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I Am An Introverted Fighter

You know when you have one of those “A-HA” moments?salute

No, not when you feel a sudden urge to sing “Take On Me” or “The Sun Always Shines On TV”.

I mean when you suddenly realize something about yourself that should have been obvious but turned out to be eluding you for a really long time.

I am an introvert. That is not a particular revelation to me though it often comes as a surprise to other people given that they know that I am a magician and an actor. It’s hard for a lot of people to reconcile those things together; how can I be an introvert if I like being on stage? If you’re curious about it go read my article on The Performing Introvert.

The truth is that I often forget that I am an introvert. How is that possible? Because my life routine is such that I don’t often find myself in situations that I am unprepared for.

Basically all introverts can manage any social situation if they are given enough opportunity to prepare themselves for it. All the rehearsing I do for a play or a magic show is not just to be able to do the show but to prepare myself for the level of stress that I will be facing just because it’s a social situation and to some lesser or greater degree I will be the focus of attention.

In the SCA my social circle is pretty wide and there aren’t a lot of situations I might find myself in where I will experience social anxiety. And even if I do, it’s extremely easy for me to extricate myself from those situations and move to another situation that is more comfortable.

When I first took up rapier fighting I had already been in a pretty stressful set of circumstances and taking it up was a way to move myself from one set of social anxiety to a different place that I thought would be more welcoming. Because my life was full of stress at the time it never dawned on me that the anxiety I was feeling when I first stepped on to the rapier field was anything other than that.

After a while the rapier community became my own and my social anxiety on the field dissipated, though that anxiety was still masked by the other stresses that were current in my life.

The regular stress of my life was white noise against which the specific social anxiety of fighting was masked.

Eventually those regular stresses subsided, but by then I was well enough integrated in to the rapier community that I experienced virtually no anxiety anymore facing any of the fighters I would normally see.

So now all these years later when I decided to finally take up heavy fighting it never once dawned on me that fighting would bring on social anxiety. Not only that, but the level of social anxiety is mysteriously high and I was still blind to it because I had no frame of reference to make me think “hey, this is my introversion that’s causing this.”

So I’ve been struggling with this problem. Why is it that some people I can face on the heavy field and not be upset or anxious, and others just freak me the fuck out?

I mean I am not a threat to anyone on the heavy field. Not yet. Eventually, but not yet. I have a lot to learn, and I have to train my body, and these are all things that I am excited about for my own personal growth. So I’m not particularly afraid or anxious about being beat up. It’s going to happen. That’s just part of the process.

In the short time I’ve been fighting I have squared off with fighters from my level all the way up to Dukes. I’ve experienced fights with people who are my friends and people I only barely know.

At first I noticed that if I didn’t particularly know the person I was about to engage my anxiety level would pick up. Which made sense so I didn’t attribute anything to that.

Though I will say that on a small handful of occasions I have already found myself in unexplainable tears dealing with an overwhelming amount of anxiety and emotion. And I should say that this is not a thing that I am afraid of. I know that I can be emotional at times. I know that I can shed tears publicly even and it is no threat to my masculinity or my self image. The only thing that I ever worry about is whether or not I understand why it’s happening at the moment. So when the tears come for unexplainable reasons that’s when I get concerned. (I’ve also been known to revel in tears because something moves me that much so this isn’t an entirely unusual place for me.)

After all of that I started to focus on a pattern that I thought I detected which was that I thought I was feeling a certain amount of anxiety when I faced off with someone I had reason to believe had no respect for rapier fighters or the rapier community at large. Despite the progress that has been made in recent years, and especially with the establishment of the Order of Defense, I still see people who are disdainful of that part of the larger fighting community. It is a problem that is gradually diminishing, but it is still there.

Let me be clear though. I don’t, in any way, think that any of these fighters that I have faced have meant to “put me in my place” or otherwise “beat me down” because I am a rapier fighter. Not at all. What I am expressing here is an outgrowth of one of the social anxieties that introverts experience.

Introverts can’t help but look for patterns and problems in social situations. We do it because we are planning how to protect our fragility. Introverts can also be amazingly insightful when it comes to social situations because we are so good at seeing all the patterns and possibilities. The difficult part of it is that we can and often do find problems where none actually exist.

