Protection and Pain: Finding the Balance

In the picture above you can see two Valkyrie coaches going at with Cold Steel plastic Bowie trainers, and wearing partial High Gear body armour suits. High Gear suits are awesome. We are incredibly lucky to have a pair of these suits at the school. Each suit provides a set of wrist-to-instep protection that is guaranteed to keep you safe from injury while sparring with full intent. So why are we wearing only partial suits in this photo? What makes the High Gear suits valuable, as explained on their website, is that they prevent injury but they don’t prevent pain. So if I punch you in the face while you are wearing the helm, you won’t get a broken nose. But your head will rock back and you will feel like you just got punched in the face. You will not enjoy it. But you won’t be injured. Why is…

Continue reading

April 9 Tournament Wrap-up

Valkyrie had it’s first tournament just a little less than two weeks ago. Results can be found on our facebook page, and I talked about the format in a previous blog post. It’s been enough time that I’m able to put together some thoughts about how it went, and what we will change with the next one. We had 214 or so fights, and no injuries beyond the usual colourful bruises, scrapes and occasional bit of blood from a scratch. There was no conflict or bad feelings to be noted in the entire tournament. We only had three problems surface around the bouts themselves. Two where resolved on the spot to the satisfaction of both the fighters and the audience, and the third caused some mumbles afterwards but didn’t affect the fight at the time. One fight missed being tallied and included in the fighters totals at the end, and…

Continue reading

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.…

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

Familiarity Breeds Caution

Making road trips to small towns to teach fencing was always a special sort of fun. Inbred fencing is a real thing. In the world of SCA rapier, there are no standards, no rote lessons, no best practices. Everyone who can prove that they are capable of not hurting someone in a tournament is free to pursue anything they want, fighting in any style that strikes there fancy. Balancing that out is a community that only values winning. Small towns tend to make big-headed champions who feel like they are they greatest thing since sliced bread, and they love it when the so-called “hot shots” come in from out of town to teach. Sure, they’re happy to have them come and drum up some interest, but mostly…they want an opportunity to show that they should be recognized for being as good as the hot shots. Never mind that the hotshots…

Continue reading