Combat and Martial Arts

Combat is probably one of the most visible aspects of the SCA. This activity attracts much attention and many new members have joined the Society after having seen a demonstration of period martial arts. There are two basic types of SCA fights: single combat and group or team combat, also known as melees. In general, combat is open to anyone who has reached a certain age. Most local groups offer some form of fighter training. While many groups will have loaner gear for new fighters, fighters are responsible for obtaining their own armor and weapons. Some people make most of their armor; others buy pieces, either new or used. Before making any armor, check with your local marshal for additional information, equipment requirements, and the safety standards and regulations. SCA fighting is not staged or choreographed. All fights are “live”; the outcome of a list or battle is never pre-determined. The winner of the bout is decided when one opponent acknowledges that the blow landed by his opponent was of sufficient force to have caused death.


All combat activities have a safety officer on the field to ensure that activities occur as safely as possible. These Marshals watch for safety issues such as broken equipment. They may call “Hold” if such issue arises. All activity ceases when this occurs. All marshals must pass rigid training to be certified to operate on a field. Before fighters can enter their first list, they must be authorized and be sufficiently skilled so that they are not a danger to themselves or others. Such procedures are established to reduce the risk of injury to participants.

Armored Combat

Armored combat in the SCA resembles medieval foot tournaments. Combatants can face each other in single combat in tournaments or can take part in large melee battles with dozens or even hundreds of combatants on each side. SCA combatants wear real armor and use swords and spears made of rattan wrapped with duct tape. Like bamboo, but with a solid core, rattan is springy enough to absorb some of the force of the blow without snapping, and light enough to approximate the weight of a steel sword. Building armor is more complex – a complete suit has many parts, which can be made from hammered steel, rivets, leather, padded fabric, even rigid plastic.

Rapier Combat

SCA Rapier Combat is our attempt to recreate the style of unarmored combat that took place from the medieval period to 1600 A.D. Participants engage in this sport for fun and fitness! Many also study the extant manuals and theories of combat from that time, in order to more accurately recreate the style of pre-17th century sword fighting. This type of sword fighting has evolved into the modern sport of fencing, but unlike the modern sport, our participants use a wide variety of weapons considerably heavier than modern fencing swords – and they have freedom of movement in any direction.

Youth Combat

The SCA’s Youth Martial program gives children from ages 6 through 17 the opportunity to participate in a kidfriendly version of adult armored and rapier combat. Boys and girls participate together, divided into three age brackets, Division 1: ages 6-9, Division 2: ages 10-13, and Division 3: ages 14-17. There are even tournaments to determine Youth Martial Champions, who serve as honor guards for their Baron and Baroness, Prince and Princess, or King and Queen.

Other Martial Arts

At other events, you may encounter equestrians on horseback jousting against each other and playing medieval training games, archers shooting at targets with longbows and crossbows, thrown weapons participants hurling axes and spears at wood targets, combat archers shooting tubular arrows at the opposing side, or siege engineers using ballista, catapults, and trebuchets to fling soft ammunition at advancing armies.

The above information is from page 8 of the article “A Newcomers Guide to the SCA“.

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