So here I am thinking that the problem is this more complicated assessment of my opponent as someone who doesn’t like me or doesn’t like the community I come from and I played with that idea in my head for a little while, but I soon realized that it was to complicated, not to mention hugely unfair and disrespectful. None of the fighters I have met or fought deserve any such suspicion from me. General social anxiety issues and social issues resulting from being an introvert are usually not that complicated.

No, like most things the answer is a great deal more simplistic. Plain and simple the anxiety I feel when I am on the heavy field is because I don’t yet feel like I am fully a part of the community.

To a certain extent I have done it to myself too. After all, I have made a big deal out of the fact that I want to be an example as a “cross-trained” fighter. As someone who engages in Rapier, C&T, and Heavy pretty much equally. This is my path. It is a path I believe in. It is a path that I hope to encourage others to explore.

But the thought that these are not yet “my people” appears to be the true source of my heavy fighting anxiety. Not because I haven’t been welcomed but because I haven’t yet found where I fit in to the community at large. I have been welcomed. I have a great set of friends who are my cheerleaders and my teachers who want to see me succeed.

However like anything else the only way you get better is by doing it more. All of my friends and supporters have been doing all they can to encourage me to do more, and it’s wonderful. The struggle for me is the thing about introverts; we don’t do anything until we’re ready to.

No matter how much support, no matter how much encouragement, how much training, practice, rehearsal, whatever, we simply don’t do anything until we’re ready to.

So in a way, here is my plea and my apology to all my supporters.

Please continue to be my supporters and my cheerleaders. It’s the cumulative effect of support that gives me the “social momentum” I need to be able to get out on the field in the first place. And every time I manage it the amount of “social momentum” I need will get smaller. It’s the same thing that happened when I was first rapier fighting though I didn’t really recognize it as such.

And my apology is this – there simply are going to be times when I can’t do it. When the social pressure is more than I have the energy or strength to deal with. I don’t want to let down my teachers and my supporters and cheerleaders. You all put a ton of energy in to me. Sometimes I can’t cross the finish line but it should never be seen as a failure on your part. The trick will be that I need to remember that it isn’t a failure on mine either.

As I get over myself and get over my feelings of being outside the community I will become a more active and more engaged fighter. I’ll be able to get to that threshold of just picking up my sword and shield and letting whatever happens happen.

All martial arts that I have ever participated in have stressed on some level or another the idea of “Know thyself.” Becoming a better fighter is not about how many people you have defeated in combat but by how often you have beaten your own limitations. You can’t beat those limitations until you know where they are coming from.

I have mentioned in the past that I have dragons to fight. I think I may have just uncovered the sneakiest of them all.

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My Letter to The Board of Directors

The discussion continues on.  The decisions continue to be difficult.  My thoughts continue to evolve.

Here is where they are today.  Tomorrow we’ll see.


 

To: The Board of Directors
Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc

From: Tim Converse aka
Baron Master Juan Santiago, OL, OP
West Kingdom, SCA

Re: Rapier Peerage in The SCA

Greetings;

This letter is to outline my thoughts with regards to the Orders of Peerage as they currently stand and the future of recognition for the Rapier fighters within the Society. I recognize that this issue is one fraught with high emotion and strikes to the very heart of who we are. I can promise that I will speak with restraint in the hope that my words be taken as they are offered – with the hope that they might provide some insights or ideas on how we might proceed.

I thank the Board for their efforts no matter the outcome.

First, as to who I am and why I feel I have something to offer. My name is Tim Converse, but in the Society I am known as Juan Santiago. I am a member of the Orders of the Laurel and Pelican. I have served as a Landed Baron to The Barony of Darkwood in The West Kingdom. I am a member of The West Kingdom Guild of Defense as a Guildmaster, a rank which we recognize as equivalent to the more well known Whitescarf.

I have been an authorized Rapier Fighter for over a decade. I have been an authorized Cut & Thrust Fighter for almost as long. I have been an authorized Heavy Fighter for just about a year.

As with all of us, I have been immersed in our Heavy Fighting Culture from the beginning of my days in the Society some 28 years ago.

The nature of the issue at hand is that we are seeking an appropriate way to reward the hard work and diligent study of the Rapier community at large. The ranks attainable by this community currently are without limits save one, the rank of Peerage.

I have been involved in this issue from the moment I picked up a rapier and in the past decade I have seen the attitudes of many people within my own Kingdom change; some for the better, some for worse. I have also, sadly, seen individuals who have entrenched themselves in older opinions of this community, its character, and what it may or may not be worthy of.

