Fighting, Weapons, and Armor

     Since SCA combat is one of the most visible aspects of the SCA, many people watch SCA fighters hit each other with those rather ominous looking rattan weapons and wonder how dangerous it really is. SCA fighting draws a great deal of attention and has resulted in many new members who join after seeing a fighting demonstration. First and foremost, There are two basic types of fighting in the SCA - single combat and group combat (melee). SCA fighting is open to men and women who are at least 18 years of age. 

     Before a fighter is allowed to enter his/her first "list" (tournament), he/she must be authorized (qualified) by his/her local Knight's Marshal. In order to be authorized, individuals must show that they are skilled to a level that they are not a danger to themselves or others; and they will be expected to know the "Rules of the List" prior to fighting in a tournament of war. The authorization requirement can take anywhere from a couple of months to more than a year, and it  is a necessary step in helping to reduce the chance of injury to unsuspecting SCA participants.
 Senior fighters of a local group will often be the ones who train new fighters for their authorization. The new fighters are taught how to recognize whether a blow received in combat is hard enough to do injury though the armor. If the blow is "good" to an arm or leg, the fighter would have effectively been dismembered and therefore gives up the use of that limb. If the blow is "good" to the head or body, the fighter is effectively "dead" and shall fall onto the ground signaling that his opponent has been victorious in combat. 

     It should also be noted that SCA fighting is not "staged" or choreographed, and the outcomes of battles is not pre-determined in any way. When on the field of battle, it is up to each individual fighter to determine whether or not a hit was of sufficient enough force to disable a limb or result in death.  Each fighter is held to his/her Honor regarding the brevity of hits which fall upon him/her. The Marshal(s) are not referees and do not decide the champion of a battle. Marshals are present to enforce safety regulations and ensure the safety of the fighters and the gentles who are observing. Honor on the field of battle goes both ways. A fighter keeps faith with his honor by accepting blows that would be killing or wounding blows; and his opponent keeps faith with his brother by accepting his word if he says a blow was too "light" to cause injury. 

     The weapons which are used in SCA fighting are made from rattan which is that bamboo-like wood with a solid core from which  furniture is often made. Even though SCA fighting blows are pretty solid, rattan is flexible enough to absorb some of the impact. It is also light enough, compared to many other materials, to closely resemble a real steel sword. Therefore, the weapons used in SCA fighting simulate the weight and handling of the actual weapons of the Middle Ages. Swords, the most common SCA fighting weapon, are made by wrapping rattan staffs with strapping tape, covering them with duct tape for aesthetic reasons, and attaching a crosspiece or other SCA approved hilt or guard. Please see you local Knights Marshal for more information on making SCA approved weapons. 

     The armor which is used in SCA fighting is a little more complex. Armor can be made of numerous materials, including but not necessarily limited to leather, steel or other appropriate metals, kydex, and rivets. There are several parts of the  that are absolutely required to be covered by armor: helms for the head, protection for the neck, the collar bone, the cervical vertebrae, the elbows, the knees, a kidney belt or something similar to protect the kidneys, protection for the hands, and groin protection. In addition to those required pieces of armor, many fighters also wear armor which provides them with protection for their chest, legs, shoulders, arms, forearms, and feet. Please check with your local Knights Marshal for more details on armor building and requirements.