To lighten a heavy load

15 Apr 2014 by gebhard, 1 Comment »

Ifencing authorized rapier this year, in part because, as a member of the Queen’s guard, I felt it was my job to follow her on every list she enters.

I had heard a lot of horror stories about rapier people like: if you jump at them, they will crumple up into the fetal position. I was also told that I needed to be so very careful about how much I move or how wide I throw my shots.  Even if I only connect at touch calibration for a draw cut, if it looks like I could have smashed them, I’ll get my card pulled.

In reality, the rapier community has been very open and accepting of me. I’ve had a great time at every event where I’ve fought rapier. While I’ve never had anything like the above happen, there are some interesting differences.

Starting out, the garb is pretty sharp, and colorful, and <sniff> <sniff>, where is the familiar…uh… smell of….. fighters?

At every heavy armored tournament, when I’m leaving the list, be it a small event tourney or Crown, someone will find me and say something like, “Wow I can’t believe you’d take a bastard sword out there.  Dude, you’re crazy!” I’m never really sure what that means.

If I take my bastard sword  (or a Long Sword as they call it) out to a rapier tournament, the person next to me will get really wide-eyed and say “Awesome! Let me get mine! We can be next! This going to be great!” This is pretty impressive response for a group who is supposed to cry out in fear at the mere mention of the words “appropriate force”.

At Martial RUM, I taught my bastard class, then later attended a “German Long Sword” class taught by Kara de Korte. It was fun to see how much of what we taught was the same.  Although, I did learn a new trick. It seems there is always something to be learned.

One of the things that always makes me happy to see is people doing research on period swordplay techniques and applying them to what what we do. While most people on the heavy list will look me with a blank stare when I talk about hanging guards and transition blocks, the rapier community has been all too happy not only to talk about them and other ideas like them, but even to teach me the German terms for those things.

Shortly after I authorized I had more than one conversation that went something like… “Gebhard! I saw you posted you authorized rapier.  You’re not going over to that side are you? I mean….. they fight…. rapier!”

The armored list should have no fear of losing me, but variety is the spice of the life. In many ways, I wish every heavy fighter would, at some point in their SCA career, authorize rapier. Probably the best time is when you feel like you’ve plateaued, and it’s been a long time since you’ve gotten better.

It’s always good to take a step back and reassess how you fight. I’m not saying you need get good enough to join the Bronze Ring, but Rapier focuses on things like timing, footwork, accuracy and point control. Are any of these things something a heavy fighter needs less of? I think it’s a good way to build up skills without worrying about power generation, grappling or shield bashing.

(Unless of course you’re in that group of rapier fighters who are working on the grappling, bashing, wrestling experiment)

No matter who you meet or on what list, there is always an opportunity to learn something new and to make a new friend.

All deeds of arms are worthy of pursuit, and all who pursue them are worthy.


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One Comment

  1. Lewys says:

    Good stuff Gebhard! I require men-at-arms in my household to be conversant, no matter what their preferences in all forms of combat. In reality, you had to be skilled enough to defend your life on the streets and byways (rapier) as you did in war.

    Once my leg is healed we need to dance some bastard sword between us!

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