[Bards] Topic: Comparisons between bardic competitions and martial tournaments.
rudin at ev1.net
Thu Dec 14 10:36:02 PST 2006
Some comparisons between arts competitions and tourneys work well. Others
don't. Analogies only work when the situations are analogous.
The easy answer to why we know that Aaron beat Gunthar as soon as Crown is
over, but we didn't know Kat beat Alden until court, some time after
Eisteddfod was over, is that that's what "over" means in a fight. The fight
was over when Gunthar, and Gunthar alone, decided that he had lost. One
advantage of this, which the bards can never share, is that in a tournament,
every single person except the winner said, in some form, "I didn't win this
In a fight, I keep fighting until one of us calls the blow. In a bardic
competition, I stop performing at the end of the piece. Then the judges
listen to the other performer, then they go off and talk and pick a winner.
So there *isn't* a winner until some time after the bards are finished. So
to avoid the surprise in court, you would have to make a special point of
getting the bards back together to make the announcement. So why not do it
at court, which is after all the special time for gathering people together
and making announcements?
I can easily decide if my parry wasn't good enough -- I got poked with a
piece of steel. I have no trouble telling when my block wasn't good
enough -- somebody hit me with a stick. But how can I judge the
effectiveness of my performance? I'm the only person present who was doing
something other than listening during my performance.
More importantly, a fight is won or lost in a single moment, totally apart
from everything else that happened up to that moment. I can lose a fight in
which my form, stance, skills and performance were all superior to my
opponents, if I make a single half-second mistake. But you have to judge
the *entire* bardic piece. I can't do that when I'm performing -- I'm
I've long had a dream of "calling the blow" on the bardic field --
announcing that my opponent did a worthy enough job that I yield the
competition to him. I finally had the chance last Steppes Warlord, when HL
Finnacan did an incredible piece in the finals. But the vicar and vicaress
decided to honor me as well, so we are both Bards of the Steppes right now.
But some fighting analogues work extremely well. The cameraderie of
rivalries is strong in a good bardic competition. Occasionally I change my
piece at the last minute, based on what my opponent just did, similar to
choosing a specific fighting technique based on what my opponent is doing.
I've never dared to meet my bardic opponent in "equal combat", however
(though I'd like to try it sometime). I've picked up glaive to match Duke
Miguel's weapon, and I've fought rapier and cloak because that was Don
Avery's best. I've fought Baron Lyelf (who is in a wheelchair) by taking my
chair onto the field and sitting with him, and I've fought Sir Kief sword
and crutch, with one leg off the ground. But someday I've like to try it in
a bardic competition -- to follow an opponent's piece with another rendering
of the exact same piece. To do that, of course, the first requirement is to
know the piece that the other bard is using. It would be tactically stupid,
of course. I'd be using his chosen piece, in his chosen style, when he'd
been carefully practicing it, and worst of all, I'd be doing a piece that
the audience and judges had just heard. But so what? All examples above of
choosing equal weapons were tactically stupid.
"Only those who attempt the absurd can ever achieve the impossible."
So yes, some fighting analogies work well, some work poorly, and some don't
work at all. It's good to look in other places for new ideas, but it's also
good to recognize when the other idea doesn't apply to us.
Robin of Gilwell / Jay Rudin
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