Of Honour and Honourable Quarrels
The Arte of Defense with Rapier
Amended 1992, 1993 by Lord Gwylym ap Owain o Tatershal
Approved 5 June 1993 by Elric and Larissa, King and Queen of Atenveldt.
Inspired by rules set forth by Morgil en Tauro Andune, KSCA and Master Ioseph of Locksley
Discourse most necessarie for all Gentlemen that have in regarde their honours touching the giving and receiving of the Lie,
whereupon the Duello & the Combats in divers sortes doth insue and many other inconveniences, for lack only of the true
knowledge of honor, and the contrarie: and the right understanding of wordes, which heere is plainly set downe, beginning
The Arte of Defense with Rapier is a privilege and not a right. The use of steel prompts certain factors that must be maintained
for the safety of all. Both scholar and master must abide by the rules of honour and for safety sake should abide by the rules set
forth in this missive. Two forms of combat will be addressed: Rapier and Courtsword.
Note to Marshall:Due to the fact that this form of combat is a privilege and not a right, a Marshall has the power to recommend
permanent cancellation of this privilege. Any duelist who is deemed unsafe or who will not honorably accept blows will lose
their right and will no longer be called a Scholar of the Arte. Any duelist who enters the list with unsafe equipment will be
barred from the list until the problem has been corrected.
The Arte of Defense with Rapier
Armor and Clothing
- Head protection shall cover the entire head. This may be a standard three- weapon fencing mask (12 kilo) or a helm that
will not allow the penetration of a bare epee or foil (if you will be fighting inter-kingdom) fencing tip. If using a fencing mask,
a coif or equivalent shall be worn to cover the back of the head and the base of the neck. A "Rapier Helmet" or some other hard
protection for the back of the head is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED.
- The throat shall be protected by a heavy padded collar or gorget, or its equivalent. A metal gorget is STRONGLY
RECOMMENDED. The neck must not become exposed in any position taken by the head. (note: minimum throat protection
shall be 8 oz. weight leather backed with open-cell foam)
- The arms and legs must be covered by resistant material. Resistant material is defined as material that will withstand
normal combat stress without tearing. Nylon tights or stockings and cotton gauze shirts are not acceptable materials. Broadcloth
or a single layer of trigger cloth (champion in some stores) are examples of acceptable material. Elbow pads are SUGGESTED.
- The torso, armpits and neck must be covered with impenetrable material. No skin may be exposed. Impenetrable material
is defined as any fabric or combination of fabrics that will withstand four hard thrusts from a broken foil or epee blade
(assuming a flat break). A leather buff coat or jerkin is STRONGLY SUGGESTED.
- Female combatants shall wear breast protection. It should consist of heavy leather or padding. Metal fencing breast
protectors are STRONGLY RECOMMENDED.
- If a skirt is being worn, it is STRONGLY SUGGESTED that pants or bloomers be worn under the skirt to avoid the chance
of skin being exposed.
- An athletic cup or equivalent shall be worn by male combatants to protect the groin. If the groin cups have any holes that
could admit a broken point, the cup must be covered with impenetrable material. It is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that
female fighters wear some sort of padded groin protection.
- The legs should be completely covered with no skin showing. Padding for the knees is SUGGESTED.
- Leather gauntlets or their equivalent shall be worn on both hands, covering the entire wrist. Heavy gauntlets with padded
cuffs are SUGGESTED.
- Footwear shall consist of a safe closed-toe boot or shoe. High top boots with rubber soles are RECOMMENDED. The
entire foot must be covered.
- Olympic style fencing weapons (foils, sabres and epees) are barred from use in rapier combat.
- Theatrical combat blades, of the following description, are available commercially. These blades are the accepted standard
for rapier combat. Flexible enough to thrust with safely, these weapons are sturdy enough not to break in combat, and thus
lessen the concern of jagged and potentially lethal broken blades. The rapier or schlager (oval) blade is STRONGLY
Descriptions length (tip to hilt) width weight cross section
NOTE: Another common theatrical blade is called the Musketeer. Although stronger than an epee it is still prone to
35 inches 3/4 inch 9 oz oval
- The point of a weapon must have a firmly bound rubber archery rabbit blunt attached, with rounded edges and no sharp
points. The actual metal point must be unable to penetrate the rubber tip. All nicks in the blade must be ground down. Blades
must be in good shape, showing neither rust, nor pit marks, nor more than one gradual bend.
