authenticity & heavy weapons

Mon Feb 27 15:31:33 PST 1995

After some exchange about authenticity in heavy weapons combat, in which
Diarmuit mentioned "grappling, bashing, kicking, grabbing, etc.", and I rather
self-assuredly invited him to try that on me, predicting that I could defeat
such techniques without using currently-illegal techniques.  Mordraut asked if
that offer was open to him, and Mikjal (both of these guys are former squires
of mine) responded with quite a lot of stuff, some of which is quoted

Mikjal:  "While I'm certain that Your Excellancy will most probably beat me
(the memories of past bruises are coming back to haunt me 8-), I'd be
willing to wager that I could get in a lick or two myself, without
necessarily foregoing my own defense.  Techniques such as grappling
(which occassionally occurs in SCA combat now, but simply not
continued to the point of real advantage), pommel strikes, and shield
punches are easily employed without loss of defense.  In fact, a hard
shield punch to either your opponent's shield, body, or face rarely
requires giving up a defensive stance, and can momentarily stun your
opponent, permitting at least one or two blows (and often more) before
your opponent can recover their wits enough to defend themselves."

Galen:  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.

M:  "According to various people that I've talked to about the earliest
days of SCA combat, before they instituted the "no blows below the
knees" rule, nearly all matches ended with both opponents on their
knees, due primarily to lower leg blows.  I've heard similar things
from other non-SCA groups that do various forms of re-creating medieval
combat.  Also, I believe that the research from the Battle of Visby
grave finds suggests that blows to the lower leg were quite popular."

G:  There's no disputing this point.  But there are techniques to block or foil
lower-leg attacks.  I was squire to a knight who fought that long ago, and my
participation in the Tournaments of the Lions motivated me to learn and
practice some of those techniques.

M: "Further, various grappling techniques, throws, and sweeps seem to have
been a major part of the repetoire for polearms, if period manuals
such as Le Jeu de la Hache are to be believed.  I've personally seen
the leveraging effects of polearms used to toss an opponent a fair
distance (albeit nearly always inadvertently).  Standard leg sweep/hip
check take-downs are surprisingly easy to do against an armored
opponent, primarily since, with the placement of most of the
additional weight of armor being above the waist, most people's center
of gravity is quite high on the body."

G: Now, discussing polearms, this is not what I was thinking of.  No doubt that
these which you describe would be effective techniques

I also said:

"As I see it, the main problems with authenticity in SCA combat are these:  1)
it's common that we block with our hands (basket hilts) -- I try hard not to do
this.  2) our shields are indestructible.  3)  we can't strike the lower leg. 
4) a single blow was rarely decisive.  5) the structure of our tourneys are
rarely at all medieval."

M:  "I've not seen a good solution yet for #2, and I think that we'll
probably continue with #3, for primarily safety-related reasons (also,
it actually _is_ a documentable tourney practice to rule the lower leg
"out of bounds").

"Suggestions that I've made about the others:

"1) "Blocking with gauntlets/basket hilts" - Change the current rules
to treat blows to the hands similar to blows to the neck or groin.
That is, you should never _intentionally_ target these areas, but
blows struck there count.  To negate the advantage of basket hilts,
rule that, for the purposes of blow acceptance, all single handed
swords are cross-hilted, and hands, in all cases, are considered to be
protected by maille mittens over leather/padding (without changing the
current requirements for actual armor worn).

"4) "Single decisive blows" - Go to a counted blow match format.  That
is, the first to score a fixed number of "good" blows anywhere in the
legal target area (usually 3 or 5) wins the match.  My limited
research indicates that this is actually closer to medieval practice
than the SCA's current practice of "acting out" the effects of blows.

"5) "Non-medieval tourney formats" - Abandon the single/double elim
format in favor of any of a number of more medieval tourney formats.
This is actually the easiest of the three to implement, since it
involves no changes to existing rules of the list, merely the choice
of the group hosting the tourney.

Fiona, of Shadowlands, raised these points:

      "I do not think that is a very good idea.  If blows struck to a 
basket hilt are legal, whether the shot is _intentionally_ thrown there or 
not, there are going to be accidents.  There have already *been* 
accidents of this type while the hand is *not* a legal target.  This 
past fall at Fynnon Gath's uprising against Bryn Gwlad, my lord 
received a blow to the hand.  The sword popped out of his hand, and 
as he was calling for hold, the hand was struck.  It was a melee, so 
nobody knows who threw the blow.  The problem here is that he could 
have been crippled for life, and would have at least lost some of the 
use of his right index finger had it been other then a good 
orthopedic surgeon doing the repair.  While crippling and maiming your 
opponents may be part of "period" fighting, I don't think it belongs 
in the SCA.  Keeping the hand an illegal target I think will at least 
leave less possible openings for accidents like this to happen simply 
because nobody should be throwing shots at someone's hand."
To which Mikjal resoponded with a whole lot about how fewer hand blows
would accidently happen if we had a motive to not block with our hands.

As I see it, solving my percieved drawbacks with the authenticity of SCA combat
would probably have to involve:

1.  Making the hand a legal target -- blows to basket hilts and gauntlets would
be called.  Like Mikjal suggests.  I would never intentionally strike someone's
hand, even if it were legal; two reasons:  first, I don't want him doing that
to me; and second, hands move too fast -- much easier to hit something that's
traveling at a lesser velocity, like the helm.
2.  Forbid reinforced shield edging.  That would be _expensive_ in terms of
material cost of being an SCA fighter.
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).
4. & 5.  What Mikjal said.

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.

I will be briefly at Lyonesse.  My squire, Conor mac Cinneide, is to be
knighted at morning court.  Conor was my first squire 7 1/2 years ago, and now
is my last.  My former squire Earl Kien was also knighted on the same site,
five years ago.

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