough. The earliet manual is from 1290. That being said, functional techniques can be adapted from later styles. The group Hammaborg in Germany (check them out on youtube) is doing great work on sword and shield using later sword and buckler/rotella manuals.



    That's kind of the whole point. For the most part, they were KILLING arts, not sportive ones. It's hard to adapt techniques that were designed to maim and destroy a human being into something safe for those who just use pieces of the Art for sport.



    So how can an SCA member as a "consumate serious researcher" striving to recreate something as accurately as he can, consider himself to be doing so while deliberately leaving out large (and historically critical) aspects of the Art?

    Best regards,

    -Mark

     
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  3. kegage

    kegage Green Belt

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    First, I am not going to disagree with any point you have made. It is all, within proper context, true. I will however attempt to clarify some things.




    These rules were first instituted in the very early days of the SCA. The SCA first allowed both grappling and full head to toe combat, but it was soon realized that the then minimal armor standards were inadequate and the technology and skills to upgrade armor for the general populace did not exist at that time. The SCA has “grappled” with these particular rules for its entire existence. It has done many experiments and trials through out its history trying to find “a safe way” to do exactly these aspects of combat. These experiments are usually started with in a limited number of experienced people who try and work out the best ways to use these methods on the field that can best be adopted by the entire fighting populace. If that experiment goes well then it is expanded to a larger experimental base for further study. Then finally, it will be allowed as a legal technique SCA wide. The last one I heard of was called “sidesword” in the rapier division. It was long sword techniques, and I got to watch some of it, it looked very cool, and I liked what I saw. The problem came later, major rules debates, fighters exhibiting a lack of control, people started getting hurt. End of experiment for the time being until rules can be better codified and it can be safer from the start.
    When the rules about the hands and below the knee contact were made we did not have knowledge and armor readily available to protect against injury. We have come a long, long way since then. We now have the armor and the skills necessary, so I believe that those rules should legitimately be reexamined.
    I used to tell potential members, when explaining what the SCA does, that we do everything concerning daily life in the middle ages except things that are illegal in today’s world and jousting because we have not found a safe way to do it I can no longer say that. It took forty years, and you still have to have a special authorization to do it, but we have found a safe way to do jousting.





    Ok, my mistake, I probably used the wrong term when I said “head to toe armor requirements”. What I was trying to refer to are armor requirements that are required to protect different critical points on the body not complete head to toe armor (i.e. plate armor) The rules call for what is refer to as minimum armor standards. These are minimum protection standards that have to protect certain parts of the body. These are: The head, neck, kidney and short ribs, elbows, hands, groin, and knees. To give you an example of how minimum this can be, it is common down here for a “suit of armor” to consist of the following: a 16ga basinet style helm with a face grill, a padded 16oz soft leather gorget, a 16oz padded soft leather kidney belt that also protects the lower ribs, hardened leather elbow cops, hand protection consisting of harden leather or equivalent, a hard sports cup, harden leather knee cops, leather boots or shoes. That’s all. All other areas of the body are optional. Protect them if you wish, but you are not required to, and many do not.
    And that brings us to the SCA blow calling standard. The SCA does not require full armor nor does it call blows by a full armor standard. The blow calling standard is basically the following. All combatants are considered “fully armored” fighters and presumed to be wearing a chain hauberk over a padded gambeson, with boiled leather arm and leg defenses and an open-faced iron helm with a nasal. The weapons are considered as the real equivalent Swords cut and stab, maces crush, axes cleave, and pole arms can really mess you up.. As we are not considered in plate, or fully encompassing armor, cuts very well do apply and are effective as such combatWhile wedo refer to a defeat as a death, we very well realize that the reality is that a winning blow would more than likely in reality stun or incapacitate an opponent rather than kill them outright, and the coup de gras is a given.
    The SCA over the years has increasingly added more and more combat activities to the repertoire of its activities and will, I believe, to add more as it finds better ways to allow as many of the populace, who wish to do them the opportunity to do so under its section. The SCA also wants those activities to be as authentic as is reasonably possible, and therein lays the difficulty. Whatever activities it allows has to be safe and the rules codified for the literally thousands of people around the world who will be engaging in those activities. So, that when a German SCAer meets a Australian SCAer on the battlefield at Pensic Wars, along with the other 4,000 combatants on that same field, and there is no confusion as to the rules and how the combat is to be conducted.

