Drachenwald rules for Rapier Combat

28 July 2001

These rules are designed to promote safe rapier combat in Drachenwald. However, no matter how clear or accurate, rules cannot replace common sense, good judgment, and concern for the participants. If a question arises when applying these standards, choose the answer that promotes the greatest degree of safety for all participants.

I. General Information

A. All combatants, prior to every combat or practice, shall insure their equipment is safe, in good working order and has been inspected by a member of the Kingdom Marshallate authorized to inspect rapier gear.

B. Each fencer is expected to abide by the Rules of the List and Conventions of Combat of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc., and the additional rules set forth by the Kingdom of Drachenwald.

II. Behavior on the Field

A. All fighters shall obey the commands of the marshals overseeing the field, or be removed from the field and subject to further disciplinary action.

B. Disagreements with the marshals overseeing the field shall be resolved through the established mechanisms outlined in the Marshallate Procedures of the SCA, Inc.

C. Each fighter shall maintain control over his or her temper and behavior at all times. Likewise, each fighter shall maintain control over his or  her body at all times.

D. Striking an opponent with excessive force, or with deliberate intent to injure, is forbidden.

E. Upon hearing the call of "hold" all fighting shall immediately stop. The fighters shall freeze, check for hazards in their immediate vicinity, and then assume a non-threatening position with their weapons pointed away from their opponents. All blows after the hold do not count.

F. Conduct obstructive of normal rapier combat, such as consistent ignoring of blows, deliberate misuse of the rules (such as calling "hold" whenever pressed), or the like, is forbidden.

III. Use of Weapons and Parrying Devices

A. Blows are struck by: thrusting with the point of the blade (thrust); sliding the edge of the blade by drawing (draw cut) or pushing (push cut); or by placing the tip of the blade upon, and then drawing it across an opponent (tip cut).

B. Chopping or hacking blows are never permitted.

C. Parrying devices may be used to move, deflect, or immobilize an opponent’s weapon or parrying device, so long as such use does not endanger the safety of the combatants.

D. Striking an opponent with any part of a weapon or parrying device not approved for that purpose is prohibited.

IV. Acknowledgement of Blows

A. In judging blows, all fighters are presumed to be wearing common civil attire of the period (such as shirt and trousers / skirt), not armor.

B. Tourneys may be held which define areas of the body as if armored, and to what degree, so long as all the participants are made aware of these special conditions prior to the start of combat.

C. In rapier combat, blows will be counted as though they were struck with a real blade, extremely sharp on point and edge. Any blow that would have penetrated the skin shall be counted a good blow. Any blow that strikes a mask, helm or gorget shall be counted as though it struck flesh. Any thrust that causes the tip of the blade to begin to exert pressure against a fighter through fabric or against the mask/helm/gorget—not incidental grazing, but at the onset of a push—will be considered a good blow.

D. Cuts, whether by edge or tip, shall exert pressure (as above) against a fighter in order to be counted good. An incapacitating cut shall be at least 20 cm.

E. A good blow to the

—inner groin (to the fighter’s hand width down the inner limb), or
—armpit (to the fighter’s hand width down the inner limb)

shall be judged incapacitating, rendering the fighter incapable of further combat.  A good cut of at least 20 cm to these locations shall be judged incapacitating.

F. A good blow to the arm will disable the arm. A good blow to the hand shall render the hand useless; the arm above the incapacitated hand may still be used to parry.

G. A good blow to the foot or leg will disable the leg. The fighter must then fight kneeling or sitting. Standing on one leg or hopping is not permitted, nor is flopping forward from a kneeling position or any action that causes the fighter to lose control of his or her body.

H. Parries may be performed with weapons, parrying devices or limbs. Though the gloved hand may be used to parry, it shall not be used to push, grasp or strike an opponent.

