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In Hollywood, there are many movies set in the medieval times. One that comes to mind for me today is A Knight’s Tale from 2001, starring Heath Ledger. Any of you who have seen this film can vouch for the historical inaccuracy—but for those of you who have not viewed the film, or for those who have not factored history into the plot, take a look at this.

Perhaps the lack of historical accuracy presents itself heavily in the scene where Thatcher (played by Ledger) begins the jousting competition with the 14th century crowd singing “We Will Rock You” by Queen. The video below is the trailer for the movie, which briefly shows what I am talking about.

While we see accuracy in the jousting sport and desire to either participate in it, or watch it—it is obvious through the soundtrack, and clothing choices (which apparently come from a mixture of centuries) that A Knight’s Tale did not seek to be historically accurate. Looking at the other music presented on the soundtrack (David Bowie, Thin Lizzy) shows you that, for sure. Maybe though, it was because society demands something to relate themselves to, and very little music from this time period is known to us.

Regardless of the accuracy, the film did well to mix the medieval elements with the modern ones. The storyline is typical of many movies, having nothing to do with genre, time period of setting, or even cast. Main character has desire to better his or her self, with huge obstacle standing in the way, works around the obstacle in deceiving manners. Main character comes out on top as having accomplished the dream, only to be found out by the public, crushed. Public sees the desire, motive, and good intention forgives the main character and all is well in the movie. Though following this standard plot we see in many films, the medieval time period and the modern elements do their part to set this one apart from the rest.

Historical accuracy is for documentaries, not for comedic value! Obviously, this movie was made for entertainment value, and certainly gave that to the audience. If we were looking for historical accuracy throughout any medieval film, would we not look for a story that presented itself as based on truth?

More or less, this film is a great one for a wide audience—even those of us who may not share an interest in and love for medieval times. However, if you are one to spot and loathe historical blunders within a film, this one is definitely not for you!

What do you think about A Knight’s Tale? Did the historical inaccuracies aid the film, or harm it? Why does society dismiss inaccuracy in some films, yet crave it in others? Share your thoughts below.

Submitted by Cindy Watrous

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A & S in the SCA is more of a major part than combat. This is because A & S, or Arts and Science, encompass more. A & S is the study of period culture and technology, and methods for producing historically accurate artifacts and performances. (

When first joining the SCA you may not know what you want to do in A & S. This is ok. If you were drawn in by fighting, finding an Art or Science area that interests you may take time, especially if you do not know what all would be included in this category of the SCA. Don’t rush into something just because you think you are missing out on a great aspect of the SCA.

Watch other people work on projects. You can see this at some fight practices and many events. Talk to someone you see doing a project or, if you don’t, ask around. Some groups meet to work on projects and others are individual. You can even become an apprentice to some to learn a certain skill. And you might even find you have a modern day skill that will translate into a medieval one with some slight differences.

Some of the things studied in the SCA are:

• Agriculture
• Archery
• Armoring
• Baric Recitation
• Basketry
• Book Binding
• Bow Making
• Brewing
• Calligraphy
• Candle Making
• Cooking
• Costuming & Accessories
• Dancing
• Drama & Comedy
• Drawing
• Dyeing
• Embroidery
• Falconry
• Fighting
• Gaming
• Glass Blowing
• Heraldry
• Herbalism
• Horn Working
• Horsemanship
• Horticulture
• Husbandry
• Illumination
• Instrumental Music
• Jewelry
• Juggling
• Lace making
• Lapidary
• Leather Working
• Languages
• Masonry
• Masquing & Mime
• Mathematics
• Medicine
• Merchanting
• Metal Working
• Musical Composition
• Musical Instrument Making
• Needlework
• Newsletters & Publications
• Painting
• Paper Making
• Pavilion Making
• Period Fencing
• Philosophy
• Poetry
• Pottery
• Riddles
• Rug Making
• Scribing
• Sculpture
• Spinning
• Tanning
• Tool Making
• Toy Making
• Tumbling
• Vinting
• Vocal Music
• Weapon Smithing
• Weaving
• Woodworking

It is not required of anyone to do any of these A & S studies. But it will make your time in the SCA more interesting. And it’s even possible to turn your hobby into a profitable business so you have pleasure in working. All it takes is a step in the right direction.

