A tournament (also called a tourney) is a spectator fighting event, in which male and female combatants compete one-on-one or in small groups. It’s an opportunity for Armoured Fighters and Rapier Combatants to test their training and show off their skills, and for non-fighters to gather together and enjoy the show. Tournaments can be smaller, stand-alone events, or they can be incorporated into the schedule of a larger event like a feast.
(PLEASE NOTE: at a tournament, you may hear someone call ‘HOLD!’ This is our all-purpose danger warning, and if you hear it, you should freeze and repeat the call. Once the danger has been identified and resolved, you may continue with what you were doing.)
What happens at a tournament?
Combatants will be instructed to arrive early to present themselves to the ‘Lists’. These are the people who plan who will fight who, and keep score so that they can decide who has won the tournament at the end. Once they’ve told Lists that they plan to fight, combatants need to present themselves to the ‘Marshals’ (our safety officers/referees) who will check that their equipment meets our safety guidelines.
There will be a roped-off area (called a ‘list field’) where the fights will take place, and when the organisers are ready to begin, an announcer (called a ‘Herald’) will get everyone’s attention and announce the beginning of the tournament. At the beginning of each fight, the Herald will announce the fighters and instruct them to make their salutes, and then the Marshal will call for the beginning of the fight. At the end of each fight, the Marshal will point to the winner, and the Herald will announce their name.
Depending on the format of the tournament, there may be several rounds, or a continuous sequence of fights. Combatants may be eliminated between rounds, or they may each fight everyone else. You might hear the Herald announce a ‘bye’, meaning that – due to an odd number of fighters – one of the combatants is sitting out the round. We also have challenge tourneys, in which fighters pick their own opponents. Some tournaments specify the weapons to be used, or have other themes or handicaps.
At the end of the tournament, once the Lists have figured out the results, a Herald will call everyone together to hear the outcome. This may take the form of a Baronial Court, or it might just be an announcement by the event organiser. Not all formats have a single winner, but outstanding combatants will probably be congratulated, and may be given a prize. It is also normal to give three cheers for all the combatants, and for the Marshals, Lists, and Herald who ran the tournament.
Can I fight?
In order to fight in a tournament, you need to be authorised in that fighting style. This means that a qualified Marshal (safety officer) has signed off on a form saying that you are a safe combatant. You will receive an authorisation card once the form has been submitted, and will need to show that card when signing up to fight in any non-training scenario.
If you aren’t authorised yet and want to learn, come along to our regular training, or get in touch with the officers in charge of armoured combat (at email@example.com) or rapier (at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Is it safe?
Yes! Although, we can’t absolutely guarantee perfect safety, we work hard to make sure no one gets hurt, even during combat. We use wooden or blunted weapons, and have strict armour standards, with all equipment inspected by trained Marshals (safety officers) before each tournament. Marshals also monitor each fight, ready to intervene at any sign of danger. We make sure to have a first aid officer (called a Chirurgeon) available to address any unexpected injuries and make sure all our fighters remember to keep hydrated.
Are there horses?
Usually, no. The SCA does have Equestrian Activities, but they will always be specifically mentioned in the event description if they’re happening.
I don’t fight. Is it worth coming?
Yes! Tournaments are not only for combatants! Many group members love watching the fights, whether they are learning to fight themselves, supporting someone on the field, or just enjoying the show. Tournaments are a great opportunity to dress up, bring a project along, and socialise with other members of the group.
Can kids come?
Yes! Children and teenagers are welcome at all of our events, and in the majority of cases, the only entry fee for minors is the $5 insurance fee for non-members. Since tournaments are generally daytime, outdoor events, they’re particularly well-suited to younger children who may get too tired for events in the evening. We only ask that you supervise your children and make sure they know to stay back from the list field.
Is there food?
Sometimes. Every tournament is different, and the event description will say whether there is food and how much. There will always be water available. If there is food, remember to bring dishes and cutlery with you, as they are not provided at SCA events.
What do I wear?
A tournament is almost always a ‘garbed’ event, meaning that everyone will be in costume. While some people will be wearing very elaborate outfits, any attempt at pre-17th century clothing is acceptable. For more information, see What to Wear to an Event, or contact our equipment loans officer (at email@example.com), who has clothing available to borrow.
What do I bring?
At minimum, all you’ll need is a cup, so you can drink water when you get thirsty. Depending on food options, you might want to bring dishes and cutlery, or a snack. Seating is often limited, so it’s helpful to bring a folding chair, a wooden stool, or a cloth to put on the ground. Many people bring portable craft projects to work on while they chat. And don’t forget sunscreen!