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The Spark Project: What Brings Us Back to SCA Rapier?

Informal Researches and Contemplations by Donna Mora Ottavia Spadera

Recently, I reached out to the Caidan Rapier community to ask everyone a question which is often in my mind. I have so far spoken to about 20 different people, with a good distribution of genders, experience levels, and involvement levels. I asked:

What is it about fighting or swords or partaking in the rapier community that makes you most passionate?

What intrigues and excites you, what puts a sword in your hand, a hat on your head, a smile on your face, on the field or next to it or at practice or on this Facebook group?

What is that ineffable spark for you, or alternatively that warm satisfying glow?

If you’ve never quite found it, what had you hoped it would be?

If you’ve lost it, what was it, once upon a time? Is it elusive? Is it reliable? Is it the fight itself, or something peripheral? Is it a bit weird?

Bonus question, or alternative, if Sparks of Passion ain’t your thing: What is the thing that frustrates you most about your personal fighting experience? What’s the problem you need to fix?

 

Why, Mora??

I had a three-fold intention in asking everyone these questions:

First, I’m a combat teacher for whom a principal focus is to help fighters overcome the mental and emotional blocks which hold them back. I aid combattants in developing  their understanding of who they are on the fighting field, and I teach both physical and nonphysical tools which help fighters bring their full capability to each and every combat encounter. The more I know about others’ Sparks and Passions, the more I’m able to leverage those powerful, passionate energies to open up the learning process and bring out the strongest fights in others. I wanted to know if most fighters experience the same positive feedbacks, or if there were significantly different categories of motivation and positive feeling which affect different people.

Second, I hoped that by asking such questions, fighters who might not otherwise contemplate the matter might do some thinking about what they loved within the experience of fighting. I suspected that simply pondering such things would bring positives to the forefront of our minds, and spur us to seek more of what we like, whatever those things may be for each of us.

Third, I suspected that if I could identify the commonalities in what brings us back to this game, it could guide our community’s focus in building up activities which support the experiences we’re looking for. If there are common frustrations, we should also address those as a community.

You gave me very generous and well-thought-out responses. You all left me intrigued and inspired, and have given me insight into some issues that are affecting our community in deeply personal ways. I don’t have room in this article to cover everything at once, so I will start with my favorite, your Passions! Here is what I have found, in vague hierarchical order:

Top Ten Awesome Things Rapier Fighting Provides:

  1. Competition against others, OR, a consistent Internal Challenge to better oneself.
  2. Chaos, Camaraderie, and Excitement in Melee.
  3. A Unique Zen/Meditative/In-The-Moment Headspace, a specific sense of freedom.
  4. The experience of the Artful or Joyous Fight, whether you win or lose.
  5. An excellent Adrenaline Rush.
  6. A chance to be a hero or Emulate a Heroic Archetype, like the Swashbuckler, Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Zorro, etc.
  7. The simple, Satisfying Feeling of a sword in your hand.
  8. Constant Opportunities to Learn new things, and the Pleasure of Success at a physical, mental, or competitive activity.
  9. A Martial Art which is Accessible to those less physically able to do armored fighting, or who don’t wish to risk the injuries heavies entails.
  10. A Martial Art which more Closely Resembles our understanding of Historic Combat than armored SCA fighting does.

Our people keep coming back to the Caidan Rapier Community because they find:

  1. A Welcoming, Fun, and Safe Social Community, and a chance to hang out with friends.
  2. Participants who are Intelligent and supportive of one other’s personal transformations.
  3. Connective Opportunities for both extroverts and introverts, on and off the field.
  4. Greater Acceptance Within the SCA because they are a ‘fighter’
  5. Consistent Opportunities to Teach new things to new people, and take pleasure in the success of those they teach.
  6. That Late Period Fashion is Appealing, as are Late Period Swords.
  7. Pleasure in the Pomp and Circumstance.
  8. Joy and Inspiration in a Consort who emotionally supports them coming out to Fight.

If some of these points resonate with you too….know that you’re not alone.

Each of these could probably be an individual article in itself, and I encourage anyone inspired by this list to consider writing one of those. (Her Ladyship Roisin will be very grateful, and I would be happy to help you, just drop me a line!)

However, I’m going to focus the remainder of this article on the two points which surprised me the most, due to the frequency with which they popped up, and the fact that they weren’t things I expected to hear. Then I’ll conclude with thoughts about where I’m going next.

 

Unexpected Point One: We Like to be Heroes

A statistically significant number of fighters spoke up about how rapier fighting makes them feel like a heroic character. These are folks who rock very different persona types, and yet, many of them love the idea of the swashbuckler, the musketeer or Robin Hood. They relish the feeling that they can ‘save the day’ with a sword in their hand. Some find that their consort is impressed and honored by their fighting, and this makes them feel powerful and more likely to come out and play. Rapier fighting makes a significant chunk of us feel larger than life, part of an exciting story. I enjoy that part of the game too, and I’m glad to know that so many of us are out there for similar reasons. I’d love to discuss ideas for capitalizing on this particular communal passion. So many different heroes, so many possibilities! So much Awesome Epicness possible!

