FMAT: SCA: The other people who love rattan sticks

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Sep 11, 2006
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SCA: The other people who love rattan sticks
By scubamatt - Thu, 28 Feb 2008 23:47:04 GMT
Originally Posted at: FMATalk


The SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) is a nonprofit educational organization, with members all over the world. The SCA (also known as 'the Society') attempts to recreate the Middle Ages 'as it should have been' - in other words, all the good things about medieval life, and none of the bad stuff like The Plague, etc. SCA members dress up in period clothing, adopt period names and behavior (called a 'persona') and pretty much do anything and everything that might have been done in the middle ages, especially if it seems fun. From making beer to making paper, from handcrafting longbows to competing in archery tournaments - you name it, and someone in the SCA is doing it like they did it way back when.

A large part of what SCA members do involves medieval style combat. They have heavy combat (you wear armor and fight with rattan weapons to simulate steel ones), rapier combat (you use modern fencing armor with period clothing, and fight with slightly modified fencing weapons), combat archery (you use bows up to 55lb draw weight and simulated arrows on the battlefield), and even siege weapons are used in the various Wars. There are also equestrian events and tests of skill, but its not really free form combat like the rest, because of the safety and cost.

If you've ever been to a Medieval Times restaraunt (or one of the many clones of that type) you may have seen knights fighting on foot, and so forth. This differs from SCA combat because SCA combat is not choreographed - you win or lose based on your skill and your luck.

Heavy combat in the SCA is somewhere between a martial art and a sport, depending on who you talk to about it. There are some serious scholars who research and practice combat the way it really was fought in the period, and there are those who treat it as a sport. There are strict rules for weapons and armor construction, based on safety first and realism second. Your armor must meet real world standards for safety, weight and construction, because you will be facing weapons made of rattan, rubber and leather. A typical rattan weapon has the same weight and balance as its real world counterpart, but lacks the narrow (cutting) cross section. SCA weapons range from short swords and daggers to long swords, maces, axes, greatswords, spears and polearms.

A typical rattan sword is made from rattan that starts out 1.5 inches in diameter, then has two sides shaved down slightly, forming 'flats' and making it look a little more like an edged weapon. The legal minimum for a rattan sword is 1.25 inches in diameter (so that it cannot pass through a 1 inch visor on a helmet). Next, the rattan is wrapped with strapping tape (or some other filament type tape), using a tight spiral pattern. This reduces splintering, and lengthens the life of the sword. After 1 or 2 layers of filament tape, the blade area of the sword is covered with duct tape (to give it a psuedo metal grey color) and then the edge is marked with a thin stripe of colored tape. This color stripe helps you and your opponent tell if they are hit with the edge or flat of the blade in combat. A handguard or crosspiece is added (made of leather or rubber) and a counterweight is placed on the end of the pommel to adjust the weapon's balance. When completed, a typical SCA rattan sword weighs 2-3 times as much as an FMA baton.

The rules for combat are very specific, and safety comes before realism. For example, the legal target areas exclude the hands (to 1 inch above the wrist), and anything from 1 inch above the knees down to the toes. These areas are simply too easy to injure given the weapons and techniques used. The groin, head, torso, thighs, and arms are all legal targets however. In combat, you may not grab an opponents 'blade', though you may grab the haft of an axe or spear without penalty (though it is very hard to do this, usually). Liekwise you may not grab an opponets shield with your hands, but you can hook/trap/displace it with your own weapon or shield. This rule exists to prevent injury to the hands, which would likely be pinned or smashed between shields. Shields are very common in SCA combat, too.

Combat in the SCA is most often done as tournaments or duels, one man vs one man, fighting within a specified battle area, called 'the list field'. There are, however, many forms of melee or 'mass battles' that allow large groups of fighters to clash. These may be bridge battles, wall battles, ressurrection battles, castle battles, or some other form of mass combat. There are also several Wars that take place every year (as annual events) where special types of battles can take place.

The rules specify that no more than 4 attackers can gang up on single defender, but on a battlefield with hundreds or even thousands of warriors fighting, it does happen. The tactics and skills used in tournament combat are very different than those used when fighting in a crowd.

Here are some links to short video clips of SCA fighting:

Field battle (a few thousand fighters)

Bridge battle (a few dozen)

Fighter practice for a local group (tournament style, man to man)

If you would like to learn more about the SCA and/or the fighting they do, you can visit the Society's home page at:

or try this demo page (where those video links came from):

So far in my FMA training, I have come across several moves that have SCA (european) counterparts. The moves seem very familiar, because the basic concept is the same. This is good and bad for me - good because some things I grasp pretty quickly, bad because sometimes I forget and respond in the wrong way. (Mistakes like that wouldn't hurt so much if I was wearing the armor I had in the SCA...)

Skill in the FMA will certainly help an SCA fighter, too, though obviously much of it won't translate across - one of the deadliest fighters I've ever seen in the SCA turned out to be an Arnis enthusiast ("my other hobby where I get to beat people with sticks"). He used a pair of short swords (about 24" long....) to devastating effect. :sword2:


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