The Role of the Free Scholar

(or One Free Scholar’s Perspective on the Gold Scarf)

Since becoming a Free Scholar, no subject concerning rapier in the Kingdom of Atlantia has so bewildered me as this one. After the initial surprise of the Provost’s intent, and elation from playing my prize, I found myself wondering more and more what it is I should be doing in this position. More importantly, I wasn’t really sure why I had received the scarf to begin with. Talk about a dilemma! After multiple questions asked of Provosts, and some hard questions asked of myself, I began to come to some conclusions about what the Free Scholars have in common from the obvious, to the not so obvious.

All the Free Scholars are Competent Rapier Fighters.

This is certainly hard to argue. But is competency really a requirement? In one aspect it is but there’s something that comes with competency, and going further, proficiency, that has nothing to do with how fast your arm is or how crisp your parry. That strange, intangible thing is confidence, and not a confidence that convinces you you’ll win every encounter (who does?). There is an element of confidence necessary in each Free Scholar in order to do the other jobs that come with the scarf. Confidence in yourself as a rapier fighter, and more importantly, as a person, allows you to face other people with grace and dignity, teach effectively and with compassion, and to be open and honest with Scholars, other Free Scholars, and Provosts. The biggest danger: letting confidence become arrogance.

All Free Scholars Teach

What do we teach? Certainly we work with fellow rapierists on parries, ripostes, footwork, etc. But if that’s all we teach, we’re not doing our jobs. The role of Free Scholar is that of mentor and friend, not just in fencing, but in chivalry, honor, and appropriate behaviour: on and off the list field. Following this train of thought, the Free Scholar should always be available to anyone who has questions. This is one of the most important rules I can think of. We are resources, plain and simple, and no one should feel that approaching us is in any way an inconvenience. I remember, before the White Scarf Treaty, seeing a lot of gold scarves standing around together and finding myself intimidated. I didn’t feel that the questions I had were important enough to interrupt what they were doing. I was wrong at the time and anyone who feels that they can’t approach a Free Scholar, or Provost, should rest easy. At all costs we should be friendly, open, and nurturing to those who need our help.

Free Scholars are Active

Two people I greatly admire, and am fortunate enough to call friends, asked me recently what it meant to be “active” in the rapier community. I had no simple answer at the time, but had an illustration that explained my position so please bear with me.

You’re in a canton (or shire) meeting and there are two people you know sitting at the table with you. One of those individuals never misses a meeting, is always prompt, and goes to all kinds of events near and far. The other person is unable to make every meeting and gets to as many events as possible, but certainly not all (maybe two out of five). Now this second individual not only comes to events, but comes early to help set up, offers to help in the kitchen, run troll, or do other tasks as necessary to make the event happen. He or she is always pleasant and tries to do whatever necessary to make the event a success. Now, of the two individuals described, who is the one who MAKES A DIFFERENCE?

After I asked that last question of the illustration, I knew what my definition of active was: those individuals who try to make a difference. Free Scholars try to make a difference in their areas and in the community at large. Through teaching and being available to help others, we hope to make a stronger rapier community in the kingdom.

Free Scholars Set an Example

So….what example do we set? This is one of my favorite questions because as many Free Scholars as you ask will be the number of responses you get. Here’s mine sans brevity.

One of the biggest things we should show to other rapierists in the kingdom is that this sport is FUN. We don’t want to set out at an event to win the tournament, we should be setting out to challenge ourselves and have a blast in the process. As an example: I remember one event (a coronation I think) in which I was able to fence Lord Vyvyan Brousard, a Provost of Atlantia, for the first time. We started out slow, trying to figure out how the other fenced, and picked up the pace quickly. Back and forth, back and forth we went until he got a touch in on me. At that point, I suddenly realized that sometime during the fight I had started to grin and chuckle a little. By the time I had my mask off I was laughing at how wonderful the experience had been. The touch meant little to me, the process was the reward. That memory will stay with me a long time.

In addition, we try, through the activities listed above, to show members in and out of the rapier community, the best we have to offer. Through our activities and behaviour, we want everyone in the rapier community to be deserving of a gold scarf. That’s really what we should be working toward. A standard of behaviour and ability in everyone that shines throughout the kingdom. Now that would be a healthy rapier community.

That’s all I’ve got on the subject for now, but I’m sure other Free Scholars will have other ideas. The best thing to do is ask. Remember, we’re here to try and help.

Lord Liam a’Welwyn, Free Scholar