To bring this back to a headspace teaching opportunity, fighters can capitalize on this desire as a way to improve their fight. If you can step into your hero’s mindset, you will fight more like one. Then all that drilling and practice you do will really begin to display itself. (Just remember, with great power comes great responsibility. 😉 )

And if you’re -not- one of those limelight-loving heroes, or maybe even if you are…we have quieter subtler types, too! What about them?

 

Unexpected Point Two: Introverts Feel Safe Here

A notable number of the people I spoke to identified as introverts. Some were folks you might expect, and some weren’t. These people found that the rapier bout, or interaction within the community, gives them a safe space to connect with others in ways that make them feel comfortable and less overwhelmed.  This observation may be true of many sports and organized activities. It’s definitely at play for Caidan Rapier in specific ways:

On the Field: A one on one fight can be a fairly intimate space. Some fighters find that the kind of connection one can have with an opponent on the field is unique and moving, especially when the fight is particularly artful. This mental rapport can be deep and intense, and allow individuals who would not otherwise share something that powerful with others to come together in a mental and physical connection. This feeling uniquely walks the line between the creative (like a partnered dance) and the destructive (there is going to be an end, and a winner). It seems to make for a special kind of alchemy which is compelling to a number of fighters.

If this is where the Joy of the fight is for you, seeking that rapport whenever possible can make your fight stronger and more artful, and often more fun than it might otherwise be.

Off the Field: The prescriptive nature of our tournament routines, and our pomp and circumstance, are helpful for those who have difficulty feeling socially savvy. The court environment has clear expectations for behavior, and the standard format for tournament interaction provides an easy template for  fighters to interact and be a part of something bigger in a way that feels socially safe. Some in this category found that the spotlight of court appearances and group attention was more comfortable because the SCA has known scripts, for receiving awards, for being a tournament winner or champion. Others, however, found that, as more attention was placed on them as their skill and involvement rose, they had a harder time enjoying themselves. Mostly they wanted a safe place to just unassumingly enjoy their friends and their swords.

In either case, whether you enjoy the theatre of court or just want to relax with your friends, consistent rituals built on our common activities can provide another tool to help you hone your fighting ‘zone’ as well as ease and relax you into a familiar and friendly space.

Chat me up if you want to try and leverage any of these suggestions for yourself, or if you know of situations which get in your way when you try to do this.

 

What’s Next, Mora?

This study was fascinating for me. I was already cognizant of the range of ages, genders, shapes, sizes and body types which our art/sport supports. The interpersonal aspects prove to be yet another facet where our appeal crosses boundaries very well. As someone who has grown increasingly aware of the introverts in my life, I’m incredibly grateful and inspired that a sport like SCA Rapier proves itself to be a good environment for so many. Whether people prefer to be quietly active, or explore being larger than life, we have a versatile platform for exercise, competition, growth, connection, and community. When we can support the unique synergies of rapier, it allows a wide and varied range of gentles participate in our activity. We in Caid are the richer for it. (Mmm, synergy…)

There were also several things that people found frustrating about fighting Rapier in Caid and I feel that an exploration of these issues will help enrich our community and personal games as well. I also want to expand on my discussion of what we can do as a community to build up the positives and what we can do to promote activities and forms that will most feed our Passions. Since I cannot ever make anything I write sufficiently short (there’s so much interesting to observe!!) I shall provide a follow-on article with discussion of these matters anon.

I’m very much looking for more conversations on these subjects. Especially if my list misses something that’s a major motivator for you, I’d love to hear about it! And if you want to talk about tournament or event ideas that cater to these drivers, that would be great, since I’m writing an article about that very soon!

Here Endeth Part I. I thank thee for thy attention. ~Donna Mora the Inquisitive

Mo_avatar_testDonna Mora Ottavia Spadera has been living the the Shire of Isles and fighting rapier since 1999. She is particularly passionate about ambiance and headspace in the SCA, working to understand the whys, hows, and history of many courtly arts, including swordplay, performance arts, and the arts of hospitality, as well as the role of the SCA as a welcoming social community. When not on the rapier field, one is likely to find Mora running her Salon at the sign of the Sable Hart, enjoying conversation and company, baubling and philosophical discourse…or you may possibly locate her tailing a passel of village children and reminding them to play honorably with one another.

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Meet the MODs #5- Master Laertes McBride

Aaaaand we’re back after a much-needed summer vacation! This week we’re starting off with the man, the myth, the sardonic legend himself– Master Laertes McBride. Not only is he one of the premiere members of the Order of Defense in Caid, he is also the current Society Rapier Marshal. So you’re betting he made it past the second round in his very first tournament, right? Read on to find out.

If you want a chance to talk to Master Laertes in the flesh (other than at Altavia practice on Monday nights), he will be holding a Society Rapier Marshal Moot Meeting (say that 5 times fast) after the conclusion of rapier scenarios on Friday at Great Western War. Bring your questions and listen to updates on rapier in the Knowne World.

 

Master Laertes

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What is your registered SCA name? Laertes McBride

Do people usually call you something different? If so, what? Yes – but I don’t think it’s appropriate for an all ages website.

How many years have you been playing? 27 years. My first event was in March 1990. 

