SCA Life

Insult and Injury

This is from March 2017


A friend started another discussion about supporting fighting in the SCA.

Following Her Highness’s post on the middle Kingdom group has me thinking.

A lot of people are making the comment that they’ll watch fighting if they know someone who is taking part. Otherwise they spend their time elsewhere.

Now I recognize the fact that we all have varied interests and things that we prefer to do at events. However I wonder how many people would be insulted if the fighters said the same thing.

I only got to court if I know someone who is getting an award.

I only check out the A&S display if I know someone who is entered.

I only eat the food if I know the cook.

I wonder what it would be like, if we all tried to support each other as much as we wish we were supported?

Just something to think about the next time you go to an event.

My response

I guess your real question is the insult. Am I insulted that a fighter who would otherwise not be interested in what I do skips what I do? No. Why should someone who doesn’t care what I do want to attend my classes? Or look at my art work? They should do what makes them happy.

The second question of the post is, “could it be better if we supported each other more?” Sure it can be better but when most events are catch-alls (a little bit of everything), it just isn’t possible. If an event is fighting, classes, craftsperson’s faire, and more, you can either do the thing that interests you or not do the thing that interests you to support someone else’s thing. Most people will naturally want to do the thing that interests them.

I prefer smaller events that are focused on specific things. Scribin and Imbidin for example. If you don’t like brewing and scribing, this is not the event for you. Find a different event that does interest you. Metal and Glass was another example. You want to do those things, don’t miss this event.

I want to add to that.

My friend’s question is in response to a query HRH made about why people either do or do not watch tournaments. I then saw a response from another person about why a significant regional event was being held opposite a major Kingdom event (which was a fighting event). This other response was definitely thinking it was inappropriate for the regional event to be so.

I am beginning to think this is not a coincidence that these topics happened at the same time. Is there a lack of attendence or interest in tournaments? Are the fighters concerned they are losing an audience (which some will say they didn’t have or need)? I am not 100% clear what is happening here.

My friend insists that they just want everyone to support each other and that the pagentry somewhat requires better participation. I see it as one sided. Would the upset commentator be upset that a regional fighting event was posted opposite the one major non-fighting Kingdom event? Based on past experience, no I don’t think so. Is HRH asking, do you teach classes, if not, why not? No she is not.

So basically two issues here. One that was very elegantly expressed is that the SCA is not a spectator hobby. You are not here to be entertained (in general) but you are part of the experience. You only get what you put in the SCA. That means that everyone will be doing the thing they brings them joy. Some of them will find joy in being a spectator and socializing. I did a class on psychographics and while the vast majority of people want to DO something, there were a reasonable number who wanted the experience or socialization instead. But most will be doing whatever it is they enjoy about the medieval time period. Some will fight. Others will educate. More will craft and demonstrate.

Two is that the SCA is a priori structured to benefit the fighters. The fighters have the political power.  You have to be a fighter to be royalty. It is generally easier and faster to gain a knighthood then other peerages. Most households are based around a fighter. Comraderie is high amongst fighters. The majority of major Kingdom events are fighting events. Most other events have some fighting in them.  The majority of inter-Kingdom events (wars) are fighting events. Fighting is every where. Given that, I am not sure what the fighters have to be concerned about. With their political power, fighting is not going away anytime soon.

The intersection of these two issues is that many fighters do ignore other parts of the SCA. I say this not to shame them; it is just true. There is no blame though. The fighters want to fight. And they have plenty of opportunity to do so. They enjoy it and they should. Go fighters! But they have little reason or even opportunity to participate in A&S, or service, or whatever. Likewise, the people who want to prove their A&S chops participate in their activities to be good at them as well.

The irony of the two issues is that SCA fighting is perhaps the least medieval thing we do. (I just lost a bunch of you). The weapons are not real (for safety reasons but they are not real weapons). Some of the armor is period construction. Most of the fighting styles are not period (we limit where you can hit someone for instance). Most of the tournament structures are not period. I will admit I haven’t research them and I made be 100% wrong but as a non-fighter, I am not sure what about SCA fighting IS actually historical. And lastly, fighting a tournament to determine a king is not period either.

