Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Documentable Combinations


Things have been a little "dry" of late with regard to subjects of usefulness for my blog hence the gap between my last post and this one. However with some due consideration, I have decided that the current subject would be one which would be pertinent to discuss. I will be starting this particular subject with a disclaimer in order that I can be clear as to my subject matter and the point to the discussion.

This discussion is a discussion about the seven standard forms used in rapier combat within the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), as such the discussion will be more focussed on the conventions and rules of the SCA rather than any other organised form of combat. The discussion is not encouraging the removal of any combination of weapons or form from combat due to their documentable or not documentable nature. Something can be learnt from all forms regardless. This is designed to be a discussion of an intellectual nature exploring what is and is not available with regard to the documentation available and what we as fencers can imply or infer from what is available in order to make such undocumentable forms legitimate.

Seven Standard Combinations
In SCA Heavy Rapier which is the standard form of rapier combat used in Australia, with the adjunct of Cut-and-Thrust Combat being an additional form of combat. Within the standard form of Heavy Rapier there are seven recognised "standard" combinations being: single rapier, rapier and gauntlet, rapier and dagger, case of rapier, rapier and buckler, rapier and cloak, and rapier and cane or baton. This is not to imply that other forms do not exist or indeed are used. These are the seven recognised as "standard" for SCA Heavy Rapier purposes. As time goes on and other weapons are discovered and used more forms are introduced, but the seven remain as the standard ones.

Documentation is available for all but the rapier and baton combination. The single rapier is the standard one which most theorists begin with or at least appears somewhere in their work. Almost as popular as the single rapier is rapier and dagger, which is mentioned by most including Capo Ferro and Fabris to mention only two. Rapier and gauntlet is mentioned by Saviolo and Silver, if only in passing, though Saviolo's single rapier does focus on the use of the off-hand in defence as primary. Case of Rapier is mentioned in Di Grassi and also Agrippa, as is rapier and cloak. Finally rapier and dagger is mentioned in Di Grassi and even earlier in Marozzo. This presents a true glossing over of the theorists for these forms.

Rapier and Cane: Plausible
Arguments for the use of the rapier and cane can be found in the simple idea of an item found at hand placed in the off-hand. It may not be a specific cane but a stick or other object. Indeed even a rolling pin would suffice in this particular form to be useful. Turning further to the plausibility of the combination is the idea of the baton and its use by constabulary. The final argument for its use is with the walking cane which may or may not be a post sixteenth-century affectation of gentlemen of the period. With these merely presented while not clearly documented, or at least in my own research, the rapier and cane combination is at least a plausible combination.

"A Documentable Form"
The question we must ask ourselves with regard to the documentation of how a weapon or weapon combination is used is what we define as suitable documentation. There are primary and secondary documents which present evidence for particular forms, and in these instances the primary is always better, however good secondary sources can also be useful. Further to this we can, as presented above, apply rules of plausibility with regard to a form also.

We need to keep a reasonably open mind to the possibilty of a combination of weapons in what we do in order that we are more fully able to explore the combat which we are involved in. Each form has its own particular idiosyncracies and these need to be accepted and learnt from. To out-right deny a form simply because it does not have detail presented limits us to what we can use does not allow for invention or experimentation, both of which are most useful. This should always, of course, be tempered with sense and intellectual discovery. Explore different combinations and seek new meanings within them. There are many possibilities out there.