Did you start by playing rapier? If not, in what area of SCA combat/study did you first start? Yes, I was drawn into the SCA by rapier combat. Growing up I always wanted to be a musketeer, so it seemed a logical extension of that desire.

 

Did you start playing in Caid? If not, where are you from? I started participating in the Kingdom of Ansteorra. I moved to Caid in June 1996.

Outside of rapier, what is your favorite SCA activity? I enjoy dancing – but I don’t seem to get to do it enough.

Why did you decide to pick up rapier fighting? So I could stab my friends and I thought it looked fun.

What is your preferred weapon form? Rapier and dagger – although I enjoy fighting rapier and cloak. 

Who is your favorite historical sword master and why? Well, I’d say Saviollo since it’s the only style my fighting even slightly resembles. A little. Not much. Okay, maybe one stance. 

How would you describe your fighting style? I’m definitely a “SCA Rapier Combat” fighter. If someone is looking for teaching and training based on period texts and techniques – I’m definitely not the person to approach. While I understand and fully appreciate the forms dictated by period masters, it is not my strength. I became active in the rapier community before the emphasis and accessibility of period texts, and it’s tough to teach an old dog old tricks. 

What was your favorite fight EVER and why (either tournament, melee, or pick-up)? Hard to narrow it down to one. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to fight many honorable and skilled fighters, face off against determined and larger number of forces on the melee field and simply enjoy testing myself against my friends.

What is the single best piece of advice that you would like to give to new fighters? Have fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. (And, if I had time to them a second single best piece of advice, it’s not to make your goal to win each fight. The goal should be to fight one’s best each time. If you win, that’s great, but if you lose then you use the experience to improve yourself. If all 20 people in a tournament set their goal to win it, there’s going to be 19 very disappointed and frustrated persons at the end of the day.)

What does being a Master of Defense mean to you? To me it means that I am a member of the first peerage level order created in 40+ years. Along with the rest of the Order, we have the obligation and responsibility to live up the expectations, not only of the community, kingdom and society, but of ourselves. It’s to strive to be the role model for others and to be aware that decisions and actions taken now will shape how the order is perceived for years to come.

What does being a peer of Caid mean to you? Well, as mentioned by Kelan, technically, I am a peer of the Society that lives in the Kingdom of Caid. In a broader sense, it means that when I travel out of kingdom I am extremely aware that I represent a portion of what Caid sees as a peer of the realm.

Are there any questions or feedback you’d like from the rapier populace? I honestly enjoy hearing people’s opinions on the community, especially recommendations for people that deserve recognition!

What is one SCA-related thing most rapier fighters in Caid probably don’t know about you? (can be fighting related or not– i.e. ‘I really hate fighting cloak’ or ‘my persona as originally constructed is actually Byzantine) During my first four years of being authorized as a rapier fighter, I never made it past the second round. Talk about frustrating. However, I kept practicing and remained focused on making it over the hump and eventually things started to click.

P.S. If you want a larger dose of Master Laertes, he mundanely performs improv comedy every weekend at the LA Connection Improv Theater in Burbank. ;p

Master Laertes

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Meet the MODs #4- Master Eogan Uá Confraich

This week– it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Master Eogan Uá Confraich! Master Eogan has always been one of my absolute favorite fights. Energetic with inexhaustible enthusiasm, he is almost always game to play to a dozen, fifty, or one hundred touches. The creator of the Uber-Elf tournament among many, many other ridiculously fun fighting scenarios, Master Eogan is not a MOD to miss.

Master Eogan

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What is your registered SCA name? Eogan Uá Confraich

Do people usually call you something different? If so, what? My name is pronounced ‘Owen’ – but I can always tell when a new field herald gets my card for the first time.

How many years have you been playing? 23 actively

Did you start by playing rapier? If not, in what area of SCA combat/study did you first start? I joined the SCA because I heard they did historical fencing, though I later took up armored combat as well.

 

Did you start playing in Caid? If not, where are you from? I found the SCA here in Caid.

Outside of rapier, what is your favorite SCA activity? I enjoy leather working and storytelling.

Why did you decide to pick up rapier fighting? I used to go to Ren faires and spend the whole day at the fencing booth, later I saw a rapier demo and I was hooked. There was something about the combination of speed and style that drew me.

What is your preferred weapon form? I love them all, but sword and cloak is the most stylish.

Who is your favorite historical sword master and why? I enjoy Agrippa’s approach to guards and Capo Ferro for style.

How would you describe your fighting style? An energetic mashup of styles that feel right to me.

What was your favorite fight EVER and why (either tournament, melee, or pick-up)? Some years ago, I attended a pas in the West (shortly after they had restarted rapier) and I was fighting a West fencer in one of the giant open fields that the West likes to use for erics.  The new prince of the West was in attendance and it was clear that the fighting wasn’t holding his interest.  When ‘lay on’ was called, my opponent charged in with a flurry of attacks – I was told later that I gave a gleeful ‘whoop’ of joy and responded in kind.  We took that fight all over that huge field – fighting the entire time.  We weren’t carefully moving into and out of measure, this was a nonstop string of attacks and counters that never slowed.  We ended up back in front of the prince, with my opponent throwing a beautiful high lunge from orbit…and I dropped underneath it.  My lunge came all the way from a desperate squat with my off hand on the ground.  At that precise moment, the prince jumped up off his throne and shouted “Now THAT was cool!”

