Supporting the West Kingdom Rapier Community
So, first off, for my new readers in other Kingdoms, some of what I’m going to talk about here is probably not entirely clear. However, if you live in an SCA Kingdom that has a thriving rapier community I would very much appreciate hearing your ideas.
Backstory for Non-Westerners
Rapier in The West Kingdom has been through a whole lot of trouble. The very very short version is that when it first started we had people who played but didn’t really make a very good impression on “people in authority” so some of those people decided to ban rapier.
Eventually it came back, and over the course of roughly 15 years it has become a thriving community in The West until about the last three or so years. These last few years the community has started to lose itself and lose participation.
As a person who has been a pretty active part of the community over these last 15 or so years it is an issue that concerns me as well as many others. So now we want to address the issues and see what we need to do to bring it back up to speed.
Causes of Burn Out
So the reality of the situation is that many of the people who were most active in the community (myself included) have hit a significant level of burn out with the community. We’ve hit that for a variety of reasons, both SCA and mundane. But regardless we’re burned out. We’ve given our all and we got Whitescarves. And then we gave even more and eventually we got Masters of Defense.
But here we are now with some Whitescarve’s and some MoD’s, but a community that is worn out and tired.
Some areas have been identified as being sources of the problem. I am not sure I agree with them entirely as “sources” but I do consider them to be contributing factors. So I’m going to address them individually and see where that leads me.
I’m not really sure I agree with this one.
I understand some of the complaints, but from my perspective it isn’t just the rapier community that has suffered from snooty “garb” people (not using the term garb-Nazi, so please don’t use it in a reply, it’s offensive and non-productive).
We just have some people who are unfortunately unable to restrain themselves when it comes to being judgmental about garb.
We also have people who are to overly sensitive when it comes to having their garb critiqued. My experience tells me that more often than not the person who is saying something isn’t trying to be rude, they are trying to be helpful. They just suck at people skills. Like a lot of us.
By all means, we can and we should address the garb issues, and I’ve seen plenty of “garb as armor” type classes taught by a wide variety of people over the years. Teaching these is going to be a good thing in the long run no matter if it is an actual “source” of the problem or not.
The SCA at large is experiencing attendance issues. There is no one cause of this. If events in general are experiencing less attendance then rapier is going to suffer from that as well.
However I think that there is a valuable observation to be made, and I’ve already seen it made by others. If there just aren’t that many rapier activities being offered up then the cost/benefit ratio of going to an event pretty much sucks. We need more opportunities for there to be rapier that is worth doing.
Most of the rapier fighting done at events right now is fighting for roses at Crown and Coronet level events. There are a couple of other places where rapier is a much more integral part of the event, but roses is the main stay of rapier in this Kingdom right now.
This needs to change. The question is how. There are a couple of other things that are sitting there and waiting to be more actively used but at the moment they aren’t. I’ll touch on those in just a little bit.
I see this as a big one.
Right now in my estimation there are only really four “big” rapier activities that are happening in this Kingdom; West Kingdom Championship (which has a really big problem in my opinion), Mists Rapier Champion, Cynagua Rapier Champion, and Falcon’s Treaty.
Falcon’s can be taken off the list in terms of cross supporting because it is an event entirely devoted to rapier and there isn’t much else going on with regards to other SCA activities for a reason. I will touch on this event more shortly.
The Mists and Cynaguan Rapier Champion tourney’s happen at regular SCA events and in those cases get turnouts according to the location of the event (how far do I have to drive to go to the event) as well as a somewhat better turnout because there are already enough other activities going on that the cost/benefit ratio to go is high enough.
West Kingdom Championship is the one that I think is suffering the most and is also, in part, a source of the problem. There are three different communities having their respective Kingdom level championship here, but the event draws little attention from anyone outside of those communities (Eq, Archery, Rapier). I have never gone (I’ll explain why shortly when I address all my other explanations together) but from everything I hear over and over again it sounds like even these three communities don’t really cross support each other. The Equestrians aren’t watching the Rapier fighters. The Rapier fighters aren’t supporting the Archers. The Archers don’t care about the Equestrians.
And please, that isn’t a judgment statement. It’s an observation from the outside.
What I think Is Going On Here
First a little history here.
Let’s start with Falcon’s Treaty. I am one of the people who founded the event and over the years it has pretty much been considered my event because I have been the one to run it for almost every year it has existed.
It’s purpose when we started it was to create a “rapier only” fighting event. There are a shit-ton of heavy fighting events and more seem to be happening all the time. There is only one rapier only event.
There used to be two. When Falcon’s came in to existence one of it’s goals was to be a Mist’s rapier event to stand with a sister Cynaguan rapier event called Della Spada. That event was run almost exclusively by my good friend Ximon. But when he ended up having to move out of Kingdom no one took up the mantle to run Della Spada. That’s unfortunate, but it is one of the early steps that lead to the decline of the Kingdom rapier community.
But there was still a lot of rapier that was happening regularly at Crown and Coronet events that had a greater purpose than roses. And before someone gets their knickers in a twist about the importance of fighting roses to honor your consort, etc etc etc, all I mean is that the “greater” purpose is something like Kingdom or Principality champion lists.