I. Optional Rule (both fighters must agree to this before a bout, and notify the marshal): Fighters may choose to grasp, rather than parry, heavier types of blades (i.e, schlagers and Del Tins). If the blade that is grasped moves or twists in the grasping hand, that hand is deemed disabled. Grasping techniques shall be used only to immobilize a blade, not to bend it or wrest it from the opponent’s grip. Blades may not be held for more than 3 seconds.

J. Should a limb or soft parry device come into contact with the body and a good thrust land, that part of the body will also be considered to have received a good thrust.

V. Weapons and Parrying Devices

A. Sharp points, edges or corners are not allowed anywhere on any equipment.

B. All equipment must be able to safely withstand combat stresses.

C. Equipment that is likely to break a blade or damage other equipment is prohibited. Any equipment that has small rigid openings large enough to admit a rapier tip will not be used against fencing-type blades, as defined in this section (e.g., small holes in bell guards, small openings in cage or swept hilts, any design which has acute angles where a blade could easily be wedged and bent). Knuckle bows are deemed safe for use with fencing-type blades.

D. Blades:

1. The following classes of blades are used:

a. "Fencing type" rapiers:


b. "Heavier type" rapiers:

—Oval bladed schlagers
—Diamond bladed schlagers
—Del Tin Practice Rapiers

c. Dagger blades:


2. All blades are subject to the following:

a. Any blade in a given rapier class may be used against any other blade in that same class, but not against blades of the other class. Daggers may be used against either class of rapier blade.

b. Steel blades must be manufactured by commercial suppliers. Artisans desiring an exception must apply to the Deputy Society Marshal for Rapier Combat and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

c. Steel blades will not be altered by grinding, cutting, heating, hammering, or other actions that could significantly alter their temper, flexibility or durability. Normal combat stresses and blade care do not violate this rule. Exceptions are:

—The tang of the weapon may be altered.
—Heavier-type blades may be shortened so long as it does not make them too stiff.
—The tips of heavier-type blades must be flattened (perpendicular to the long axis of the blade); the corners shall be rounded off, so that no surface presents a sharp angle.

Marshals will inspect altered blades. Fighters are responsible for informing the Marshals of any alteration.

d. All steel blades must be reasonably flexible. Rigid steel "parrying-only" daggers such as those made from cut down blades will not be allowed.

e. Except as below, all blade ends must be capped with rubber, plastic, or leather.

—Tips on foils, epees and flexi-daggers will have a blunt striking surface, presenting a cross-section of at least 3/8 inch (9 mm) diameter.
—Tips on heavier type of blades will have a flat striking surface of at least 1/2 inch (13mm) diameter.
—Tips must be firmly taped or glued in place. The tip must be of a color contrasting with the blade so that the tip’s absence is readily apparent. If tape is used, it must contrast with both blade and tip.

f. Any blade with kinks, sharp bends, or cracks shall not be used. Steel blades that develop these defects cannot be repaired and must be retired. Fencing type rapiers or flexidaggers with "S" curves shall not be used unless they can be properly re-curved to pass the Marshal's inspection.

g. Weapons may use a hand guard such as a cup hilt, swept hilt or quillons and knucklebow. The ends of quillons must be blunt. In all cases, quillons must not be longer than 12 inches (30.5 cm) overall, and the ends must be blunt.

h. Orthopedic (or "Pistol") grips will not be used unless the fighter has approval for medical reasons. At a minimum, fighters wishing to use these hilts shall provide a letter to the Kingdom Rapier Marshal, from a health care provider, discussing the conditions which would make use of such a grip advisable.

E. Parrying Devices:

1. Solid parrying devices will be made of sturdy, lightweight materials, resistant to breakage and splintering. Note: The maximum distance across of bucklers will be 20 inches (51 cm).

2. Soft, non-rigid devices such as cloaks may be made of cloth, foam, leather and similar materials. They may be weighted with soft material such as rope or rolled cloth; they shall not be weighted with any rigid material, nor with materials which are heavy enough to turn the device into a flail or impact weapon.

