A History of Rapier Combat in the SCA

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A caveat: this is from my perspective, based on my memory and material in the Society Rapier Marshallate files. As such, I’m sure there are things that I’ve either forgotten, or was never aware of in the first place.

The Birthplace of Rapier Combat

That depends on how you define it. There were bouts fought at the First Tournament, using foils and modern fencing rules. Rapier combat in some form persisted on the fringes of the SCA as the organization grew. At my first tournament, in November of AS X (1975), there was a "swashbuckling list"; it was one of the things that attracted me to the SCA. Arguably, I was the one who pushed hardest for rapier combat in Ansteorra, but there were also groups in the East, the Outlands and Atenveldt (possibly other places, but those I know for sure) in that same timeframe.

In September of AS XIV (1979), the Board officially recognized rapier fighting as an ancillary activity of the SCA, so that date could also be used.

Early development

Several kingdoms never officially recognized rapier combat, it just grew. I guess you could define "official recognition" as when their first set of rules was approved, but I know there was fighting in Atenveldt (when Ansteorra and the Outlands were still principalities) for years before there were any "official" rules. The same is true for the East.

Also, some groups had rules and organized tournaments well before the BoD approval in 1979. Another factor is that in some areas (like Atlantia and Trimaris) rapier combat started, died out, and started again.


May 1966 First SCA tournament. Some bouts were fought using modern fencing rules and equipment.

May AS IV (1969) Poul Anderson (Sir Bela of Eastmarch) mentions "some people are experimenting with rapier and dagger" in a fanzine article about the SCA. ("Richard the Lionhearted is Alive and Well in California" published in the May 1969 issue of “Amra.”)

November AS X (1975) My first event, in Bjornsborg (San Antonio TX.) I fought in a "swashbuckling list"--modern fencing rules, no armor requirements beyond a fencing mask, about 7 fighters. In the car on the way home, I said to myself "This could be fun, if it was done right." I started researching period sources and fighting styles.

November AS XI (1976) Tournament of the Queen’s Grace in Bjornsborg. Things were still in their infancy. Due to the cold weather, the rapier list was canceled, but we fought a couple of demo bouts for the King and Queen of Atenveldt.

March AS XI (1977) The Society Marshal, Andrew of Seldom Rest issues a ban on all "kendo, wrestling, fencing and archery at human targets." I start a letter-writing campaign to get the ban lifted.

June AS XII (1977) Duke Andrew issues the first (as far as I know) set of SCA rapier fighting rules. They are about ¾ of a page long, and extremely primitive.

September AS XII (1977) I become deputy marshal for rapier combat for the Barony of the Stargate (Houston TX). At this point, there are maybe two or three dozen rapier fighters in the Texas area; there’s also a group in Colorado and one in Phoenix.

November AS XII (1977) Ansteorra becomes a Principality; I am named Principality rapier marshal.

December AS XIII (1978) Investiture of Simonn and Tessa as Prince and Princess of Ansteorra. They ask me to put together a proposal for an award to recognize rapier fighters.

March AS XIII (1979) First White Scarf made.

May AS XIV (1979) First Ansteorran Crown Tourney. During a rapier list on Sunday, a fighter’s epee breaks. It looks like his opponent was hit in the armpit, but closer examination shows it’s just a bruise, the skin was not broken. Nevertheless, I am asked by the Earl Marshal to develop better armor standards--something that will stop a broken blade. (With Ansteorra’s elevation to kingdom, I’m now the Kingdom Rapier Marshal.)

June AS XIV (1979) Experimentation shows that 4-oz leather will stop broken blades. I rewrite the rules accordingly.

August AS XIV (1979) As a result of rumors about the broken blade and "serious injury" in May, Atenveldt bans rapier combat. The Society Marshal, Earl Kevin Perigrynne, decides to bring the matter up before the SCA Board of Directors.

September AS XIV (1979) I attend the Board meeting, and persuade them that rapier combat can be done safely in the SCA. The Board makes a Governing and Policy Decision to allow rapier fighting as an ancillary activity of the SCA, but it may not be used for Crown or Coronet tournaments.

October AS XIV (1979) Earl Kevin publishes a set of SCA-wide rapier rules, based on the existing Ansteorran rules. These rules are the basis for all subsequent SCA rules. Although the wording has changed several times, the basic elements are almost the same to this day.

March AS XIV (1980) First Ansteorran Queen’s Champion Tournament, beginning of a tradition. Thirty or forty fighters compete.

August AS XV (1980) I attend my first Pennsic (#9). I met about a dozen rapier fighters from the East, their fighting style was quite different from what we were doing in Ansteorra: sort of saber-fencing using epee blades.

February AS XVI (1982) Alaric Greythorne introduces the first Trigger-cloth armor.

January AS XVII (1983) First Academy of the Rapier held in Ansteorra.

January AS XVII (1983) An Tir publishes their first set of rapier rules. Due to concerns about broken blades, they are using fiberglass buggy whips instead of steel fencing blades.

January AS XX (1986) First Trimarian rapier rules. Don Robin and Baroness Adelicia had moved to Trimaris sometime in 1985. They organized a rapier group there, but it died out after they moved back to Ansteorra.

