Why, yes! They are made of steel and they look pretty sword-like, or in this case, mostly rapier-like. The swords do have dull edges and there’s a big rubber tip on the end to keep us from actually running each other through, as, like our armored colleagues, we like to be able to do stuff the next day.
Like the armoured fighters, we have regular practices, where we study and learn the Renaissance art of defense. We’re recreating a style of European civilian combat that seems to have got its start around the first quarter of the 16th century and continued until the mid-17th c. We are fortunate in having a large number of fencing manuals from this time period to help us recreate this form of combat. In the SCA this kind of fighting is referred to as Period Fencing, Rapier Combat, or Light Weapons Combat (though the weapons we use are anything but light). Like the armored combatants, there are strict rules and armor standards for how rapier combat is conducted, in place to keep us safe. Playing with swords has certain inherent risks, but we do our best to minimize them.
The main form of combat uses the rapier, a 16th c. civilian sword found throughout Western Europe. The rapier can be used on its own or in combination with various defensive devices/weapons in the off-hand. These include things like bucklers, sticks, cloaks, hats, daggers or even another full rapier. Attacks are primarily thrusting in nature, but there are also some cutting attacks, but these do not involve actual striking with the blade. Attacks are never performed at full force, a touch that an opponent can feel usually being considered a valid blow. There is an advanced form of rapier combat called Cut & Thrust where blows with the edge of the blade are allowed, but these are nowhere near full force cuts, and there are increased armor standards. Recently there has been exploration of the use of curved blades as well as the use of the two handed sword. Rapier combat has often been described as an elegant dance, with swords. The opponents move about using careful footwork, delivering well timed thrusts, parries and ripostes. It is often a fascinating thing to watch and an even more fascinating thing to do.
There are regular practices in our Cantons of Ramshaven, and our groups have loaner equipment to help get you started. Again, as with armored combat, both women and men are welcome to play, with the minimum age to participate being 14. Also, like armored combat, we’re here to have fun and people are welcomed to take things at their own pace. So, if you have an interest in swashing some buckle, you may want to consider giving rapier combat a try.