3. Devices that predictably cause entangling of an opponent or their equipment, either by design or by repeated mishap, are not allowed.

F. Projectile Weapons:

1. The use of any projectile weapon is forbidden within formal rapier Tournament lists (single combat), or in any situation where spectators cannot be separated from the potential line of fire by more than the effective range of the projectile weapons to be used.

2. Throwing weapons, and/or mock-gunnery gear (such as rubber-band guns) may be used in rapier melee combat if the Marshal in Charge agrees before the melee.

3. Throwing weapons shall be made of soft flexible materials such as cloth, tape, foam and golf tubes and must be approved by the Marshal in Charge on a case by case basis.

VI. Protective Gear

A. Materials.  In order of increasing resistance:

1. Abrasion-resistant material: material that will withstand normal combat stresses (such as being snagged by an unbroken blade) without tearing. Examples include, but are not limited to: broadcloth, a single layer of heavy poplin cloth (35% cotton, 65% polyester; "trigger" cloth), sweat pants, woven knit tights or lycra/spandex mix tights. Nylon pantyhose and cotton gauze shirts are examples of unacceptable materials.

2. Puncture-resistant material: any fabric or combination of fabrics that will predictably withstand puncture. Examples include, but are not limited to: 4-5 ounce (2 mm) leather; four layers of heavy poplin cloth; ballistic nylon rated to at least 550 Newtons; commercial fencing clothing rated to at least 550 Newtons. Kevlar is not an acceptable material, as it degrades rapidly. These materials need only be tested at the marshal’s discretion; all other materials must be tested the first time new gear is used, or if no marshal on the field knows a given piece of gear to have been tested.

3. Rigid Material: puncture-resistant material that will not significantly flex, spread apart, or deform under pressure of 12 Kg applied repeatedly to any single point.  Examples of rigid material are:

a 22 gauge stainless steel (0.8 mm)
b. 20 gauge mild steel (1.0 mm)
c. 16 gauge aluminum, copper, or brass (1.6 mm)
d. one layer of heavy leather (8 ounce, 4 mm)

B. Head and Neck:

1. The front and top of the head must be covered by rigid material to below the jaw line and behind the ears. Standard 12 kg fencing masks are known to meet this standard. If built to this standard, fencing helms are also acceptable.

2. The face must be covered by either 12 kilogram mesh (e.g, a standard fencing mask) or perforated metal. Such metal must not have holes larger than 1/8" (3 mm) in diameter, with a minimum offset of 3/16" (5 mm) and shall also meet the definition of rigid material.

3. Masks and helms must be secured to the fighter, so that they cannot be easily removed or dislodged during combat. The combination of snug fit and the spring-tongue in a conventional fencing mask is NOT sufficient, by itself, to secure the mask to the fighter.

4. Both modern fencing masks and rapier helms, when inspected, shall comply with the rigid material standard, provisions on facial coverage, and shall show no evidence of impending failure (e.g, rust which weakens the metal involved, dents or other defects which spread open mesh, broken weld points, etc). If there is concern about the face mesh of a modern fencing mask, it should be tested using a standard commercial 12kg mask punch. Marshals doing the testing shall be trained in the use of the punch.

5. The rest of the head and neck must be covered by at least puncture resistant material. If heavier-type rapiers are being used, additional throat protection is required; it shall consist of rigid material, as noted above (metal recommended), covering the entire throat, and shall be backed by either puncture resistant material (as a hood), one quarter inch (1/4") (6 mm) of open-cell foam, or their equivalents.  The cervical vertebrae shall also be protected by rigid material, provided by some combination of gorget, helm, and/or hood insert.

C. Torso and Other Killing Zones

1. The entire torso (the chest, back, abdomen, groin, and sides up to and including the armpits) must be covered with puncture-resistant material. Female fencers are reminded that their breasts are in a prime target area and are strongly encouraged to wear additional padding or protection.  Rigid chest protection is recommended, though not required.

