For the most part when many people think of the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronisms) they think of "those people who dress up in funny clothes and do medieval stuff" rather than looking at it from any sort of idea of a martial arts tradition. For the most part SCA heavy combat is seen as two guys beating at one another with sticks until one or the other lays a blow on the other at which point in time he falls down "dead". More or less like some bad job of acting out one of the scenes of some medieval movie. It is not approached from the point of view of a combat art. This post will ask you to challenge those preconceptions of SCA heavy combat and have a look at it as a "living tradition".
So a tradition is something which is passed from one generation to another usually orally, sometimes physically. A living tradition means that it is something which has been going on for quite some time. There are claims by many oriental martial arts of living traditions which extend back hundreds of years, and even some occidental ones too. What should be noted is that SCA heavy combat has been passed down from one fighter to another for about the past fifty years or so. So in that respect it does qualify as a "living tradition".
To be more accurate, there are even some "schools" within the tradition of SCA heavy combat fighting. These are groups of heavy combatants who have been trained by the same senior fighter or fighters, usually one/s of renown and experience, who have developed a particular style and this style is reflected in the individuals who have trained under these senior combatants. Of course each will have added his own individual flavour due to differences in body-shape and movement, but the "school" of movement will definitely be there.
While some would argue against SCA heavy combat as being a martial art, it is most definitely a combat art. The practitioners are actively trying to strike one another and often there is a price that is sometimes paid for in pain when a blow strikes flesh, or simply a part of the fighter which is not armoured sufficiently. As this form of combat progresses through time it gathers more complexity and its training also develops more complexity as it is understood better, it also progresses towards the elements of a martial art that some would claim are missing. Could it be used in a self-defense situation? In the right situation, it most definitely could. Could it be used to disable an opponent to prevent them from doing harm? Again, in the right situation it could.
The next time you look at SCA heavy combatants fighting, or training, examine what they are doing. Go up and ask what they are doing and you will find a lot more complexity that you did not know existed. Ask about the history of their art and you will also find that there is a lot more there than you would have expected. While this living tradition could be seen as quite young, it is nevertheless a living tradition which is not just alive but thriving. Maybe it could do with a little less ridicule and a little more recognition for the common path which they travel.