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#1 2007-08-15 09:25:24

The Rose Knight
Member
From: Maryland
Registered: 2006-10-12

SCA fencing

In years past (almost twenty), I had friends and at one point, a membership in the SCA.  My friends in the SCA were into heavy weapons, and while one was into fencing, he had little in the way of formal training.

Now, my kids have some friends up the street who's entire family is in the SCA.  Both of my kids would like to join and would like me to do so as well.  I think it's a fun thing and I'd love to, that isn't the point of this post.  Their' friends' dad is an SCA fencer and was excited at the idea of another fencer in the neighborhood joining so that a local practice might be organized.

I figure that this is a good opportunity to do something fun with my kids.  The fighting aspect isn't necessary for us to participate, but any opportunity for swordplay is welcomed by both my sons and myself.  And so  I thought I'd see if anyone here has familiarity with SCA style fencing.

My question is this:  how does SCA fencing compare with classical fencing?  Or is it classical fencing?  I think the answer to that second question is no, but a good number of sport fencers seem to equate the two.  If the answer to the second question is no, how do the two differ?  To focus the question a bit more, I fence epee and will do so if we join and fence in the SCA.  Both of my kids are interested in doing so as well, my youngest being interested in epee specifically. 

I hope that my question does not come off as silly.  I fence as if I were using an actual weapon rather than a sporting implement.  I'm not looking to fence in a venue where I'll be forced to do otherwise.

Thanks to all in advance for any info.

Daniel


Daniel Sullivan
Rockville Fencing Academy
Foil, Epee
Second dan Kumdo/Kum bup

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#2 2007-08-15 09:43:05

Hentzau
Member
From: Des Moines area, Iowa
Registered: 2007-08-13

Re: SCA fencing

Eh...not so much.  I've had a knighthood in the SCA since 1983, and I did a little SCA fencing when it was getting started very early on.  Later on I dropped it, and I'm not active in the SCA at all for reasons that largely stem from a ever-widening divide between the way they do things and the way I think they should be done. Since the '80's SCA fencing has since tried to improve, and probably has.  The availability of blades that are closer in mass to "period" blades, the SCA ethic that the person wounded must be the once to declare it - no one else may do so...all of these you might find comfortable.

The biggest problem that any kind of SCA combat has, in my opinion and ex cathedra, is the total lack of discplline.  I'm not saying that there are no people in the SCA who approach fighting as a personally-developmenta martial art - there are.  I was one.  But the institution of the SCA has no particular combat discipline.  Show up at a practice and chances are you'll be loaned some gear and can enter tournaments as soon as you can pass a very cursory examination, the purpose of which is only to show that you are not a danger to yourself or others. 

This means that people are bouting very, very far in advance of when I think they should.  But the SCA allows (and encourages) this. 

To finally get around to answering  your question, SCA fencing is not Classical Fencing, because SCA fencing has no pedagogy, structure, or discipline.  If you can hold on to the proper end of an SCA rapier and pass a very cursory authorisation procedure, they will let you sign up and compete the first day they see you. 

If you are a Classical Fencer, I believe that your neighbor can benefit far more from the relationship that you will.  You might impart some discipline of the sword to your local area, broaden and deepen their appreciation for their own craft.  If you are willing to take it on, you will almost certainly find yourself in a leadership/training role.

Last edited by Hentzau (2007-08-15 09:47:18)


"When you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite."
- Winston Churchill

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#3 2007-08-15 10:04:04

Simon Wyatt
Forum Administrator
Registered: 2006-03-05

Re: SCA fencing

If you're interested in medicine, do you go to medical school, or do you get together with your pals, dress up like renaissance physicians, and meticulously reenact the illustrations from period medical manuals?

There is no comparison to be made between historical role-playing and the living science of defense.

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#4 2007-08-15 10:36:10

Linda Wyatt
Prevost d'Armes
From: Danby NY
Registered: 2006-03-26
Website

Re: SCA fencing

You've opened a can of worms, Daniel.  :-)

The answer is very simple.

SCA "fencing" has no relationship to classical fencing at all.  It is pretending.
It is true that many sport fencers equate the two. They could not be more wrong.