- The hilt and guard must be sufficient to protect the hand. "Cup," "Cage," or "Bell" style hilts are encouraged. "Cross" and
"Swept" hilts may be used, but heavy leather gauntlets are STRONGLY RECOMMENDED. Guards may not have any sharp
edges or corners.
- Daggers may be used both offensively and/or defensively, provided the combatant can demonstrate to a Marshall that the
weapon is safe for either or both purposes. All daggers must be fitted with a flexible dagger blade.
- Bucklers may be used for defense only, and shall be padded or rimmed in such a way as to not damage blades.
- Cloaks may be of any size, weight, color or stiffness desired. They may be weighted, as long as the weights are padded so
as to prevent injury. Cloaks may not have rods, strips of metal, wood or other such material to stiffen them. A cloak may be
used both offensively and defensively, provided it can be demonstrated safe for both purposes.
- Other items may be used defensively, provided it can be demonstrated to be both safe and historically realistic.
- Projectile weapons may not be used in a Rapier List.
The Arte of Defense with the Courtsword
The armor and clothing rules for rapier apply to Courtsword.
- Standard competition epees are the accepted weapon for Courtsword combat in this Kingdom, and are the ONLY accepted
weapon for such combat. Foils and Sabres will NOT be used, and rapier-legal blades will NOT be used against epees.
- The point on the epee must have a firmly attached rubber tip or it must be a legal USFA practice electric tip. All nicks in
the blade must be ground down. Blades must be in good shape, showing neither rust nor pit marks, nor more than one gradual
- Standard fencing guards may be used. Long quillions or pierced work that might catch a blade will not be acceptable.
Modern pistol-grips will not be used. Guards may not have any sharp edges or corners. Period guards are available, for
information on where to purchase these, contact your Marshall.
- Parrying weapons such as daggers, bucklers, cloaks, etc. are NOT allowed in Courtsword combat.
- Projectile weapons may not be used in Courtsword combat.
General Rules of Combat and Honour
These rules apply to Rapier Combat. Any exceptions for Courtsword Combat are noted or the rules are outlined under
Courtsword Combat should be used.
- All combat shall take place in the round.
- All attacks shall be executed and counted as if from a real weapon on an unarmored surface. All areas of the body are valid
targets, except the weapon hand to two fingers width above the wrist. The two fingers rule may be waived if the combatants
- All blows in Rapier/Courtsword combat are struck at a sufficient force to be felt during a thrust or a cut. Combatants need
only make their attacks felt through the clothing of the opponent. Use of excessive force is grounds for loss of
Rapier/Courtsword privileges. The Marshall shall be the judge of sufficient and forceful blows. It is recommended that the
combatants gauge sufficient blows before combat begins.
- Pommelling is NOT ALLOWED.
- If combatants lock, a hold shall be called to separate them. Wrestling is not allowed, in the interest of safety.
- A thrust may be parried by the hand, arm, foot, etc, but the blade may not be grasped in Courtsword. The blade may be
parried at any point along its length, including the opponent's wrist. This hand-to-wrist contact, as a parry, is the ONLY body-
to-body contact allowed. If the hand alone is injured, the arm may still be used to parry. This rule may be modified under
"Optional Rules" below.
- A combatant may refuse combat with any weapon or combination of weapons,or with any opponent ONLY if they deem
combat to be unsafe or if they deem that the opponent is not accepting right and true blows.
- A hold shall be called if a combatant is disarmed. If a combatant drops a weapon to avoid being wounded or killed, they
shall be warned that this is a dishonorable act.
- For the sake of counting blows, Rapiers shall be understood to be double-edged, and sharp from hilt to point. Courtswords
have a point only and are therefore thrusting weapons.
- Rapier Combat may consist of as many combatants as safe Marshalling allows, as it represents street fights and bar brawls
in addition to the normal formal duel.
- Courtsword Combat shall consist of only two combatants at a time, as it represents a formal duel.
- Marshalls shall advise combatants as to their observation of blows. Marshalls with the agreement of the seconds may call a
victory in the event that a duelist does not accept legal blows.
- Marshalls will call a HOLD immediately should a point be caught (bind) in anything (hilt, armor, clothing etc) and fighters
will be aware that a HOLD is considered to be automatically called if a point is caught. See OPTIONAL RULES FOR RAPIER.
- In the event that a combatants blade breaks or is dropped, or the combatant is disarmed and they are wounded or killed
within time (typically this would occur during a counter-attack or time thrust, before the dropped or broken weapon hits the
ground), the wound or kill will count.
