Office of the Hospitaler

Combat Arts

One of the most well-known and widely-enjoyed activities in the SCA is combat. Our warriors participate in tournaments for individuals and teams, tactical melees involving dozens of combatants, and even large-scale wars with thousands of participants! Unlike reenactments of battles from history, our combat activities are unchoreographed and the outcome is entirely based on the skill and training of the combatants involved.  There are two main types of combat    armored and rapier.

Armored Combat

Armored combat in the SCA resembles medieval foot tournaments. Combatants can face each other in single combat in tournaments, or can take part in large melee battles that can have dozens or even hundreds of combatants on each side.

Since we prefer that no one gets hurt, SCA combatants wear real armor and use rattan swords. Rattan, which looks like bamboo but has a solid core, is springy enough to absorb some of the force of the blow without snapping, and light enough to approximate the weight of a steel sword. Swords are constructed by wrapping a yard-long piece of rattan in duct tape and attaching a hilt. Building armor is much more complex – a complete suit has many parts, which can be made from hammered steel, rivets, leather, even rigid plastic (if well-disguised). Some pieces of armor can take many, many hours to construct.

Novice fighters are trained by the more experienced fighters. They are taught how to use their weapons, how to defend themselves, and how to judge blows received in combat. Every fighter on the field is on his/her honor to accept a blow sufficient to “wound” or “kill”. At the end of training, if the marshals (our safety officers) decide that the fighter is safe – not necessarily good, but unlikely to hurt him or herself or an opponent – then the fighter is considered authorized to fight. The process of becoming authorized can take from a few weeks to several months.

Rapier Combat

Another type of SCA combat is fencing, also known as rapier combat. Participants use real blades and for protection they wear regulation fencing masks, padded torso protection, and shirts and pants made from heavy fabric to protect their limbs. Unlike modern fencing, SCA fencing is done “in-the-round”, and combatants can fight in close with their opponents. Blows are acknowledged by the recipient (as in armored combat), not by a set of judges. Fencers can face each other one-on-one in tournaments, or in large melee battles with dozens or even hundreds on a side.

SCA fencing has its own set of marshals who supervise the authorization process. New fencers must demonstrate their knowledge of the rules and ability to participate safely before they can compete in tournaments.

Horses played a major part in the Middle Ages, and that role is not forgotten in the SCA!
In SCA Equestrian Activities we practice the games of skill that squires and other mounted warriors would have learned in the medieval period.
One of these is hitting the quintain, a rotating piece of training equipment that helps the equestrian practice hitting a solid target. The more forceful the strike, the more rotations the quintain makes. But beware – on the other end is a counterweight that will come around and strike you if you are not quick enough!
Horses add so much to the pageantry and medieval feeling at events! There are opportunities for riders and non-riders alike! — Mistress Ysabeau Tiercelin
We also joust at rings. The rings range from 6 inches to a mere 1 inch, and the equestrian must spear these with their lance, usually while the horse is running at a canter! Other activities include spear throwing and stabbing objects on the ground, knocking (fake) heads off posts with a sword, obstacle courses, and archery from horseback.
Often these games are combined to form a course for the rider to perform, and sometimes teams of riders are needed to do all of the activities. These games allow the riders to display their historic gear and horse costumes, and provide true medieval pageantry.
The games display a partnership between horse and rider. Not everyone needs to own a horse and medieval tack to participate. Ground crews are always welcome to help reset targets and assist the riders. It is a great way to get introduced to our activities! And of course, spectators are also highly encouraged.


One of the most important skills throughout the timeframe that we recreate, archery was used for hunting, practice, and especially war. Archery played an important role in many a battle and many cultures depended upon their innovative and skilled archers for defense as well as a means of conquest.
In the Society, we offer options to participate in both target archery and combat archery!

Target Archery

In order to be as true to times as possible we try to use materials and methods available to period archers. This includes a focus on natural materials such as wood and feathers in our bows and arrows. Some modern types of equipment like compound bows, are not allowed in our archery activities to keep the playing field more level and medieval.

archery womenIn addition to the traditional target archery competitions where points are scored by shooting at a bullseye, the competitions for target archery are often designed to mimic situations faced by medieval archers. These might include 3-D or 2-D animal targets set at unknown ranges to demonstrate hunting prowess. Alternatively, a set of targets might be made to represent the slots on a fortress, the objective being to try to shoot the “archers” within the walls of a fortification under siege. Novelty targets will sometimes be encountered; blow out a candle with an arrow without hitting the candle itself, hit your target paddle to trip a swinging bar to block your opponent’s paddle from falling before they can shoot it, or get the best poker hand by skill or luck.

Combat Archery

Combat archery is more complicated and challenging than target archery, because your targets are all moving independently – and some of them may be shooting back at you or coming at you with a weapon of their own! Be assured, you will be using low-powered bows and you will be adequately armored, similarly to your opponents. The low power of the bows makes them much safer to use, and the design of the arrows and crossbow bolts ensures maximum safety, while still allowing your armored opponent to know they have been hit. The battle field may be a flat area of grass, ranged across the woods, or even an assault on a fortification, and ranges may be from point blank to as far as you can cast your arrow, all in the name of realism and the chaos of battle as experienced by our ancestors in ages long ago.

Thrown Weapons

In addition to the target competition found in archery, we also recreate additional target weapons styles. At many Society events, you can find opportunities to try throwing common medieval weapons such as axes, knives, and spears, all in a safe, monitored environment.

In all SCA combat, safety is the most important consideration. There are armor requirements and rules which all participants must follow. These activities are regulated by marshasls or safety officers.  the marshals inspect the combatants’ equipment to make sure they are safe. During the battles, the marshals watch for unsafe situations and keep spectators safe.     The Marshal's office can help you to get started with various Combat Arts