It is technically incorrect.  Not just that people are not yet able to do things correctly, but what they are trying to do is also incorrect.  The "draw cut" is one example.  Parrying with the flat is another.  (Not to mention the affected mispronunciation of "quillons," but that is a different subject.)

They are "self taught" and as far as I have seen, resistant to instruction from anyone who has actual qualifications to do so, preferring to keep to their own insulated world.  "Little in the way of formal training" doesn't even being to cover it.

They include such role playing nonsense as continuing to "fight" on one knee after a cut to the other leg.

I think the SCA has some good aspects- things like learning skills such as weaving and sewing, for example.  And the community aspect is tremendous.  But as far as I have seen- and this is likely to offend some people- the fencing part is primarily macho crap.  I'm uninterested in dressing up in costumes, giving myself a royal name, and then slashing away at someone while pretending to be a knight.

I've also seen and heard about a fair number of injuries at SCA events. I'm not interested in that experience, either.

I know quite a few people who are in the SCA, both locally, and around the country.  We also frequently have members sign up for some of our classes and workshops, so I see firsthand what skills they do or do not possess, often after years of participation in SCA tournaments.

I don't understand the huge draw SCA fencing has, except that I understand the appeal of the sword itself.  It's just too bad that so many people would rather pretend to have skills than do the work involved in really gaining them.  I suspect many people see the SCA as their only option, if they want to get together with other people and use what they see as "real" weapons.  It probably IS the only option in many places- except for the option of choosing not to participate in anything less than real classical training, or the option of relocating.

I would love it if someone had evidence to the contrary, of an SCA group that trains under a Fencing Master somewhere.  That does not encourage immediate bouting.  That focuses more on skill than on costumes and role playing. 

But I'm not holding my breath.


Linda

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#5 2007-08-15 10:39:54

The Rose Knight
Member
From: Maryland
Registered: 2006-10-12

Re: SCA fencing

Hentzau wrote:

If you are a Classical Fencer, I believe that your neighbor can benefit far more from the relationship that you will.  You might impart some discipline of the sword to your local area, broaden and deepen their appreciation for their own craft.  If you are willing to take it on, you will almost certainly find yourself in a leadership/training role.

I fence at Rockville Fencing Academy and have been taking private lessons there as well.  The coach, Stu Sachs, indicates that he he teaches a classical base and then teaches the modern stuff afterward.  I fence as if the weapon were an actual weapon, rather than a sporting implement.  I don't know that any of that makes me a classical fencer or not.  I just try to to fence as correctly as possible. 

I don't really have the time to take on a leadership role; I do some instruction with beginning kumdo students three days a week, plus I'm a custodial single parent.  My primary interest in the SCA is to do participate with my kids who seem to have the interest. 

I do appreciate the feedback!!

Daniel


Daniel Sullivan
Rockville Fencing Academy
Foil, Epee
Second dan Kumdo/Kum bup

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#6 2007-08-15 10:51:05

The Rose Knight
Member
From: Maryland
Registered: 2006-10-12

Re: SCA fencing

Simon, Linda,

Thanks for the feedback.  That's about what I figured it was. 

I was kind of leary about how "authentic" their fighting is, which is why I asked here.  I frequently see classical and SCA fencing mentioned in the same breath, but I rather doubted that they were the same.  I didn't want to show up expecting one thing and then finding another.  I knew I'd get the straight scoop if I asked here.

My thanks!!

Daniel


Daniel Sullivan
Rockville Fencing Academy
Foil, Epee
Second dan Kumdo/Kum bup

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#7 2007-08-15 11:45:10

The Rose Knight
Member
From: Maryland
Registered: 2006-10-12

Re: SCA fencing

Linda Wyatt wrote:

I don't understand the huge draw SCA fencing has, except that I understand the appeal of the sword itself.  It's just too bad that so many people would rather pretend to have skills than do the work involved in really gaining them.  I suspect many people see the SCA as their only option, if they want to get together with other people and use what they see as "real" weapons.  It probably IS the only option in many places- except for the option of choosing not to participate in anything less than real classical training, or the option of relocating.

