The Fighters of Calontir as a de facto SCA Period Fencing Guild

A Comparison of Calontir Fighting Orders and the Historical Guild of the London Masters of Defense

Written By Harold Kraus, Jr., a.k.a., Master Harald Isenross, CoL, Adm. CRN Ret., and Free Scholar*, Originally published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 5, Third Quarter 2002

Advertisement:  I once had the idea that there should be a Calontir Academy of Defense, an association of fighters interested in tournaments as well as researching the Period fighting styles but maybe not so interested in melee or able to go to SCA wars.  My original vision was of a rattan fighting guild with rankings that paralleled the common tiered Period and SCA guild structures.  Advancement in the guild would have been based on individuals achieving the conventional Calontir fighting ranks.  Then I chanced to read Don Dylan’s paper on the London Masters of Defense. Please, dear reader, consider my essay and Don Dylan’s paper, and see whether you agree that Calontir doesn’t so much need a period fencing guild as it is one already.

My source for information on the London Masters of Defense is Don Dylan’s (John D. Murray) exceptional research paper on the same.  In fact, his fine work is the entire cause for this particular essay – my work here is but to introduce and summarize his article for a Calontir audience.  My source for information on Calontir fighting orders is my 15+ years of regular participation in fighting within Calontir.  I can attest to those parts of Silver that Dylan cites, and I have made some study of other earlier manuals.  I also have some interest in studying historical guilds in general.

Don Dylan’s primary interest is in researching the history rapier combat in the context of recreating it with steel blades, whereas my interest is in the recreational study of the breadth of Medieval and Renaissance fencing, of which rapier was just one part.

Who knows, but for whatever reason, the SCA instituted its three levels of arms (AoA, GoA, PoA) that can be mapped to various historical guild ranks.  For whatever reason, Calontir instituted its three levels of Combat Order according to these SCA award levels.  For whatever reason, Calontir’s widely successful combat Orders happen to map to the guild ranks of the London Masters of Defense.  This mapping only spurred my interest in Don Dylan’s article.

In reading Don Dylan’s paper, I find many similarities between the historical institutions he describes and what I experienced in the years I participated in Calontir schools of fighting.  Here is a sampling:

·         Both organizations have conventions for safe exercise of combat skills in non-lethal manners.

·         Both have comparable systems of advancement within organized levels of Rank.

·         In both cases, a primary basis for advancement in rank is demonstration of skills in Prize/tournament play.

·         Higher-ranking combatants perform the assessment of these skills in both systems.

·         Both recognize the importance of the public entertainment value of the Prizes and tournaments.

·         There is a complete correlation of weapons types employed between the London Masters of Defense and the SCA Kingdom of Calontir.

In his closing comments, Dylan confronts very briefly the challenge that the London Masters of Defense’s definition and system of fencing is one that is not incompatible with SCA rattan fencing as practiced in Calontir.

On the following pages, I present a table that more thoroughly illustrates the similarities and correlations between the London Masters of Defense and the rattan fencers and Fighting Orders of the Kingdom of Calontir.  Following that, I have appended a copy of Don Dylan’s paper as it appeared on his web site on March 8, 2002.  The attachment of his paper with his permission doesn’t imply his agreement with my assessment of the correlations between the London Masters of Defense and the Fighting Orders of Calontir.

In my opinion, based on my studies of Don Dylan’s paper, the Calontir Fighting Orders, and guild history, the Calontir system is a reasonable recreation of the period fencing school, excepting the quirk of using rank titles based on Anglos-Saxon military terminology instead of any late period guild terminology.   *I do not think it is unreasonable for a Calontir student of the Period Fencing Manuals to assume the title of Scholar, Free Scholar, Provost, or Master as an alternative to his personally achieved ranks of Man-at-arms, Fyrdman, Huscarl, or Knight/Master-at-Arms.


 

London Masters of Defense

The Calontir Marshallate and Fighting Orders

A late Renaissance School of Defense

An SCA Fencing School

The Crown(incidentally, a Queen for much of that time)

Issues the Guild’s Charter, which establishes sovereign license and authority over the guild.

The Crown(the SCA Sovereign)

Hold sovereign authority over martial judgments and as well as over who is permitted to fight in his/her Kingdom and with what equipment.