Nevertheless we have, in recent years, achieved a level of understanding overall which as brought us to our current cross-roads; the creation of a Fourth Peerage or the inclusion of Rapier in to an existing Peerage.

It is my contention that both of these options have advantages and disadvantages, and as such I must state clearly at the beginning that even I am not decided entirely on which course might best serve a community I am a part of and the overall Society which is my family and home. It is fair to say that I am more of a proponent of seeing Rapier (and other Martial Activities) be included under the umbrella of Chivalry.

I must also state at the beginning that regardless of what the Board of Directors decides, it may have very little impact upon my path overall and this will color much of what I have to say. The reason for this is, as you may have noted, the fact that I consider myself a cross-training fighter, interested in all of the styles of fighting we currently practice. My road to Chivalry (should I decide to pursue such a path) will not be dictated so much by the style of fighting I choose, but upon the course of my personal development within the Society.

The Board may decide that Rapier is to remain outside the realm of Chivalry or it may include it. It may choose to create Rapier as a Peerage separate from all the others. Regardless of any of these choices I will continue my studies and whatever standards prevail I may someday meet them to a level sufficient that I will achieve a “Prowess-based” Peerage just as I have done so for The Arts&Sciences, and for Service.

“The strength and stability of the Kingdom lie in these virtues of its people: creativity, service and chivalry – for if any of these are lacking, the Kingdom fails.”

That is a telling statement and reflects well the “three peerage” structure we are built upon. The idea of adding a fourth does not seem so much to add stability as to present an opportunity for things to become more unstable. If we add a “Rapier Peerage” then what happens when we develop a sufficient culture in some other area? Do we add another Peerage for this area?

There is an argument to made that instead of it being a “Rapier” Peerage it might be a collective Peerage for a variety of martial skills that do not fall within the specific and limited definition currently used by the Order of Chivalry. The value of such a construct is that it allows an Order to create for itself an identity and set of traditions all it’s own. The problem is that it creates a very clear “second class citizen” Peerage order, a problem that can only end badly.

When I first became active in the Society there were a great many cultural problems that stemmed from a prevalent attitude that “some Peers were better than others.” This attitude was demonstrated by the idea that supposedly a Knight was more important because he/she was willing to “lay down their lives” for their King, and therefore their fealty, their place, made them more important than Peers of a different Order.

This idea, while largely now passed, still raises its head from time to time and I find it a disheartening and even antithetical position to the image I hold of what it means to be a Peer of The Realm. If I may be allowed to digress for a moment, this argument is easily refuted by simply asking if in the mundane world a criminal was holding a gun to the head of a the man who is the current King, would a Knight truly step in and take that bullet for him. I have asked this question and the general response I get is something along the lines of “this is just a game” thus invalidating the argument.

I, as a Rapier fighter, am just as willing as these Knights to “lay down my life” for the King. Why? Because “this is just a game” and in the end we are all getting the opportunity to die “best two out of three.”

This does not detract from any Knight who really believes that they would take a bullet for another human being, but I do not believe that it is a quality of being made a Knight. Rather it is a quality of what kind of human being you are. I can easily imagine a scenario in which I would place myself in harms way knowing it might cost me my life in order to save others. I am sure we all are capable of doing so. In other words that same quality of sacrifice is potentially present in anyone no matter who you are and if it is to be used as a bar of judgment to the Order of Chivalry than I would have to say that it has not been applied equally.

So then, what makes anyone a worthy candidate for Peerage?

I submit that while our definitions of the Orders of Laurel and Pelican are sufficiently broadly defined to allow the flexibility to recognize a wide range of people and skills, the Order of Chivalry currently bares to narrow a definition, and therein lay the problem.

I believe that it is fair to say that we all have our influences from youth as to what constitutes a Knight. Those influences are literary, or cinematic, or even game based. Those influences often reflect codes of honor and conduct. But they come from far and wide, and they are not universal in nature. One literary source might portray a Knight as a barely restrained killer whose only rein is his word of honor to another man. One cinematic source might portray a Knight as a cultured and elegant gentleman, capable of supreme acts of violence but only in the cause of justice or righteousness. And almost any game based source you care to think of will offer a view of a Knight that bares nothing but it’s name as a similarity to anything else.