2. Acceptable minimum armpit coverage is provided by a triangle extending from the armpit seam, covering the lower half of the sleeve at the seam, and extending down the inner/under arm, one-third the distance to the fighter’s elbow.

3. Male fighters shall wear rigid groin protection. Any ventilation holes large enough to admit a broken blade must be covered from the outside with at least puncture-resistant material. Female fighters shall wear puncture resistant groin protection.

D. Arms and Legs

1. Hands shall be protected by gloves, made of abrasion resistant material, that overlap any sleeve openings as below. Feet shall be protected by boots, shoes, or sandals, comprised of at least abrasion-resistant material.

2. Abrasion-resistant material is required on arms (save as noted above for armpits), legs, and any area not otherwise mentioned in these rules.

3. No skin shall be bared. There shall be sufficient overlap between separate pieces of protective clothing, regardless of the fighter’s stance or movements, that the minimum protection for that body area be preserved.

VII. Marshaling Concerns in Rapier Combat

A. Marshals:

1. Fencing marshals are not subordinate to knight marshals, they are a separate entity.

2. Marshals shall be specifically trained and warranted for period fencing. Local Marshals shall be warranted by the Regional Marshal, Regional Marshals and Marshals at Large shall be warranted from the Kingdom Marshal of Fence, who is in turn appointed by the Crown.

3. Marshals shall be thoroughly versed in the Drachenwald Fencing Rules, and shall enforce those rules.

4. Marshals shall obey the guidelines as they are pointed out in the Drachenwald Marshal’s Handbook.

B. Authorizations: Fencing authorizations shall be performed by an observing warranted marshal, and an authorized marshal facing the person attempting to be authorized. Competence in other SCA combat styles does not automatically mean competence in rapier. Separate warrants and authorizations in rapier combat are required.

C. Equipment Inspection: Prior to the start of a list, the Marshal shall inspect all equipment (Armour, Weapons and Parry-devices) of all fencers participating in the list. This is a service for the fencers, to make sure that they may be fencing under the safest conditions possible. This does not alter the fact that each fencer is fully responsible for the safety of his equipment and behaviour.

D. Marshalling a Bout: All tournament bouts shall have at least one fencing marshal present. An additional marshal or marshal-in-training is strongly recommended. The marshal of a bout has the absolute say on a fencer’s conduct on the field.

1. Prior to beginning or resuming combat, the marshal shall request and receive verbal confirmation that all are ready before fighting commences.

2. At the conclusion of each combat bout, the marshal will ask if all the combatants are satisfied with the outcome before summoning the herald onto the field. If a fencer disputes the outcome, he must settle the grievance before leaving the field. Departing the field will be considered acceptance of the results.

3. During the bout Marshals shall pay special attention to the following situations:

a. Broken Blades: Marshals and fighters shall pay special attention for missing tips or broken blades.

b. Excessive Impact: Combat in the Society poses risks to the participant. This recognition, however, does not excuse fighters from exercising control of their techniques. If a fighter throws blows which force their opponent to retire from the field, from a real injury (even one which only causes brief incapacitation), the marshal responsible for the field shall take such steps as are appropriate to stop the problem from recurring.

c. Cloaks: When cloaks are used, "hold" should be called if the cloak becomes tangled about either fighter, or about one of the weapons such that the weapon cannot be withdrawn. "Hold" need not be called if the cloak is merely near the face, deflecting a weapon, loosely draped over, or weighting down the blade.

d. Blade Grasping: If a heavy bladed rapier has been grasped by an opponent, "hold" shall be called if wrestling about the blade occurs.

4. The means to enforce the rules:

a. Marshals may issue a caution for such behavior as: excessive slapping or chopping with blade, hitting with excessive force, not calling blows.

b. Marshals may issue a warning for such behavior as continuing to slap, chop hitting too hard, not calling blows following a Caution, not obeying the marshal, or losing temper on the field. Warnings shall be formally reported to the Marshal in Charge, who will in turn report it up the marshallate chain. Fighters may continue to fight a bout after the first warning, but will forfeit the bout if they receive a second warning. If three warnings are issued at an event, the fighter will not be allowed to participate in anymore rapier activities for the rest of the event. If a fighter receives 3 warnings within a 6 month time period, their authorization will be suspended for 6 months.