I think that you've hit the nail on the head in regards to the appeal of the SCA.  I know a good number of people who have an interest in the sword and simply wind up in such organizations, such as Ampgard (sp?) or Dagorhere because their friends are in it or they hear about it.  Some choose to stay in those groups because they feel secure that they have weapon skills.  One student at our kumdo dojang came from such a group (Ampgard) and almost went back when he realized that he literally had to unlearn everything that he had learned.  But because he had a genuine interest in learning real sword skills, he stayed on and left the play fighting behind.

Sadly, there are no classical fencing salles in my area, possibly none in Maryland, though I'd be hesitant to go quite that far; I simply haven't been able to find any after a good amount of searching.   I would love to (and intend to) attend one of Maitre Crowns workshops.  Fencing in my area is dominated by sport fencing.  Anyone looking for classical fencing (and who doesn't have a good idea of what classical fencing is) kind of winds up with the SCA by default.  My guess is that once they see that the SCA fencers use actual steel weapons (as opposed to the padded nonsense), they assume it to be the real deal and never look further.

Daniel


Daniel Sullivan
Rockville Fencing Academy
Foil, Epee
Second dan Kumdo/Kum bup

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#8 2007-08-15 15:30:05

KevinMurakoshi
Member
From: Davis, CA
Registered: 2007-07-28

Re: SCA fencing

So I'm going to jump out on a limb here...

I am a SCA fencer, in addition to being a Classical Fencer, a Modern Fencer and a Historical Fencer.

Fencing in the SCA, while usually not very high quality has a number of attractions.  First, often SCA fencing is the only thing around that isn't modern sport fencing. Further, the SCA is relatively cheap, (no lessons, $35/year membership, make your own armor, and often a large supply of loaner equipment) making it attractive for people who really only want to get out and try something. The SCA is generally a very welcoming crowd and a great community, so the new fencer rarely feels left out in the cold. Most importantly, I think it provides a "realism" that many feel is lacking in both the Classical and Sport worlds. Weapons are heavier, with realistic blades and studies of the period manuals are often encouraged. This form of applied historical research is very attractive to the SCA's target market and is in many ways unique to the SCA and the Historical Fencing communities.  This is initially why I got interested in the SCA.  Finally, they offer large events where fencing can take place, whether tournaments or large melees. Many classical groups are too small to host large tournaments and this can be boring to some fencers.

As to the relationship between Classical Fencing and the SCA... There really isn't one, except to say that if you are classical fencer, you should do very well in the SCA. ...smiles...

Training in the SCA is often hit or miss. Usually, there are few drills and a lot of free bouting. This mirrors the method used initially in the Heavy Combat side of things where training is often (though not always) the school of hard knocks. This can occasionally produce very good fencers. I know a former SCA fencer whit a very unorthodox style who is now doing very well in the Sport fencing circuit.  Some places offer more intensive training programs with lots of drills, but these are hit or miss and often are related to Historical Fencing groups.

Historical Fencing groups tend to treat their fencing much more seriously, with stronger emphasis on drilling and technique and generally more emphasis on the period manuals. This is what I spend my time doing. Some have bootstrapped themselves through study (Tom Leoni, William Wilson), some through mastery of another art (Roger Siggs), and some come from a classical background (Maestro Hayes, and my group).  My historical fencing group includes two Provosts and one Instructor(me!) from the SJSU Fencing Masters Program. Our approach to historical fencing applies the Classical Italian pedagogy to the 1610 system of Ridolfo Capo Ferro.

What does this have to do with the SCA you ask?  Well first, Puck (one of or Provosts) is a white scarf in the SCA (this is generally the highest award for rapier in the SCA), and I also got started there. The SCA can be a great feeder organization into better forms of fencing. In fact, many of the Historical Fencing groups were formed from people disgusted with the SCA's lack of training. Sometimes this can go both ways. Our group is teaching an eight week seminar series on Capo Ferro using the Classical Private Lesson format to the local SCA practice, and it's wonderful to see their fencing improve.

Anyway, I hope this short rant is at least informative.

Last edited by KevinMurakoshi (2007-08-15 15:30:22)

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#9 2007-08-15 16:27:08

The Rose Knight
Member
From: Maryland
Registered: 2006-10-12

Re: SCA fencing

It is informative, Kevin, and I do appreciate.

