Honor test (was Awards and Coronets)

James Crouchet crouchet at infinity.ccsi.com
Mon Mar 27 10:48:39 PST 1995

I have heard the argument that our award system is set up to encourage 
cookie monstering and I have also heard the argument that our fighting 
system encourages cheating or at least questionable behavior.

The idea seems to be that if one focuses on the goal (i.e. the award or 
winning the tournament) that one is more likely to achieve it. 
Unfortunately this ignores the _process_, which is the important part.

For example, if a fighter worries about winning, how hard a blow he can 
call light, whether he has an invulnerable hand to block with, whether he 
is close enough to the ropes to step into them and stop the fight if he 
is in trouble and how much he can move on his knees after a leg wound he 
is more likely to win. All of these items are designed to help him reach 
the goal of winning.

But by doing these things he disregards the concept of honor and becomes 
abhorrent in our eyes. We are a society dedicated to honor, at least in 
our ideals.

So why, I have been asked, do we not have judges call the blows so our 
fighters can avoid dishonoring themselves?

The answer is that one cannot learn to be honorable by having it forced 
on him.  A person must come to honor on their own.  Just because someone 
doesn't steal while an armed guard is watching doesn't mean they are 
honest. And just because you fall down when a judge tells you that you 
are dead does not make you honorable.

To truly show your honor you must be put in a situation where you have
something to lose by being honorable -- something you really want -- and
nothing to loose by being dishonorable except your honor. The fighter who
can be honorable under those circumstances is the one who truly shows his
or her honor. 

We have chosen to keep our fighting as it is to continue these important 
tests of honor and maintain a place where we can train ourselves in honor 
as we learn the less important martial skills.

I believe this is much of the reason fighting is so important to the SCA; 
it is the easiest place to learn honor. For that reason it should be made 
accessible to as many SCAers as possible.  If a fighter is not up to 
being wacked with ratan he should be free to choose an epee or foil, or 
even a padded weapon.  

But it is also important to note that fighting is not the ONLY place to 
learn honor in the SCA, just the easiest.

Those who strive in the arts and sciences or in service must meet their
challenges of honor as well, and evading the lure of the Next Award is a
big one.  As is the temptation to connive to obtain that which you feel
you have earned, but has been denied to you (such as an _overdue_ award)
Many fail (as do many fighters) but the determined get up, brush off their
bruised honor, and try again. 

If we eliminate this sort of temptation we eliminate the chance for these 
people to learn and demonstrate their honor. Not that we should throw all 
manner of temptations at one another -- we are only human -- but this 
system seems to tempt to the right degree and has been successful for many 

I ask you to think about this next time you are _denied_ an award, or are 
tempted to speak ill of a rival. Remember that we all take the test of 
honor every day we are in the SCA and everyone from the greenest newbie 
to the most grizzled duke-triple peer will watch and judge. Pass THAT 
test and you have truly attained the prize.


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