    Sincere regards to you,

    Kevin





     
  4. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Master Black Belt

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    Well, that's the difficulty we all have. Fighting is by nature dangeorus. Sport fighting has to distort the real thing or we eventually have no competitors. Just a bunch of amputees. ;)

    Which comes back to accuracy, which was my main point. A sword and kite shield style (for example) can't be considered authentic or accurate because we simply have no souces. We can infer, and we may even come up with a workable system that functions against modern practicioners. we may even devise one that works really well against everything, but that doesn't make it accurate. It also doens't mean that it's not worth trying.

    I personally applaud those who try to make SCA combat more realistic, and I think the SCA is fine activity and very worthwhile. I've even done SCA combat.

    I do have one problem with some of the bad habits that SCA combat tends to produce in those that pursue it. I feel it's due to people Rhino-ing. What happens is when SCA types study WMA, they start off as "Buffalos", with grossly telegraphed, overpowered strikes that are well in excess of what's needed for what they're attempting to learn. They cock the sword back before striking (for example), giving a huge tempo to exploit. In SCA combat, sometimes you've got to hit the holy hell out of someone to get them to take the hit. Whereas in unarmoured combat (for example), a fast, untelegraphed strike is more useful. And then we can talk about the footwork and stances I've seen in SCA, which were to say ABYSMAL, outside of rapier, which seems to be of a higher standard as a general rule. That being said, SCA fighters have good power, and a good sense of range and timing. There are a lot of good things about the SCA, and there are some badass fighters in there. But it ain't my scene, and the combat doesn't interest me, since I'm interested in learning accurate techniques rather than winning a sparring match. But to each his own. :)

    Best regards,

    -Mark
     
  5. kegage

    kegage Green Belt

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    Agreed. However, your organization also has had to make concessions to realism and authenticity for the sake of safety. Slower attack speeds and reduced aggression are just two of the things that first come to mind. When someone has to worry about possibly hurting their opponent, their movement, timing and technique are all stifled out of the necessity of caution. On the other side of the coin each person has to deal with the fear, whether they want to admit it or not, of getting hurt, and that also affects how one reacts to, or initiates, an attack. There are others, but these are the things that come immediately to mind.

    So, which one is more authentic. Neither, they both are different, and have chosen different paths to explore essentially the same thing. You guys’ grapple, we don’t. Well, we do but, but in a very limited fashion, and only under certain conditions. You use padded weapons or wasters, almost no armor, and have soft contact rules. We have armor requirements, use rattan weapons, have a minimum blow calling standard, and engage in fast hard-hitting combat. The difference is the style in which we both have decided to explore the marshal aspects of medieval European combat. I just happen to believe that mine is closer to the reality of true combat.

    By the way- I have been to the web sites you listed read all of the text and viewed some of the videos so I would be better informed about what your group does.
    Ok, let’s take the kite shield for example. I have to disagree with you here. While it is true there are no manuals as to its actual movement when being used, there are at least two or three primary sources as to how it was generally used, the most famous one being the Bayeux Tapestry. The tapestry shows the kite shield being used in two ways, as a cavalry shield and as a ground shield, primarily in a shield wall. A couple of panels even show the rudimentary strapping on the back of the shield. There, also, have been archeology finds of the remains of kite shields from that period. The wood and leather were almost all gone, but the hardware that fastened the strapping to the shield was intact, along with impressions of the shield. From this it was fairly easy to extrapolate how the strapping on the shield was arranged. Once you have that information it is fairly easy to recreate the shield, and figure out the realities of its use, both in the saddle and on the ground. I refer you to the Osprey, Men-at-Arms series: The Normans as a start.

    You are right about its use being speculation, but it is good, well thought out, intently studied and experimented with, based on hardcore evidence speculation. In many ways, it is no different than what you have to do to fill in the gaps of the medieval European fighting manuals you use and Musashi’s Go Rin No Sho and other similar books that I use. It is as accurate as you can hope for it to be, until better evidence comes along.
    Thank you, and I am glad you have at least tried it. That is more than most I have talked to about this subject.