April-May AS XX-XXI (1986) SCA Twentieth Year Celebration. A Rapier Academy is held as part of the event.

March AS XXI (1987) Dons Iolo and Dupre demonstrate The Machine at Ansteorra’s third Academy of the Rapier.

May AS XXII (1987) Recognizing the growing popularity of rapier combat in the SCA, the Society Marshal and Board of Directors appoint me Deputy Society Marshal for Rapier Combat.

August AS XXII (1987) Pennsic 16, The East Kingdom gives out the first of their Gold Cords.

Earliest set of Eastern rules in the files.

September AS XXII (1987) Oldest set or Outlands rapier rules in the files. I know they were fighting rapier for quite a while before this, however, as they helped in the letter-writing campaign to Duke Andrew.

October AS XXII (1987) Ansteorra and the Outlands sign the first White Scarf treaty.

July-August AS XXIII (1988) Beginning of rapier fighting in the East Kingdom’s Principality of Drachenwald.

December AS XXIII (1988) Rapier group becoming organized in Atlantia.

January AS XXIII (1989) Oldest set of Atenveldt rules in the files. As with the Outlands, and the East, I know there were rapier fighters there well before this date.

June AS XXIV (1989) I attend the first Atlantian Academy of the Rapier. I believe this movement wilted, and re-started a couple of years later.

November AS XXIV (1989) First mention in the files of schlager blades being used in Atenveldt.

January AS XXIV (1990) The East Kingdom’s Principality of Drachenwald inducts the first two rapier fighters into the Silver Guard, their Principality combat order.

August AS XXV (1990) Pennsic 19, Crown Prince Dag of the Midrealm wanders past the rapier fighting area. He is asked what it would take to get rapier fighting accepted in the Middle Kingdom. He said "Maybe a petition with 200 signatures?"

October AS XXV (1990) Trimaris re-starts rapier combat.

January AS XXV (1991) John & Mairi, having recently moved to the Middle from Ansteorra, start a petition for rapier combat in the Middle Kingdom. With the help of Baron Ælfred and others, in a few months they have their 200 signatures and more.

March AS XXV (1991) SCA Twenty-fifth Year Celebration. The rapier area sees lots of action, with fighters from throughout the Known World participating in classes, informal discussion groups, and kingdom-sponsored tournaments.

July AS XXVI (1991) Don Robin of Gilwell from Ansteorra travels to the Midrealm to demonstrate rapier fighting. This is the beginning of the Middle’s highly successful "rent-a-Don" program, where various experts are brought in from other kingdoms to help teach rapier fighting.

August AS XXVI (1991) Oldest set of Caidian rules in the files. Strongly based on the Atenveldt rules, using epee and schlager.

November AS XXVI (1991) Calontir begins discussing rapier combat.

June AS XXVII (1992) Trimaris signs on to the White Scarf Treaty, at the first Gulf War.

August AS XXVII (1992) East Kingdom makes the first 14 Companions of the Golden Rapier, an Award of High Merit recognizing rapier fighters.

March AS XXVII (1993) Rapier rules approved for the West Kingdom’s Principality of Lochac, using fiberglass blades.

May AS XXVIII (1993) Midrealm gives out the first Cavendish Knots, an AoA award for rapier combat.

August AS XXVIII (1993) Meridies writes a set of experimental schlager-based rapier rules. Unfortunately, the following Crown cancels the experiment before it really gets off the ground.

December AS XXVIII (1993) Calontir holds a kingdom-wide meeting about rapier combat. The proposed weapons are fiberglass blades, and the technique includes slashing. The Crown’s decision, published in March of 1994, is that they will not allow rapier combat.

April AS XXVIII (1994) Middle Kingdom hosts the first Known World Academy of the Rapier, in Chicago.

Also, Middle fully allows rapier combat.

June AS XXIX (1994) Atenveldt and An Tir join the White Scarf Treaty.

April AS XXIX (1995) Second Known World Academy of the Rapier, in Phoenix.

June AS XXX (1995) Rapier rules approved for the West Kingdom’s Principality of Oertha, using steel blades.

January AS XXX (1996) Meridies begins a year-long "rapier experiment." It is abruptly canceled in November, after an injury in Trimaris.

Also in January, Atlantia joins the White Scarf Treaty.

August AS XXXI (1996) West Kingdom bans all rapier combat by Royal Proclamation.

October AS XXXI (1996) Third Known World Academy of the Rapier, in Dallas.

November AS XXXI (1996) Caid joins the White Scarf Treaty.

May AS XXXII (1997) West Kingdom signs the "unified rules" they are promptly suspended for further study by the following Crown.

Also, East Kingdom hosts Fourth Known World Academy of the Rapier, in western Massachusetts.

June AS XXXII (1997) West Kingdom allows rapier fighting using only fiberglass blades.

August AS XXXII (1997) Meridies begins their third rapier experiment, again using schlager only.

First Rapier Champions Tournament at Pennsic War.

October AS XXXII (1997) The new kingdom of Æthelmearc joins the White Scarf Treaty, and makes their first members.

