Please feel free to contact the baronial rapier marshal at rapier AT duncarraig DOT net with any questions about rapier combat. You can find the rapier rules on the Kingdom Rapier page. There's also the Atlantian Rapier Forum (External Link), a discussion forum for rapier fighters all over the kingdom.
The biggest difference is the armor. Armored combatants wear full armor (such as chain mail, plate, or leather) and a metal helm like a Knight or solider would have worn, and the rattan weapons represent heavy cutting blades or mass weapons. Rapier combatants wear puncture-resistant cloth armor over the torso (such as a commercial fencing jacket or a doublet made from layers of sturdy fabric), as well as a mask, hood, and gloves. The weapons are metal blades, usually much lighter than the rattan weapons used on the armored list.
Calibration, or the force used to "kill" an opponent is another difference. In armored combat, a telling blow has a significant amount of force behind it. While it's not supposed to hurt much, bruises are a part of the game. In rapier combat, positive force in the direction of the blade is sufficient, and much more than that is considered excessive. While you'll still get a few small bruises every now and again, you won't hit or be hit nearly as hard as in armored combat.
Somewhat, but with a few differences. While competitive fencing is done in a straight line, SCA rapier combat is fought "in the round," with lateral movements. Fighters can also block blades with their off hand, or use a parry device or a second weapon.
SCA rapier combat uses heavy blades, rather than foils and epees. Fighters using heavy rapiers must wear a gorget to protect the throat. Heavy rapier combatants are also allowed to grasp their opponent's blade.
If you've done competitive fencing, most of what you have learned will transfer to rapier combat, once you get used to using your off-hand and moving in 360 degrees.
Fighters practice against each other one-on-one, and may also fight in small melees. When you're just starting out, we'll explain the basics, including the rules and calibration, and have you practice the footwork, basic attacks, and blocks. Usually, you'll do a mix of slow drills and half- or full-speed sparring. (You learn and perfect a move at slow speed, then practice it at full speed.)
You'll usually start with a weapon only, then move on to using a hard or soft parry device or a second weapon in your off-hand.
Since our current practice is for both rapier and armored combat, you'll also get to see armored fighters beating each other about the head with sticks.
When you show up to a practice, you'll need the following:
- Either proof that you're eighteen or, if you're 16 or 17, a parent/legal guardian who can sign a waiver for you.
- Groin protection. (Men need standard athletic protection. For most women (depending on height, etc.), the group's loaner rapier jackets meet the requirement of puncture-resistant groin protection. Women who need or want more protection may wish to bring female groin protection. This can be hard to find, but is often carried at boxing or martial arts supply stores (such as Karate Depot - External Link or Title Boxing - External Link)
- Non-marking shoes, such as non-black-soled sneakers.
- A good attitude and a willingness to learn.
- Comfortable clothes to fight in, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and long socks. Once you put on the jacket, hood, mask, and gloves, every inch of skin has to be covered. The long socks keep your legs from being exposed as you lunge or bend.
- Water, Gatorade, etc. (Our practice site has a water fountain and a soda machine, but bringing a water bottle is a good idea for staying hydrated.)
- If you've done sport fencing and you have a three-weapon mask, an epee, and/or a fencing jacket, bring them.
Rapier fighters try to bring loaner armor and weapons to practice every week. If you'd like to practice, check in with the Quartermaster to make sure the loaner gear will be there. It's a good idea to check a couple days before the practice. That way, if the person who usually transports the gear isn't able to make it, alternate arrangements can be made.
Rapier combat is based on the sword-fighting done in the later part of the SCA period. While armored combat simulates tournament and war-fighting in the Middle Ages, rapier combat is based on the practice of dueling. Fighters wearing puncture-resistant cloth armor compete with blunt, rubber-tipped metal blades.
Like armored combat, we have both single competition and melees. In tournaments, rapier fighters fight one-on-one, while melees are fought between two teams. The goal of a melee may be to defeat all the members of the opposing side, to capture a flag, or to hold a certain amount of land. Some rapier melees simulate fights in a town or tavern brawls.