    I am going to do some speculating of my own here. As you are in western Canada (I checked your profile) you were most likely dealing with people from the Kingdom of An Tir (lucky you). You probably were dealing with fighters that are either in full plate or three quarters plate. They wear that a lot up there. A common, unfortunate, result of this is a harder blow calling standard than other areas. To compound things, you also may have been a victim of what I refer to as “Big Kahuna Syndrome” This is the guy, or guys in a group who are either the best fighters, or think they are the best fighters, so, naturally, anyone who has less experience can’t kill them, no matter how hard they try. In the areas of the SCA that plate abounds this has a tendency to be problem. In some places the big kahunas are also the older fighters who had a hand in starting combat in that area, and believe they are the end all on knowledge about medieval combat, so their way is the only way. The result of this type of attitude, are fighters with less than desirable on the field attitudes, and extremely bad skills and technique. I have had to deal with and reform a few that have moved into this group.
    Fortunately, a vast majority of the SCA doesn’t think that way. It’s about helping each other learn, train well, and improve on technique. I wish you had met the SCA down here for that is the way it is here. We teach technique and form above all on the practical side, and honor, chivalry, and courtesy on the philosophical side. It’s about learning, improving, and having fun. Winning is not a word we use a lot. Please check your egos at the entrance to the lists.

    As for the problems ya’ll have with SCA folk crossing over, If they have been badly taught then they will have to unlearn and be taught again correctly, which is sometimes much harder. It is, unfortunately, your headache (Pommel to their forehead? Then they will have a head-ache too.). Again, been there and done that.

    Kevin
    Who is about to go out and practice cutting.
     
  6. Bob Hubbard

    Bob Hubbard Retired

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    One of the first people to show me sword work was an SCA member, and several of my past training partners have been (or still are) SCA members. So, the input of current members, discussion of, etc, greatly welcome. :)


    Older thread here, though this one seems to have more 'meat' to it. Good stuff! :)
     
  7. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I have no experience with SCA, nor Wester European sword methods, but I'm finding this discussion very interesting. My experience with sword work is in Chinese Jian and Dao, technique and forms practice but no contact sparring.

    I wanted to comment/ask for further information regarding the above statement. It seems to me that while drilling technique for sword or any weapon, one certainly strives for perfect, or at least superior footwork. However, in the heat of actual battle, be it a sparring match or actual combat on a 12th century European battlefield somewhere, the confusion and unpredictability and insanity of the battle would probably cause footwork and other elements of technique to be less than optimal. Of course the better you have trained, the better your technique will hold together under pressure, but I surmise that under those conditions, nobody would have pretty footwork. Any thoughts on this? thanks!
     
  8. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Master Black Belt

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    Firstly, thank-you for your reasoned and thoughtful post. I'm happy nobody's here to start a flame war. :)



    True, that's why different methods are used. We use wasters, padded weapons, blunt steel and sharp steel. In this we mirror the training formerly used by one the best fighting forces on Earth: The U.S. Marines. They did the same thing with their bayonet training back in the day. If it's realistic enough for the Marines, it's good enough for me, wimp that I am. ;)

    That being said, you're right that safety concerns limit what we can do in combat. That's the thing about martial training. That's what padded weapons are for... range and timing. Wasters are for getting a technique to funtion, blunt steel helps perfect the "feel", and sharp swords are for cutting practice to see if your edge alignment is anywhere near close. And if you've (not you specifically, I see that you cut) never cut with a sharp sword, your edge alignment probably sucks. Mine sure does when I get out of practice.



    To me, that's the crux of the matter. The basis of swordsmanship IS wrestling. Period, end of story. Look at Fiore and Liechtenauer. If you're not learning how to throw and grapple, then you're not learning swordsmanship, you're learning a PIECE of it. Maybe very good pieces, but wrestling is simply critical. If you get into a "real" sword fight with someone who can grapple, and you can't, you're done, unless your bladework is WAY better than his.



    Believe you me, I applaud that. :)



    Could very well be. I'm not about to duel you with sharps and see. ;) But I also have an issue with rattan weapons. They don't bind well. They feel and act like complete and utter crap in the bind. Understanding the bind is a crucial part of swordsmanship... probably the second most important part after wrestling.



    Thanks! You're welcome to come hang out any time. :)



    Whoa Nelly! You can work out what seems to work based on best evidence, but you're still not sure about how THEY did it, which is all that matters to me. People who fought and killed with them knew. We don't. We have some idea, based on I.33, Marozzo, and the rest, but that doesn't mean we know.



