authenticity & heavy weapons

Michael A. Chance mchance at
Tue Feb 28 16:24:35 PST 1995

Viscount Galen writes (responding to my comments on shield punches):

> Actually, that's a pretty hard shield punch to stun someone through
> their armor, as the force of blows we take now, without harm, attests.

Not really, if you think about it.  Firstly, we're talking about
hitting someone in the chest or face with 5-10 pounds of mass on an
edge that is about the same width as a SCA legal sword.  Secondly, 
a blow which stuns doesn't have to leave you disoriented for a long
time - merely that fraction of a second it takes for your opponent to
take advantage of your momentarily defenseless state.  

Thought of that way, SCA armored fighters get "stunned" on a fairly
frequent basis.  Usually, however, the "stunning" blow (such as a hard
spear thrust, or a "bell-ringing" head shot, or a two-handed shot with
body english to the ribs) is a "killing" shot in it's own right.  The
only difference between these kinds of blows and a shield punch or a
pommel strike is that the latter, non-"lethal" blow is being used to
set up a "lethal" follow-up shot.

Viscount Galen then lists some suggestions, in response to his
previous list of perceived problems:

> 2.  Forbid reinforced shield edging.  That would be _expensive_ in terms of
> material cost of being an SCA fighter.

And I don't think it would solve the problem.  Firstly, this doesn't
address the issue of metal shields.  And there is a safety issued
related to unedged wooden shields.

WRT to metal shields:  Metal shields can be documented to our period,
though not the modern steel alloys or aluminium type typically
employed by most SCA combattants.  However, they do allow for more
durable shields of the correct approximate weight of their medieval
counterparts.  This definitely comes under the cost considerations.
Since the vast majority of use _aren't_ nobles with large estates to
support us, there are probably very few people in the SCA that could
afford to make 1-3 new shields for every tournament they attend.
Thus, a compromise:  We trade absolute authenticity for lower
maintenance costs.

WRT to the safety issue:  In addition to prolonging the life of the
shield, shield edging also provides a "safety valve" of sorts on
wooden shields.  As the underlying wood of the shield degrades through
repeated pounding, it can begin to splinter, especially along the
edges taking the brunt of the blows.  The typical means of telling
when it's time to retire a wooden shield is when the shield begins
spitting sawdust and splinters when struck.  Oft times, the shield
edging contains the majority of this stuff, rather than allowing it to
explode into the faces of the fighters.

Additionally, there's the matter of our current tourney conventions.
Usually, when a shield fails during a bout, the fighter is given the
opportunity to replace it with a good one.  Unless this convention is
changed, merely destroying your opponent's shield offers no advantage.
He or she merely replaces it with another, and the bout continues.

> 3.  Allow lower leg blows.  This would really cut down on knee hits, too,
> because you're less likely to catch the knee when you're aiming for the middle
> of the shin than when you're trying to catch the bottom inch of the thigh.
> And your tibia (shin) can take a lot more abuse than your radius (forearm).
I'm still not convinced that permitting blows to the shins is a good
idea, from a safety standpoint.  True, it's a thicker bone than those
in the forearm.  However, it's more stressed than the forearm
typically is, since it is (a) bearing the combined weight of fighter
and armor, and (b) is typically braced during many of the points of a
bout when it is likely to get hit, making it more susceptable to being
broken if hit with deliberate force.  Even with required armor similar
to that require for forearms, I think that you'd see a large amount of
deep bone bruising on the shins as a result.
> I don't expect it to happen, but if I ever get active again (and I'm presently
> working on cutting back obligations so I can get less active), I may simply
> take up calling lower leg and hand shots anyway, to make my fighting that much
> more authentic.

Now that I'm fighting again after a layoff of over a year (long
story), I, too, am going to be voluntarily taking blows to my hands.
For me, this means seriously changing a couple of my old styles of
fighting, especially bastard sword (where I used to catch a lot of
leg blocks on my hands).

I'm probably going to start taking some knees shots as good, but for a
different reason.  The top of the outer wings on my knee cops extends
about 2 inches into the legal target areas at the bottom of my thighs,
above my knees.  Now, 10 years ago, when I had them made, I could
probably count on one hand the number of fighters in the Midrealm
(where I lived at the time) who could hit that sized area
deliberately, especially at the top of the knee on a short opponent
such as myself, and not either get blocked by a moving shield or land
squarely on the knee cop itself.  Today, however, I'm running into
people with that kind of targeting precision all over the place.
Since blows which land in that top edge of the wing feel absolutely no
different than blows to the bottom of the knee cop (due to the force
being transmitted though the cop itself, which is what the armor was
engineered to do in the first place), I'll probably simply take blows
to my knees as well as normal "good" leg shots.  For me, this isn't a
problem since my knee armor was specifically designed to permit me to
take full strength shots directly on the knees, and not feel hardly
anything.  I'm not sure that I'd recommend this practice for
> I will be briefly at Lyonesse.  My squire, Conor mac Cinneide, is to be
> knighted at morning court.

Gee, I wished we'd gotten some advanced notice.  Alexandria wanted to
send a knighting gift.  I guess we'll have to wait until Pennsic,
unless you can talk Conor into coming up for Lillies in June.

BTW, for those who haven't heard, yet, the scenario for Lillies this
year is the Shires of Calontir vs. the Baronies of Calontir.  Should
be a fun time.  More tourneys than Pennsic, more battles than
Estrella.  Watch for further info in the coming months.

Mikjal Annarbjorn
Michael A. Chance          St. Louis, Missouri, USA    "At play in the fields
Work: mc307a at                             of St. Vidicon"
Play: mchance at

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