Just a note; the reason I asked the original question is that many sport fencers equate classical with the SCA.  I was pretty sure that one did not relate directly to the other, but the encounter with the neighbors prompted me to ask.  What my kids want out of the SCA isn't formal training, but the positive aspects which Linda had mentioned (rennaisance crafts, events, and community).  That and hanging out with their buddies who share similar interests.  When the subject of getting a local practice together was brought up by their dad, I wanted to try to get some idea of what the difference was. 

Most SCA guys I've met say that they do the real deal.  I don't feel that they're lying; they believe that they do.  The question then becomes what one's interpretation of "real deal" is.  What Maitre Crown has called Classical, or Correct, fencing is the real deal that I would like to pursue.  Certainly, showing up at a local SCA practice at the invite of a neighbor sounds fun.  But I was looking to get an idea of what I might be in for and how it differs from actual classical fencing.

Daniel


Daniel Sullivan
Rockville Fencing Academy
Foil, Epee
Second dan Kumdo/Kum bup

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#10 2007-08-15 21:17:45

Adam Adrian Crown
Maître d'Armes
From: Ithaca, New York
Registered: 2006-04-04
Website

Re: SCA fencing

I generally avoid discussion of the SCA, but I'll make an exception this time.
There's nothing wrong with playing dress-up just for fun.
That's what an actor does.
But when the show's over an actor doesn't insist on still being referred to as "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark" or etc.
So there's something a little out of balance when your fantasy life is better than your REAL life.
If you want to be something BE it; don't just pretend to be it.
Why play "air guitar" instead of learning to play a real one -- and THEN want other actual guitar players to regard you as one of them.  (I took a first aid course; I don't expect physicians to call me "doctor" and think of me as a colleague!)
So look, dress up, sing, dance, drink, feast, pick up chicks, that's fine. I enjoy all those things, too.
Just don't take it all seriously -- or expect anyone else to do so.
The science of defence has so devolved that even many people with a fencing master diploma haven't a clue anymore. They're just glorified coaches, teaching whatever is in style this week, no real understnding or respect for the sword or real combat.  You can pretty safely bet that someone with NO TRAINING AT ALL isn't likely to trip over any profound insights into the art or science, just by accident.
Probably about the same likelyhood as as 100 monkeys at 100 typewrites eventually typing out a perfect copy of Romeo & Juliet, just by chance.
Hey, it's POSSIBLE.

I hasten to say that I am acquainted with SCA members who DO have actual knowledge & skill in some craft or other, and those individuals have my respect.
But I don't have much respect for folks who try to pass themselves off as something they're not, or willfully "allow" themselves to be taken for something they are not.
I believe that's probably my final word on the matter.
Now back to our regularly scheduled program?

AAC

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#11 2007-08-15 21:30:59

Linda Wyatt
Prevost d'Armes
From: Danby NY
Registered: 2006-03-26
Website

Re: SCA fencing

Kevin said:

> Most importantly, I think it provides a "realism" that many feel is lacking in both the Classical and
> Sport worlds. Weapons are heavier, with realistic blades and studies of the period manuals are
> often encouraged.


Weapons are not more real because they are heavier. 

We use heavier blades, too.  We also use wooden blades at times.  It isn't the blade that makes what we do "real" or not.

And studies of period manuals are great- as history.  You can no more learn to fence from a book than you could learn to be a surgeon by reading about it.


What is real are the underlying principles of combat.  What is real is understanding and using those principles.  What is real is when the sword and the fencer are one, connected, so that it is not a person using a tool, but a fighter being the tool.

It isn't what is in your hand. It is what is in your heart.

People who have never seen fencing at that level are not able to miss what they do not know. So they believe that the best they have seen is the best there is.

Most people, in this day and age, have never had the opportunity to see good fencing at all.





I'd like to refer everyone to the posts in the announcement section of this forum, about the purpose of the forum.  Talking about the SCA isn't on the list. While Daniel's original question had some merit, any further discussion of the SCA should probably take place on an SCA forum somewhere.


Linda

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