    It is VERY different. When a manuals says: do x y and z when a b and c happens, the fundamental concepts are well known. I would say that German and Italian longsword are known well enough to have a complete system that works. Same for Italian rapier, backsword and the rest. We don't have a system for sword and shield because the evidence isn't strong enough. We have what we THINK it could have been.



    I don't spout out about stuff I don't know about.

    Mostly mail, actually, with some plastic lamellar.

    My teacher had to knock a knight out to get him to call a hit. And promptly left SCA fighting for good. :) I can see that happening in other locales.

    Absolutely. :)


    Good man. *High five*

    Best regards,

    -Mark
     
  9. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Master Black Belt

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    No argument there. But a lot of SCA and especially WMA combat is one on one... duelling. But it does fall apart under pressure. I've got footage of me sparring in competition, and in parts my footwork fell apart. At one point, I forgot to step with my strike. And got hit for my trouble. ;)

    Best regards,

    -Mark
     
  10. kegage

    kegage Green Belt

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    You rresponded too soon. I had forgotten to invoke my best evidence for knowing how Kite shields work: 1965's The Warlord with Charlton Heston.

    Kevin
     
  11. kegage

    kegage Green Belt

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    Sure. You are absolutely correct about footwork, and every thing else you can think of, breaking down on the battlefield, and holding together the better you are trained. That goes for the unit as well as the individual. The SCA does almost every kind weapon style from most of the world, during the medieval period, on an individual level (Tournaments) and in massive battles. The scenarios are also varied.
    Tournaments, in a broad sense, usually take forms similar to regular marshal arts tournaments, except we don’t use judges, and the same difficulties that befall other marshal artist befall us. There are a wide variety of tournament scenarios, but essentially the above is true.
    As far as battles go, we do everything from field battles, bridge battles, and small town battles to actual small fort sieges and forest battles, in numbers ranging from two on two to thousands on a side.
    There is an age old saying, that has changed little throughout the centuries, The best laid battle plans are only good until first engagement. This is soooo true, even down to training on an individual level. Once in the press of battle everything can change in a split second. If your unit is doing well and advancing, or at least maintaining position, it is not that difficult to maintain and adhere to most of your training. The hardest part is having to try and be aware of all of the activity off to your sides and making sure that your comrades are covered while trying to stay alive yourself. There are several basic scenarios where, unless handled well, on an individual, but primarily on a unit level, everything can go to pot in seconds. These are: Making or receiving across the field full speed charges, making or receiving flanking maneuvers, and forced retreats. In all of these scenarios it is difficult, at best, to maintain not only your individual skills, but also unit integrity at the same time. Maybe I can put it into an analogy you can understand. Think of yourself in the absolutely most crowded situation you have ever been in, ooohhh, let’s say, a central subway station in New York City, Friday afternoon rush hour, during the Christmas shopping season, now imagine everyone around you is in medieval armor with weapons and they are ALL are swinging at YOU!!! Yeah, that’s about right. Footwork becomes the last thing you are thinking about.

    Hope that helps. If not, oh, the war stories I can tell.

    Kevin
     
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  12. kegage

    kegage Green Belt

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    Who…me? The only time I use fire, besides for cooking and keeping warm, is in sieges.

    We have had boot Marines, interested in SCA combat, turn down the opportunity to participate in training fights, which a lot lighter than regular fighting, because they were “Now killing machines, and they didn’t want to take a chance on hurting us.” funny, but true. We also have a slew of Marines and other military that can kick my butt.

    Well, the cutting practice I am referring to is practicing technique with a bokken, but I also occasionally cut “stuff “ with my Katana.

    Wouldn’t think of it
    I agree, to a degree, with the rattan binding issue, but I have learned to overcome it, and use it to my advantage.
    Ok, this is my meat. We can discuss sword work all day long and both be right and wrong, because there are so many ways to mess up with a sword and do absolutely the weirdest stuff ever seen. Shields on the other hand are very restrictive in how they can be used effectively. The smaller they are the more versatile they are in the ways they can be used. My personal favorite is an 18-inch diameter Scottish targ. The wider and the longer they get the more restrictive they become. You learn very quickly what works and what doesn’t. I have worked quite a bit with kite shields, strapped in a period manner, on the ground at least, and there are only a few ways to use it effectively. Elbow tucked into the side, arm straight up, top of the shield held just below eye level. Blows from the above are blocked with a straight up and down motion. Blows to the head and body from the sides are blocked with a side-to-side motion of the arm and slight twisting of the torso. Thrusts are deflected in essentially the same way. These are the bare bones basics. There are subtle variations of use within these parameters, but these are the basics. Using this shield in any other manner gets you killed. It is even more restrictive once you get into a shield wall. There are things you can do to use it to enhance your offense, but if you do you reduce its defensive capabilities and open yourself up to extreme attack.
    Now, after all that, the point is, you’re right, we may never be absolutely sure exactly how correct we are, but it does work under the best combat conditions we can come up with, without actually hurting or killing people. Quite a few others and I have worked extensively with kite shields to discover the realistic parameters both offensively and defensively, in single combat and melee, and I am certain of our findings.

