Banners, Battle Axes, and Beer: Is there a better way to spend the weekend?


Yellow Belt
Nov 21, 2007
Reaction score
By William Pehush of The Self Defense Company

The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) is a historical reenactment group, which recreates pre-17th century Western European history, and every summer they go to war. For 17 days full contact sport martial arts are taken to a higher level as armies numbering in the thousands clash in the fields of Pennsylvania for honor and glory.

The combat SCA members engage in is a fierce mix of combat sport and cultural fighting and it teaches the fundamentals of medieval warfare. Using special weapons and armor similar to what the military uses in close combat training fantasy kingdoms, combatants fight to gain ground, and pound their enemies into submission. But all in good fun, at the end of it all they drink together later. Pennsic provides over 10,000 SCA members from around the world a chance to battle each other for fun and bragging rights, instead of blood and their lord's banner like long ago.

The SCA started off at a graduation party for medieval studies students in the backyard of writer Diana L. Paxson's home back in 1966, but they wanted more medieval close combat and they weren't alone. By 1968 the society was incorporated as a not for profit corporation, and people were starting their own chapters using the SCA's A Handbook for the Current Middle Ages. Kingdoms began to form, and groups all over the country started fighting like knights, barbarians, and even Romans. Like any combat sport whether it is Judo, Karate, or Tae Kwon Do fighting people in your own group gets old so the decision was made to hold Pennsic.

Since 1972 SCA warriors have journeyed to Pennsylvania so they may feast and play war on an epic scale. To prove their martial prowess men and women compete in archery, thrown weapons, fencing, and fight in armored combat with thousands of other combatants. In armored combat if a combatant's limb is struck by a weapon they will lose the use of that limb, but can continue fighting. Blows that would be fatal though immediately end a match. In recent years wrestling and grappling events have been added, and there are separate youth combat events so kids can compete safely. The victor of Pennsic is determined by war points earned by participants for competing in battles and other events.

Pennsic like all SCA events combines different historical periods, and is more about fun then accuracy so it is not uncommon to see primitive Celtic warriors mingling with renaissance ladies. Similar to kendo and other combat sports, SCA combat is similar to real combat, but is not intended to be fatal. Many blows that would end a real close combat fight are overlooked, and in a real self defense situation armor and weapons are not always available. Pennsic is a two week party that is filled with close combat martial arts, what is not to like?