Habitus: Or Why SCA Rapier Is Awesome…And Why SCA Rapier Sucks.

Clearly I’m a little proud of my SCA rapier background. I had access to a number of seriously talented fencing teachers and dedicated historians, and came from an area with a history of turning out some of the best rapier fighters in the world. That said, I’ve also seen some horrible rapier fencers in the SCA. For the majority of the training time, the training is identical between the great fighters and the shit fighters. Training consists of armour up and fight whoever is there to train with you. Period. On the surface, we are seeing pure Darwinian evolution at work. The naturally good fighters rise to the top, and everyone else either drops out or reaches a certain stable point of usually very low skill and stays there. If an area has good fighters, it’s because random chance caused a pocket of genetic freaks to collect in that spot.…

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Blow Calling and Context

When I started in the SCA, lo those many years ago, things were great. We had what felt like a unified approach to dealing with how to acknowledge hits from rapiers, and it had been tested out over time and found to be good. The context was first blood duel, assumed light shirts/clothing worn, and a sword pointed and sharp on both edges. You call the shot landed on you if you felt it, regardless if you thought it was good or not, and the other guy would tell you if it was actually good or not. Honourable and adult conduct was to be assumed at all times. The idea behind this is that you can’t always tell how you’ve been hit, especially with a sharp. People who have been stabbed for real can back this up, as they mostly think they’ve been hit with a very light punch or…

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Tourney Time

The bulk of my rapier training, before moving into full-time teaching, was for tournament fighting. At my peak, I think in a two year period I hit about 70 tournaments. Never won one, but towards the end I had a consistent habit of second place or at least in the finals. The preceding years saw greater and greater participation. My life was focused around competing and training for competing, and my marriage(s) and work history do reflect that. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time to make a five hour round trip to Seattle for a chance to spend half an hour sparring new people, and then head to Oregon that weekend for what amounted to about two minutes of sword time in a tournament. I admit to getting a little burned out on tournaments. I no longer have the fire to compete, and have found new…

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Fighting Fear

At Valkyrie we make it no secret that we’re owned and run by women. We constantly, actively recruit women as students. When the subject of women, fear, and martial arts comes up in conversation, it’s common to assume that you’re going to be talking about fear of being hit, hurt, or injured. Bzzt. Wrong. Thank you for playing. It’s not to say that the fear doesn’t exist, because it does. In my experience, though, it’s something that we’ve prepared ourselves for ahead of time. When you go to a martial arts class you know that at some point you will be punched in the face. You begin to deal with that before you even walk in the door on your first day. It’s just one small piece of the normal flurry of emotions that come with trying a new thing. The problem. The fear that takes you by surprise the…

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Ability-Ranked Sparring

Now that Valkyrie has been around for a while, we are starting to see a few things in our method that don’t scale as well as we might of thought. Mostly these are the result of making assumptions. When you start small and grow, you get used to the easy pace of new fighters coming in and getting assimilated into the gestalt of things. When you start to get lots of new people showing up, with different expectations, skill levels, and background things can get confusing. Sparring is one of those areas where things can get weird, and not safe for people. We’ve had a hiccup or two around this recently, and it spurred some good conversation. It also got me thinking about some of my ideas for ranking systems. Generally I’m not a fan of ranking. The problem I’ve found in most martial arts is that the skills learned…

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Sword and Dagger

Picked my dagger up last night. I’ve been fighting single sword exclusively for maybe three or four years now. I made the decision to stick to sword alone because I wasn’t happy with my fighting habits. I had come to depend exclusively on a baiting and tricking game. Add to that some very poor initial instruction in swordplay, and I was hitting a solid plateau I couldn’t get past. Plus, getting older means you don’t get better without taking a serious look at your own building blocks. You either do a complete rebuild and shore up the foundation, or get content with slowly fading away and reminiscing about how you used to be able to do so much more. I did learn some interesting things over the last while. Off-hand weapons do offer an increased challenge against single sword, but not as much as you’d think. I fought lots of…

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