    All I can do is apologize for the idiots up there, and hopefully, somehow, convince you that the majority of the SCA is not like that in any way. I don’t know how long ago this happened, but there are channels through which issues like this can be handled. Sounds like that guy needs an official spanking of some sort, and I do know the people who can do it. Let me know privately if you want me to make inquiries.

    Kevin
     
  13. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Thanks for the responses gentlemen.

    If there were 34 hours in the day and 12 days in the week, I might actually find time to get into this kind of training. I find it very interesting, but I'm already stretched too thin.
     
  14. kegage

    kegage Green Belt

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    One of the great things about the SCA is that it is not like any other combat training format that I know of. It is an open social organization with literally hundreds of different educational facets; combat being only one of them. There are no dues or fees for combat training and most groups have loaner armor and weapons so you can try it without having to make an investment, and/ or to continue training until you can obtain your own, which they can assist you in finding, or making. The only thing you need to provide is groin protection (a hard athletic cup). How much time you spend in training, or any other SCA activity is totally up to you. I looked at your profile and found out where you are. Here is the website of your local group: http://www.cloondara.org/About/default.aspx . The information about fighter practice is in the Contact section. If you have any further questions you can contact a person call the Chatelain (in charge of assisting new people) who is also in the Contacts section under heading of Shire Officers. Hope you find time to check it out, and even if it’s not for you, it is entertaining to watch.

    Kevin
     
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  15. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Master Black Belt

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    This should be done weekly, with the type of weapon you fight with. I wish I had the facilities to do it more often. :(



    See, here's a problem. Binds are done with steel, not rattan. If you don't practice binds with steel, then you're missing the whole "feeling" of swordsmanship. Understanding the bind is crucial. If you're doing it with rattan and adjusting the techniques to suit rattan, then you're not doing swordsmanship. You're doing sword-hilted rattan stick fighting. Nothing wrong with that, but let's not call it something it's not. Swordsmanship involves SWORDS, not sticks. I think we can all agree on that. I have the same problem with using only wooden wasters. Wasters are tools, but they are not swords. Swordsmanship boils down to "how can I use a sword to save my life in an earnest encounter with sharps?", not "how can I use rattan/wood/boffers/padded weapons to win a match?" I'm not invalidating the sporting aspect of swordplay. The ancients used this stuff for sport as well, but it was created for killing.



    Now here I disagree completely. Any study of related weapons (bucklers, duelling shields) shows a multiplicity of techniques. Groups like Hammaborg try to adapt these to larger shields such as the viking shields featured below. One can certainly see where both Talhoffer and I.33 were adapted to fit a different weapon. There's a lot going on there, despite the simplicity of the techniques.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWSTx0tZHCU&feature=related
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGNBc7ewusQ&feature=related
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXPujfwQJUg

    However, we agree that this may not be how it was done. My point is, if you're going to recreate a shield style, and want to claim some form of accuracy (your original point) then study diligently the surviving manuals on related weapons and learn them inside out. Perhaps you have, and I salute your scholarship if so. Hammaborg is also able to do such things with the shield because they have studied I.33 and Talhoffer religiously. Even their SPARRING looks like I.33, and that's under the pressure of combat. That's an accomplishment of no small import.

    If you haven't studied the surviving manuals on rotella/targe/buckler to the point of having internalized them, then no reconstruction means anything outside of the artificial restraints of SCA combat, regardless of the amount of experimental practice put in. For that matter, neither would any of my attempts at shield combat mean anything without similar study.



