What is SCA rapier combat?

SCA rapier combat is a form of historical fencing that focuses on the civilian defensive and dueling sword arts from the 14th century through the 16th century and slightly beyond. Our primary focus is on the combat forms surrounding the rapier, though we also practice an advanced style called Cut and Thrust, which better accommodates earlier side swords.

Rapier Marshal

Sior Tomás Niállagáin

How is fencing in the SCA different from modern fencing?

With all due respect for what it is, modern fencing has almost nothing to do with actual swordplay, being instead a highly stylized sport with extremely stylized rules. By comparison SCA fencing is much more closely related to the arts practiced in a time period where the sword was the primary civilian weapon of defense.

For starters, the rapier blades we use are much heavier than anything used my modern fencers, which has a great impact on the kind of techniques that are effective. We’re also not restricted to movement on a narrow strip, the way modern fencers are. We’re free to move where we will, which opens up the whole realm of off-line engagement.

The mechanics of our game varies considerably from modern fencing as well, both in terms of defense and offense. Unlike modern foil, epee, or saber, which rely exclusively on footwork and the sword hand for defense, SCA rapier lets you use your offhand to bat your opponent’s blade away. You’re also permitted to use a main gauche, buckler, cloak, second sword, and other defensive objects, adding an extra dimension to SCA rapier combat. On the offensive side, in addition to thrusts, SCA rapier allows the use of non-percussive draw cuts. Valid blows to the limbs disable the hand, arm, or leg struck, and blows to the head or body are considered debilitating.

Finally, while much of SCA rapier combat focuses on one-on-one tournament play, we also regularly engage in a form of melee combat. This kind of contest pits groups of rapier combatants against each other, often in intricate scenarios.

What kind of equipment do you use?

As we mentioned above, the weapons we use are quite a bit different from modern fencing sword. Rather than foils and épées, we use blades specifically manufactured for historical fencing, which meet a specific set of criteria. These can be purchased from reputable manufacturers such as Darkwood Armory, Alchem Inc, or Zen Warrior Armory.

On the armor side, there are three types of rapier armor, rigid, puncture-resistant, and abrasion resistant. For rigid armor, we require head protection (most often a standard 3-weapons fencing mask), neck protection (called a gorget), and male groin protection, and chest protection is suggested for women. the rest of the head, body, torso, and groin must be covered with puncture-resistant material roughly equivalent in density to a standard fencing jacket. Everything else must be covered by a minimum of a single layer of thick cotton.

Due to the addition of percussive cuts, Cut and Trust fencing requires additional rigid protection on the back of the head and over the knuckles, as well as thick padding or rigid materials over the points of the elbows and knees. You can find all of the equipment specifications and other rules in the Participant’s Handbook.

What do I need to get started fencing in the SCA?

Thanks to our store of loaner equipment, you don’t need much to get started fencing here in the Barony of Elfsea. Before we put you in armor and toss you into the action, we’ll spend some time drilling and going over the basics, and ongoing drills and exercises are a regular part of rapier practice. You’ll want to come dressed in comfortable athletic clothing, including full-length pants and long sleeves.