Authorizing in SCA Heavy Weapons

admin on April 14th, 2008

Before you can fight in any actual combat in the SCA you must authorize.  This is the case for both armored combat and fencing.  An authorization is to make sure in combat situations you will be safe fighting.  There is no set time you must practice before attempting an authorization but you should know the basics before authorizing.  I did happen to authorize Saturday in heavy weapons.  Here is what is like so if you are thinking of doing it, you know what to expect.


First you must have full armor on and have your sword and shield with you.  They check to make sure your sword and shield are within standard and properly padded.  All armor is felt to make sure where it needs to be padded it is.  You are asked if you are wearing your groin protection however.  Your helm is checked to make sure it meets specs so nothing can get in to hurt you and that it will not come off during the authorization.  In the SCA safety is first above all else.


Next they pair you up with someone who has been fighting in the SCA for a long time.  This is so that during the authorization this person can tell the marshal what you are doing wrong and right.  There are two to three marshals who watch the authorization but one is actually conducting it.  You and your opponent will probably practice a bit to warm up before actually doing the actual authorization. 


When you first start the authorization you bow to the crown.  Then you bow to who you are fighting for and finally to your opponent.  This is actually done for combat itself to promote chivalry.  You will be asked if you know and understand the rules in the marshal’s handbook. 


The first bout is to see if you can take and block hits during normal combat.  You must attempt thrusts as well as regular shots.  During this bout, hits are called out but not acted out.  You keep hitting until the marshal says hold.  I actually had two rounds of this because I didn’t do enough thrusts the first time.  The marshal and my opponent knew going in thrusts were new to me so I wasn’t used to trying them.  So since I did not throw as many the first round as they would have liked, I had a second.  This can happen depending on the marshals and fighter involved. 


The second part was me on my knees defending against him on his feet.  Then we switched and I was attacking him on his knees.  It is again to make sure during SCA combat you can defend and fight in an advantage/disadvantage situation.  The last part of this slow test is fighting off hand.  You must have a sword or shield in your normal hand behind your back while authorizing for this part.  This idea is to see if you can defend and possibly get in a hit during combat. 


Once you get past this you have the full on battle.  You will be killed in this battle and actually they want you too so the marshal can see how you die.  In melee combat if you take a killing blow you fall down and you must be able to protect yourself from people still fighting around or on top of you.  All blows are played out so if you lose a leg, you drop to the ground.  When you get the killing blow you must fall to your right side with your sword under your head (if possible) and shield on top of your chest close to your head.  I fell the wrong direction and didn’t get my shield the high enough up but I knew the basics so I passed.


It is interesting and a little nerve wracking to go through an authorization.  But once you have passed this basic test, you can fight in any combat you desire.  Of course for each weapon you fight with you must authorize in it before fighting in combat using it.  The only exception to this is sword, mace, and axe.  This is because your first authorization is shield and weapon and these three are considered the weapon.  So if you pass using one, you can switch to another at any time without reauthorizing in the SCA.


The video shows what an authorization is like.

War in the SCA is the biggest event you can ever attend.  There will be hundreds of thousands of people at one along with every kind of merchant you might desire.  War is usually between two kingdoms but members from other kingdoms can and do go to fight as well.  These are not only neighboring kingdoms either.  “Bribes” are made to get one kingdom to fight on the side of an SCA kingdom over another.  This can be as simple as 20 dozen cookies to three kegs of alcohol.  It is up to the kingdom being asked to fight as an ally to another to make their demands as mercenaries known.  So just how many SCA wars are there and what kingdoms to each involve? In all there are 5 SCA wars around the United States.  These are hosted in the kingdom of Atenveldt (Estrella War), Meridies (Gulf War), Calontir (Lilies War), Æthelmearc (Pennsic War), and Caid (Great Western War).  No two wars are held at the same time so any SCA member wishing to attend them all, may do so.  Estrella is the first, held in February.  Gulf War is held the following month in March.  After that the SCA members get a break until June when Lilies War happens.  Another small break happens until August when Pennsic War occurs.  And finally in October, the Great Western War happens. Atenveldt kingdom does not have a specific foe every year.  In May the invites kingdoms to be the Principle kingdoms.  Once one accepts that kingdom is a co-host for the SCA war.  There are two major kingdoms per side at Estrella and anyone else involved is a mercenary that can be “paid” to fight on one side or the other.  Gulf War, besides the hosting kingdom, includes Gleann Abhann, Ansteorra, and Trimaris of the 19 SCA kingdoms.  Calontir kingdom’s Lilies War is a themed war every year.  This gives them a reason to fight, other than just defense of their kingdom.   Pennsic is by far the largest war in the SCA with over ten thousand in attendance every year.  It is between the kingdoms of the East and Middle with anyone else joining as a mercenary on either side.  Pennsic is also a two week event, although most of the fighting happens in the second week.  This SCA war is also the oldest of them all, with 2008 being Pennsic 37.  If you want to meet the most people, Pennsic is the place to go. Wars are a unique experience since they have so much more to offer than any other event held in the SCA.  For many it is a time of non-stop partying and enjoying a hobby to the fullest.  For others a way to expand their horizons and learn things in the SCA.  But for anyone going, it will be a once in a lifetime experience since never again will those exact same members be at this one place all at once.