The heavy fighters go to Crown and Coronet because they are fighting to make their consort Queen or Princess. Which begs the question for the rapier community (a question I have been asking for * YEARS *) – What are we fighting for?
Somewhere in there we finally started getting Whitescarves in this Kingdom. And that created a goal for people to try and achieve, so there was a motivation to fight and push yourself and learn and grow.
Unfortunately due to geography and a few other factors we ended up with a disparity of Whitescarves in The Mists and a bulk of them in Cynagua. Geography being what is in The West it makes regular training and access to these upper level fighters difficult at best.
The general attendance problem is a problem of many fronts, but one of the most compelling of these problems is that of finance. Yes, even though we are a 501(c)(3) organization we still have to be concerned with money and events that don’t draw enough attendance eventually get canceled.
Equestrian runs in to a lot of danger in the financial area. After all a site that supports all the necessary infrastructure of an Equestrian event is often pretty expensive.
So we get the West Kingdom Championship. Not a bad idea on it’s face; combine Eq, Archery, and Rapier championships and you build a whole event with enough attendance to make it financially more workable. Unfortunately in my opinion this was also not a great idea.
Okay, so first off I did mention that I have never been and I would explain why – for me the cost/benefit ratio sucks. The event is always held in Lodi. It never moves. This is because of the available Eq facilities.
I have precisely zero interest in SCA Eq activities. For those of you who love doing Eq that’s great, but it’s not for me. My protogee does Eq stuff and it makes her deliriously happy. But as far as I know even she doesn’t go to West Kingdom Championship. I’ve ridden horses on a couple of occasions and it’s a reasonably fun past time, but SCA Eq is just not for me.
Archery is a more fun past time, but my interest in SCA archery is generally completely satisfied on a yearly basis by attending one event that happens practically in my backyard. So, again, West Kingdom Championship has a very low cost/benefit ratio for me.
The only thing that happens at the event that I might be interested in is the Kingdom Rapier Champion. So the question becomes “is it worth it to me to drive ~3.5 hours out, hang around all day, fight for maybe 2 hours, and then drive ~3.5 hours home?”
The answer for me is “no.” And sadly I know that is the same answer for a number of other people, and so rapier attendance drops.
When the Kingdom Rapier Championship occurred at other regular events I would enter or at the very least I would marshal. I was there and I would be supporting it. And having one more person to support meant that some other person would be able to fight or relax and not suffer as much burn out.
One of the other things that I am hearing from people with regards to West Kingdom Championship is that the fighting is taking place on an out of the way field. This statement rang bells with me.
One of the things that raised the general awareness of the rapier community to the rest of the Kingdom was it’s visibility at Crown and Coronet level events. We fought hard to have the right to have our tourney’s on the same fighting field as the heavy fighters. That still happens at the Coronet level events, but it’s not happening at Crown any more. That is a three-times a year loss of visibility.
Yes, the Kingdom Rapier Champion is a year long office, but before West Kingdom Championship the rapier community was constantly making sure we had Eric space and time at Kingdom level events specifically for our use, not just a corner of the field for roses.
What Can We Do?
I see a couple of really big opportunities here, but both of them are going to take some serious work.
First, Della Spada. Someone in Cynagua needs to take up the mantle and get that event back on it’s feet and back on the calendar. Falcon’s Treaty can not continue to be the only “rapier only” event on the calendar. We need another one. Falcon’s in The Mists. Della Spada in Cynagua. This worked in the past. It can work again. These two events are able to do all kinds of things because there is no hard fast rule about what has to take place.
With Falcon’s I always try to make sure that there is ample opportunity for anyone in the Guild to play a prize if they want to. I always want there to be The Ladies Tourney, because when we started that it proved to be a lot of fun. But we’ve done all kinds of things over the years.
Rapier games at Falcon’s are a good thing in general. Nytshaede’s Town Battle was a blast. The year I ran a Quest event was amazingly fun. Yes, even games of Blood of Hero’s would be worthwhile. (I’m not a fan but I know a lot of people enjoy it, so go for it!)
Della Spada had it’s own flavor and style, but also it was just as flexible and had many games and tourney’s that made it a destination event.
Second, either disengage Kingdom Rapier Championship and get it back on Crown Tourney fields, or find/create some other “high level” Championship that gets held on Crown Tourney fields so that we start being visible to the Kingdom at large.
The Queen’s Ring jumps immediately to mind.
Currently The Queen’s Ring can be fought for anywhere. Instead of that, make it an “official” tourney to be held at Crown, and start arranging with autocrats and Royals that The Queen’s Ring becomes something that regularly happens at Crown. That makes it possible to advertise and make more noise about rapier activities. It makes it possible to put meaningful rapier activities at Crown, and it puts rapier back in the public eye at Kingdom Level events that everyone is at.
That is what raises awareness. That is what raises attendance. That is what gets support growing again.
In my opinion anyway.
If other people have ideas I would dearly love to hear them.