Enter the Dragon : Fencing

Some people watch, read or play fantasy.  We found Montrealers who live Fantasy every day. In gymnasiums or church basements, they are training their skills to be great members of the Society for Creative Anachronism.
7h42 invites you to discover Montreal’s chapter of this parallel society: the Barony of L’Ile du Dragon Dormant [Editor’s note: Sleeping Dragon Island].

This is the second photoreport in a series of three: Enter the Dragon: knights, fencing and archery.

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7h42 interviewed the Fencing Captain: Lord Olan Blackhand and Elinore Roebber.

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What is this weapon you are using?

Olan Blackhand : It’s a rapier. The blade is non-coated: it’s not pointy or sharp. There is even a plastic tip to ensure that the blade doesn’t pierce the mask.

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Can you only pierce your adversary or is it allowed to slash him with the blade’s edge?

OB : We mostly aim to hit with the point. But it’s also legal with the edge.

The system we use is simple. The person who receives the sword’s hit says: “OK you’ve hit me.” If you’ve been hit with the point or the edge, on a six-inch length (15 centimetres), it’s considered as a good touch. It makes the fights open to interpretation.

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Do you participate in tournaments?

OB : There are competitions. Just like the Barony’s armored combats. But it’s less important. The biggest difference is that in fencing, there are no competitions that will decide who will be the next King.

Originally, the SCA [Editor’s note: Society for Creative Anachronism] was mostly built around armored combat. It’s the first activity developed.

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Do you often have a new King?

OB : Twice a year, they change the King. It’s never the same person.

The Eastern Kingdom includes all of Eastern Canada to Ontario, with New England and a big part of New York State.

Kings have to travel from one event to another. Every week-end, there is an event somewhere in the Kingdom or even in another Kingdom. So they travel a lot and make great distances. People will help finance the King and the Queen’s work and trips. But it remains a huge task to travel from one event to another.

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And who’s the King, right now?

OB : I know who the actual King is, but I don’t really know him. People in the SCA have their SCA names and the King of the East is called Brennan and the Queen… I don’t know how to pronounce her name…

[Editor’s note: the King’s full name is Brennan mac Fearghus and the Queen’s is Caoilfhionn inghean Fhaolain]

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Why are there actually two Baroness, in l’Île du Dragon Dormant?

OB : Usually, two persons occupy the role of the Barony’s Head of State. What happens is that couples present themselves, volunteer. There is a vote. And after His Majesty decides who will be the Barony’s Head of State, depending on the votes and his personal preferences. And at the moment, it happens to be two women who presented themselves.

They’re a couple?

Elinore Roebber : They’re just friends. They are not a couple.

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For how long have you been participating in the SCA’s activities?

EB :  We’ve been doing this for nine years. On and off. Because I’m a University student. I study astrophysics.

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Why are you sanding your sword’s blades?

EB :  They are made of steel, but not stainless steel. Because you want it to be springy and bendy. There are also a lot of nicks on the side, where the swords collide. So we soften the blades with sand paper, finishing paper. We don’t actually want it to be sharp.

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Where do you buy them?

EB :  We buy our swords from Darkwood Armory. They’re based in Mississippi.

Is it a weapon made for sports, like in the Olympics?

EB : There are specific rules. It’s a sport sword. It’s a practice sword. They have to bend in a special way. So when you hit somebody really hard, you don’t actually hurt them. And you have to be sure that they won’t snap. If they snap, then you can actually hurt someone. And that would be very dangerous.

And we have rules about the armor we wear … but you just want to be safe.

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When you look at fencing competitions, we see the traditional white suits. But you don’t wear them…

EB :: It’s not a regular fencing armor. We can make our own. We have specific rules. To check if the armor is secure, you have to drop a pointy tube-like tool from a specific height. If it goes through, it’s not good. If it doesn’t go through, then it’s OK.

We make our own armor because it’s more beautiful than the regular white ones. We try to make them so they have a Renaissance look.

It’s also cheaper to make your own than to buy it.

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Do all the SCA members make their own outfits?

EB : When we’re not fighting, we have other events. We are supposed to be dressed in medieval clothes. And again, it’s very difficult to buy that. So we make them. Many people here do that. Or you can buy from somebody else. Bartering is popular. You trade your clothes for something else.

We have a general craft workshops, Arts and Sciences, where you can make anything from clothes to wood working. They build tents, furniture…

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I see that you sometimes fight with a sword and a shield, or two swords.

OB : There are a lot of legal fighting styles. Essentially, we fight with a single rapier. But after that, there are other available styles. Somebody can fight with two rapiers, a dagger and a rapier, a shield and a rapier or even with a shield and a cape.

And why is your shield so small?

OB : It’s a choice I made when I assembled it.

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An armored fighter comes all dressed up. He wants to fight with a rapier. But Lord Olan insists on the fact that he has to remove his warrior’s armor to put on a fencing armor.

EB : You must have protection under your arms. There are rules to follow. And the reason why we do this is that we do not want anybody to get hurt.

They have different rules because their swords hurt differently. Its wood.

OB : They have big and thick sticks. Us, it’s small and thin things, potentially pointy.

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EB : If we struck and it snaps, there are some major arteries near the arm pits.

OB : It happened once, during a tournament. Somebody’s blade exploded. And if the action doesn’t stop immediately, and you don’t have protection on the point of your sword, then, you risk hurting someone.

These kinds of situations is the reason why we ask people to wear armor and why we test them to be assured that they are sufficiently resistant. We are stricter on what we must wear.

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OB : Right, it’s an artery, left it’s the heart.

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Achievement unlocked: Dragon Fencers discovered! 
You now step forward and localize 2 paths.

The first one leads to the second half of the same gymnasium, where other members of the Barony are all dressed in leather and metal armors.

They are bashing themselves with wooden swords, battle axes and polearms. It makes a hell of a noise. Tonight, they’re praticing their fighting skills for the next tournament. Welcome to Dragon Knights.

The second path leads to a church basement, in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighborhood, where you will find other members of the Barony wielding real bows and arrows.

Tonight it’s Halloween and some of them are costumed.

KNIGHT-CALL
ARCHERY-CALL


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