What is the single best piece of advice that you would like to give to new fighters? Give yourself time, don’t focus on winning, focus on your fencing.  Don’t analyze your fighting while you are fighting.

What does being a Master of Defense mean to you? It means that I am seen as a representative of the rapier community as a whole – and I have to strive to be a role model and an active participant in our community.

What does being a peer of Caid mean to you? The biggest difference is in the society wide level of the peerage, it’s not just a kingdom level thing anymore – it makes for a whole different flavor of responsibility.

Are there any questions or feedback you’d like from the rapier populace? Can’t think of any off the top of my head – always feel free to talk to me at any event.

What is one SCA-related thing most rapier fighters in Caid probably don’t know about you? (can be fighting related or not– i.e. ‘I really hate fighting cloak’ or ‘my persona as originally constructed is actually Byzantine) My SCA name translates into Heather’s Hound.

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Meet the MODs #3- Master Lot Ramirez

Master Lot is probably one of the first faces many new Caidan rapier fighters remember. Always teaching, always a wealth of historical knowledge. You may also have seen him at the fireside with his drum, songs, and poetry. But what else is there? Turns out, there’s a lot to Master Lot!

Master Lot

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What is your registered SCA name? I have 2 registered names, Lot Ramirez and Juceff ben Miguel. Lot was registered first as that is the name that I commonly go by, but my persona was conceived as a secret Jew hiding from the Spanish Inquisition. So, when I was elevated to Peerage as a Companion of the Laurel, I registered the name that is my persona’s ‘real name’ and was elevated and dubbed with it.

Do people usually call you something different? If so, what? Most people call me Lot. Some call me “Captain” in reference to my position as Captain of the ship, The White Star, though I am on sabbatical and have passed the Captain’s duties to Commander Marcos de la Cruz.

How many years have you been playing? My first event was Oct 1996, so over 20 years.

Did you start by playing rapier? If not, in what area of SCA combat/study did you first start? The first thing I actually ever did in the SCA was shoot archery, as they had archery at the fighter practice I first attended before the fighting. But, I really wanted to be a Heavy Weapons fighter. At the practice I attended they’d fight and then do lessons, especially for beginners who didn’t have armor, at the end. So, while I was working to get my armor together, I jumped into the ‘one size fits all’ rapier loaner gear. By the time I actually got on the Heavies field, I was already hooked on rapier.

 

Did you start playing in Caid? If not, where are you from? I originally started in the Barony of Jararvellir (Madison, WI), which at the time was a part of the Principality of Northshield, in the Kingdom of the Middle. Northshield is now its own kingdom. I moved to Caid 2 years later in Aug 1998.

Outside of rapier, what is your favorite SCA activity? I fight all combat forms (Rapier, Armored, Unarmored). I also do a good amount of Bardic (singing/storytelling) and enjoy Court Heraldry. You can often find me around a good baubling table, or just drinking and enjoying time with friends and loved ones.

Why did you decide to pick up rapier fighting? See above – It was easier to get into. I had done a little foil fencing in high school, so I was much more prepared to jump in and get going. (Especially as we were using epees at the time, as heavy rapier wasn’t a big thing yet)

What is your preferred weapon form? Oh boy… that’s a toughie. I don’t really distinguish my form by the weapons I use. Though, I often default to Rapier and walking stick as I enjoy it both strategically and aesthetically. But, my favorite secondary was the “parrying rose” my wife once made for me.

Who is your favorite historical sword master and why? Well, my favorite right now is Bondi di Mazo, but he’s a little post SCA period (1696). His text is really simple, but covers some very intricate uses of time, distance, and footwork.

As far as SCA specific masters, I have read a good number and love all of them. I generally fight in the style of Nicoletto Giganti when doing Italian Rapier (di Mazo and Giganti are both Venetian and their styles are not mutually exclusive), and Joachim Meyer when doing German Rapier and Longsword.

How would you describe your fighting style? I try to learn and present fighting styles advocated by specific masters from the time period. I hope that someone will look at my fights and see the application of style and system that they could understand from the historical texts. If I were to go back in time and fight in front of the masters of the age, I would hope that they would see their teaching in my fight.

What was your favorite fight EVER and why (either tournament, melee, or pick-up)?Before either of us were White Scarves, I had a fight with Andre Rodriguez de la Rosa in a tourney where the conversation of blades and the intensity of the fight were so real that when I was struck I thought for an instant that I had actually been hit by a real rapier. My mind flashed and I froze and fell, and in the passing moment when I realized that I wasn’t actually stabbed, my relief and joy were overwhelming. That fight was AMAZING!

What is the single best piece of advice that you would like to give to new fighters? Be patient and understanding, both with yourself and the others around you. It’s a long journey, and no one is perfect.

