While armoured combatants aim to recreate the training for fighting in wars and tournaments, fencing looks to the noble arts of defense suitable for civilians, based on the swordsmanship conventions and teachings from the later middle ages.
With us, you can study Di Grassi’s True Arte of Defense, contemplate Silver’s Paradoxes of Defence, or just rely on natural speed, talent and self-preservation to win the day.
We fence with rapiers of historic weight and style using both the point and the edge.
We differ from Olympic style fencing in our use of slicing cuts, parrying with the off hand, secondary weapons such as daggers, extra swords, cloaks and the like, and non-linear movement.
Hits are determined the same way in armoured combat, on the honour system based on recognition of the blows received. A particularly hard blow should feel like no more than being hit by a paintball.
If you’re new to fencing, we have some loaner kit and can teach you the basics towards authorising in the SCA.
To “authorise” in the Society (ie. get your fencing license to play at events), you must be familiar with the rules and the Society conventions of combat, and have practiced enough to play safely on the field without hurting yourself or anyone else. We value safety over expertise: if you can play safely you can authorise and gain your skill on the field.
We’re following the training map assembled by Marco Borromei in the Midrealm.
His research page is an excellent overview of manuals and combat styles for aspiring fencers interested in the historic combat arts.
We use a mix of modern fencing equipment (masks for safety) and late-medieval clothing and reproduction weapons, to learn the skills of the medieval martial arts and recapture the fierce joy of defending yourself with a sword.
The rule of thumb is that you have no skin uncovered. A fencer’s kit typically includes:
- fencing mask (modern mask as used for any of the Olympic fencing styles)
- hood (ensures head, neck and throat are covered)
- gorget (rigid neck and throat protector)
- fencing tunic or doublet, trousers or skirt
- groin protection (cricket box or similar obligatory for men, optional but highly recommended for women)
- closed shoes (no sandals, no bare feet)
You can start in sweats and T-shirts: you don’t need a complete medieval outfit to try out the game. Keen fencers make and assemble historic clothing that meet the rules requirements, often to great and spectacular effect. It can be fun building up your own attire, based on civilian or semi-military dress of the period. We have experienced hands and resources to help you, from books, to patterns, sewing machines and advice on fabrics. Even a quick trip round the National Gallery or National Portrait Gallery will generate ideas.
Making your own kit
Assembling your own kit and weapons depends on your budget, your enthusiasm and your own sewing and making-stuff skills. Most of us are using a mix of commercially available equipment, and clothes and protective layers we’ve made ourselves. Also – ask the regulars. We have patterns for hoods and gorgets, which are some of the easy pieces of personal kit to make on your own.
There is an excellent intro PDF to making your own SCA rapier kit, from basic to aspiring 16th century peacocks. See also:
- Caellach Mac Donal’s page – also contains plenty of information on SCA fencing
- Live Fast, Die Young, Leave a Colour Co-ordinated Corpse – comprehensive guide to materials and planning kit.
We recommend trying out fencing a few times before committing to buying your own equipment.
Caveat emptor: Check in with the local marshal before shopping. Make sure what you’re buying is a) usable in the SCA and b) not stupidly overpriced.
Masks: Leon Paul is a British manufacturer based in North London with an international reputation. The non-electric ‘club’ or training masks are an affordable starting point.
Buy a new mask where possible: don’t compromise your safety for the sake of a few quid. Avoid anything you find online labelled ‘vintage’ or ‘antique’. To meet SCA safety rules, the marshal must test your mask every 2 years.
Swords: We use replica blunt rapiers that are available from such sources as Hanwei (Chinese made) and Darkwood (high-quality US supplier).
Hanwei are available in the UK from the likes of The Grange or The Knight Shop (UK-based shops). Look for the ‘Practical Rapier’ in 37″ or 43″ lengths. You can buy an entire blade + hilt, or buy blades and hilts separately.
There are plenty of other listings and advice available on The Armour Archive, a large forum about all combat and armour related topics. Use the search engine to narrow your browsing.
Gorgets: We can provide instructions on making your own from plastic, leather or steel.
One commercial gorget is available from Zen Warrior Armoury, (US-based shop that also has a range of rapiers), designed for armoured combat but provides excellent protection for fencing.
Fencing clothing: also commercially available, though quality and authenticity varies.
Gambesons, Aketons and other arming jackets are readily available form several sources, but remember to have either thick upper leg protection or that the gambeson is long enough to cover the groin area at all times.
Gloves: a pair of leather gloves that fit make a world of difference to your control of the blade. Women may have to hunt for sizes to fit them.
You can buy fencing gloves from fencing or reenactor suppliers, or add an extended cuff to a basic all-leather gardening glove. Ask the marshal about sourcing leather offcuts for glove cuffs.
- Leon Paul fabric fencing gloves are an easy option: you must order a glove for each hand – they don’t come in pairs
- Horse riding suppliers: Equetech stocks adult and child gloves. Scroll to the page bottom for smaller sizes. Unfortunately you’re already supposed to know your glove size…
- Gardening shops: The ‘Town & Country’ leather gardening gloves for men and women. For some reason, the womens’ gloves are lined – women are delicate?
- DIY shops: all-leather gardening gloves, in mens’ sizes.
Avoid gloves with holes or cutouts, lining or with extra padding. ‘Rigger’ gloves, the cheap stripy gardening gloves with strips of split leather, are usually one size fits everyone badly: avoid.
Groin protection: gents can find a ‘cricket box’ at many sporting good stores.
Ladies can find womens’ groin protection in shops that stock ice hockey, field hockey or martial arts equipment. Look for a ‘bikini’ shaped guard (between £10-20), not a ‘full brief’ shaped one for £30+ (latter is typical for eastern and mixed martial arts). Examples:
Chest protection: not required, but recommended for ladies. You can make a lightweight breastplate from plastic, or buy a commercial one from Leon Paul.
Both North American SCA-specific, and more general British reenactment companies will have suitable kit available to order, online, or at the regular re-enactor markets.
Note: if you buy from a North American source you may have to pay duty and shipping! Keep this in mind as part of your budget.