Notes and Mnemonics on the interaction of concious, subconcious, and physical factors in the art of SCA Combat

Instructor: Prof. Starkaadersson, M.A. (Master of Arms)
Course credit is on non-grade basis (Pass/Die)


I. The Basics

A. Breathing

1. Breathe in when recovering, resting, retreating (passive mode.)

2. Breathe out when striking or actively defending (active/attack mode.)

B. Balance

1. Body torso ideally remains upright (or nearly so) and positioned over your base (feet/legs) during the fight.

2. Feet are positioned in a "T" stance familiar to fencers and martial artists. Feet are spread at shoulder width or slightly wider, knees bent.

3. Movement made during engagement is done with a "shuffle step" familar to basketball players and wrestlers.

4. Adjustment forward or back while feet are planted is accomplished by sagging forward or back on front or back knee, not by leaning. Torso should remain relatively erect.

C. Distance and Movement

1. The ideal distance is one which allows you to attack or evade with little movement (through bending your knees.) Work at maintaining this through a fight. It's more scary and tiring on your opponent than on you.

2. When attacked by a charging opponent, first step is back, then move sideways. Move to shield side or weak side of opponents with sword and shield or polearm. Move to strong side of florentine or bastard sword.

3. Keep your eye on your opponent's sternum, and not on his eyes, hands, or weapons. Peripheral vision will pick up everything you need to see without moving your eyes. More importantly, the torso is the last part of the the body to move in a feint.

4. Remember the law of the Point of No Return: There is a given point in space and time on any attack where the attack must be delivered to its apparently intended target. Past this point, more energy and strength is needed to stop or redirect the blow than is worth the effort. Defensive moves are made just after your opponent reaches this point of no return in his attack.

D. Relax!

1. Try to relax both conciously and unconciously. Breathing exercises/mediation/stretching beforehand help. Simple Zen techniques can be very useful.

2. Swinging harder won't make you swing faster, it will only piss off your opponent. Relax!

E. Practice Aids

1. Try to practice regularly in front of a mirror. Go through your moves both in and out of armor.

2. Instead of weapons, use exercise weights and go through your movements very slowly in front of a mirror. Work for a smooth flow of movement. Relax.

3. Build a pell and use it daily. Try to do each blow as exactly correctly as possible. Worry about speed later. Doing 10 exactly right each day is batter than 100 wrong blows.

II. Philosophy

A. Combination of mind and body

1. Top fighters only get that way by a successful merging of the mind and body as a team. Only practicing physical moves or only doing mind exercises cannot get you as far. Once the basic moves and responses are mastered, the mind is freed for synthesis of tactics and strategy appropriate to that unique fight. This has been called by such different names as "educated reflex" and "the ugly little animal in the back of my brain."

B. The body

1. Far too many SCA fighters rely only on SCA fighting for developing their bodies. This can result in over-stressing (if you only fight at tourneys and the very infrequent practice) or simply not pushing the muscles that will help you improve.

2. Work out in an intelligent manner apart from fighting. Weights are good (go for lots of reps with lighter weights rather than trying to look as good and fight as badly as Schwarzenhunker.) Running or swimming is excellent aerobic excercise. Tai Chi and karate-style exercises will increase your flexibility and greatly improve your balance (it will help your concentration and relaxation.)

3. Do however, practice at SCA fighting too. But don't just go out and hack and bash. Working on specific moves, movements, and ideas is much more beneficial than sparring alone.

C. The mind

1. Relaxing cannot be stressed too much. You should be able to eventually reach a state where you are relaxed, very alert, and almost detached from the movements of the fight. At the same time, you are concentrating completely on the fight.

2. Preparation. Sit or stand comfortably erect. Breathe in through nose, out through mouth slowly. Imagine and feel all tension and concern draining out through a hole in your foot, leaving you clean and relaxed. When you have drained out the tension, find your centerpoint, usually behind and below your navel. Imagine and feel it growing brighter and hotter. Feel it spreading outward through your body, your arms, your legs. When you can feel sparks spraying off your fingertips, only God can help your opponent. Congratulations. You have just completely relaxed and switched on your adrenaline. This is called ki, among other things. I can sometimes supercharge it from this point by having "Bold Marauder," as sung by the Russian Army Chorus, play in my head.

3. Concentrate conciously on things in practice. This makes it easier for your subconcious to handle it in a fight.

Don't be afraid of losing. Instead, love to win. Relax!

Back to Articles