This missive is written for marshals and marshals to be. I hope to provide the reader with some useful suggestions on handling difficult situations on the list field.
The marshal is by definition in one heck of a position. By convention he or she cannot call blows for the fighters and can only offer opinions if asked. This would seem to make him or her fairly powerless to stop a bout that is turning ugly. In actuality, this position is what allows a good marshal to defuse situations before they turn into a real problem.
HOLD is called under the obvious situations: broken weapons, loose armor, fighter in the list ropes, a dropped weapon, or blatant unsafe acts. But what about the grey situations: the fighters are getting angry, rhino-hiding, “ugly” fighting, or overdone theatrics? Situations where you have no obvious reason to call hold, but it needs to be called to give the fighters a chance to regain their equilibrium and temper.
I have never yet met a fighter who wanted to be known as an unchivalrous fighter. Sadly, too many get on the field and forget all else but the win. A well timed hold can serve as a gentle reminder prior to a fighter forgetting his honor. All of these suggestions are to designed prevent a situation prior to the need for a warning or especially removal of a fighter from a bout.
Situation: Rhino-hiding by one or both fighters. By this I mean several ignored blows, not the occasional “he obviously just didn’t feel that one”.
You can call a hold and request the fighters to calibrate. In this case as with all of the rest of the situations, a marshal never makes an accusatory statement to one of the fighters. In this case, “I have seen a couple of blows (Note: non-specific to either fighter) that might have been good, please recalibrate to be sure you each know the strength of each other’s weapon.” You have now warned the fighters, without angering them. Also, watch the recalibration. If they are hitting excessively hard, tempers are about to flare. This is the time to delay the bout while it is already stopped. If you decide to continue the bout, add the reminder; “Remember, your Queen (Lady) is watching.”
Situation: Fight has resumed after a hold, and one fighter has forgotten he/she has been wounded.
This is not an uncommon occurrence. Fortunately, I have yet to see a fighter who I believe was deliberately forgetting a wound. This is an easy one to fix. Call hold, walk over toward the fighter in question, and “Milord, perhaps I’m mistaken, but wasn’t your left arm wounded prior to the hold?” Phrased as a question, allows the fighter to respond, “Oh, that’s right, thank you milady.” Also, you might be wrong, and were thinking about a different bout.
Situation: Fighter holding part of his/her body as if it is wounded, and then ignores the wound during an attack or parry.
Occasionally a fighter will get caught up in the theatrics of a slight wound and attempt to use this to their advantage. If at anytime during a bout, you as a marshal are uncertain as to whether or not a fighter is “wounded”, call hold. If you are uncertain, the other fighter is unsure as well. After the hold, walk up to the fighter in question, look at the other fighter and ask, “Milady, are you wounded?”, THEN look at the fighter in question and ask, “Milord, are you wounded?” Continue the fight based on the answers. If the fighter says, “I have a cut here”, ask; “Is it a disabling wound, can you continue?” You have now determined the condition of both of the fighters, disabled the use of any theatrics to gain an advantage, and defused a potentially volatile situation without getting the fighters angry at each other. Once again, this is because you are asking questions, not making accusations. If a fighter is going to get angry at you, its because he thinks you’re stupid, not because he thinks you’re picking on him. You are keeping the appearance of neutrality, which is crucial for a marshal to be effective, or believed by others.
Situation: The fighters are obviously getting angry with each other.
Tempers will flare on occasion. This is the worst situation a marshal can have to deal with. Depending on your knowledge of the people, your response can vary, but here is my generic response which I have used successfully to keep things from getting out of hand. Call hold, and to both of the fighters, “You both seem to be getting hot out here, I am calling a hold for you both to drink some water.” This is spoken more forcefully than usual to let the fighters know that YOU are in charge of the field. Call a waterbearer onto the field and let them both drink. If either one wishes to talk to you, walk out of earshot of the other fighter and listen. A quick venting of the spleen is often all that is necessary to let a fighter cool down. After each has had a chance to regain their composure, restart the fight with; “Remember, your Queen is watching.”
If the fighters are not going to cool off to where you can continue the fight, call them together, and inform them that “Tempers are getting out of control here, we will finish this bout at the end of this round.” It is not necessary for the herald to make any announcement, other than perhaps; “A question has come up, this bout will be concluded shortly.”
Situation: The fighting is getting sloppy, not necessarily unsafe, but getting more and more out of control, an “ugly” bout.
Wait for a break in the action, and call hold. Call the fighters together and remind them; “Milords, I’m seeing a lot of slaps and whipping blades. This is not a warning, but let’s clean it up.” This is spoken quietly to both the fighters. You are making no specific accusations, but you have let the fighters know that they are looking bad. This should be enough.
Throughout this missive I have tried to emphasize the need to avoid directly accusing any fighter of wrongdoing. This is the best way I know to prevent a bad situation from getting worse. If a fighter needs to be talked to, do it after the bout, the list field is not the place to admonish a fighter.
Lord Kirk Dragomani