Friday, December 07, 2007

On Tournament vs. War

This one is mainly for the SCA folks out there. Those of you not part of the group are more than welcome to read on, but it might not make much sense to you.

Four or five years ago I got re involved with the SCA in Louisiana. I even got armored and qualified, but I have found myself growing more and more reticent to train, and to go to events to fight. At first I chalked it up to loss of skill, then to bad armor, then to laziness, then to fear of getting my ass kicked, but those things have never stopped me before. Usually once I got padded up and swung my stick for a while I was fine. But this absolute resistance I've been feeling has been puzzling me, but I think I've figured it out. It seems to me that SCA fighting has become less about the tourney, and more about the war. Everyone talks about training for Gulf War, or Pennsic, or whatever the next uber battle is to be. I have fought in a couple of wars, and numerous melees, and I have come to the realization that I DON'T LIKE THEM. Thinking back on my youth I was never good on a shield line, and I'm too small to be a pikeman. Back when I was young and fast I was often used as a shock troop, flanking the enemy line and trying to take out the pikes. And on the occasions that I was put in a small team of four or five people I would inevitably break ranks at the slightest provocation to engage in single combat. The last time I was in armor was at Hoggetown. We were doing a melee demo, and Tearlach put me in command of a four man team. I know he was honoring me, but I am the worst commander for that sort of thing. We got decimated. And even at non-war events the tourneys tend more toward bear pits and the like rather than the classic single combat. I think that part of it is that I love the spotlight. It's even right there in the marshall's instructions: For honor and glory. To me honor is at its zenith in single combat, and at its nadir in wars. And glory suffers similarly. To me SCA fighting was never about endurance, and brute force. Anyone who could safely swing a sword and stay on their feet for the time it takes to finish one fight was welcome on the lyst field to defend the honor of their consort, and to win a bit of glory for themselves. In a war there is shared glory in victory, and the camaraderie of hundreds of warriors, but when it becomes the perceived acme of our game I get turned off. And I think that is what is holding me back more than any of the other concerns. The fear that, in this game that I started way back when because it was one place that I did fit in, I won't anymore.
What say you, fellow medievalists? Is my assessment of things close to accurate, or am I full of bantha poodoo?



Turtle said...

You are correct, in part. The emphasis of our little game has turned its head a bit more toward the art of war, versus the glory won in single combat.

The change came when we developed a war of our own. Gulf Wars has grown into a entity all its own, and is a big war for the entire Knowne Worlde.

We are a major player in that war. It started as a fun game, a war of friends wherein the end result is unimportant.

The war has grown. More folks show from more areas. The war started with the emphasis on having fun, and it still is, really, but don't kid yourself - the results do matter.

Our performance, as a kingdom, as a whole, is on view to the Knowne Worlde. The eyes of the world are upon us. An entire year's worth of reputation comes down to, essentially, 3-4 days of fighting.

The King wants to look good. The knights want to look good. Pretty much any fighter, especially those who have travelled to war and gotten their collective asses handed to them for not preparing, want to look good. It becomes a compellin part of the game.

Trimaris, for some reason, operates differently than any other kingdom. We are closer, as a group, but we are also more segregated at the same time. We are much more household oriented, whereas other kingdoms has armies and units...

We don't seem to manage to get together to practice war maneuvers. Not for those alone. People just don't get motivated for such down here. They want more. They don't want to forego an event to practice only. THey want it all. Why? I don't really know.

And yet, training these household units to operate as one cohesive army is an important issue year round. So, we practice where and when we can - at events.

This practice of practicing (sorry, but that's the best way to put it) has become a bit of concern at every event.

Don't get me wrong - the tournements are still there, and are, in fact, even more important now. This is where we view fighters as individuals, and start to consider them as candidates for knighthood. This is the chance for pageantry to shine through. This is the chance to fight for the individual glory and honor. This is an integral part of who and what we are.

Just expect to melee afterwards....

Anonymous said...

I have always loved the tournaments. It's an opportunity to shine as an individual, to showcase your skills.

Wars are messy - they are turmoil, and noise and hell. Wars built comradarie.

One of the things I have enjoyed in the SCA is the courtly love, the inspiration of the consort. The tournaments showcase that.

Give me a tournament any day!