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Your Information Source for Rapier Combat in the Kingdom of Caid


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Cut & Thrust in a Nutshell

By THLady Meala Caimbeul, Caid Cut & Thrust Marshal

Those that know me know that a Cut & Thrust fight is just about my most favorite thing to do with a sword.  In a blatant attempt to get to do it more often, allow me to encapsulate what this art is, is not, and how you can get started.

By the book, Cut & Thrust is a type of rapier combat that incorporates percussive cutting and removes the push and pull (draw) cuts. It requires a little more armor to protect against these cuts, and does require a year of authorized rapier or unarmored experience, but those are not hard to accomplish. In standard rapier, to deliver a cut you must place and draw the edge along the target; this takes more time than driving a cut by turning the wrist. Cut & Thrust allows for single-time cuts, (as they are described in fighting manuals of the period) which are faster and more defensively sound.

These cuts do land with percussion, but do not have to be of a higher calibration than any standard heavy rapier blow.  That is, you don’t have to hit hard. It is the percussion that makes these cuts seem harder. Trust me, you need no extra force to deliver a valid percussive cut; the sword wants to make this action, you just have to direct it.

Not all Heavy Rapiers are designed to deliver these cuts. The schlager-style blades, with almost no taper from shoulder to tip, are not permitted in Cut & Thrust. (This taper helps prevent the blade from breaking in cutting situations.) Yes, there are heavier blades for Cut & Thrust only, but you don’t need them to play.  Most Heavy Rapiers that we use are perfectly suitable for Cut & Thrust.

There is also some additional required armor (and some that we recommend.) All of which can be purchased commercially; SPES makes a great back-of-the-head insert, and there are many options for elbow pads. I carry an extra set of elbows and a spare back-of-the-head insert in my kit; if you want to practice Cut & Thrust, I’m happy to provide the armor. (Also, you don’t need the armor to practice cuts on a pell, or participate in drills or other controlled and directed practice.) We also recommend heavier than standard gloves, especially when using the more open weapons that don’t cover the fingers or wrist.

And now the thing that makes Cut & Thrust different from Heavy Rapier – Percussive Cutting.  This can seem very intimidating; it often looks like we are wheeling swords at one another and should be leaving bruises and welts with every landed blow. But as I said above, you don’t need to hit harder for a valid blow. You do need to land a “controlled, well-intentioned blow, delivered with the striking edge of the sword with proper mechanics so to have been able to cleave the target.” These cuts are the result of circular motion, and are led with the hand (instead of the point.) While tip cuts are perfectly valid, most Cut & Thrust blows are delivered a little farther down toward the middle of the weapon.

When I teach cutting, I often use the example of cutting firewood with an axe. The arching motion, and the way one sends the weapon away from the body are some of the keys to good cutting technique. Least you think you must wind your sword to the top of your head to make a good cut, starting the arc at the shoulder; it is just as valid to cut from the wrist, transcribing a much smaller arc, and making a much faster attack.

Think of your average rapier play, your opponent is pointing a sword at you and initiates a lunge. You move your hand and dissuade the oncoming point, but now your point is off-line so you don’t have a ready thrust. To deliver a draw cut you’ll have to get closer, place the edge on the target, then pull or push the edge to finish the cut. In a Cut & Thrust bout, you are allowed to take that off-line point and, by turning the wrist, deliver a cut that will land much sooner that the draw, it will also be delivered at an angle that will keep you safer than the lateral draw cut.

The advantage of these cuts is first that you are defended by the nature of blade position and movement. Second, since you don’t have to place the blade first, they are faster than draw cuts. Icing on the cake is that these cuts are the ones described in pre-1650 fighting manuals, being able to perform them in the time described can allow for more historically-based combat
(Knowledge of historic rapier is not required for Cut & Thrust.)

One of the hurdles most fencers encounter when learning to cut is the tendency to “gather in” when they cut.  Good cuts are made on an arc that extends out from the body and (usually) through a guard most masters call Long Point. When one is accustomed to draw cuts, the habit is there to pull your hand in, toward your body in an attempt to absorb some of the kinetic energy.  While the instinct to not hurt your opponent is a good one, collapsing your guard in this way is more likely to result in a sloppy and invalid cut, and you being undefended while in range of your opponent.

