Nerds vs. Jocks

There have been a number of discussions on–line, over beers and in the car about whether or not SCA Tournament Combat is a sport, hobby or a martial art. The answer one gives is often very dependent on what the individual either gets out of their involvement in the group and/or their approach to the activities.

One example of this is a local combatant who sees Tournament Combat as a sport. Because it is a sport for them, they see that if something is allowed under the rules then it is OK. Shortcuts and sneaky plays are not only justifiable they are encouraged within this mindset as it is the win that is primary. On the other side of the scale I also have a trainee who very much sees this as a martial art and thus the way they achieve a victory is the more important thing. They will call back a cut if they were not happy with the technique or thought it was not a good hit. Cheesy moves play no part in this person’s game. I also have someone who is very much the hobbyist. For this person it is all about the look of the thing. Flashy sword moves are to be promoted, regardless of the actual usefulness.

I think many of use exist somewhere between these points and we may indeed shift our perspective over time and dependant on event and activity. What is important here is that we need to understand that what makes sense to one person will not appeal to another and these views are often grounded in how the individual understands what it is we do.

One example of this is the use of the shield to pin the opponent’s weapon and arm. The sporting school would say that using the shield to block is fine in the rules and any pushing back onto the arm (which is not allowed) is unintentional and the opponent should not have allowed themselves to be so pined. The martial artist may suggest that such a move is poor form and that blocking the weapon in such a way prevents the person from being able to fight back thus preventing a truly challenging contest. The hobby people may think that clubbing people is not fun and would not like to be treated that way in return.

This is vastly over simplifying such issues but I find it gives me a useful insight in to peoples outlooks and behaviour.


9 thoughts on “Nerds vs. Jocks

  1. Ysambart

    There is room for all three, and you will run into people who exemplarise all three. I tend to be in the hobbyist camp first, then the martial artist, and then the sport camp. However, I would argue against using the term ‘sportsman’ for the ‘win at all costs’ types. In my mind they are quite distinct from sportman, exhibiting, I would say, a complete lack of sportsmanship.

  2. Ysambart. I would agree that people can be part of all three. You are also right about my use of the term ‘sportsman’. i use it here in a negative way and probably should find a more appropreat term.

  3. I see the SCA in general as a hobby, with heavy fighting sitting for me somewhere between a sport and a martial art – a combat sport which also includes certain attitudes and ways of comporting oneself, particularly in the way we call blows.

    When I attempt to use my shield to lock down someone’s arm, it’s not because I think anything technically within the rules is justified, or because I want to win at any cost, but because I see that kind of maneuvering as part of the ‘challenging contest’. If I can do so, i’m not depriving them of their capacity to fight any more than if I was taking a limb (and so restricting their mobility, offence and/or defense).

    Some fighters choose to drop to their knees when they leg an opponent – I view it as a similar choice. I see taking a leg, or using my shield to restrict their striking options, as equal advantages earned in the course of combat. If you’re not used to people deploying their shields in that way, it will significantly detract from your effectiveness. But I think the same is true if you aren’t used to fighting on your knees, or fighting with only one arm.

    The underlying idea is probably something like this: fighting as well and as hard as you can is a way of honouring and respecting your opponent.

  4. Eggs- The difficulty I have with a lot of the people who like to do the shield bind thing is that they often end up pushing on the body or arm. Indeed it is an almost constant fustration and is to my thinking an abuse of our rules. The rules say that you may place a shield or haft safely on the person. Too often it is more than a simple placement.

    1. If your concern is people who are striking their opponent with a shield, certainly that shouldn’t be permitted. But I don’t think the rules prohibit a push, assuming it is done safely. For example, I take it that placing a shield on an opponent’s hilt or arm and then pressing it towards/away from their body would be permissible, but would not be if the movement caused their arm to be twisted into a joint lock or similar. Would you consider the former permissible?

      For reference, the section I’m looking at is:

      “A shield or weapon may be used to displace, deflect, or immobilize an opponent’s shield or weapon, so long as such use does not endanger the safety of the combatants. A shield or haft may be safely placed against the opponent’s body to restrict his ability to strike or defend.” (Martial’s Handbook, IV. D, p. 10,

      1. I will admit this is a question of interpretation and local fighting custom.

        The rules say ‘placed’ they do not say push (safely or otherwise). When does a placement become a push? What is the different between a safe push and a potently dangerous one?

        However the rules also state-
        12. Deliberately striking an opponent with a shield, weapon haft, bow, or any part of the body is forbidden.
        So is a push ‘deliberately striking’?
        My reading of this (and this is only a personal opinion) is that any contact of my opponent with my shield is poor form and must be avoided. Those that end up pushing peoples arms about and then say that it was not deliberate etc are to my way of thinking just using this as an excuse for poor control and form.

        I have also seen these tactics being taught and used to an extent were it became dangerous for the pinned combatant. I have seen shoulders being pushed to potential injury and others being hit in the body and head with shields.

        I think it is better to not use such a technique that can lead to such things

      2. There’s certainly a degree of variation – I don’t think it’s an obligatory technique, or anything like that. But with a specific rule allowing for deliberate use of the shield on the body of your opponent, I don’t think that it’s ambiguous in terms of the rules, and I’m not sure how one would arrive at the conclusion that the meaning of the rules is that any contact of one’s opponent with one’s shield must be avoided. As a personal judgement, or a preference, sure – but I can’t see a clause being added to specifically allow X if X is always supposed to be avoided.

        As to questions of definition, we could ask the same questions for half the clauses in the rules, but it makes more sense to me to use common understandings of the terms. So a push is less violent than a strike, and the force is usually applied once contact has already been made. Safety is a numbers game – is one’s action meaningfully increasingly the chance that someone will be injured? If so, it may be unsafe.

        I’m also not quite sure what you mean by “poor form” – the rules explicitly permit using a shield on your opponents body. Do you mean that it is discourteous or bad technique (or both)?

  5. I will go back to one of my previous comments about this is an issue of custom and interpretation. The rules allow a certain level of action. To my mind, in practice, this is often means people push the rule as far as they can (and beyond). I do not like this and do not do it. I will teach my students the same. What everyone else does is largely up to them and their own ideas of what tournament combat is about.
    I know of at least one Kingdom that forbids any shield to body contact explicitly. I would like to see that happen here, but I think such tactics are too ingrained with some many people.
    As to my comment about poor form. Personally I would say it is bad technique as there are plenty of possibly more effective ways of defeating your opponent that does not get your shield out of position. Too often I see bouts descending into messy failing about due to people pushing their shields out of position, getting too close and general scrappiness.
    Discourteous, maybe. We are not allowed to strike a helpless opponent. If I pin their sword to an extent they are unable to attack have I made them helpless? Again this is purely a personal opinion.
    In the end the idea approach is to develop effective counters to the shield pin. If someone tries it, they will just end up getting their shield displaced and hit in the head.

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