Monday, January 31, 2011

On Martial Arts

There is an ongoing debate (for 30 years now) as to whether or not SCA combat is a martial art. I argued in my book Medieval Fantasy as Performance: The Society for Creative Anachronism and the Current Middle Ages that when Duke Paul first developed the Belatrix snap, SCA combat stopped being a game men played hitting each other with sticks and became a martial art which could be practiced for its own sake. From that time on a major strain of what we do has been devoted to learning, practicing, and advancing fighting technique, much in the same way that others practice WMA or Kung Fu. Paul’s style was initially based on Judo, and other styles were developed based on Boxing, Kendo, and even WMA, and this is also a feature of Martial Arts—different schools promoting different styles and techniques as superior to the others.

Count Gemini Asante argues that what we do is not a martial art but a hobby. This might at first seem surprising, since he teaches SCA combat *as* a martial art, or at least a variety of it, in his salon in Turlock—mostly to local kids to whom it is more interesting than Karate lessons. He’s the only peron I know who fights and trains full time for a living. Gemini insists that what we have now is just a hobby, and that because we have no formal lexicon, no established techniques, and no agreed upon method, SCA combat is not a martial art.

In the same discussion in which Gemini made these assertions, Marc dArundel said that SCA combat is one of the most honest martial arts, because if you couldn't fight, you couldn't advance (to knighthood). He has collected a few black belts, and knows some gusy who have black belts who couldn't fight their way out of a paper bag: but if you see an SCA guy with a white belt you know that guy knows how to fight.

So, taking these two positions together, we might as well ask ourselves if it matters if we are a martial art or not. If people can excel in real martial arts and not be able to fight, but in order to excel in what we do being able to fight is the only criteria, isn’t it a sort of “who cares” issue? We, after all, do kick ass.

Korwyn Ariannade insists that what we are is not a martial art but a sport. To him the WMA guys are the true martial artists. He points out that what prompts the WMA guys to do what they do is the very fact that the SCA is a sport. Most WMA practitioners, at least those who lead the movement, started out in the SCA but left because they were not satisfied with the ahistorical sport aspects of SCA combat. Hence WMA grew out of the SCA as a reaction against it. “we are the sport form, but because we exist the Western Martial Arts movement found fertile ground.”

What Gemini was arguing for was a uniformity of language which would, he hoped, lead to some uniformity of technique. He was not suggesting that we abandon styalistic differences. What he wanted was some consistency, so that when somebody came to him and discussed a “snap” they were both talking about the same thing. This project is now underway, and his Majesty Jade will be leading what promises to be an interesting discussion on the topic at March Crown. But while this is a great idea, Maythen warned, bringing it round to Marc’s point, that the point at which Asian martial arts became less practical is when they became more uniform and “teachable”. The movement of karate from the dojos of certain masters who each taught their own techniques, to “styles” that could be taught and judged by many, is the point where it became less martial and more “art”.

It seems to me that Maythen’s point is a good one. If the SCA is a martial art then it is at the stage that Kenjitsu was at the beginning of the Edo period Japan. It was somewhat sport-like because battle field conflicts had given way to duels, and these would give way to a stick combat very much like what the SCA practices, but that too would give way to the more stylaized kendo, with its linear attacks, right of way, and four specific targets, or to the non-combative forms or Iado. But Kendo and Iado are still rightly considered Martial Arts, and Kendo is far more styalized and rules bound than what we do.

Now the SCA has a number of styles that are more or less regional (we had a knight visiting from Atenveldt whom I did not know but I pegged his kingdom right away). Whether or not what we do is a martial art really depends on the approach of the person training the newer fighters. Some people still aproach SCA training by just putting somebody in armor and pushing them onto the field at "bashing practice". But we also have masters (small m), many of whom (but not all) were martial artists before joining the SCA, who have brought a martial arts philosophy to SCA combat. Paul is obviously first among them, and his techniques are probably the most highly developed, but Branos, Dirk, Uther, Gendy, Inman, Baldar, Brand, Mark, and Gemini himself all qualify. In fact, Gemini is doing more to advance the art than anybody right now with his deGrendelus school, and while that is no doubt what prompts him to insist we are not a martial art, it also undermines his position.

SCA combat is a martial art. Gemini himself is proof of that.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How to run a practice

How to run a good practice.