I do, in fact, believe that one can achieve a Laurel or a Pelican by virtue of their efforts and studies with the Rapier. In the case of a Pelican I have, in fact, already seen it take place; that an individual was given their Pelican because of years of effort on behalf of the Rapier community they supported. In the case of a Laurel, there are many sources of material that can (and do!) require diligent study and recreation of a caliber that is easily worthy of the Order of the Laurel.

But in neither of these cases are we talking about Prowess, and that is key to the nature of why I believe that Rapier can and should be a valid (and valuable!) part of the Order of Chivalry.

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.

It has been suggested in some circles that the Rapier Community wants in to the Order of Chivalry without meeting the expectations of that Order. I find that somewhat difficult to understand because when I ask what the expectations of the Order are I tend to get a list of nebulous qualities which I can argue already exist in the Rapier Community at least as much as they do in the Chivalric one.

“A Knight wants to be in Fealty.” Yes, and? That doesn’t seem to be at question. Peerage and Fealty are things that go hand in hand, and the question of swearing fealty is one that must be answered by every candidate individually regardless of the Order to which they are being admitted. Whether the Order of Chivalry were expanded or a whole new Order were to be created, this question would not change.

“A Knight wants to test their strength at arms against all comers.” Yes, and? That doesn’t seem to be at question either. I am happy to fight rapier against pretty much anyone. That joy in the fight exists no matter if one is holding a rattan sword or a steel one.

“A Knight wants to accept all his/her brethren in faith.” Yes, and? Again, where is the difference? I have certainly felt an amazing sense of camaraderie on the rapier field and it seems no different to me than what I have begun to feel upon the heavy field. I can turn to any rapier fighter and know that they have my back. I can turn to the rapier community at large and know that they will support me if I ask. I can not see any single thing that a Knight would ask of their community that I could not ask of mine and not expect that very same level of support.

The reason for that is simple – we are all members of the SCA. We all have built in to our organization and our participation in it a sense of community and family. Our households, our lineages, our oaths bind us to each other all with the same levels of strength regardless of whether one wears a White belt or a Whitescarf. And any Knight who questions my loyalty to my brothers and sisters in arms is insulting me as much as they themselves would be insulted if I did the same to them.

The only concrete argument I have seen has to do with the wearing of armor. Well, yeah, a Knight wears armor, but if that’s the only difference then its not a very convincing one. Not that I am required to wear armor as a rapier fighter (other than the stuff required for safety purposes), but that this really has only to do with the nature of the tools of combat. No one is arguing that fighting Rapier and fighting Rattan are two different sets of tools with different requirements.

One wears armor because the form of combat in question requires it. One wears no armor for the same reasons. As I have explained on many an occasion the easiest way to understand the difference is that heavy fighting is a simulation of soldiers and rapier fighting is a simulation of nobles and civilians.

Prowess is prowess. By its very nature and definition we are looking for people who can be expected to have mastered their form of combat, and who can be considered dangerous in others. Rapier offers it’s varieties of form in the same way as Heavy fighting does. We have individuals who master specific forms and styles. We have individuals who are dangerous still when they pick up other forms and styles. In the broad strokes the examples of prowess are there for anyone to see.

But here is where my path begins to diverge from many other paths. I believe strongly in the idea of a cross-trained fighter. Not just multiple forms within their discipline (rapier or heavy), but across disciplines. My ideal of Knighthood, coming from those childhood games, books, and movies, as well as my years in the SCA, is someone who recognizes that there is value in everything they can learn. That is it perfectly acceptable to be a master of one discipline, but still be dangerous in others. I would very much like to see a fighting culture that supports the idea that fighting is fighting and it’s only a choice of what tools you are playing with today.

Today you might get your heavy gear together and go storm the castle. Tomorrow you might pick up your rapier and challenge all comers to duels.

The Order of Chivalry is no different from the Orders of The Laurel and The Pelican when it comes to those collective qualities we call “Peer like.” My Fealty as a Laurel and a Pelican is no different, no more or less valuable, than the Fealty of a Knight.

My Laurel is because I have excelled above others in the realms of Art and Science. My Pelican is because I have excelled above others in the realms of Service to the Kingdom.

Why can not the Order of Chivalry be for those who have excelled above others in skill at arms regardless of which arms they have taken up?

I believe that a well rounded Knight is one who is equally comfortable with a broadsword as he is with a pike. Equally capable with a great sword as he is with an axe. I can see no reason not to expand that base of knowledge to encompass a rapier or a sidesword.

