Basically my point of view boils down to: if you want to do a European martial art, do HEMA. If you want to reenact without actually having to reenact and want to bash someone with a sword, have fun and participate in the SCA. If you want to do both, do both and be aware of the groups as distinct. The two groups can certainly inform each other on what works and what doesn’t, but as it stands, I think the SCA (at large) and HEMA are largely incompatible.
But I want my cake and I want to eat it too! I love the SCA. I love the camping and the romance and the revelry and the re-creation (not reenactment - we get touchy about this and LARPing just like you do). Before the SCA I was largely a sedentary Hutt with more concern for my World of Warcraft character than myself. I had liked sword fighting but never really had the chance to fight people who legitimately knew what they were doing and didn’t want to play pew-pew-I-has-a-lightsaber.
And for a couple of years I was satisfied with the limited scope of historically relevant techniques (hereafter referred to as period techniques) because I was still tremendously unskilled, unmotivated, and frankly unable to do them. But now, after escaping the terror of lonely adolescence and a borderline addiction to online gaming and experiencing the thrill of fighting I found myself with a thirst needing slaking. There’s only so many times you can square off against a person and do a quick disengage and kill them with a thrust before you want something more.
From that revelation and desire for something more I found the period techniques and masters. George Silver and Capo Ferro and even Fabris (though I think he’s a teensy bit overrated). I’m not satisfied with one way of fighting or even one style of fighting. Why limit myself to something as narrow as only doing Italian rapier when German Longsword fighting and English broadsword are so damn interesting?!
But I love the re-creation. Camping with all my closest friends, fighting beside them in the massive wars we have, and even sitting through a hilarious court. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. However, you are correct that we have no claim to doing everything perfectly historical. Certainly not the fighting. But there’s hope for change and as I’ve always said you’ve got to keep your mind open to everyone’s ideas before deciding what’s right for yourself.
I want my cake and I want to eat it too. And if HEMA doesn’t have recreation and the SCA doesn’t have perfectly historical fighting then damnit it’s time to bring the actual, historical fighting to the SCA.
There are two main categories of fighting in the Society for Creative Anachronism. The more public and popular is what we refer to as Hardsuit fighting. These are the knights in full armor who fight with rattan swords and shields. They’re great people. But they aren’t the only people who fight.
The other side of the fighting is the rapier community who wear modern fencing masks and fight with actual steel swords in order to recreate Renaissance and Late Middle Ages sword fighting through both manual and instructor teaching.
They. Are. Different. When you talk about SCA fighting you cannot only talk about the Hardsuit fighters (KNIGHTS). Just clarifying this for everyone who only thinks of the knights in armor when they think of SCA fighting.
They. Are. Different.
So this past tournament was the last time I was able to fight in my dark blue and burgundy surcoat. I made it last year right before Estrella War to show off my College of St. Felix spirit but it became a regular part of my fighting kit because I liked it so much. Well after this weekend’s tournament I wanted to do some trimming to make it more even and reinforce the stitching but after pulling it apart I may have … well … torn it a bit. Badly. Suffice it to say it’s gone. I can use what’s left to make a sash or something but the surcoat is gone.
And as tonight was fighter practice it was the first in a while where I didn’t wear it. Instead I wore my tan half-cape. Basically it goes from neck to just below my waist and isn’t quite full circle so it leaves my main hand completely clear for fighting while covering my off-hand very nicely. It’s a cool effect. Pictures probably sometime maybe. I’m lazy about getting pictures of things.
Anyway, I was bummed about not having my surcoat. Despite it being a really simple thing that looked a little ugly I liked it. I made it with my own two hands and it was one of the first things I was proud of having made.
But having fought in my awesome half-cape any unhappiness is gone. It’s kind of awesome. I’m almost willing to put off making a replacement pirate coat for my surcoat so that I have an excuse to wear my half-cape at Estrella this year. It’ll be cool pulling pistols and my dagger from the depths of this tan and black half-cape. I can picture it now. Badass.
Felt like telling ya’ll this though I’m not sure why. You all know my opinion about capes. They’re awesome. They need to come back. Apparently it is socially acceptable for women to wear capes in common society. Not fair. Any women who read this had better get an awesome cape to wear in my honor since it’s apparently uncool for guys to wear capes in public. Now I seem to have bummed myself out again. Uncool. Fighting in my cape on Thursday should fix that.