E. Melee: Melee combats present special challenges to all involved. Society norms are as below:

1. In melees, fighters are engaged with all opponents immediately upon the call to lay on.

2. Fighters may strike any opponent with any legal blow if they are within the 180 degree arc of the opponent’s front. A fighter who approaches an opponent from behind shall not deliver a blow until he is within that frontal arc. A fighter may never strike an opponent from behind.

3. Killing from behind is allowed if it has been announced beforehand. The Society norm for "death from behind" in melees shall be: If a melee scenario allows killing from behind, a fighter does so by laying the rapier blade over the opponent’s shoulder, to at least a third of the blade, while calling "Dead, my lord" (or other short, courteous phrases) in a loud, clear voice. Reaching around the neck is forbidden. The opponent will be deemed "killed" from the instant the blade touches his shoulder and shall not attempt to spin, duck or dodge away. Note: If death from behind is not allowed in a given melee, a fighter who deliberately ignores an attacker behind them, or repeatedly manouvers to keep their back to an attacker (thereby preventing any attack on them) may be considered misuse of the rules and obstructive behaviour.

4. In special scenario melees (e.g., bridge or town battles), additional restrictions may be imposed by the marshals as needed.

F. Periodic Testing of Protective Gear: Kingdoms shall require all gear to have been formally tested (including fabric and mask tests, as appropriate) at least once every two years. Compliance is the responsibility of the individual fighter. Any protective gear may be formally tested if there is concern that the gear may have lost protective ability due to age, wear and tear, or other factors.

VIII. Qualifications for Authorization:

A. Waivers: All Fencers must have a valid waiver on file at the Kingdom Marshal of Fence, in addition to any other waiver the fencer may have signed.

B. Minors: The minimum age for training and authorization in rapier combat is 16. When fighters under the age of 18 undertake training and authorization, the Kingdom Rapier Marshal (or his designated representatives) shall ensure that the minor’s parent or legal guardian has observed rapier combat, is aware of the risk of injury inherent in this martial art, and has signed a statement explicitly acknowledging the above.

C. The fencer will be familiar with the rules and armor requirements for fencing in Drachenwald.

D. The fencer poses no threat of injury either to themselves or their opponent.

E. The fencer can define and demonstrate some defensive capabilities (a minimum of 2 parries).

F. The fencer can define and demonstrate some offensive capability other than just a direct attack.

G. If a fencer authorizes in heavy Rapier blades, that blade may be used with foil/epee authorized forms with the exception of two rapiers. Due to weight differences, fighters must authorize separately with a case of heavy rapier blades.

H. Weapons Forms (note: these abbreviations will be used on the authorization card).

1. Foil/Epee (F/E)—This shows a fencer may use all authorized weapons forms with light bladed rapiers.

2. Heavy Rapier (Slgr)—This shows a fencer may use all authorized weapons forms with heavy bladed rapiers (other than SR2).

3. Rapier (Ra)—The form shall consist of a single rapier, with the second hand empty. A fencer may use the empty hand for defense.  It is the recommendation of the Marshallate that the first authorization should be in rapier using foil or epee.

4. Two Rapiers (R2)—This form will consist of two rapiers.

5. Two Heavy Rapiers (SR2)—This form consists of two heavy rapiers.

6. Rapier and Rigid Parrying Device (Rr)—This form shall consist of one rapier and one rigid parrying device such as a buckler, scabbard, or mug, etc.

7. Rapier and dagger (Rd)—This form shall consist of a rapier and a thrusting dagger.

8. Rapier and Non-rigid Parrying device (Rnr)—This form shall consist of a rapier and a non-rigid parrying device such as a cloak or hat.