The other way newer cutters attempt to compensate for the perceived excessive force is by ceasing to control the cut around the apex. When a thrust is about to land hard, many of us train to loosen our grip and stop pushing in order to take some of the power away from the attack. Applying that same technique to cutting can result in a sloppy blow that lands hard, but is not, in reality, a good cut.  The key to a good cut is control, from when it is initiated all the way through to contact. By keeping control of the weapon, and guiding it all the way through the cut, you will be able to better control the force you send into your opponent.

If you want more information, and some practical experience, I invite you to attend the Cut & Thrust workshop offered at Colligium Caidus at 11:00 am on Sunday, May 17th. (http://www.collegiumcaidis.org/2015/schedule.html)

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Intro to SCA Rapier Lesson Plan

Here is a Progressive Lesson Plan designed for Territorial Marshals who are looking for a good way to get a newcomer from Day 1 to Authorization, created by Lord Rhydderch Derwen.

If it helps, please use it, or adapt it to your needs.  This in not an end-all-be-all of fencing instruction, but a good skeleton to encourage participation and help develop a safe community that is knowledgeable of the rules while being prepared for the authorization process while not creating anxiety or apprehension.

Intro to SCA Rapier lesson plan


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On King’s Hunt, News, and the Closing of the Order of the White Scarf

By Rhydderch Derwen

Hello, I have good news and just in case you were not at the last King’s Hunt (and even if you were) please allow me to share some of the exciting things happening in our kingdom.

Saturday at the King’s Hunt featured the Unscarved Tournament, my favorite tournament of the year as I get to see and fence my friends I usually only see on the melee field. Even if you don’t fence, or don’t like to watch fencing, the challenges are worth staying for. Many people plan out days or weeks in advance what they will say and everyone is in their finest fighting garb. This year after we had lined up and were about to give our challenges their Majesties were inspecting the fighters and talking about the format with the White scarves they came to a problem. Lord Diego was called up and before everyone his list card was torn and it was announced he had been disqualified from the tournament and with shock on everyone faces the herald started the ceremony for a new White Scarf. After many tearful words a gorgeous new scarf was tied to his arm and after a few more heart touching words another beautiful scarf was tied to his arm and finally after some hugs and congratulations a third scarf was tied to his arm. During the ceremony it was announced that Don Diego would be the last Caidan White Scarf and that the order would be closed following a ceremony at Coronation (more on this later.)

Seeing a new Scarf being made is a wonderful occasion to behold, everyone is so happy for the new Scarf and thankful they are getting the recognition they deserve. But, when that new Scarf is a friend and fellow student it hits even closer to home as I have seen and benefited from all the hard work he has done over the past few years. He has inspired me to strive for greatness all the while working to achieve it himself. Well deserved, my friend.

The bitter-sweet news is the announcement of the closing of the Order Of the White Scarf at Coronation. This is of course to make way for the new Order of the Master of Defense but never the less many people have questions as our current rapier culture relies on the White Scarves as leaders in our community.

As I have been involved in many discussions about this topic with our and other leaders in the rapier community, please let me answer the most common questions I see time and time again and perhaps prevent confusion and fears on how this transition will take place.

Q: What does closing the order mean?

  • A: Simply that no new members will be made, each current member will retain all honors and regalia.

Q: What will happen to existing scarves? Will they have to give their scarf back?

  • A: Much like the answer above, nothing will happen to the existing scarves. I’m sure each of them will continue to proudly wear their regalia.

Q: Will all the White Scarves get elevated to the new order?

  • A: Not necessarily, they may eventually, but each new member will be voted on by the members of the order and new members may or may not be a White Scarf. This is due the different requirements of the two orders.

Q: What about our leadership structure? Who will run events, authorize fighters, hold practice, etc..?

  • A-1: This is really a two part answer so… First, Leadership was a requirement of being a White Scarf, but having a White Scarf is not a requirement to be a leader. Many non-Scarves are currently running events, holding practice, teaching in various styles. Quite simply not having a scarf is no excuse to not doing something for the community.
  • A-2: Second, Our current scarves are not going away and they certainly won’t stop doing all the Scarfy things they do (like fencing, teaching, leading the community, and talking too much.) There is no reason why they would not still meet to discuss the community and do things to support it.