I recognize that in order to make such a change it will be necessary to find a path that is comfortable and acceptable to a long established and deeply entrenched culture. This will not be an easy path and I certainly do not envy you the decisions you must make.

I hope that my words have helped in some small fashion and I wish you all well as you tackle this most difficult challenge.

Yours in Service,

Baron Master Juan Santiago, OL, OP
Kingdom of The West

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.

Ra-Peerage

armorThere is a lot of stuff going around SCA circles with regards to a vote by The Board of Directors to create a “fourth peerage” for rapier fighters. I have many “thinks” and “feels” with regards to this situation but every time someone has asked me about it (or asked on various social media forums) I have not been able to give as complete an answer as I possible could.

So I am taking the time to finally do that here. There are a number of points so I am going to try and break this down as much as possible.  And I will apologize up front for how long this post is.  There are a lot of things to talk about.

1 – Who am I to have any “thinks” and “feels” on this topic?

In the SCA I have been a Laurel since 1999. I have been fighting as a rapier fighter since about 2003. I achieved the rank of Guildmaster of Fence about 2007. I became a Pelican in 2013. I have been fighting heavy for less than a year.

So, I am already a Peer, and I have one of the top two ranks currently available to rapier fighters in The West Kingdom, the other being The Western White Scarf. The basic difference between these two ranks is that Guildmaster is for teaching and historical knowledge, White Scarf is more for prowess, though both incorporate aspects of the other.

2 – Fourth or Fifth Peerage?

Technically we already have a fourth peerage, the Royal Peers. This peerage is given to those people who have sat a throne. I have mixed feelings about this and it is probably going to sound very harsh of me. It is not as harsh as it sounds, please trust me on that.

While I acknowledge that it requires a great deal of effort on the part of those people to serve as royalty, the amount of work that it takes to get there in the first place is not what I would consider significant on the part of at least one of those individuals, usually the lady, though not always. The effort expended by the fighter, usually the lord, is already recognized/recognizable by The Order of Chivalry.

It is possible therefore, for individuals to be made “royal peers” who do nothing to get there, do nothing once they are there, and sadly continued to do nothing after they leave, but now they are “peers of the realm.”

Yes, there are plenty of people who have taken their “royal peerage” and made something of it. I would argue that what they have done is made themselves worthy of one of the three other peerages. Royal Peer unto itself is, for me, a hollow peerage.

The distinction is made that there are “royal” peers and there are “merit” peers. I think that is an accurate distinction to make.

So you will not catch me calling it a “fourth” or “fifth” peerage. It is something else, though what as yet, I do not know.

3 – How are the Peerages defined in Corpora?

One can not discuss the issues of how something might fit within an existing peerage order if one does not know exactly how those orders are defined. While we all generally know, it is actually within a specific bit of language that a large part of the issue resides. So, for your enlightenment I give you the definitions of the peerage orders as per Corpora.

Note that I have specifically highlighted one passage which is the root of much of the discussion with regards to where a ‘rapier peerage’ might reside.

Patent Orders

The following institutions are established for all kingdoms in the Society. A Patent of Arms may be conferred only upon a person being admitted into one of these orders. Each candidate for a patent order must satisfy the general requirements listed above in A.1., as well as the specific requirements listed here.

a. The Chivalry:

(i) The Chivalry consists of two equal parts: Knighthood and Mastery of Arms. No one may belong to both parts of the order at one time. When a member is admitted to the Chivalry by the Sovereign, the choice of which part of the order to join is made by the new member. The candidate must be considered the equal of his or her prospective peers with the basic weapons of tournament combat. To become a Knight, the candidate must swear fealty to the Crown of his or her kingdom during the knighting ceremony. Masters of Arms may choose to swear fealty, but are not required to do so.

(ii) The duties of the Chivalry are as follows:

(a) To set an example of courtesy and chivalrous conduct on and off the field of honor.

(b) To respect the Crown of the kingdom; to support and uphold the laws of the kingdom and Corpora.

(c) To enrich the kingdom by sharing his or her knowledge and skills.

(d) To support and uphold the Crown of his or her kingdom.

(e) To enhance the renown and defend the honor of the peer’s Lady or Lord.

(f) To advise the Crown on the advancement of candidates for the Chivalry.

