Medieval Combat


(also known as Rattan Combat or Heavy Combat)

Since the Society’s inception, the modern art of SCA Tournament Combat has evolved out of almost nothing. When the art began it was with a couple of blokes fighting with broomsticks at a medieval fancy dress birthday party in Berkley, USA. As research was later to show, fighting with “clubs” instead of real swords was a safe and common means of carrying out beehourd tournaments in medieval times.

These clubs were made out of whale bone, wood or rebated (blunted) swords. In the SCA, we choose to use Rattan cane as the base material for our weapons (note: split lengths of Rattan cane are commonly used to make the Kendo fencing sword, the shinai).

In the four decades since that birthday party, thousands and thousands of tournaments have been held around the world. What started out as a bit of fun has grown in the competitive arena of the “list field” into a sophisticated armed fighting system centred around sword and shield combat (and a sizeable number of sub-styles including but not limited to the mace, axe, two handed sword and glaive). Naturally, in the absence of a continuous tradition of Western martial arts, knowledge was taken from various Eastern martial arts (notably kendo and escrima) and then adapted to the demands of the modern competitive beehourd tournament.

In the last four years, a steadily increasing number of actual medieval manuals, or fechtbucher (German:”fightbooks”), have been translated from medieval German, French and Italian and published. These fighting treatises were designed by masters of medieval combat (who were almost uniformly of common rather than noble origin) and taught to those of the knightly class and, where local laws allowed it, the common class as well. It remains to be seen how this influx of new and, more importantly, historically accurate fighting styles will impact on SCA Tournament Combat.

Now of course, medieval combat with swords, shields and armour is great fun, but like any martial art, there are rules and regulations to ensure the safety of the players (and the spectators too!).


Archery in the SCA takes two forms: target and mixed combat. Target archery consists of target shoots with longbow, recurve or crossbow (not compound) at a series of standard ranges. Arrows must be wooden with feather fletching. Abertridwr participates in Inter-Kingdom Archery Competitions from time to time, and archery practices are held regularly.

Mixed combat consists of “heavy” fighters, armed with traditional SCA weaponry such as sword and shield, and “lights”, who are armed with bow and arrows. Mixed combat is typically held at camping events, such as Canterbury Faire, where different scenarios are used to mix the two fighting forms. There are important safety rules governing this sort of combat, and all fighters must authorise for this in addition to the standard “heavy” fighting.

If you want to fight in mixed combat, you must have legal mesh on your helm and heavy fabric covering all skin. Bows for mixed combat are permitted to pull no more than 30lbs at 28 inches for longbows and recurves; crossbows no more than 600 inch-pounds. Compound bows are not permitted. Blunts must be a minimum of three-quarter inches across the striking surface and be securely attached. Shafts must be wooden and bound in fibretape.


The rules of the list set out the Society’s standards on weapons and armour, and how hard the fighters are allowed to hit each other. The SCA has a good safety record and we consider our sport safer than playing rugby; however, as with any sport, there is an inherent risk involved. We try to make participants aware of the dangers, and insist on responsible behaviour.

Most local groups offersome form of fighter training. See the Meetings & Activities page for the next fighters’ practice in Abertridwr.

A fighter must be authorized in order to fight in tourneys and wars. Authorization is done to confirm that the novice knows the rules of combat and is sufficiently skilled so that he or she will not be a danger to himself or to others on the field. A completed Combat Authorisation Form must be presented before a fighter can be fully authorised.

Fighters are responsible for obtaining their own armour and weapons. Some people make most of their armour, using metal, leather, or plastic, but most buy pieces, either new or used. Sub-standard equipment is not allowed, so before making any armour, or weapons you will need to contact the Abertridwr Marshal and get a copy of the safety standards and requirements.



Marshals are responsible for overseeing the conduct of our martial arts activities, including but not limited to tournament lists, wars, combat archery and period fencing, as well as such related activities as target archery.

We welcome anyone interested in contributing to the safety and enjoyment of combat. Our Marshals are happy to take on Marshals In Training to assist with our various combat forms. If you’d like to become a Marshal in Training, please contact the Abertridwr Marshal.

Another important combat-related administration position is the Lists Officer, responsible for organising the fighting order in tournaments and recording the results. If you would like to assist with this by taking note of results, or acting as a runner between the marshals and the lists, contact the Lists Officer


Well, if you go to a professional armourer and get a suit of gothic plate made for you – it might cost you between $2,500-$10,000. But if you’re willing to learn basic armouring, buy the raw components and spend the time to make it, it could cost as little as $150 – $300!

It’s also a good way to get to know us better!