What does being a Master of Defense mean to you? Being a Master of Defense is an honor, but also a duty. Having been recognized, I need to make sure that I present myself according to the standard set. But also, that I take it upon myself to give back to the community that I am a part of. Helping others grow, taking on projects when I am available, being a reasonable voice within the community and helping other people be heard and seen.

The Master of Defense is also a little unique in that it is such a new thing. The identity of the Order has really yet to be set, and it’s up to us, the members of the Order and the populace as a whole, to start to establish what that will be.

What does being a peer of Caid mean to you? I’ll answer a little differently. Being a Peer in general is much like I described above.   But, being a double Peer, both a MoD and a Laurel especially, often puts me in the position of representing one group amongst the others. It is important to me, when on the rapier field to also represent myself as a researched and knowledgeable artist. And often amongst the Order of the Laurel, I represent the voice of the rapier community, whether I want to or not.

Are there any questions or feedback you’d like from the rapier populace? I LOVE and welcome feedback from the community! Please, don’t be afraid to ask if you would like to strike up a feedback session or ask questions. I can’t always guarantee I will be available right at that moment, but I will try to find time to accommodate.
My main question for the populace is “What do YOU want to see or do?” This community is a place where we all pool our dreams together. Don’t be afraid to put your own stamp on the community.

What is one SCA-related thing most rapier fighters in Caid probably don’t know about you? (can be fighting related or not– i.e. ‘I really hate fighting cloak’ or ‘my persona as originally constructed is actually Byzantine) I have close to a literal TON of Students (Imperial not Metric, if you don’t include armor, though Zhivana blows the curve). Though I have only made 4 Provosts, at this point in time, I have 5 other Students in addition to that. We call ourselves the Vineyard School of Fence, but more often than not you can find us goofing on each other with Kung Fu Panda references. Apparently, there is something about a little red panda, voiced by Dustin Hoffman, and searching for inner peace that reminds them of their teacher. Coincidentally enough, most of the students have found their own analog in the world (or it’s been found for them) and it makes an interesting window into our own lives, strengths, and weaknesses.

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Meet the MODs #2- Master Kelan McBride

Our interviewee this week has been many things– a premiere member of the Order of the White Scarf, a Pelican, the Baron of Dun Or. Given all that you might think you already know the whole story, or do you? Master Kelan McBride answers our questions.

Master Kelan

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What is your registered SCA name? Kelan McBride of Arainn

Do people usually call you something different? If so, what? Hey, you? Just Kelan.

How many years have you been playing? 27 in the SCA, about 20 in rapier. (My how the time flies.)

Did you start by playing rapier? If not, in what area of SCA combat/study did you first start? I started as an archer – we didn’t have rapier when I started.

 

Did you start playing in Caid? If not, where are you from? I started in Caid. I went to the first Collegium classes offered for rapier. I learned to make rapier armor and how to use my finger as a sword (there weren’t enough epees and foils to go around).

Outside of rapier, what is your favorite SCA activity? Golf – but if you mean in the SCA, I guess I’d have to say chatelaining. I like talking to people.

Why did you decide to pick up rapier fighting? As I said, I was an archer. There just aren’t that many tournaments for archers. When I saw rapier I realized I could do that (I am physically unable to do heavies) and be able to play at every Caidan event. It also gave me the ability to experience some of what happened on the heavies field – the one-on-one combat and the chivalry.

What is your preferred weapon form? Probably single sword. I was told a long time ago; get good at single and the rest will come along.

Who is your favorite historical sword master and why? I don’t have a favorite. I mix Capo Ferro, Giganti, and Morrozo as the fight proceeds.

How would you describe your fighting style? When I started out I was a mirror fighter; whatever my opponent did I mirrored. Now? I don’t fight much anymore. If I did I would be a defensive fighter staying at distance and looking for openings.

What was your favorite fight EVER and why (either tournament, melee, or pick-up)?There are so many “no kidding, there I was…” stories over 20 years, I’m not sure I could pick one. My favorite fights are those where I enjoyed the fight, win or lose, and we both walk off the field sharing a laugh.

What is the single best piece of advice that you would like to give to new fighters? Have fun. It is a game! Talk to your opponents and learn something from every fight. Be chivalrous and honest – it’s your honor on the line. I know that was more than one thing, but I believe they are all tied together.

What does being a Master of Defense mean to you? I’ve never really thought about this. When the White Scarf was introduced to Caid we treated it as kind of a pseudo-peerage. We looked for top fighters, but we also looked for those who would meet the peerage requirements of the Knights, Laurels, and Pelicans. If I had to pick a meaning for me it would an acknowledgment we did things more right than wrong. As with the Caidan White Scarf, it is not just an award, it is a job description. We don’t stop doing what we were doing once we are elevated. That’s just the beginning. Of course sometimes age and health get in the way, but I can still give advice.

What does being a peer of Caid mean to you? As I was a Caidan Pelican first, nothing changed. I am extremely honored to be recognized by Caid and can never really repay the confidence and support.

Are there any questions or feedback you’d like from the rapier populace? Don’t be afraid to come to the MoDs with questions. We watch what’s going on in the eric, but we don’t see everything. We need to know if things are going well or if changes need to be made. We need to know who the fighters see as the next MoD and who are the leaders. All questions and feedback are wanted and honored.