January AS XXXII (1998) The new kingdom of Artemisia joins the White Scarf Treaty and makes their first members.

Also, Drachenwald creates the Order of the Dragon’s Steel, a grant-level award for rapier combat.

February AS XXXII (1998) Introduction of the Del Tin "practice rapier" blades. This is the first of many rapier-style blades made specifically for the SCA and other historical recreation or Western Martial Arts groups.

May AS XXXIII (1998) West Kingdom allows schlager blades in addition to fiberglass blades.

July AS XXXIII (1998) I step down as Deputy Society Marshal for Rapier Combat. Don Giovanni di Fiamma from Trimaris is my replacement.

November AS XXXIII (1998) An Tir hosts the fifth Known World Academy of the Rapier.

Also, Ealdormere creates the order of Thorbjorn’s Hammer, a Grant-level award for all combat styles.

March 10, AS XXXIII (1999) Twentieth anniversary of the Order of the White Scarf.

April AS XXXIII (1999) Midrealm Creates the Order of the Bronze Ring, a grant-level award for rapier combat.

July AS XXXIV (1999) Ansteorra begins a Youth Rapier Program, allowing kids of 12 and older to compete against other kids.

November AS XXXIV (1999) Atlantia hosts the sixth Known World Academy of the Rapier.

September, AS XXXV (2000) Artemesia hosts the seventh Known World Academy of the Rapier in Salt Lake City.

April, AS XXXV (2001) A proposal to experiment with “sidesword” or early cut-and-thrust rapier is made by some folks in Atenveldt. Baron Gwylym is appointed the Deputy Society Marshal for Sidesword.

October, AS XXXVI (2001) The Middle Kingdom hosts the eighth Known World Academy of the Rapier in Chicago.

July, AS XXXVII (2002) The new kingdom of Lochac joins the White Scarf Treaty and makes their first members.

October, AS XXXVII (2002) Atenveldt hosts the ninth Known World Academy of the Rapier in Phoenix.

October, AS XXXVIII (2003) The Outlands hosts the tenth Known World Academy of the Rapier in Denver, in conjunction with the Known World Costuming Symposium.

October, AS XXXIX (2004) The new kingdom of Northshield joins the White Scarf Treaty and makes their first members.

Ansteorra hosts the eleventh Known World Academy of the Rapier in Austin.

January, AS XXXIX (2005) The Society Marshal abruptly halts the Sidesword experiment, claiming there are “discrepancies” in how Sidesword was being done in various kingdoms.

March AS XXXIX (2005) Meridies begins the Meridien Order of the Blade, an Award of High Merit for rapier fighters.

July AS XXXX (2005) The Board approves “Historic Combat Studies” as an element of the Arts & Sciences office. This allows study of techniques in various period manuals that wouldn’t be allowed (due to safety concerns) on the SCA combat field.

November AS XXXX (2005) Atlantia hosts the twelfth Known World Academy of the Rapier.

Also, the new kingdom of Gleann Abhann opens their Order of the Queen’s Blades.

January AS XXXX (2006) “Cut and Thrust Rapier” (formerly known as Sidesword) is included as a third form of rapier fighting within the SCA.

September AS XLI (2006) Caid hosts the thirteenth Known World Academy of the Rapier

May AS XLII (2007) The order of the Western White Scarf is opened in the Kingdom of the West. While very similar to the White Scarf in other kingdoms, internal political considerations prevented the West from signing the White Scarf Treaty. Instead, they received separate “permission to conflict” letters from the other White Scarf kingdoms.

November/December AS XLII (2007) Northshield hosts the fourteenth Known World Academy of the Rapier.

November AX XLIII (2008) The Middle Kingdom hosts the fifteenth Known World Academy of the Rapier.


As of this writing, there are White Scarves in Ansteorra, the Outlands, Trimaris, An Tir, Atenveldt, Atlantia, Caid, Aethelmearc, Artemisia, Lochac, Northshield and the West Kingdom. I believe all of these carry a Grant of Arms.

Ansteorra also has the Award of the Queen’s Rapier, which is a non-armigerous award for skill in rapier combat, and the Sable Talon, which is an AoA-level award for any combat skill.

Caid has the Order of the Duelist, also an AoA award.

Drachenwald has the Grant-level Order of the Dragon’s Steel.

Ealdormere has the Grant-level Order of Thorbjorn’s Hammer, which is given for excellence in any martial art, including rapier combat.

The East has the Order of the Golden Rapier, which was briefly allied with the White Scarves, but their Crown abrogated the treaty in October of 1996. They also have the "Gold Cords" which are unofficial awards, more like guild rankings than anything else.

Gleann Abhann has the Order of the Combattant Ram (AoA for any martial skill) and the Order of the Queen’s Blades (Grant level specifically for rapier.)

Meridies has the Companions of the Argent Rapier (AoA) and Meridien Order of the Blade (Order of High Merit.)

The Middle Kingdom has the Order of the Cavendish Knot (AoA) and the Order of the Bronze Ring (Grant.)

The West Kingdom had the Royal Company of Courtiers (formerly Guildmasters of Fence) which carried a Grant of Arms. This Order was closed when they set up their White Scarf.

I think that’s everybody.