Monthly Archives: January 2015

N.I.M.B.Y. Rapier

armorrapierportraitI thought we were making progress. I really did.

Then, the BoD made it’s decision and I still thought we were still making some progress.

Then I started to see the descents and I realized that we haven’t made nearly as much progress as I thought. The so called “arguments” I have seen have created a range of reaction in me from simple appreciation for the complexity of the issue to full on outrage at the insulting nature of some of the things being said.

As to the nature of this beast, well, I do not claim to have all the answers. Anyone who does is lying.

But once again I do feel that I have some reasonable thoughts given my experiences and positions. So once again I am setting them out and I shall leave you to decide what you will from them.

1 – Prowess is Prowess

I have many years of experience in a variety of martial arts. I will not lay claim to mastery of any of them, but I have learned a hell of a lot from all of them and there is one lesson in particular that I think stands serious scrutiny here –

No martial artist I have ever talked to or dealt with who is worth his salt has ever tried to claim that there is one “superior” martial form. They all acknowledge that different arts have different strengths and weaknesses, different advantages and disadvantage.

They all have their reasons for why they selected their art of choice and stayed with it. But when they are being honest they recognize that there is no such thing as “The One True Way(tm)”.

So in my opinion measuring one form of prowess against the bar of another is ridiculous. It is a fools errand to suggest that because someone knows something about German Longsword they will be able to judge expertly someone who knows Spanish Rapier. They can only offer their knowledge around the edges and must give way to others who know.

We do ask people in the various Orders of Peerage to do their best to judge things they don’t always know about, but the smartest of the lot recognize that they can’t accurately judge everything, they can only approximate.

So then who judges?

Well, there are already knights who fight rapier, so how about starting with them? Or is that to obvious?

2 – Allowing rapier into the Chivalry is lowering the bar.

This comes across as a highly insulting statement. How could it not?

What I get however is that it indicates a lack of reference for the current culture and the levels of training and effort that go in to fighting rapier. Again, how about starting by letting those who do have the reference be the judges?

I have been fighting rapier for a long enough time to have a pretty darn good idea of what is going on. I have been fighting heavy barely any time at all, though I’ve been immersed in the culture for nearly 30 years.

My take as a martial artist who has tried a number of different things over the years is – hold on to your hats – that they are different forms of fighting and that one can be good in either by working hard and training. OH MY GAWD? DID I JUST SAY THAT?

Yes. Yes I did.

Not only that but I would be willing to bet that if pressed I would admit that I don’t know enough to judge the relative merits of one form of prowess against another. I, as a rapier fighter, wouldn’t presume to judge how good a rattan fighter is except in the broadest of terms.

I find it extremely unlikely that you will find a rapier fighter who would say that allowing a Knight in to the Order of The Whitescarf is a “lowering of the bar.” Why? Because the rapier community at large long ago seems to have recognized that fighting is fighting and that it all deserves respect for the things that each form does making it unique to itself. Yet I am quite certain that there are those who will call that an acknowledgment that “heavy is better” despite everything else I am saying.

But I will tell you that just because a Knight is great at fighting with rattan does not automatically mean they will be great, or even good, at fighting rapier. No more so than a rapier fighter would expect to be good with rattan.

Hello? Each fighting form has qualities that make them similar AND different! Who would have ever thought that?

3 – Who fights for Crown/Coronet?

I’ve answered this before but here it is again…

Whoever is authorized to enter the tourney. Which, right now, would seem to be heavy fighters. Because that is our culture.

Any heavy fighter. Not just Knights. Any. Heavy. Fighter.

For some reason that has surpassed my understanding the arguments have been suggesting that somehow only Knights have the right to judge what tournament culture is and how it should be set up.

I haven’t seen a single rapier fighter say word one about how there should be “rapier only” tourneys for Crown or Coronet. The only people who seem to be afraid of that possibility are the Knights who find this whole thing a threat.

So let me be really clear about this one —

One does not have to be a Knight to enter a tourney. One has to be an authorized heavy fighter.

Being a Knight and entering a tourney are – wait for it – two different things.

The Order of the Chivalry uses the tourney format as one of it’s judging bars for seeing who might be worthy of the accolade, but it is not the only one. And, maybe you haven’t noticed this, but there are other tourneys besides Crown and Coronet.

Also, yes, I am aware of the whole “they fought the first tourney with foils” comment. So what? The rapier community at large hasn’t used foils pretty much since then. It’s an appeal to history that makes little sense. Our organization has progressed as we have studied and learned. It’s not really a valid argument and one that really only causes a knee-jerk reaction rather than make any kind of useful point.

Right now our culture is heavy fighters fight for Crown and Coronet, and neither myself nor any rapier fighters I know are particularly interested in changing that. I can imagine a time in the future when a set of royals could determine that “third round will be fought Cut & Thrust” and that would be okay. Not every tourney, but once in a while.

In fact, not only would it be okay, but it would be a step up in my opinion. Why? Because it would be an acknowledgment of the cross-trained fighter. Perhaps the ultimate acknowledgment.

No one has the right to enter a Crown or Coronet tourney. Being able to enter is a privilege. So, no, not all tourneys need to include such a requirement, but if it did and you weren’t authorized then you don’t have to enter.

4 – Well, why don’t you just put on heavy armor and fight rapier style with rattan?