It is accurately said that most SCA people don’t train. SCA fighter practices from time immemorial, since the days when folks gathered in Tilden Park to hit on each other, have nearly always been learning by doing. Somebody gets some armor, gets some basic instruction, and is thrown into the pond to sink or swim. Some people have brought training methods and discipline from asian martial arts, from boxing, from mma, even from football. As with most of this stuff, the most detailed and thought out ideas come from Duke Paul in his manual, which is available at

I like to do this kind of training. I was thrown into the deep end of the pool, and I swam, but I didn’t become a good swordsman I until I started working with Paul and using some of his training methods. My problem is that I am not at every practice to run them the way I like.

We’ve got a lot of new people at BAT and Sunday I lead practice with them for only the second time since this new wave showed up. Paul likes people to train without armor for a year before they start fighting in armor. Nobody wants to do that. I hold unarmored classes in conjunction with armored classes. It’s the most I can get people into. (I have seen Paul’s training methods work. Those few people who committed to his training, like his son Duke Stephen, are stone cold killers).

What we did not do was the work on technique that is most important. Pell work alone does not do it. Slow work and kata are essential for that, but not a lot of people want to do it. So we worked in armor. We started out with drills, and we only did a block/cut drill using a parry 5/cut to 5. Then we did Paul’s offense/defense drill, wherein one fighter gets three three blow combinations while the other launches a full on attack. Then we did the exercise wherein everyone fights everyone once and is critiqued. Then we broke up into free sparing and individual training.

This was a great pracitce. I lead practice and just demonstrated stuff. I didn't fight as part of the class. We had three knights--myself, Sir Edward, and Sir Teric. They were unarmored. We had lots of good criticism and lots of individual attention.

I got some good helmet time fighting Drew, Everet, and Nikolai. That was fun too.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I got a fever, and the prescription is more kettle bell! (Blatantly copped from Finvar).

Yesterday I went to the gym and renewed my membership. Then I stretched and did my kettle bell workout. I in reader the number of reps on my one arm swings and added two arm swings with 35lbs. If course I didn't have actual kettle bells. I used plates with cut outs for handles. As usual, the Turkish lift was the most intense part.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Workouts

Workouts are proceeding, and I feels good!

Normally on days that I work retail I don’t work out. Standing around all day, climbing ladders in the stock room, etc., six to eight hours: that’s a workout. I’m shredded by the end of the day. Saturday, however, I was feeling inspired, so I woke up at 7 AM and went for a short run. I just ran around the parade grounds, because I didn’t want to tackle Lookout Hill with snow on the trails. It’s not a long run, but I kept up a good pace and it felt good. Today I went to BAT. Nobody fought heavy. They were all working on gear. I did pell work and drills until I ached. Good stuff. And tomorrow I’m *not* working retail. Gym time!

Monday, January 10, 2011


So the pre-season has begun as usual, with some great fighting at 12th Night. Workouts have begun as well. Easing into it so as to avoid injury. Last week I did calesthenics, yoga, and hiked. Saturday I fought. They have a great gym for a hotel here at the Double Tree, including a set of medicine balls in 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 pounds, so I improvised a medicine ball workout with increasing resistance on Sunday. It felt great. Today I did some stretches then did a standing dumbell workout: press, curl, row, triceps x, 3x10, then one set of jerks from the floor like with a kettle bell. Then I ran (in my 5 Fingers) on the treadmill for twenty minutes. great!

I considered buying the P X 90 program.90 days would end about a week before crown, but I love what I do already so much, and it works pretty well.

Tomorrow I think I will use the medicine balls again. Wednesday I will be at work, so I may do Yoga. Will definitely fight on Sunday, though it might be in Jersey. Birka is coming up.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Sunday, January 9, 2011

WK 12th Night

It's a good ache.

Apparently I was fighting pretty well. Ben said it was. The best he has week me fight in five years. According to him, I was always ahead of him and he could never catch up.

I only fought four opponents, Micha, Sig(Ben), Geofrey Scott, and Miles. I did well. All of them I killed more than they killed me. I killed everyone with q hook/thrust least once. I kill Geoffrey with some great thrusts. Miles was the toughest because he was taller than me. That is my bane. He is strong, fast, and precise. I was totally winded when I was done. Great fighting.

Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Monday, January 3, 2011

happy new year

The off season is over. Pre season has begun! It is 123 days until Crown. Time to get to work!,
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5