    With all due respect, if you're not revising your interpretations every couple of years, then you're not doing research into historical combat. Thinking that you're certain of how a given weapon was used without extensive textual, technical evidence to back you up is unwise, to say the least. All you can truly say is "this is how I've made it work for me, given what I know now". In a few years you will learn more, and may perhaps radically change your perspective on various weapons as more material becomes available. I know my interpretation of German Longsword has undergone a lot of change in the past year, as I understand the manuals better, and as I bout more. Please know that I'm not condemning your research as invalid. Experimentation via bouting is very important, and I applaud the hard work you've done. Just remember that we're just at the tip of a very large iceberg. The best is truly yet to come.

    Very best regards,

    -Mark
     
  16. thardey

    thardey Master Black Belt

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    All right then, question on the heater shield -- for either of you.

    All the videos and demonstrations from SCA show the shield strapped either in a horizontal fashion, or in a diagonal, so that the elbow is low, and the hand is high.

    Problem: I ride horses -- there is no way you could ride a horse with either of the above strappings. (and yes, the knights did use reins to control the horses, not everything was done with the legs - in fact, they had two sets of reins, they were so important.) I saw an old picture once, I don't remember where, that showed a strap that ran over the knight's head, to carry the weight of the shield, then three straps that ran in a downward diagonal. Two of them were loose, so that the arm could be threaded through them, then down to the proper riding position for handling reins, and a third provided an optional handle for manipulating the shield.

    Since the heater shield was primarily designed for use in mounted combat, why doesn't the SCA use a mounted-combat related strapping for the shield? It seems like you could be more aggressive with it, (like Marrozzo's use of the buckler) and use a lot less energy in holding up the shield. You could still use the points to defend your head and legs. And how could you use impractical ways of holding the shield to re-create how a shield was originally used? That's like trying to re-create sword work with an imbalanced sword! You'll never find it.

    I'm sure I'm not the first to realize this, and you must have some good explanation, but I would like to know.
     
  17. kegage

    kegage Green Belt

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    thardey wrote:
    All the videos and demonstrations from SCA show the shield strapped either in a horizontal fashion, or in a diagonal, so that the elbow is low, and the hand is high.


    You are correct. Fighters in the SCA do use both systems. The diagonal style is accurate. The horizontal style, as a stand-alone style, I am not sure about. There is also a perpendicular, hand up and elbow down style, which I also am not sure about. At various times in the past I have inquired of different fighters as to why they use the style they do and the answers have been varied. To some it is nothing more than a preference, but most have given some sort of historical reason, usually referencing a book. Not a lot is known about the strapping of shields. It seems that some of the fighters seem to choose their strapping style base primarily from the few examples of the way kite shields were strapped. Essentially, kite shields had four leather arm and handle straps (enarmes) that form a square. The arm was slipped through the vertical straps for mounted combat and the arm was slipped through the lower horizontal strap and the upper strap was used as a handle for ground combat. The kite shield also had a strap (guige) that was used over the head and around the shoulders. Both the horizontal and perpendicular styles are cumbersome and hard to manage effectively, and most fighters that try them soon go to the diagonal style.

    thardey wrote:
    Problem: I ride horses -- there is no way you could ride a horse with either of the above strappings. (and yes, the knights did use reins to control the horses, not everything was done with the legs - in fact, they had two sets of reins, they were so important.) I saw an old picture once, I don't remember where, that showed a strap that ran over the knight's head, to carry the weight of the shield, then three straps that ran in a downward diagonal. Two of them were loose, so that the arm could be threaded through them, then down to the proper riding position for handling reins, and a third provided an optional handle for manipulating the shield.


    I believe the picture are referring to is that of Sir Robert de Shurland A drawing of his effigy can be found at: http://books.google.com/books?id=HL...sig=G69pmFoRCke9uFR3GfNhG0L7Wtw#PRA1-PA268,M1 in the book The Archaeology of Weapons By R. Ewart Oakeshott

    You are correct about the arrangement of the strapping and the way they are used, and it is this diagonal style that you saw in the videos and demonstrations to which you referred. However, the two arm straps (enarmes) in the drawing are not always loose. All of the straps usually had buckles, of some sort, so the tightness of the straps could be adjusted to suit the users needs. This assisted greatly in the control of the shield and the reins while the knight was mounted, and the third arm strap at the top of the shield could be easily used as a handle if needed while mounted, and when on the ground. You can also see in the drawing the shoulder/around the head strap (guige).