What is one SCA-related thing most rapier fighters in Caid probably don’t know about you? (can be fighting related or not– i.e. ‘I really hate fighting cloak’ or ‘my persona as originally constructed is actually Byzantine) I don’t like cloak/cape, my original persona was early Celtic (being an archer), and I’m not really left handed…

Anything else you’d like to add? I have really enjoyed my time in the SCA. But, like any other activity, you get out of it what you put into it. If your goal is to be a better fighter, you have to practice. If your goal is to make friends and have fun, just enjoy the game. Accolades come or they don’t, but our worth is not determined by the accolades. Your worth is in your friends and loved ones.

Kelan_QC03

 


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Meet the MODs #1- Master Alexander Kallidokos

Greetings! I thought it might be nice to kick things off after a long absence with a fun interview series (or two). At least one new interview will be posted each week– enjoy!

Introducing…

Meet the MODs- Profiles of Caid’s Masters of Defense

We fight them (and are stabbed by them) regularly. But how well do we really know the MODs of Caid???? Here at Caidrapier.org we have the EXCLUSIVE on these fun, interesting, and somewhat surprising Masters of Defense. We sent identical interview questions to each of the current MODs and we will be profiling one each week.

To kick off the series we have Master Alexander Kallidokos– quiet, chivalrous to a fault, and pretty much impossible to kill when legged with a buckler. But did you know he actually joined the SCA on a completely different note?

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What is your registered SCA name? Alexander Kallidokos

Do people usually call you something different? If so, what? Nope!

How many years have you been playing? 34 or so…

Did you start by playing rapier? If not, in what area of SCA combat/study did you first start? Nope, started by singing. I thought fighters were insane people who liked baseball bats swung at them. Then I started Armored in ~1990 and then rapier in 1991-2.

Did you start playing in Caid? If not, where are you from? I attended my first event in Atenveldt in 1981 or so, but didn’t start with the SCA till I was in Caid in 1983.

Outside of rapier, what is your favorite SCA activity? Humm, singing and cooking are fun, as is period astronomy, but really, mostly I do rapier, now.

Why did you decide to pick up rapier fighting? For exercise and to be with friends when I did.

What is your preferred weapon form? Sword and whatever – NOT fish, maybe a Moose.

Who is your favorite historical sword master and why? Agrippa, but Saviolo and Silver have their place! Recently going more to Fabris with left-handed work.

How would you describe your fighting style? Nasty mishmash of timing and range.

What was your favorite fight EVER and why (either tournament, melee, or pick-up)?Queens champion – I’ll always remember the weakness of a V buckler.

What is the single best piece of advice that you would like to give to new fighters? It takes time – all the other things, practice, timing, coordination, being relaxed when fighting – if you put in the time, it’ll come.

What does being a Master of Defense mean to you? Being a representative for the community and trying to do it well.

What does being a peer of Caid mean to you? Being a peer is really a Society recognition – you’re not a peer of Caid, but of the society. If you’re made a peer, you hopefully can go anywhere and represent your Kingdom well.

Are there any questions or feedback you’d like from the rapier populace? Just recommendations!

What is one SCA-related thing most rapier fighters in Caid probably don’t know about you? (can be fighting related or not– i.e. ‘I really hate fighting cloak’ or ‘my persona as originally constructed is actually Byzantine) Humm – my persona as originally constructed is actually Byzantine! My original name was Alexander Kallikanzaros, because (long breath) I was born on Dec 25 which people then thought was too full of hubris, so as a newborn I was dropped on a mountain top to die. A friendly monk saved me, and my device came from that (A snow leopard[ermine lion, or me] on a hill in a snowstorm at night).

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Have You Met…Edward the Pink?– Caid’s Newest Argent Blade

For our newest interview series in the pipeline, ‘Have You Met…’ we will be featuring interviews from a variety of the Caidan rapier populace– new rapier awardees, war bands, new fighters, and more!

Our first featured victim… I mean interviewee… in this series is THL Edward the Pink– deadly lefty and newest recipient of Caid’s Argent Blade grant level award.

Here’s the scoop!

Have You Met… Edward the Pink?

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THL Edward the Pink and Lady Adelais de la Jupe Cramoisie, Photo credit: Lee Varis, 2015

What is your registered SCA name? Edward the Pink

Why does everyone call you Edward the Pink? So… there was an unfortunate washing machine incident. Red doublet, white shirt. It was the morning of a tournament, and I was already running late, so there wasn’t time to do anything about it. I got tagged with the name at that point, and it just sorta stuck.

How long have you been playing? I first started playing around about 2003.

How would you describe your fighting style? I would describe my fighting style as Lefty Gunslinger. Being a left handed fencer, keeping my rapier low & outside changes all the angles of engagement, in a way that I am experienced with, and my opponent typically is not.

What’s one concept in fighting you still struggle with/want to work with? What still needs work for me is single sword. When I first started training in rapier combat, I picked up an offhand weapon almost immediately. What I should have done is to become proficient with single sword first, and only then start integrating offhand items.