What levels of SCA Youth combat are there?

admin on April 11th, 2008

Did you join the SCA and now your child wants to participate with you?  Do you fight in armored combat and they are trying to pick up your weapons and use them now?  Well what levels of SCA youth combat are there?  Actually there are only three levels before a child fights in full contact armored combat.  Rapier fighting does not have youth availability since the weapons are live with padding to cover the major sharp ends.  Youth combat is also referred to as boffer. The lowest level of youth combat is called the Children’s division and is for those ages 6-9.  At this level no face shots are allowed even though the weapons are very padded.  Cutting blows and body shots are touch only.  No actual arm swings are permitted since the child could get hurt.  Touch in SCA terms mean that the shot is not deflected by armor or weapons.  Even at this level armor is required and must be worn during any practice or combat fighting. The next level is for ages 10-13 and is known as the Youth division.  Here face shots are allowed but they are touch as in the children’s division.  Body thrusts are still touch only as well.  However in this SCA division cutting blows can have positive force.  For the SCA positive force is where there is a slight bounce or bend on the striking weapon when it connects with the opponent. At the final level, the Teen division, youths are almost too full contact armored combat since it is for ages 14-17.  At 18 they can move to adult armored contact if they desire and actually most do since it is the next natural step.  Face thrusts are still touch since even in the teen division youths are only required to wear a hard plastic helmet.  Body thrusts are now allowed positive force while cutting blows have moved to light armored force.  Light armored force is a shot that an adult would consider taking in armored combat.  Since the weapons are still very padded this does not have as much force as in full armored combat. Youths can join the SCA at any time and begin to fight at their age level.  Starting younger than someone else only gives that youth more knowledge and fight experience but not necessarily make them a better fighter.  It can also be a good way to positively involve a youth in an activity where they can be “destructive” without actually hurting anything or anyone.

What is required to fight in SCA fencing?

admin on April 10th, 2008

The rules for Rapier fencing in the SCA are standard for all kingdoms so that anyone can fight in any combat tournament, war, or melee there is.  Only the rules of which weapons are allowed can be different from one kingdom to the next.  So if you wanted to fight what would be required in SCA fencing? Before any fight or practice the fencer must inspect their equipment to insure it is in good order and safe to use against opponents.  An SCA member must be authorized to fight before they are allowed on a combat field against an opponent.  They must be authorized in the separate categories to fight in each one; light rapier, heavy rapier, and cut and thrust rapier. An SCA fencing fighter must listen to the attending marshal and at all times.  During a fight or practice, the person must acknowledge a blow.  Since in SCA rapier fighters are considered as wearing civil attire and not armor, even though they are in armor for protection, valid blows must be called when it would incapacitate the person hit.  Valid blows are to the head, neck, torso, inner groin, and armpit.  Arms and legs can receive valid blows but this only makes the person “lose” that limb and they can fight with the opposite hand or on the knees as if injured. When it comes to the weapons, no sharp edges, corners, or points are allowed.  Blades can be real but must be dull and tips covered in a way that the point will not be able to come through.  Rubber, leather, plastic with tape over them is the legal way to cover a tip.  The steel on an SCA blade must be flexible so it can withstand a hit.  Any hilt or cup on the blade must be dull so not sharp edges can harm a fencer during combat, even accidentally. Proper armor must be worn at all times in SCA fencing.  A puncture resistant shirt must be worn to protect the entire torso.  This includes commercial fencing shirts of at least Newtons and four layers of poplin cloth among other things.  A fencing helmet must be worn along with a gorget to protect the rest of the face and neck.  Boots for the feet must be worn, along with the arms and hands.  No gaps can appear between the hands and arms. All this is done with the safety of both fencers involved.  If the minimum requirements are not met, than a person will not be allowed to fight.  The SCA does not want to promote unsafe practices.  Due to the nature of weapons and style of fighting, only those 18 and older can compete in SCA rapier fencing.