Being a good general got you to be king sometimes. Getting elected by the nobles of the realm worked most times to become King. Especially if you had land or money to throw around. Being a good farmer even got someone elected King (poland). But no monarchy is going to risk its political power in a winner take all brawl to see who is the next king. Most systems eventually became primogenture to keep it all in the family. So SCA tournaments are fun but as the saying goes, no basis for a system of government.

Rapier is very true to medieval activity. The weapons are real. Many Dons practice actual fencing manuals. The best A&S is medieval. There are many short cuts and modern, but medieval looking, practices here as well. To me the truest medieval art we practice is Commedia. And to get enough people together for that, you pretty much need a major event.

All of this is pretty round about for me to say, the fighters have the political power and it is the other parts of the SCA that need their support, not vice versa. If we ever can have a “royal” rank that is achieved by right of mind or right of service or popular acclaim, then the fighters can have some claim to lower support. To give another paraphrase, like Aelfric’s blacksmith, the fighters only give us, “shining steel and the noise of clanging” metal. That clanging metal has a powerful draw; it is why many participate in the SCA. But we are historical and it is the historical arts that need the support.

Last thought, to be good at anything, you have to practice at it. To be recognized as good at anything, you have to show others you are good at it. Naturally then, you will gravitate to the activities that foster both of these. The fighers are going to fight and watch fighting. The weavers are going to weave and discuss weaving. There can be a casual interest but really this is how it is going to be and how it should be. Showing support does not need to be everyone gathered around the ring as in pro wrestling. The fact that the events have space set aside for a multitude of activities and the Society supports this is the support.

2 thoughts on “Insult and Injury”

  1. I’ve participated in A&S classes, events, and group meetings. I own a period instrument. I’ve taught and attended classes.

    I’ve participated in fighting events, training, and group practices. I own a sword. I’ve run and won tournaments.

    There’s a reason the SCA culture is mostly fighters. A&S culture in the SCA makes practically no effort to train and less to recruit, and almost none to grow the communal bond outside of events, as compared with fight culture. This isn’t a failing of the A&S crowd or a virtue to the fight crowd – without an active pool of trained participants, fighting doesn’t happen. Recruiting new people and training them up are a necessary part of being a good fighter – it can not be done in a vacuum, unlike the vast majority of A&S. Also, a sword lent to a newbie isn’t consumed unlike the vast majority of A&S supplies, so the “initial investment” is easier to maintain for fight recruitment.

    Add to that: public-displays of devotion, or lack there of. Again, fighting can’t happen in a vacuum, so fight practices are weekly or twice weekly, attended by ALL fighters who are available. A&S nights tend to be monthly, if your local group is VERY A&S heavy – and then only attended by the devotees of that specific A&S activity. The A&S artist may be working just as many hours as the fighter – but they’re doing it alone, at home, out of sight and away from the ability to grow bonds and culture with each other. What most A&S ministers would call “Amazingly over-the-top levels of service and devotion” most marshals would call “Running a normal practice.”

    So when one activity spends half of their hobby time in active prosthelization and another activity is completely insular and self-focused – it’s not surprising which activity is the one to be the most popular and populous.

    In addendum to the rest: There is a requirement for a fighter to prove their interest and willingness to participate in A&S before they obtain their Knighthood or Master of Defense, and they are expected to develop some acumen in at least two fields – or GoA-ish level acumen in a single field. There is no requirement for a Laurel to prove their interest or willingness to participate in a marshal activity. There is no requirement for a Pelican to show interest in either – though it’s a fair counterpoint to say a Pelican is inherently supportive of both, regardless of direct participation.

    In the same way you feel a bit of a burr at the suggestion that non-fighters should support fighting events – many fighters feel a bit of a burr at the requirement that they support A&S in addition to “the thing they want to do.”

    End of the day – both are about trying to keep it a singular Society, rather than several fractured and unrelated social groups under the same tax exempt status.

  2. Please realize that the concept of an event having something for everyone and having a barony put on only one event per year is a Middle Kingdom thing, not an SCA thing. When I first arrived in the Middle kingdom I found that events tried to do something for everyone and events were limited to one or two per group per year. I was told that was because they catered to families, the man fought and the woman wanted something to entertain her and the kids. I have never fit that demographic.

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