- At the conclusion of a bout the Marshall shall ask each combatant if they are satisfied. If satisfaction is not met the
Marshall will consult with the combatants as to the nature of the problem and may allow the combat to be re-fought.
Grappling of the Blade (Rapier only)
- The blade may be grasped at any point along it's length, except the tip. Should the hand come in contact with the tip, the
grip MUST be released to avoid any chance of removing the tip and exposing metal. The Marshall shall call a hold if the tip is
- A combatant electing to grab a blade shall be considered unharmed by this act as long as the blade remains motionless in
the hand. If the blade slides through the hand, the hand must be considered cut and disabled, but may still be used to parry.
- A combatant may ignore a sliding blade if he/she chooses to wear a mail glove, but still must release their grip should the
hand come into contact with an opponent's tip. Both Combatants must agree to this optional rule.
- Should both combatants' weapons become immobilized, a hold shall be called and the combatants shall be separated.
- At any time the Marshall shall call a hold if grappling of the blade appears unsafe (resulting in damage to the blade or
injuries to the combatants).
- It is NOT recommended that blades be grappled during an offensive maneuver.Grappling
- A combatant may attempt to neutralize an opponent's attack by grasping his/her weapon arm ONLY, and ONLY if done in
such a way as to cause or threaten NO INJURY.
- Clothing alone shall not be grasped.
- If both combatants' weapons arms are grasped, a hold shall be called and the combatants shall be separated.
- If at ANY time, a Marshall should consider a grappling attack unsafe, a hold shall be called.
- The off hand may be placed against the opponents body to prevent the bodies touching. In no way may the opponent be
forcefully pushed away however.
Armor as Worn
- Combat shall be conducted with the idea that armor that would be "proof" against actual Rapier attack will be counted as
- Only REAL armor shall be counted as "proof." Armor (except for helmets) constructed out of modern lighter materials,
such as plastics, shall NOT be considered "proof," as it affords an unfair advantage. A solid thrust to the armor is considered as
piercing the armor. Cuts do not affect armored surfaces.
- The option of "Armor as worn" may be used in competition lists if announced as such and with the approval of the
Counting of Wounds
- A thrust to a vital organ (chest/abdomen), face, or throat results in victory. A cut to a vital organ, throat, major vein or
artery results in victory. Remember: certain wounds, while not immediately disabling, will cause you to bleed to death in a
matter of seconds. This is enough time for a dramatic and overacted death. Olympic style saber cuts are discouraged. A cut
must be followed by a draw or push of the blade to be disabling. The length of the cut to be sufficient should be at least 1/4 of
the blade length. A tip cut will be considered a valid blow.
- Attacks to limbs shall be treated as disabling wounds. Except in the event where a major artery would be cut.
Optional Rules for Wounding
- Cheek cuts may be called if a light blow to the cheek is made. The cheek cut is considered a wound. A thrust to the cheek
will be considered a kill.
- Light cuts to the scalp may be considered a non-killing wound if the blade skates off of a blade or parrying device. The
combatants must both agree as to the force necessary to make a killing blow. It must be noted that scalp wounds bleed profusely
and in time would hamper the combatant. If the wound would cause blood to flow into the eyes, it should be counted as a
- Light thrusts to the arm and leg may be considered light wounds. Under this rule it would require 2-3 thrusts to a limb to
cause it to be disabled. If a thrust of this nature would hit a major artery it will be deemed a kill.
Miscellaneous Optional Rules
- Any combatant being disarmed, or dropping a weapon, must be able to draw another weapon from his/her person or yield.
NO HOLD SHALL BE CALLED. His/her opponent may exploit an earned advantage. However, this may be deemed as a
The Authorization of Duelists
ALL duelists MUST demonstrate proficiency in the use of each weapon or combination of weapons PRIOR to being allowed to
use them at ANY SCA tournament. This proficiency shall be judged by a Warranted Rapier Marshall. If the duelist is being
observed by more than two Marshalls, a majority MUST agree on the combatant's proficiency. A list will be kept by the local
Marshall, with copies being sent to the Principality and Kingdom Marshalls, of all authorized combatants within that local
Marshall's sphere of responsibility. All other required notifications and paperwork shall be kept up to date by these Marshalls.
ONLY A WARRANTED MARSHALL MAY SIGN AN AUTHORIZATION!
A duelist will present himself/herself, armed with the weapon(s) they wish to authorize with, to the Marshall. The Marshall
shall then inspect the combatant's equipment, and if it meets the required standards, he/she will be introduced to his/her
opponent. The opponent should be armed with a weapon or combination of weapons similar to that which is being authorized.