What would you like to achieve as an Argent Blade? What does being an Argent Blade mean to you? To me, being inducted into the Order of the Argent Blade generates a feeling of great pride at being deemed worthy by my peers. Of course, in my mind I can’t quite bring myself to believe that I actually am worthy. That means that what I hope to achieve as a member of the Order is to ensure that someone can point me out to a brand new SCA member, and say that he is an example of what a member of the rapier community *should* be.

Why do you enjoy playing in the SCA? What I enjoy most about playing in the SCA is the camaraderie. Sure, I could spend as much time training against a practice pell at home. But I’d much rather be spending that time with like minded members of our community.

Outside of rapier what is your favorite SCA activity/pastime? Once the rapier combat for the day has concluded, I go back to camp and become the resident Isles grill master. It is always entertaining to draw visitors from neighboring camps who come to ask if Edward has made his tri tip yet.

 


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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.


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Counter-Disengage 4: On Boring Finals

By Don Todde MacDonnell

If this is your first encounter to the Counter-Disengage Forum, please read the Introductory post kindly provided for your convenience.

I had meant to take up this topic in December, but I realized I had to discuss my perspective on the audience first, and that proved a fair effort.  So if you haven’t read the previous blog, I would invite you to peruse it first….

The knight in the corner at your long, dull fight was not an allegory.  I met him, and another knight of his acquaintance outside the privies, after a dreadful three-way rapier final in Lyondemere, which had featured at least four fights, three of them slow, and two of them with extensive blow-call lawyering.  The crowd had groaned when the third fight did not produce a victor for the day.  It was the sort of fight where the fencers stopped watching and found something else to do, but the royalty and baronage weren’t afforded that choice.

The two knights were (unsurprisingly) bitching about rapier, and had come to the point where they agreed that rapier finals needed to be held in the main body of the list, when nobody had to pay attention, and not fought at the end of the day in front of the populace.  They changed the subject when I approached in a doublet and slops, but I freely agreed that the final was awful, someone needed to fix it, and I would try my best.  That day, my best amounted to short conversations with two of the finalists, both of whom were sympathetic but felt they couldn’t accelerate the fight without giving up the advantage.   This column amounts to a further effort to “fix it.”

Boring finals are among my SCA anathemas* because not only are they unpleasant to watch, I can feel the disappointment of the people around me as they unfold.  Here is the final, the climax of the tournament, and neither fighter has the courage to really attack.  Instead, they stand at the hairy edge of measure, hoping the other will give a tempo or lunge into a counterattack.  If we’re fortunate, they will change guards occasionally, beat swords carefully, make a witty comment, or circle purposefully.  That’s fine for a minute or two, but (for comparison) Iñigo and Westley’s duel atop the cliffs clocks in at three minutes.  After that, get on with it.

It’s my theory that fighters (me often included) go into a final determined, principally, to not screw up.  To our nervous minds, screwing up would mean getting one-shotted after approaching incautiously, or launching an attack that is too easily countered.  It means dying without getting to “show your stuff,” except I’ll assert that a boring final fails exactly that test.  It’s well enough to fight conservatively in the churchyard at dawn, but here you have a grand stage to display your virtues, and parry 9 (or worse, standing out of range) shows neither courage nor prowess.  So let’s use that as a basic test…

If, at long measure, you circle, take counterguards, compete for constraint, creep in under guard, wait a few tempos to see if the opponent will attack or give a tempo, you clearly display prowess, and no lack of courage to those who care to look; you need not launch a full-intent lunge when the 2-minute timer goes DING.  If your skills are limited and you make basic attacks, you display ample courage, and few will notice the lack of prowess.  But if you back away from such probing, simply batting their sword aside, you display neither courage nor prowess, regardless of how skillfully you managed the measure.  If it continues, even if you win, your opponent will have outshone you in the ways that inspire people both in period and now.

If a fight drags, both fencers ought to recognize it (you’ve made the finals after all, don’t tell me you don’t know a slow fight).  After some minutes, the gallery is waiting for one of you to show the courage to bring the action, and while their ire will fall on the favorite if neither does, more glory belongs to the underdog who takes initiative.  For the favorite, why are you so cautious?  You have earned a final with a favorable draw, and you squander a chance to display valor to instead improve your odds of winning a fruit basket.  If you should fall to a well-placed counter, let him enjoy the glory of a skilled victory; you will likely have another final soon.  If you are the underdog and face an intimidating white scarf who refuses to drive the action, know this: Most scarves dominate their fights, and are very good when the fight is on their terms.  If you can bring the fight to us, either by pushing us around the eric under guard, making us fall back, or dominating the sword, you put us in a position we don’t practice, outside our skill center.  You might not realize that Don Alexander, Duke Edric, and myself (if I may include myself in such skilled company!) all become far easier to kill as we retreat more than two steps.

To sum up and quote from Mark Twain**, “there are people in the world who will take a great deal of trouble to point out faults… and then go blandly about their business without suggesting any remedy. I am not that kind of person.”  It’s well enough to observe that boring finals suck, but why do they happen, and how can we fix it?

First, let each fighter in the final remember that the goal is to display their prowess and courage as well as their chivalry, and that dull fights squander that opportunity.  Fighting fearfully is not worth the fruit basket.