SCA combat uses weapons, whether real or symbolized versions.  This is for both fencing and armored combat.  Weapons from one can not be used in the other style since the armor for each is not designed to protect the wearer from blows of the other weapons.  One combat style is not necessarily cheaper than the other to purchase so if you are unsure which you would like to try; do not base it on that.  So then what SCA weapons are used in combat for both fencing and armored? For SCA fencing there are many weapons allowed but not all in every kingdom.  The basic rules are the same but this is one where the kingdom has the choice of what to allow.  Fencing rapiers do not have to be from a specific manufacturing but several are listed among those allowed for fighting.  There is no one fencing sword that is allowed in all kingdoms of the SCA.  Many are allowed in the majority of them, however.  The different swords allowed are: foils, epees, double-wide epees, broadswords, rapier, long swords, and schlagers.  These come in various styles depending on the manufacturer.  Daggers from various sword makers and bucklers are also allowed to fight or protect the fencer in combat. Armored combat is a little more varied since the weapons resemble regular swords, broadswords, long swords, daggers, pike, maces, axes, etc.  Since rattan wood is used to make the SCA weapon, contrasting tape must be on the “blade” of the weapon to show which the cutting side is and which the flat side is.  Flails are strictly prohibited as a weapon.  All thrusting and striking heads but be wrapped so no splinters can come off and injure an opponent.  This is usually done with padding on the end and duct tape to secure it.   Any head on a weapon, such as a mace or pole arm, can not have rigid materials to make such head.  They must be soft and fully covered so no part of the rattan underneath can hit an opponent directly.  And in armored combat any weapon over 7 ½ feet can only be used for thrusting, no striking allowed.  Pole arms are such weapons. SCA fencing weapons are more common of what someone outside the group would be used to than armored combat.  A person that is not a member of the SCA would probably have to be told what an armored weapon represented.  But once told the design becomes obvious.  Go to a practice to see what weapons look like and try them out to see what you like before committing to one group or the other.  Someone always has loaner gear and weapons for newcomers.