(g) To bestow the Accolade of Knighthood upon a candidate for the Order of Knighthood, by sole right as both Sovereign and knight, or acting directly for a Sovereign who is not a knight.

b. The Order of the Laurel:

(i) Members of the Order of the Laurel may choose to swear fealty, but are not required to do so. The candidate must have attained the standard of excellence in skill and/or knowledge equal to that of his or her prospective peers in some area of the Arts or Sciences. The candidate must have applied this skill and/or knowledge for the instruction of members and service to the kingdom to an extent above and beyond that normally expected of members of the Society.

(ii) The duties of the members of the order are as follows:

(a) To set an example of courtesy and chivalrous conduct.

(b) To respect the Crown of the kingdom; to support and uphold the laws of the kingdom and Corpora.

(c) If in fealty, to support and uphold the Crown of his or her kingdom.

(d) To enrich the kingdom by sharing his or her knowledge and skills.

(e) To advise the Crown on the advancement of candidates for the Laurel.

c. The Order of the Pelican.

(i) Members of the Order of the Pelican may choose to swear fealty, but are not required to do so. The candidate must have attained the standard of service to the Society or any of its branches equal to that of his or her prospective peers, which is above and beyond that normally expected of members of the Society.

(ii) The duties of the members of the order are as follows:

(a) To set an example of courtesy and chivalrous conduct.

(b) To respect the Crown of the kingdom; to support and uphold the Laws of the kingdom and Corpora.

(c) If in fealty, to support and uphold the Crown of his or her kingdom.

4 – My definitions with regards to where and why a “rapier peerage” might go there.

It has been argued that a “rapier peerage” belongs in one of the other two orders, not in The Chivalry. For me the answer to that is “yes and no.” Our three peerages as they currently exist make sense for a reason, they cover it all. But they do so in a very specific sense that makes them “separate but equal.” That is an important phrase to remember.

    • Pelican
      • The Pelican is about service to the Kingdom. How does one achieve a “rapier” related service? Really only one way that I have seen (and which I believe was at least one of the factors in achieving my own Pelican), the support of the community of rapier fighters. So not for being a good fighter, but for serving the specific fighting community.
    • Laurel
      • The Laurel is about the Arts and Sciences of our historical period. How does one achieve a “rapier” related Laurel? In this case we have a growing abundance of historical material with regards to fighting styles, techniques, training, and education. Many of the historical masters provided information not just on skill at arms, but also on society and how to live ones life. A thorough understanding of these things, teaching these things, displaying a historically accurate skill in it’s context would be worthy of consideration in my opinion. I do know that there are other Laurel’s who disagree with that and their arguments are usually around “we don’t give a Laurel for ‘fights good’.” I don’t disagree with that. We, as Laurels, are not about Prowess on the field.
    • Knight/Master at Arms
      • Here. Here is where we build. The current definition and specifically due to the highlighted passage, limits the Order of Chivalry to “tournament combat.” It does not define “tournament combat”, by the way, but it is generally understood that the reference is to the tournament that gives us our Royals.

Okay. We generally recognize and frequently throw around the phrase “prowess upon the field”. We recognize that a Knight/Master at Arms is recognizable as such by virtue of his or her skills as a fighter.

Which begs the question, why are we limiting ourselves to only one form of fighting when there are so many in history to choose from? Because of that one phrase in the definition provided by Corpora.

Yes, we have invested a 50 year long set of values and emotions in to this definition, but it seems limiting in the extreme. Think about this because it is a point I will come back to.

5 – The Umbrella of Chivalry

One thought I have seen presented is the idea that the Order of Chivalry already has two groups within it; Knights and Masters at Arms. So why not more? Why not have “Master of Defense” for rapier fighters, as an example?

Typically the response is something along the lines of “well they aren’t a real Knight.” BULLSHIT. It’s a bogus argument at best and here is why.

As an historical organization we seem to be blinded to the fact that Knighthoods were given for a lot of reasons, not just combat. Admitting other ‘combat skills’ in to the Order of Chivalry as a matter of ‘prowess upon the field’ should not be considered such a stretch.

I can also remember a number of years back before I was a peer of any stripe the arguments that went around about how the three existing peerages where not being treated as equals and they really should have been. Where we are now those arguments are laughable. If you think that the three orders of peerage are not equal I’ve got a whole list of reasons I can go in to about why that is simply bad thinking. (I could use a lot harsher language but I’m not going to.) So arguing that “they aren’t real Knights” is, at best a fad that would pass once people started realizing how stupid an argument that actually is.