Second, let the better fighter feel an obligation to keep a slow fight moving.  Even if it is not to your apparent advantage, man (or lady) up and attack.  At the right time, and cleverly, yes, but as the fight drags on, with greater and greater frequency until the bout is decided.  Waiting at measure to throw a counter-attack fails this test, and the fault is yours if both fighters do so for too long.

Third, let the lesser fighter remember that not only do brave assaults display their courage, they may also expose the opponent’s weakness.  I sympathize with the desire to wait out the opponent and throw your best shot, but wouldn’t your prowess be better displayed if you had more than one tactic?  If not, I say it is your duty to keep yourself in range, that you may take that shot sooner.  Also, if there is no clear favorite, perhaps it’s you; see rule #2.

Fourth, if you leg your opponent in a final, you now control the measure, and bear with it responsibility for the pace of the fight.  Don’t walk into his sword, but neither spend the next five minutes stabbing at hands.

Fifth, all of the above count double if the final has multiple bouts, whether it’s best of three, or a three-way final.  One long bout is bearable; three are not.  If the first bout began with five minutes of probing, use what you’ve already learned to accelerate the other two.

Finally, apply these rules to any bout closely watched, and especially to those before a noble audience.  It’s telling that most long bouts are those with a large gallery; we feel the pressure to perform well, but transmute that pressure to caution, rather than revel in the opportunity to be part of a match that’s memorable for the right reasons.

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*My other least-favorite things are courts you can’t hear beyond a 20-foot radius, single- doorway battles that give neither incentive nor advantage to the attacking side, and 20+ minute breaks between scenarios at war.  Also, detailed armor inspections of the interdigital spaces on gloves.

** Thus Twain introduces his conclusion to “The Awful German Language”  appendix in A Tramp Abroad

 


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Counter-Disengage 3: On What We’re Doing, and What Follows

By Don Todde MacDonnell

If this is your first encounter to the Counter-Disengage Forum, please read the Introductory post kindly provided for your convenience.

The SCA doesn’t officially give us a context for rapier tournaments.  Are we supposed to consider each fight a duel, which mortal results?  This rapidly leads to paradoxes, but it’s the context assumed by Crown Tourney fighter poems (in which the loser is often eulogized), and the custom of falling over dead.  It also means winning (or yielding alive) is pretty darn close to everything, the word-fame of dying at in the third round of Tawanyour Anniversary being somewhat limited.  Given how many of us accept Don Laertes’ offer to yield and seek the aid of a surgeon, or arrange for seconds to carry their body off the field, I doubt many of us approach fights with that mindset, but if you do, I’d love to read your perspective in the comments.

 

At the other extreme, we’re just here to have fun (and/or competition), fence with our friends, see who wins, then go get dinner.  The tourney context (and by extension, SCA feudal society) is pasted-on chrome.  I do see some newbies and sport fencers who start with this mindset, but many of them either develop an interest in the society culture, or lose interest in the SCA and wander off, leaving few SCA veterans with this philosophy.  Or so I think… again, tell me about it below!

 

For me, and for most of the people I’ve conversed with, tourneys are a public demonstration of prowess (and other virtues), with bated blades, for the entertainment of the assembled nobles and populace, and a formality that exceeds a practice mentality.  My goal is to show myself skilled, courageous, and gracious in victory or defeat; the audience are the observers of that effort, and in many ways, the reason for the tourney.

 

I imagine our motivation would have been a similar thing in period, when the crowd was more likely to be armed with rotten fruit, or seeded with nobles whose patronage you hoped to attract.  In both those cases, it matters that you please the crowd one way or another…by winning often if you are able, but also by charming them with wit, impressing them with courage, exciting them with action, or granting the opponent a triumph by collapsing or bowing low in defeat.  One need not win the bout to gain admiration, but you must do something appealing.

 

So, gentle reader, assuming you hold this last philosophy, or are persuaded that it might be worth trying, I ask a three favors on behalf of the gallery:

 

First, keep your fights lively.  In a renaissance tournament, it would have been nearly inexcusable for two fighters to stand back and wait for the other to do something for more than a couple minutes (fewer if the tomatoes were ripe).  Even if no one seems to be watching, the marshals are standing in the sun, the next fighters are wandering off, the listmistress is waiting for you to finish, and the knight in the corner is reminiscing about that hourlong rapier final at Starkhafn Anniversary.

Second, die obviously. As a blunt rule of thumb, a deaf newbie 40 feet away should be able to tell that you lost.  Fall over, bow deeply, collapse on the eric post, or drop your sword and mime blood bursting from your chest. Saying “good” to your opponent and shaking his hand doesn’t cut it.  Even if he’s not deaf, the newbie can’t hear your call of “good”, and if she can, probably can’t tell who said what.  Likely, neither can the baroness trying to watch her semifinals.  Cut them some slack and bow deeply.

Finally, remember the audience, and see what happens. Take note of them when you salute.  Imagine their interest as you try an assault.  Amuse them if the fight is dragging.  Maybe you’ll discover a bit more panache or courage in yourself trying to get out.  Maybe someone in the audience will notice your efforts, and something will come of it.  It’s worth a try.