ABC Rapier Bout Rules

An simple but surprisingly effective set of rapier bouting rules spontaneously emerged from training last week. While it seems to owe a lot of the Belgian Guild Tournament Rules for longsword, nothing was further from our minds when we came up with them. I’ll outline the rules before describing their creation – which I find just as interesting.

The ABC Rapier Bout Rules cover what is essentially a game of tag with swords. Start with two players in an arena of some kind (we use a section of a basketball court). The rest of the players and any spectators stand outside the arena. When a point is scored, the winner stays in the arena and someone from outside swaps place with the defeated player. Continue until everyone gets bored then pack up and go to the pub.

Points are scored only by landing the point of the weapon on the other player. Cuts do not score points or halt the play. This encourages the development of good point-on-line work.

However, when a point is scored, the player hit has a tempo (maybe a half-second or so) in which to respond. This response may be either a counter thrust or a cut. If the response hits, the point is nullified and play continues. This encourages players to remember the first rule of fencing: “don’t get hit.” Rather than merely scoring points, the rules promote good, clean and safe technique.

A player in the arena can “tap out” and be replaced by a player from outside the arena at any time.

Any disputes or questions which cannot be decided by the two players in the arena are determined by acclamation of those outside the arena, whether players waiting their turn of spectators. The crowd may also decide to end a bout which goes on too long and nominate which of the players or boh leave the arena.

Feel free to use these rules as you will. Please link to this post if you do.

How did these rules comes to be? I’m glad you asked.

Adam, Bob and I (Chris – hence ABC) train with the Australian College of Arms, which predominantly concentrates on a sidesword and dagger style, and we were practicing rapier for the upcoming Swordplay 2012 event. There was just the three of us in the Free Scholar group that night and so we started playing rapier tag with the aim of practicing point-on-line work.

We discovered that almost all the hits we landed on each other were cuts – perhaps not as surprising as we thought then – so we banned them. Thrusts only counted for points. Soon there was another realisation: we’d abandoned proper technique for just scoring points in ways which left our guards down or other opened us up for some form of counterattack. This brought in the idea that the counter negates the attack and cuts were back on the menu.

To me this shows how you can easily develop practical training exercises to improve and hone particular skills without the drudgery of drill after drill after drill. Of course, drills are important to learn a technique. Then you need to learn to apply it. As a guitar teacher told me long, long ago “One hour of band practice is worth four hours of solo practice. And one hour hour of playing live is worth four hours of band practice.”

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