[Bards] Topic: Comparisons between bardic competitions and martial tournaments.

Jay Rudin 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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