    thardey wrote:
    Since the heater shield was primarily designed for use in mounted combat, why doesn't the SCA use a mounted-combat related strapping for the shield? It seems like you could be more aggressive with it, (like Marrozzo's use of the buckler) and use a lot less energy in holding up the shield. You could still use the points to defend your head and legs. And how could you use impractical ways of holding the shield to re-create how a shield was originally used? That's like trying to re-create sword work with an imbalanced sword! You'll never find it


    Not totally true. The heater shield evolved from the kite shield, which was both a mounted and ground combat shield. While the heater shield was the preferred shield of choice for most knights, it was not only used as a mounted shield. A larger “war shield“ version was often used by infantry troops, usually combined together to form a shield wall. The method of using the heater shield you describe above is pretty much the way it is used in SCA combat. The big difference is that most fighters have eliminated the middle arm strap. It is almost essential for good control of the shield when mounted, but actually does very little to enhance the use of the shield in ground combat. There are still more than few fighters, though, that still use all three straps, and all the equestrians that I have seen using heater shields use the three-strap system.
    It is very important that all types of shields are balanced to the person using them for maximum effect and reducing stress on the arm. How aggressively shields are used is primarily up to the fighter. Forceful shield-to-shield and shield-to-weapon contact is allowed by our rules, but not shield-to-body contact.

    thardey wrote:
    I'm sure I'm not the first to realize this, and you must have some good explanation, but I would like to know


    Nope, your not, and I hope this helps.

    Kevin

    Hey Langenshwert!

    Sorry I haven't replied to your last post yet, but a bit of real life has popped up. Don't worry I'm working on it. Hopefully tomorrow.

    Engardes, no....wait..... Regards,

    yeah that's it.

    Kevin
     
  18. kegage

    kegage Green Belt

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  19. thardey

    thardey Master Black Belt

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    How big was the square? The idea makes sense- I haven't seen any pictures of that style, but I could see how it would be useful both on horse, (if you use the guige), but quickly adjustable for the ground.

    No, that's not the picture. In the one I saw, the strappings were arranged in a downward diagonal, and the picture illustrated a man on a horse. In your picture, there appears to be a small handle near the top of the shield, in the one I was talking about, that small handle was moved to the bottom, so there was no difference in the orientation or grip of the shield between mounted and dismounted combat. The only difference would be that the left hand would be gripping the reins, with a downward angle of the arm, so that the flat part of the shield was up, and the bottom point covered the front of the leg while mounted, vs. gripping the handle, and the arm is now held horizontally, so that the shield rotates so that the upper point covers the head, and the lower point covers the groin. Essentially the shield would be in the same position as in your style, except that my arm would be horizontal, while yours is vertical, which would give me farther reach to cover the front of my body, buckler-style.

    The kite shield was also primarily designed to cover a horseman's left side while riding. Since most of what I've seen regarding the kite shield comes from the Normans during the Crusader era, most of the time you'll see pictures of them related to horseback. Because a lot of the Crusaders lost their horses during the campaign, they used their shields for foot-work, too.

    I'm not disputing that the kite or heater shield was used on the ground - but while we have pictures and records of how to use the shield mounted (mostly pictures from tapestries of battles, or descriptions of jousting), and none that we know of on using it on foot, it seems logical that it's primary purpose was mounted. For line soldiers a square shield would create a better link to your neighbor, and we have records of how (the romans, at least) used that. Or a round shield used like a buckler for foot was good, too.

    The method I'm describing is the opposite of what I've seen in the SCA.

    Let's see if I can do this in ASCII:




    Where you're looking at the back of the shield, and the "****" represents your forearm, and the "&" represents your left hand holding the handle.

    While mounted the upper-left strap would be near your shoulder, the lower-right strap would be near your elbow -- on your upper forearm, and your hand would be exposed. The whole thing would be held in place by the guige around your neck.

    But you're right, the right strap would be useless once you're holding the handle. The handle would be useless while you're mounted, and the strap is necessary, as well as the guige.


    Most of what I've seen is a pushing match between two shields locked face-to-face, while the combatants try to reach over the top and hit the other guy in the back. (I used to be involved with the SCA, too, but I'm also in the AnTir kingdom, which you've already described with accuracy.) The footwork is the same as what I learned in High-school football. Essentially drive the other guy off-balance, and hit him when you do so.
     
  20. thardey

    thardey Master Black Belt

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    well, my illustration didn't work. but you probably get the idea.
     

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