Probably some of the most iconic images of the Society for Creative Anachronism have involved armoured combatants in full face helmets and armour, their personal heraldry painted large on their shields.
Armoured combat (also commonly referred to as heavy fighting) is thrilling to watch, either in tournaments between individuals or roving teams of fighters in melees. In Insulae Draconis our fighters take all the opportunities they can find to storm castles, most notably at our large annual camping event held annually for the last many years at Raglan Castle.
Throughout the Society it is armoured combat tournaments that decide the next royalty, and this is true for our Principality too: A fighter may fight to become Prince or Princess in their own right at Coronet Tourney, an event held twice a year at different events throughout the Principality (see the Coronet section for more information).
Armoured combat requires armour, but instead of steel weapons the weapons are usually made from rattan. Combat itself uses a scoring system based on honour and chivalry; the fighters declare a blow they receive "good" themselves, based on the angle, location, and force of the strike. Bouts are overseen by Heavy marshals, and all fighters must attend to their instructions at all times. It is the duty of the marshals to ensure all armour and weaponry is safe to use and meets society standards.
Woman can, and absolutely do, engage in armoured combat. Armoured combat is not suitable for children under 16.
Weapons and Armour
The weapons used in our armoured combat activities are largely made out of rattan poles - these look and feel very much like large, solid bamboo poles. Replica weapons, for example axes, might be made instead from rubber and foam. Weapons must be passed by a marshal before every fight.
As you can imagine, acquiring armour is not a trivial task and armouring is a skill in itself. Fighters may choose to buy or make their own armour using a variety of materials. The fighter community is enormously helpful and keen to get new fighters, so you 'll get armouring help from all over.
There is a set of minimum standards for this armour, but as a general rule, armoured combatants must have sufficient protection for their head and neck (gorget), their joints (wrists, elbows, shoulders, and knees), their hands, and their kidneys and groin. Some fighters go for a generic style of armour that does the job, but many take pride in constructing kit that matches their "persona" - the person of a certain time, place and culture that the fighter has chosen to research and present as, or the period of combat the individual prefers to study. You can see fighters in full plate metal fight fighters in armour made chainmail and hardened leather. Shields can be made from wood or metal and are decorated to represent the fighter with heraldic devices.
Authorisation is the test you must pass with a marshal before engaging in combat. It is not an assessment of your skill but a test to make sure you know the rules as laid down by the society, that you know how to protect yourself in combat situations and you are basically competent with your equipment. You will be assessed on your knowledge of the rules and required to give a demonstration - find out more about the test.
Practical tips for starting with armoured combat
- As a beginner you don't need to buy all equipment before you start, you will be starting with unarmoured drills and "slow work" for a little while and you can chat with other fighters about your options. You can also enquire about the availability of loaner equipment at your local practice or at an event.
- You MUST pay attention to what your archery marshal tells you, they are there for your safety!
- Read our Beginner's Guide to Armoured Combat in Insulae Draconis