The Four Ancient Masters

      Run the business of the Guild

Earl Marshallate (mostly Knights & Masters-at-Arms)

Run the business of the Marshallate

Masters

Have a school of lower ranking students, charging them tuition for lessons.

      Excellence in many weapons.

Knights & Masters-at-Arms

Have a school of lower ranking students.                

Excellence in many weapons.

Provosts

May have a school of lower ranking students, charging them tuition for lessons.

Competency with many weapons, excluding rapier.

Huscarls

Recognized as knowledgeable teachers.                      .

Competency with many weapons, including Calontir-legal rapier.

Free Scholars

Recognized as a viable student.

Competency with swords.

Fyrdmen

Recognized as basically competent.

Competency with two different weapons.

Scholars

Student who have not passed their Prize.

Competency with a weapon has not been demonstrated.

Men-at-arms

Authorized but Un-elevated fighters.

Competency with a weapon is not required for authorization.

Advancement

A committee of Masters judge and award all levels of advancement.

Advancement is nominally based on skills witnessed at a Prize.

Advancement

The Crown judges and awards all levels of advancement in consultation not only with Knights & Masters with the relevant Orders of Huscarls or Fyrdmen.

Advancement is based on skills witnessed at a number of Prizes.

Prizes

Announcements of Prizes are regulated.

Among other reasons, Prizes are held to demonstrate skill to the Masters for the purpose of advancement.

Prizes are held to entertain an audience that paid admission or may other monetary contributions.

 

Prizes (incidentally called Events or Tournaments)

Announcements of Prizes are regulated.

Among other reasons, Prizes are held to demonstrate skill to the Crown and Orders for the purpose of advancement.

Prizes are held to entertain an audience that paid site fee.

Armor Conventions

Some armor was worn; likely it was less than full combat dress.

Armor Conventions

Some armor is required, but definitely much less than full combat dress.

Combat Conventions

Rebated Weapons.

No grappling.

No hitting from behind.

No hitting on the Ground.

No blows below the waist.

No face blows.

Rules based on safety as well as the intention of witnessing skill with weapons.

(Note, some of these conventions are occasional, varying from time to time),

Combat Conventions

Rebated Weapons.

No grappling.

No hitting from behind w/o engagement.

No hitting on the Ground.

No blows below the thighs.

Lighter calibration on face blows.

Rules based on safety as well as the intentions of witnessing skill with weapons and keeping the combat entertaining and courteous.

Weapons Used in Prizes

Sword, Back Sword, Rapier and Dagger, Sword and Buckler, Sword and Dagger, Staff, Dagger, Two Handed Sword, Bastard Sword

Weapons Used in Challenges

Long Sword, Back Sword, Sword & Buckler, Sword & Dagger, Two Sword, Two Handed Sword, Rapier, Rapier & Target/Cloak/Dagger, Dagger, Staff, Axe, Pike

Weapons Used

Long Sword, Back Sword, Sword & Buckler, Sword & Dagger, Two Sword, Bastard Sword, Mass Weapon, Two Handed Sword, Rapier, Rapier & Shield/Dagger, Dagger, Staff, Polearm, Pike

Rapiers

Generally only Masters use rapiers.

Rapiers

All authorized Calontir fighters may use rapiers constructed to Calontir rattan combat standards.

Authorization to play in Prizes

The Prize combatant must acceptable to their superiors (through application for the prize).

Authorization to play in Prizes

All combatants must be acceptable to the Crown, generally thorough the proxy of the Marshallate and the institution of authorizations.

Social Status

These guys all had non-labor day jobs.  Students were likely of the citizen or yeoman classes.  Scholars and Provost had to have totally private means to pay their tuition and buy their gear.  Even the Masters didn’t pull in enough from fees to completely maintain themselves within
the middle class.  The guild schools were beneath the station of the aristocracy.

Social Status

These guys all have day jobs.  They are mostly of the lower middle and upper lower class.  All SCAdians have to have totally private means to pay their event costs and buy their gear.  With the increasing affluence and decreasing mechanical skills of all American income classes, the SCA traditions of making-it-yourself and being accessible to the indigent may become beneath the contempt of the public.

 

 

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