Class notes from Knights School

Here are the class notes from Knights School held in Sydney, September 2012.

It was basicaly a copied version of Count Gemini’s excellent class on shields (avalable on yourtube).

Defence – Knights School September 2012


Time + Distance + Line = Measure

  • Time is the time in which it takes to execute a cut or respond to a defensive option. The shorter the distance then the faster a cut will reach the target.
  • Distance is how far away things are. Range.
  • Line is the line between opponents (face the weapon) and the line of the attack.
  • The three options – Out of measure, in measure, closed measure.
  • Measure is defined by the longest reach/weapon


  • The Shield must be the primary defence – control of measure helps
  • Position of the shield – stacking the defence.
  • Three shield positions Open, Mid and Closed
  • Sword and shield close as range diminishes – open doors with rain coming in
  • Strong and weak parts of the shield
  • Control Point
  • Historical use?


  • Leading foot moves first
  • Always on the balls of your feet
  • Maintain an effective distance for your weapon

When training, always go back to your footwork. Most mistakes in any technique begin with problems in stance and position.


The wisdom of cats

Last week I was at Lochac Knights School. There were about 70 participants and teachers all gathered to further their understanding of SCA combat. I was a good weekend with some interesting observations. I may write something about this soon.

In the meantime I offer here a small story about how a cat can catch a rat. It is originally a kendo/Japanese tale, changed here only a little.

Once upon a time, there was a man called Nicolas who lived in a small village near Gent. He lived alone in his house except for a great, big rat.

He asked his friend if he could borrow three alley cats from him as he knew alley cats were good at catching rats. One of them was extremely quick, the other one was full of fighting spirit and the third one was good at catching rats from any distance. However, none of them could catch the big rat.

After a while, Nicolas heard that there was a famous old cat living in the next village who was good at catching rats. “That’s it!” he thought to himself, “I will get that cat to catch my rat.” He brought the cat back home with him the next day.

The old cat didn’t look like he could catch anything. He didn’t look fast or quick or clever. The rat continued in his insolent way and ran around the house as he pleased, but as soon as the old cat walked into the house, the rat suddenly ran to a corner of the room and stopped moving. He was as still as a stone. The old cat slowly walked up to the rat and caught it easily.

The three alley cats were really surprised. They had never seen a cat quicker or faster or more clever than them. And this one certainly didn’t look like he could do the job. Later that night, Nicolas saw the three cats with many other cats sitting around the old cat listening to his story.

The youngest cat said, “I have a lot of techniques and I can move really fast. But that didn’t work.” “I see.” The old cat said. “It seems you have just learned the technique. That’s why you couldn’t get him. Speed is not everything. If you are obsessed about catching your target quickly, you may think speed is most important. You certainly need speed to use your technical skills, but this it is not just quick action.” The old cat continued, “You have to try to watch for the time your opponent is about to lose concentration. This the real technique. Chance is not always visible. You have to feel it.”

Then, another older cat said “I am working hard to control my mind and give mental pressure to my opponent. I always use my mind to the utmost when I fight. I initiate the fight and then I attack. Therefore, I have never lost before. But it didn’t work on the big rat. I wonder why.” “I see.” The old cat said. ”Your fighting spirit is the same as a flood. Nothing more will come out once all the water is gone. You should remember that there are two different kinds of energy. One is the force of circumstance. This is limited. And the other is force from spirit. It is unlimited. The big rat was fighting to death. Its force was from spirit. Showing aggression is not an energy force.”

The third cat came out in front of the old cat and said “I use spirit and distance well for fighting. I don’t attack in the fight. If the opponent moves forward, I step back. If the opponent moves back, I move forward and always keep the same distance”. The old cat said “I see. That is not the spirit for fighting. It is merely coexistence”.

The cats seemed to understand and agreed with what the old cat said. Then the three cats said that it was the old cat’s turn to tell them his technique. The old cat said, “Now I will tell you what I did. There was nothing in my mind. I just let it happen.”

A crucible of honour

Every so often one watches a tournament bout or some practice passes and sees a combatant pushing the envelope of the rules in order to gain an advantage.  Is such a person in the wrong?

One person may see such actions as a combatant using every option available to them to gain victory, while another wonders if that same person is cheating just a little bit. This will always be a gray area and is possibly a good thing to remain that way.

Our tournaments are a testing ground of not only physical form and prowess but also one of mindset and behaviour.

Are we able to do something on the field as long as it is not specifically legislated against in the rules? Some I am sure would say yes. After all is not the purpose of a tournament to win?

While victory on the field is an admirable goal, the way that this victory is achieved is possibly more important. Our rules state that we must “extend the utmost courtesy to your opponent” and that “combatants shall behave in knightly and chivalrous manner”.  In many ways, you cannot put your honour to the test unless there is opportunity to fail.

Our tournaments are not like most sports, were the codes of what is and is not permissible is well documented. Our tournaments are very much the crucible of honour as much as prowess. Your renown rests as much on how the gallery regards your conduct on the field as the final outcome.

I would say that the greatest challenge is to defeat your opponent in a clean crisp contest of arms. I would have my opponents satisfied with the outcome though such a clean contest of skill rather than lingering doubts to the acceptability of my actions.

We also carry the favours of our consorts onto the field. We represent them more than we represent ourselves. Will your conduct be something admirable or will you be seen as a thug who places winning above everything else?

We are ultimately the authors of our own renown. The tournament field is a test honour and prowess. It is being able to pass these tests that we strive to be knightly, no matter the colour of the belt we wear.