The opponent MUST be an experienced Rapier and/or Courtsword duelist.
For the first few minutes, the duelists are asked to spar at full speed, acknowledging blows verbally, but not counting them.
During this phase the Marshall and observers shall be getting an impression of the authorizing duelist's footwork,
coordination, stance, and parries. Then, if the first portion of the bout has progressed satisfactorily, the duelists are instructed to
proceed "as if it were a point of Honour," counting blows until one is defeated. During this time the new duelist's aggressiveness,
reaction to blows, and ability to cope with stress is observed. This second phase may be repeated as often as needed.
After the bout, the Marshall, the experienced opponent, and any authorized observer shall confer to decide if the new duelist
exhibits adequate performance in the minimum criteria for authorization, listed as follows:
A duelist must be authorized separately in the following weapons and combinations:
Any other combination including other parrying implements (scabbard, mug, etc)
- Brace of rapiers (florentine)
- Rapier and dagger
- Single Dagger
- Brace of daggers
- Rapier and buckler
- Rapier and cloak
The following are general rules for authorizing a duelist in the use of courtsword and rapier:
- Does the duelist know and apply the rules and customs of Rapier/Courtsword combat?
- Does the duelist exhibit safe behavior on the field, both for themselves, and others?
- Do they maintain proper stance? Do they parry properly?
- Does he/she avoid locking blades (Courtsword only)
- Is their offense adequate? Are their blows realistic in technique, but not overly hard?
- How do they react to pressure? Do they fight back, or do they get disorganized and confused?
- Is the duelist able to feel and judge blows, both given and received? Are blows acknowledged immediately?
- Is the duelist coordinated enough to keep from dropping the weapon repeatedly, and do they maintain their footing?
- Is the response IMMEDIATE to a call of "hold?" (This should occur at an unexpected time during the authorizing bout(s))
- Are they aware of the extreme danger of a broken blade, and of the necessity to FREEZE in place the instant of this
- Is his/her conduct courteous and honourable?
RAPIER AND BUCKLER
- Is the buckler of a period design (ca. 1500 to ca. 1600) and formed to protect the opponent's blade?
- Is it used in a safe manner, without offensive moves at anything but the opponent's blade?
RAPIER AND CLOAK
- Is the cloak of an acceptable design? Is it a period style?
- Is it used in a safe manner?
RAPIER AND DAGGER
- Is the dagger of an acceptable design? Is it a period style?
- Is it used in a safe manner?
- Brace of Rapiers is authorized the same way as single rapier.
- Two-handed forms must retain the same safety precautions as single handed forms.
- The Earl Marshall or Rapier Marshall of the Kingdom shall determine who shall be authorized to be a Rapier/Courtsword
Marshall. A Rapier/Courtsword Marshall will:
- Show proficiency or knowledge in all weapons combinations. The marshall does not necessarily have to be a currently
authorized rapier fighter.
- Have shown a consistent attitude for safety.
- Must demonstrate a knowledge of Rapier/Courtsword history. If they are able to fight, they must recognize and use
realistic and period techniques.
- Once a person is a Rapier/Courtsword Marshall, they may recommend other qualified persons to the Earl Marshall or
Rapier Marshall, who need not conduct a test of their qualifications himself/herself.
- There shall be persons known as "seconds."
- Their duty shall be to observe combat and advise the Marshall.
- They shall also insure that weapons, equipment, and combat does not endanger the Marshall, bystanders, duelists or other
- Seconds shall be appointed as needed by the Rapier Marshall, and shall be authorized or knowledgeable in
- There shall be NO Rapier/Courtsword List/combat unless there are at least one Rapier/Courtsword Marshall and two
seconds observant on the Field. Each second shall have the majority of their attention focused on one duelist, as assigned by the
Marshall, and should advise the Marshall of blows observed.
- The Marshall shall have ABSOLUTE say on any question regarding a duelist's performance on the Field. If a duelist is
cutting or thrusting improperly, or behaving in any way that is outside the Rules, Customs or Authorizations for
Rapier/Courtsword combat, then the Marshall may elect to expel him/her from the Field.
- The Marshall may revoke authorization for any weapon if he/she feels the duelist no longer meets minimum standards, and
the duelist MUST re-authorize in the presence of two Marshalls before using that weapon again.
- Revocations may be appealed to the Crown. The Crown's decision shall be final.