Q: I have a teacher student relationship with a Scarf, what will happen to that; will I need to find a Master of Defense?

  • A: Well this is between you and your Scarf, but the short answer is – nothing, if you don’t want it to. In fact having a scarf is not required to take students, I know non-Scarves with students at this current time and I doubt that will change.

Q: Part of the reason I was so excited about the Master of Defense was because it gave us fencers three step award structure, doesn’t closing the White Scarf defeat the purpose?

  • A: No, as leaders in the community are working on options for a new GOA level award. Now this is not an easy task, as for anything to become official, it must first be submitted to the heralds and passed. At this point I do not know how far along the discussion is, but if you have any ideas I highly recommend you submit your suggestion to the Crown. But, this will result in the three step structure we currently have for many of our other activities.

Q: The White Scarf was hard enough to receive as it is, won’t the Master of Defense be even harder as it is a peerage?

  • A: No, the requirements for getting the Master of Defense will not necessarily be harder to receive than a White Scarf. However the requirements would be a bit different (such as service to the SCA as a community (not just rapier.))
    As for the reasoning on why I don’t expect it to be any more difficult; The White Scarf in Caid was treated as a terminal award, i.e. the very last award you will ever receive and was treated as such. One of the reasons for closing the White Scarf is so we would not have to lower the standards for new scarves as well as to make way for the two new awards (Masters of Defense and the new as of yet unnamed GOA award.) Now, the Master of Defense is the new terminal award and will be treated as such.

Q: Will the existing White Scarves be getting the new GOA award?

  • A: Doubtful, as they all already have a GOA award, it is unnecessary, and while it is possible for anyone to get any award at any time, people generally do not receive redundant awards for the same activity.

Q: I hear that people are very upset at this news and may leave the SCA?

  • A: While I cannot answer for everyone, the general feelings I have found expressed from most people is that they are a little bummed, but that is it. And while I do know a few people that are much more emotionally affected by this, the vast majority is nowhere near that level. Honestly, I find more people are simply confused than angry or sad.

Q: How does the news make you feel?

  • A-0.5: Ok, I expected to hear this question from my wife, and perhaps my teacher, but in the past two weeks I must have been asked this question at least 20 times in person, or online, and while I have tried to keep opinion out of this Q&A, if you really care what I feel read on. If not, skip to the next question.
  • A-1: I’m a little bummed, but at the same time I am ok with it. I understand that unless we wanted to lessen what the White Scarves are, that closing the order is the best option. Additionally, all of us “grew up” (as far as the rapier community) hearing how awesome the White Scarves are, that they were leaders, highly skilled, teachers, and good well liked people that we wanted to represent our community. And, they did all of that and they were our heroes because of it. But now we have the chance for our Heroes to be recognized, not just by us fledgling fencers, but the rest of the SCA as well. And for that mental shift to happen for new fencers, we have to be able to let go. Nobody said it would be easy, but for the new fencers coming in now, it is necessary for them to be pointed in the right direction, and it is our job as non-Scarves to lead them. Remember the White Scarves are not going away, and there is not any reason for any of them to stop what they are doing.

Their Majesties had the very difficult task of taking all the commentary from the populace and decide what is best for the community as a whole in the long run. I truly appreciate all the hard work and effort their Majesties put into this decision and I will be sure to express my gratitude to them for taking the necessary time and energy that this decision demanded. We are not losing the White Scarves, they are not going anywhere, but we are gaining the opportunity for our teachers, leaders, heroes, and friends to be Peers. However much I enjoy growing and supporting the community, I can’t imagine burden to make that decision myself.

Remember when I said I would finish with good news, the good news is this: The Order of the White Scarf is closing and in its place we are getting two new awards, the Order of the Masters of Defense and the new GOA award. Now, we will have the opportunity to see many new friends and heroes get the recognition they deserve. Right now in Caid (and across the Known World) history is being made, on not only how our game will be played, but how we show our appreciation to those that make our game into a dream we can all share. How we react and we shape the events within the next year will set the precedence, standard, and traditions that will be upheld in our community for years to come.