Having “separate but equal” groups under the Order of Chivalry might solve one of the other “non-problems” that people argue about as well: How are Knights supposed to be able to judge rapier fighters or anything else we might want to lump in?

If there are groups within the Order of Chivalry who have the necessary knowledge then they share that knowledge. In fact, that is precisely how we do things in the Order of The Laurel! I am not a costumer, yet as a Laurel I will eventually be asked to judge whether or not a costuming candidate is worthy of elevation. What do I do? Well, over the years I’ve learned a little bit (and remember that when I talk about cross trained fighters below), but basically I also just freaking defer to those who know and who I have decided I can trust.

Seed the Order. There are a number of people who could be the first ones elevated who have already demonstrated both knowledge and prowess. Look at that Chivalry definition again: the candidate must be considered the equal of his or her prospective peers. Hello? It’s right there.

6 – Cross trained fighters

I have already talked about the concept of cross trained fighters before, but briefly let me reiterate –

Fighting is fighting. Prowess is prowess. The only difference there should be in the fighting community is what tools you play with.

As a Rapier fighter I train hard, I work hard to develop skills which give me the chance to fight with a lot of people and have a damn good time doing it. I am not the best, but I’m pretty damn good at what I do and I have worked hard to get there. I teach all the time.

I have taken up Cut & Thrust fighting. A whole new realm of skills. I train hard. I work hard to develop skills which give me a chance to fight with even more people and I have a damn good time doing it. I’m not the best, but I’m working on being good at it. I teach it when I can because I’m good enough to do that.

I have taken up Heavy fighting. A whole new realm of skills. I haven’t been at it long but I can see the road ahead of me as I work hard to develop new skills which will give me a chance to fight with even more people and have a damn good time doing that too.

I may never get good enough as a heavy fighter to be a member of the Order of Chivalry as it now stands. Yet I would argue that as a cross trained fighter its entirely possible that I could be a good candidate for an Order of Chivalry that expands a bit to allow the idea that people who fight with something other than rattan can be considered worthy.

And I am not the only one.

So, if I can stretch and grow and learn multiple fighting styles, why can’t heavy fighters? Why can’t Knights? Why can’t the Order of The Chivalry choose to recognize that fighting is fighting and the only difference is the tools you use?

7 – BUT, BUT, BUT WHO FIGHTS FOR CROWN???

People who are qualified to fight as heavy fighters are the ones who fight for crown.

I’m not asking for there to be a rapier tournament crown list. Though if I am not mistaken the Barony of The Far West rotates it’s methods for who gets to be Baron by virtue of Heavy, Rapier, and Arts tournaments. So it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

But I’m not going there. I do still believe firmly that Crown and Coronet should be fought by Heavy Fighters. Why? Because that still is our culture plain and simple.

BUT!

But, we do allow our Royals to dictate (within certain limits) how our tournaments are to be fought or under what conditions. So maybe, someday, our culture will mature enough to get to a point where a Royal might say “in the third round fighters must fight Cut & Thrust”. In my view, as a cross trained fighter, that would be awesome.

Why? Because we would have achieved a culture that recognizes fighters are fighters, and it would only be about the tools you use. Because Knights who wanted to enter would have to have learned more than how to swing a stick and rapier fighters would have to have to wear armor. Because fighting with more than one form would be a normal thing and we’d all get to understand each other a hell of a lot better.

This is why cross trained fighters make so much more sense to me. Sure, specialize in rattan, or specialize in rapier, or specialize in C&T, whatever. You can’t be a master in all of it and no one would be asking you to. But you can be good at it all, you can enjoy it all, you can learn from it all.

And if you decide you don’t want to learn beyond your current limits? Fine, don’t enter the tourney. You have no rights in this case. You are not owed an opportunity to fight for Crown or Coronet. You are given a privilege. There are plenty of other reasons you already take in to account for why enter this tourney but not that tourney. Other reasons come in to play. This is just one more.

8 – You should tell the Board of Directors all of this!

I have.

9 – So what about all those other things; archery, equestrian, thrown weapons, etc?

Don’t see how those things don’t apply to all the arguments I’ve made here.

Admittedly some of them are easier to achieve cross training in than others. I doubt I will ever be in a position to be able to do anything of substance in the equestrian realm for example. But I can, and do on occasion, play on the archery field. And I am pretty darn excited about thrown weapons now that I’ve had some opportunities there.

