Crapaud #1 and Fighting Titles

saluteUh oh, Santiago is on about titles again. (See: Your title doesn’t mean Jack Part 1, Part 2).

Relax. It’s not that bad. Not at all.

First I want to talk about Crapaud. If you aren’t from The West Kingdom then here is a quick description. Crapaud is a once a month tourney that has been running for a long time now. Last night was actually #237, but for me it was #1 as it was the first time I had fought in it. It’s geared towards being run in a tourney format when there are enough fighters on hand, and it’s meant to build a fellowship between fighters that goes a bit beyond the usual. It’s attractive in the sense that there is no real “prize” at the end other than the honor of having won. No job responsibility and every month there is a chance that there will be a new “Crapaud” (the previous winner is still fighting so can ‘defend’ the title).

Also, there is an acknowledgement that comes not from winning but just from being recognized for being in possession of qualities that make you stand out; honorable on the field, some behavior that catches the eye, some gesture of chivalry, things of this nature. And so someone is given that acknowledgement in the form of the title of “le fleur” – the flower of chivalry.

So, all the pomp and circumstance of a full on Crown or Coronet tourney without the responsibility of ruling. A great training ground for fighters, an opportunity to challenge a number of high level fighters, and receive training and feedback from them.

On to procedure. In a regular tourney you line up all the “belts” on one side and all the “unbelts” on the other. At Crapaud the “belts” line up on one side and the “unbelts” line up on the other but they set a precedence by arranging them first by the rank as a members of the Order of the Ash Leaf (and award based on fighting), then by squiring date, and finally by years fighting.

The procedure for ‘balancing the lines’ is to simply skim the top of the unbelts side for as many fighters as necessary and bring them over. Last night it was necessary to take the top three.

I didn’t know any of this last night when I entered the list. The only thing I knew was to line up by years fighting, and although I’ve been fighting for a long time as a rapier fighter, I’ve only got just under two years as a heavy fighter (and really less than half a dozen tournies under my belt). So based on that I put myself towards the end of the line. Seemed perfectly reasonable to me and I was perfectly happy there.

But here’s where things get complicated and this is where we get in to the whole idea about ‘fighting titles.’ The concept of ‘fighting titles’ bothers me on a certain level, but makes perfect sense on another.

You see, I have an Ash Leaf. Technically at Crapaud last night I should have been at the very head of the line as I outranked the person who was there, and as such I would have been immediately crossed over. But as my Ash Leaf was given to me as a rapier fighter I can certainly understand that where I was in line was probably much more correct.

I absolutely agree and support the idea that ‘fighting is fighting’ in the sense that fighters should treat each other as equals regardless of the forms of fighting they engage in. The heavy and rapier communities have been to separated from each other for to long and that has caused gaps in the way they treat each other. Even as I was gearing up to fight last night one person gave me a bit of an obnoxious comment (entirely unaware of how they sounded) that came from their attitude that one form of fighting is ‘superior’ to another.

But by the same token I am not going to insist that my years of experience as a rapier fighter make me ‘worthy’ of being at the head of that line either. Of course I defer to these fighters because they have the experience in these forms of fighting. If they came to me to learn to fight rapier then I would expect them to defer to me because I have the experience over them in that arena. It’s just practical that way.

However, there is a title issue on the field that I do have some problems with and it’s this – just because I pick up a sword (rattan or rapier), I haven’t stopped being a Baron, or a Laurel, or a Pelican. Having titles doesn’t come with a lot of benefits, mostly just responsibilities. But one of the few benefits is that I have a right to be called by the appropriate term – IF I CHOOSE.

On the rapier field I am a GuildMaster, a somewhat fading title these days but is treated as roughly equal to a Whitescarf but focused on the teaching of rapier more than the prowess of it. (And of course now with the Master of Defense peerage that changes things again as well.)