“Have you tried not being a mutant?”- X2: X-Men United

Its not just a matter of “style”, it’s also a matter of tools and even of context. Our heavy fighters are roughly the equivalent of medieval soldiers. Our rapier fighters are roughly the equivalent of civilian merchants or nobles.

This is just asking the rapier fighter to not be a rapier fighter anymore for no other reason than the convenience of the rattan fighters and has nothing to do with proving whether or not a rapier fighter has prowess, equal or otherwise.

Where is there any effort on the part of the heavy fighters in such a proposition to meet a rapier fighter half way?

5 – There are no historical Knights who aren’t heavy armored type fighters?

Are you freakin’ kidding me? There are Knights for all kinds of things in period. I know most people know better but I have, in fact, heard this argument and I am shocked that anyone would actually suggest it.

Nevertheless allow me give you info on one guy in particular:

Knighting a fencer? What precedent historically?

Back in 1569 there was this guy named Jeronimo Sanchez de Carranza who fought in military campaigns but also was an amazing swordsman and author. He created La Verdadera Destreza.

He was a knight of the Order of the Habit of Christ and the founding father of the Spanish rapier tradition.

Who was a fencer knight? Jeronimo.”

This little bit of information brought to you by a Whitescarf named Pachomius Oneshoe of Sauvage. If anybody knows about Carranza it’s Puck.

Want more examples? Look them up. They are out there.

6 – So if Whitescarves should be automatically made Knights does that mean Knights should automatically be made Whitescarves?

An amusing idea but I don’t know of any Whitescarves who actually are suggesting that they be automatically made Knights. In fact, from what I have seen so far, I have seen few rapier fighters talk about this whole issue at all and the ones I have seen generally agree that they don’t know if they would accept the accolade if offered to them directly.

Seems an interesting question though doesn’t it? That so many Knights and non-fighters are having these discussions about the fate of a group of SCA participants without seeming to be spending much effort in actually asking them what they think.

Sure, this impacts the Knights. So naturally they are discussing it, but where are the questions to the rapier community at large? We aren’t invisible. We aren’t impossible to reach. What I have seen has been a lot of people talking about what they think they know and not really spending much time finding out about what is really going on or what the community itself thinks.

They have questions not just about whether or not rapier can fit in at all, but also how it could fit. And from everything I have seen, everything I know, not just about this issue in specific, but about the SCA in general, it seems to me that it makes far more sense to work together to actually resolve all of these issues than to presume to know the answers without having the full context or the input of both communities.

7 – Isn’t that what all the letters to the BoD were about?

Not really. All the letters to the BoD were about each individual persons opinions. Not about the communities collectively learning enough about each other to figure out if things can really work or how they should work.

True, some people in writing their letters did their best to be inclusive and complete in their understanding, but it was only a drop in the bucket by comparison.

8 – The Umbrella of Chivalry

Again, I have talked about this but it seems that it bares repeating.

The broad definitions of the orders are simple to understand:

  • Pelican – Service
  • Laurel – Arts & Sciences
  • Chivalry – Martial Skill/Prowess

I believe strongly that cross trained fighters are a good idea, but not a requirement. I believe that cross trained fighters have a better understanding of all the things that our fighting community has to offer and can more accurately speak to all the issues.

I think that the Order of Chivalry could be an umbrella for all kinds of martial skills. I think that a potential measure that the Chivalry could use would be how versatile a fighter is. Someone who achieves in multiple ways is, to my mind, just as impressive as the fighter who specializes in one form and excels at it.

9 – They should be Laurels.

Just another case of N.I.M.B.Y.

A rapier Pelican is someone who has done service to the Kingdom by supporting the rapier community in some fashion.

A rapier Laurel is someone who has done the research and can demonstrate their knowledge not just of the history and culture but also the skills. But that does not mean that they show prowess as a fighter. It means they show knowledge of those skills.

A rapier Knight is someone who has prowess as a fighter. They are the one who “fights good.”

And as to other Peer Like Qualities, still the same levels of judgment for them just as you would expect. There is a semi-mythical “checklist” of non-combat skills a Knight should also have and there is no reason I can think of for why such a measure can’t apply equally.

In the end I think that the BoD did make a good call in saying no to a rapier peerage even though I do believe that rapier is a worthwhile pursuit and can in fact, be worthy of recognition as a peerage. But I do think there is far more value in our three peerage system and learning to adapt to continue to encompass the new things that we learn and do.

I do know that there are Knights who are fully in support of adopting a new model that includes rapier. I am aware that the debate is one that must range far and wide among the Order of Chivalry not just in our Kingdom but across The Known World and until that debate is resolved it is unlikely that there will be rapier fighters so recognized.

That is unfortunate in my opinion. It paints a very negative bias and makes a good number of otherwise worthy and worthwhile individuals look rather poorly. I do think it would be a far more noble thing to see a wider definition that supports an integrated fighting community.

I am sure that someone will get their feathers ruffled by the things I have said here. I guess that is more or less inevitable. On the other hand, some of the things that I have seen being tossed around have ruffled mine so I guess fair is fair.

Nevertheless I am putting this out there not to stir trouble but instead to invite understanding. There are a lot of people with a lot of investment in this subject. The whole Known World really. Knights, Heavy Fighters, Rapier Fighters, Non-Fighters. This literally is a game changer and everyone needs to be clear on why the game might change, how the game might change, and decide if they can handle those changes or not. Everyone needs their chance to understand and to be understood.

This is just me taking my chance.

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