Okay, maybe they all need to be lumped together just for the sake of structural concerns, but if they are then they still need to be under the Chivalry umbrella. They are combat skills. A Knight is supposed to know as much as they can about these skills, yes?

Go for it.

10 – So lets wrap this thing up.

Am I in favor of a rapier peerage? Honestly, despite all I have said above, I am not 100% sure. There are arguments for it being a separate peerage, there are arguments for it being incorporated into the existing peerages.

Both sides have value, though obviously I think there is more value in the idea of incorporating it.

My chosen path of cross trained fighter means that regardless of the outcome of the decision I am not particularly impacted by it. My chances of being a “Knight” of some fashion are more or less the same. Perhaps a bit quicker if they allow the rapier to be incorporated, but really, its going to go about the same for me.

And I am okay with that. I am happy that I am now learning to fight heavy. I am happy that I fight rapier and C&T. I am looking forward to adding combat archery to my list of skills as well as thrown weapons.

The BoD will make it’s call and at that point I will decide what I want to do next. My feelings about the structure of our existing peerages as well as my feelings about current fighter culture aren’t really going to change based on this decision.

All that might change for me is what I decide to do next.

A Shield of White

IMG_0136This past weekend was the SCA event Whiteshield. It is the first big tourney of the year and has a long tradition as one of the most fun tourneys of the year. It is often considered a predictor of victory in March Crown which usually happens a weekend or two later.

This was the first time I have ever entered a “heavy” tourney. As Baron of Darkwood for several years I had the privilege of overseeing this event. I made a promise to the populace of Darkwood that I would take to the heavy field. I didn’t manage to do so while I was Baron but I did finally manage it one year later.

It was an amazing experience and I was very proud to achieve this goal.

Unfortunately, like many bright points in my life, there is often a darker side and so I want to touch on this a bit to set the record straight on a couple of points.

As my friends know I have been a Rapier fighter for many years. I have been a Cut & Thrust fighter for a few years less than I have been Rapier fighter.

I consider Rapier and Cut & Thrust to be just at legitimate as Heavy fighting. Yes, it is true that Heavy fighting is considered “the norm” and that if you want to be sovereign then you must fight Heavy. But this does not mean that it is inherently better to my way of thinking. In much the same way that I don’t consider Aikido to be any better than Karate, or Judo to be superior to Jujitsu. Each has it’s strengths. Each has it’s weaknesses. And every single one of them offer an opportunity to learn something new and different.

But in our Kingdom there are still people who seem to feel a need to denigrate fighters who are not Heavy fighters. People who, rather than giving something a try, would rather just look down their noses or make comments dressed up with a smile that are still insulting in nature. I have no use for people who are so willing to limit their views.

Of course there is nothing wrong with “specializing” or “mastering” what they wish to master. I am all for that as well. But if you trap yourself in to the idea that your way, your martial art, is the one true way then I feel sorry for you. And when you tell me that you don’t want to “derail”, “pollute”, or “dilute” your training by picking up something different from what you are doing, well, believe me it’s not hard to tell the difference between a legitimate reason and an excuse to hold on to your prejudice.

This past weekend I achieved something that really only a handful of people in our organization have done – become “authorized” in all three of the combat forms available to us. I know a few others have done this as well but there just aren’t that many of us. I would love to see more.

Not only that but this past weekend I was able to fight all three forms on the same field on the same day. It was exciting. It was challenging. It was a lot of fun. I wish there could have been more people doing it.

For the record, even though I have now authorized as a Heavy fighter I have no intention of giving up fighting Rapier. I love fighting Rapier, and I am encouraged by the fact that more Rapier fighters are taking up Cut & Thrust as well. I am also encouraged that I’m starting to see more Heavy fighters go through the process to pick up Rapier on their way to Cut & Thrust.

I had a blast fighting Heavy. I intend to do a lot more. But if you are one of the people who thinks that I’m going to give up the rest because I’ve now crossed over to the supposedly more acceptable “one true way” then you are going to be disappointed.

From what I have seen so far Cross Trained fighters have more respect and understanding for everyone in the fighting community no matter what weapon they hold in their hands. I would like to see an attitude that we are all just “fighters” and the distinction of “Heavy”, “Rapier”, and “Cut & Thrust” are only used to determine the gear you need instead of stratifying the community at large.

I’m sure that’s a long way off but I can dream can’t I?

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