Most of the time on the heavy fighting field I really don’t care. I get that there is a certain inherent ‘ranking’ on the fighting field and that many of our awards are ‘fighting’ awards. As a person who holds an Ash Leaf my “heavy fighting title” is Lord. I haven’t been called that for 16 years.

The danger here is in letting a certain ‘minimization’ mess with your head while you’re fighting. Fighters talk about ‘the head game’ as a very important part of the fight, which is totally understandable. The amount of work I’ve done to earn my titles is not something I want to have dismissed. Understanding that it isn’t being dismissed simply because it isn’t being used in a specific context is key to that idea.

Nevertheless we do invest so much of our identities in what we have achieved in the SCA that sometimes we can be sensitive to the way things are done even when done so unintentionally. And more to the point, determining where in the line I might fit due to a ranking system that doesn’t treat our respective fighting styles equally is a confusing paradox.

For the moment I intend to return to Crapaud. I had a good time and I liked being in a situation where I could experience the tourney format without being concerned for the potential end responsibilities (even someone like my could have a good day and win). There is a lot to be learned here.

And just to round out everything, I want to say that fighting Sir Myric and Enoch Baily was great. I felt like my fights were good. I learned things. I watched the rest of the fights that evening and I think there was a lot of wonderful things to see and learn from that as well. (And as I am currently on The Mists Guard with a challenge to fight as many new people as I can I get to add Myric and Enoch to my list!)

But I’m going to have to come to a decision about where in that lineup I really deserve to be. I’m proud of my Ash Leaf. I was one of the very first people to get it for rapier. But I don’t know how I feel about putting myself in a position where I could be crossed over merely on precedence when there are far more experienced fighters than I.

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About santiagosgrimoire

Magician, Entertainer, Actor, Cook, Leather Worker, Artist and generally very busy.

Posted on December 31, 2015, in Fighting, SCA. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Very well written. As someone who has done both sides of the fighting field my take on it is simply to let my level of prowess decide where I am in the line. On the rapier field higher, but even at my best on the rattan side l never would have reached more than a middle spot in line on the unbelted side.

  2. Carrek MacBrian

    This is my personal opinion. An Ash Leaf is an Ash Leaf; it was granted for Prowess, regardless of Prowess in what.

    What The Crapaud Tournament seeks to engender in its participants stands apart and, I think beyond the specifics of the Tournament itself. It would hold equal potency and gravitas if it were a rapier tournament.

    Members of the Order of the Ash Leaf get advanced in the Order of Prescident at Crapaud in recognition of that prowess and as an example to others. It’s less about ones particular ability at that moment, and more about acknowledging breadth of prowess one has reached.

    Similarly, I think a White Collar should stand with the Belts, even if it is his first time in heavy kit. Certainly a Knight who had been out of armor for two decades still deserves to stand with his bretheren and be upheld as an example.

    In the end, I think simply that you deserved to stand at the front of that line, though of course it is your choice.

  3. I would like to use an analogy. If you practiced Wing Chun for say, 20 years of your life, and you enter a new form of martial arts, you do not wear the belt (or sash in this case) of your old form. You are new, you are once more a student. The style you have mastered is not the style you are learning, and a Sifu of Sensei might give you a nod of respect, but you are a student. The old style might lend you mastery of the new style, but you are a student. The old style might make you lethal when permitted the equipment and forms but you are a student of the new style. Using “Chum Kiu” on an opponent but if you are supposed to do a “spear” or “leg sweep” not only are you not playing in the role of the new style you look like you are not disciplined enough to safely participate in the new form.

    I have a great deal of respect for the art of fencing, it is lethal, beautiful, and my favorite part, METAL ON METAL. For all of It’s merit is not heavy fighting,the forms are different, and a squire who does not have an ashleaf at all will very well humble you. The forms are not the same, what they lend to each other does not make one a master of another, it gives one an advantage, and a better student. So instead of titles this being a meritocracy allow those with merit in this style their place.

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