An Article on Duels (6 of 6)

Benvenutto tutti.

The articles presented here recently have been a means of showing how armor and melees have existed in some forms in Italy in the 16th Century. While I have found this information to be fascinating to read about and research many other questions have come to mind from this. In particular is how is any of this truly related to what we do on the SCA Rapier tournament field? As it stands now, any evidence we seem to have regarding the use of rapiers in any kind of tournament similar to the tournaments we perform in the SCA is exceptionally sketchy, at best. An argument could be made, and has been made, especially by those who would censure this combat style, that there is no historical counterpart for what we do. Even assuming there was such a counterpart, what would it have been like?

I think what we may want to consider is how can we take what we DO know about combat forms in period and integrate them into what we do on the field. What better way to teach ourselves and others about the historical aspects of the European martial arts of our studied time periods? Attempting to integrate that knowledge can also assist us, I believe, in creating more of the atmosphere of an historical event.

So how do we integrate what we do know? Obviously what we do is not real dueling, but dueling forms were certainly known to have been performed without, as well as with, armor. We can certainly take some of what we know about dueling mindset and views of honor and chivalry and dueling forms and integrate those onto the field. For some, dueling IS what we are recreating on the field and for those individuals drawing heavily from the corpus on dueling would be an excellent manner for assisting in recreation of what occurs on our tournament fields.

We also have information on what tournaments were like in our periods. Although tournaments were most often performed with the use of armor, and most of our rules state we are wearing no armor for blow calling purposes, this should not prevent us from looking to the tournament for ideas and views. After all, the tournament gives us a look at period viewpoints on sporting events, particularly combat related sporting events. As such the tournament is a rich environment to draw from for what we are doing on our combat fields, which is, mainly, just a different style of tournament. Why not look to the tournament for use of armor, or for ideas for tourney styles? After all while our rules often state we wear no armor that is simply a rule to justify how to call blows. Armor in period, as now, is mainly a piece of equipment meant to ensure a level of safety for the participant. So we can still take much from the tournament field, for those interested in recreating something of a tournament feel and learning about period tournaments, without going to the armoring and health requirements needed for our armored, or “heavy”, combat forms. I would argue that period tournaments have great validity for use in our tournament recreations. Some may even wish to assume that the sword they have in their hand is not a rapier, but any number of swords available to them.

We also know that the schools of ‘fence in our studied time periods sparred. What safety equipment did they use and can we recreate it with modifications for our rules and requirements? Did they spar with other schools or within the schools and what formats did they use for such events? Did they ever perform demonstrations for the local nobles (although we know the London Masters of Defence did so on occasion)? Are the London Masters of Defence the only group we have information on to perform displays of fighting prowess? What equipment and rules did they use for safety? Is there any other construct more fitting for the nobility? The London Masters were, after all, a fairly middle class construct, but not all of our personas are middle class or as interested in recreating such things.

We know that the sport of fencing seems to have existed, but what are the rules? What equipment did they use? We have to look at other sports to assist us in determining these things, but if anyone has any sources I know we all would love to see them. We already know something about the fighting styles that SOME of the teachers of combat forms were teaching and those styles can be used in our recreations as well. Notice that although those texts discuss learning the art of ‘fence, they also often discuss concepts of honor and chivalry that can be brought to the field. How did they use those concepts in their schools? Did they try to teach them or instill those ideals into their students during practices and sparring sessions? And if so, in what ways?

None of us tend to recreate the exact same way. We all take information from all of the above sources, traditions of the SCA, mindset from our modern viewpoints, Victorian ideals and those ideals of the periods we all study. I do not see that any particular combination of the above formats is inherently “better” than any other. Many of us will even change the mixture of the above sources we use depending on what we are attempting to recreate, learn and teach at any particular time.

Sometimes you may wish to view what we are doing on the field as a completely unarmored duel. While you may haver taught yourself to ignore the blatantly modern construct of a fencing mask for this purpose, a period helm will simply seem to intrude on how you are trying to view things. At other times, the opposite may be true and the helm is perfectly natural as a period form of safety equipment, but you may not be able to get around that disgustingly modern mask so easily. It is up to each of us to recreate and learn and teach as best we can with the resources we have available and accept that our recreations will not always blend perfectly with the recreations of others. I think it is admirable to simply learn what others are teaching us and teach what we can as best as we can. And please, share your knowledge with us!

Honos Servio,

Lionardo Acquistapace, Barony of Axemoor, Meridies

(mka Lenny Zimmermann, New Orleans, LA)

“A soldier uses arms merely with skill, whereas a knight uses them with virtuous intention.” - Pomponio Torelli, 1596.