The biggest surprise for me last weekend was the realisation that the new improved SCA is probably the closest groups to the ACA out of all the historical fencing groups in the country. From what I saw of Fencing Fest IV, their premier fencing competition in Queensland, they have a concentration on rapier and dagger/buckler combat and regular sparring to improve one’s skills. The ACA were invited to attend as guests and although we were not allowed to participate in the competition (unless we became members) we managed to arrange a bunch of bouts on the side.
This is a very different SCA to the one I knew and refused to have anything to do with twenty years ago. These guys are interested in metal weapons rather than foam and are actually interested in history – unlike the previous lot. I managed (not too surprisingly, it seems) get get entangled into a couple of discussions on such wide ranging topic as properly use of the buckler from the I.33 manuscript (AD 1295) to Achille Marozzo (AD 1536) and opinions on the merits and otherwise of the German longsword school as taught by Joachim Meyer and others. All were scholarly and reasoned debates.
We watched their competition and the grading of a student to the next grade. There are some obvious differences in style between our groups. The first is the ACA preference for heavier and less whippy blades – which has inspired me to research again the length, weight and other dimensions of example swords surviving in museums and other collections. The second is that the SCA allow draw cuts. These occur when the blade is placed against an opponent’s appendage and drawn across it in an effort to slice through the said appendage. The ACA doesn’t practice this technique because for the most part normal clothes defeat it. We believe you need to either cut hard against a limb with the sword edge or stick the point of your weapon into the opponent to injure them.
I had a few bouts against them. Of note, one was against one of their top-rated sword players and I was completely p0wned by him. I also bouted with a couple of others who were rated roughly the equivalent of me. These were more 50/50 affairs where we both gave as good as we got. All the SCA members I bouted with had extra-ordinarily good point control but I know I could have powered right through their light, whippy blades with solid cuts but we were playing by their rules and this type of thuggery isn’t allowed. All bouts were enormous fun and I can’t wait to see these guys in action again at Swordplay 2009 at the end of August.
I’ve got some photos but none of them feature me. And before you ask: no, I do not play dress ups. The photos feature SCA members who’s names I have no idea of and the ACA’s very own Scott McDonald in his home-made leather armour.