When the SCA's original standard for protective gear fabric (4 layers of heavy poplin or "trigger" cloth) was tested, in order to provide objective measures for testing other fabrics, it was found that 4 joules of energy, delivered by a 5/32" (4 mm) flat, dull surface, was reliably resisted when the fabric was clamped over a frame. Higher amounts of energy led to penetration, as did sharp testing surfaces. (4 joules is delivered by 1.4 kg, dropping 30 cm.)

Any testing device built to field-test protective gear should, therefore:
--deliver 4 joules energy to the fabric sample
--use a dull, flat 5/32" diameter cylindrical rod to deliver the force to the fabric
--test the gear, or fabric sample, when it is clamped flat (not stretched taut) over a frame, so that nothing is under the test sample but air.

A single test drop is adequate to assess the material in question, unlike the older four thrust test (see below).

The Newton standard used by commercial suppliers of contemporary fencing gear does not correlate precisely to this standard. However, commercial fencing gear/fabrics, in testing, has been found to consistently resist penetration, by the same test as used on 4 layers heavy poplin cloth, at a rating of 550 Newtons. Consequently, commercial gear/fabric which has been rated by a testing laboratory to 550 N is considered acceptable.

Kingdoms may opt to allow continued use of the traditional four thrust test, using a flat-broken foil blade to thrust against the material, as a field expedient if no other testing tool is available. To conduct this test, lay the material to be tested on firm ground or penetrable material (not hardpacked dirt, concrete, or similarly hard surfaces). Holding the broken blade in both hands, punch the material four times, increasing the force each time. After each punch, examine the material.

If the gear to be tested is made of a single layer, it fails if penetrated by the 5/32" (4 mm) diameter dull, flat cylindrical rod, or by the broken foil in ANY of the four thrusts. If the protective gear is made of multiple layers of material, no more than the top layer may be penetrated when tested; if more than one layer is penetrated, the gear fails.

If doubt exists about a weapon's flexibility, an acceptable field test is:
Hold weapon parallel to the ground, supporting handle against table or bench if necessary. Hang a 3 ounce weight (85 grams) just behind the tip.  If the blade of a dagger (out to 18" blade length) flexes visibly (more than 1/4 inch <6 mm>), the blade is sufficiently flexible. For a rapier blade (greater than 18"), the flex must be 1/2 inch (12 mm).


Before any new weapon or technique can be used in Society Rapier Combat, a test plan must be submitted to and approved by the Deputy Society Marshal for Rapier Combat. This plan shall describe:
-- the new weapon or technique
-- specifics of materials used and construction of the weapon (as appropriate);
-- in the case of new blade types, a sample of the new blade-type for direct evaluation by the Deputy Society Marshal the proposed uses of the new weapon or technique
-- all restrictions that will be imposed during the experimental period how long the test period will be.

It is the prerogative of the Kingdom Rapier Marshals, subject to the above, and to approval of their Earl Marshals, to allow testing of new weapons or techniques within a kingdom. Testing means the weapon or technique may be used at fighter practice, tourneys, and in small melees after all combatants and marshals have been informed the weapon or technique is being tested and that it is not approved for general SCA use. All combatants and marshals must consent to the use of the weapon or technique before combat begins. If any of the marshals or combatants object to the use of the weapon or technique, it may not be used.

At regular intervals the Kingdom Rapier Marshal shall report to their Earl Marshal, and the Deputy Society Marshal, on the progress and results of the experiment. At the end of the test period the Kingdom Rapier Marshal will provide the Deputy Society Marshal with a test summary, to include a list of injuries that resulted from the use of the weapon or technique, and any concerns from fighters and marshals arising from the testing. The Deputy Society Marshal, after consultation with the Kingdom Rapier Marshals, shall determine if the weapon or technique seems suitable for SCA Rapier Combat. He shall then report to the Society Marshal for final adjudication.