SCA Heavy Armor Combat Regulations

admin on April 9th, 2008

What are SCA heavy armor regulations?  If you have thought about fighting in the sport this is highly important to know.  Regulations are the same for all kingdoms so anyone can participate any place they desire.  These regulations are to keep injuries from happening in the most critical places.  So what do you need to fight?  It is probably not as much as you think. The most important piece of heavy armor to wear is a helm.  This protects your head from serious injury and protects your eyes so you will be able to see.  The helm must be steel and minimum regulation is 16 gauge.  However these days no one really uses 16, instead 14 or 12 gauge is common.  The lower gauge the stronger the steel and better to protect your head.  Of course a lower gauge helm is heavier but those wearing them get used to it and thus do not notice the weight.  The heavy armor helm must have ½” of padding inside to protect the head from the metal.  Many people use closed cell foam but equivalent padding may be used.  The padding must be everywhere that the helm can come in connect with the head or neck.   A chin strap must be attached to the heavy helm so that it can not come off your head during practice where things tend to move slower or full war where they can get very crazy.  The front of the helm needs to have a way for the fighter to see but it does not have to be an open front.  If it does have an open front, the bars that cover the face can be no farther than 2” apart.  This is so that no “blades” can get in.  And of course no glass spectacles are allowed.  Anyone who needs them to see must wear contacts, go without, or get sports glasses.  If you have a movable visor, it is regulation that it is secured so as not to come up during combat. Neck armor is also required in heavy weapons.  It must wrap around the neck to protect both the front and back and be made of a stiff material so no shots can harm the SCA fighter.  This is called a gorget and must be tight against the wearer.  As a requirement, it also needs to fit under the helm.  Your gorget should not be so tight that it strangles you however, because if you can’t breathe you can’t fight. The next part of SCA heavy armor regulations is body, shoulder and groin protection.  Shoulder and body heavy armor consist of protection over the kidneys and short ribs.  The armor here must be hard over soft so closed cell foam is typically used in these areas to protect the SCA fighter.  Groin protection for both men and women is required so injury in this area does not occur.  Men must wear a standard cup while women can wear closed cell foam over the pubic bone.   To be in regulation for SCA heavy armor, the fighter must wear hand and wrist protection.  Wrist protection must be 1” thick to pad this area from accidental hits.  This is easy to accomplish with ice hockey gloves since they have long cuffs. Last, but definitely not least for SCA heavy weapon fighting, is elbow and knee armor.  These are areas that are not allowed to be hit, but accidents happen and they are vulnerable.  The easiest way to describe it is hard over soft.  Padding underneath the armor is required so that if you are hit in these spots, you will not damage the bones.   No one actually fights with just those minimum regulations.  You can if you want and do not mind the hits you will take to other areas.  But if you do only put these items on, no one will be able to tell you that you are unable to fight in an SCA heavy armor battle.

Your SCA persona is the person that you would have liked to be had you lived during the time period the SCA covers, which is pre-17th century.  It takes some thought and research to create a persona so after joining the SCA, it is one of the first things to begin doing.  How do you create an SCA persona? In a way your persona is an extension of the name you choose to go by in the SCA.  Since your name is based out of a particular culture and time period, your persona follows in the same vein.  So you begin creating your persona with the culture, time period, and name.  These three things will help you understand how a person acted in your chosen SCA era or what they did for a living.  Some people do stop with their persona as the culture, time period, and name.   A persona can have just what you do for a living as this fictional character, or social status and some family background.  It can also get as elaborate as where you were born, skills you would know, significant events that happen throughout your life.  An SCA persona can even include death if you wish to start again with a new one at some point.  I mean people only live so long and accomplish so much before moving on. Creating an in-depth persona can take years.  Actually it probably should so you do not make a mistake like having someone from your area being in some sort of profession that actually could.  Read as much about your culture and time period as possible.  There are several questions you can ask as you go about creating your SCA persona.  These can include if you would be literate, money used, if there are religious duties someone from your area would be required to do, and others that we may now not think of as important. The rest is not required but it is more fun to create a past for this person you are transforming yourself into.  You can truly play around and see what you like, don’t like, what others find interesting about your persona or time period you are from.  The possibilities are endless in this.

Having an SCA name is extremely important.  It is the name you are called for any awards or recognition within the SCA.  It is what people call you when they want to talk to you or introduce you to someone else.  So how do you go about picking an SCA name for yourself? The first thing to know is since the SCA is pre-1600’s the name must have been used in that time.  You can not, however, use a real historical person’s name.  The SCA isn’t a reenactment group so that would not work.  Besides than everyone would want to be William Wallace.  It is highly recommended that your SCA name be different than you legal name so there is a distinct difference. Medieval names have two parts, a given and byname.  A given name is the same as your first but isn’t called such since in some cultures that name comes last.  Bynames are a little different as they were originally given to distinguish between two people with the same given name.  Also in old times bynames could be a profession such as John Baker for the baker.  Middle names did not exist. Before selecting an SCA name pick a culture to be from.  This will help narrow down your choices tremendously.  It is also recommended to pick a time period but you may not know them if you have not studied much history.  There are books out there, including some listed on the SCA website, to help guide you on names used.  You also may want to think about what you will be doing in the SCA.  If you are a leather maker you may want to look for names that fit that but that is not a requirement and can bog you down with too much research. Once you have chosen your SCA name, take it for a test run.  Since names can be registered with the college of Heraldry so that no two people can have the exact same SCA name, you want to make sure you like the name prior to doing that.  If you do not answer to it readily or it is extremely hard to pronounce you may want to pick something else.