Caidan "Shinai" combat (Was: Re: Digest Number 1120)
- Greetings, Solveig.
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, Solveig <nostrand@a...> wrote:
> Noble Cousins!
> Greetings from Solveig!
> >There were alleged liability potentials because the form wasn't
> >directly supported in Corpora.
> That clain is purest bull. There are lots of activities in the
> Society that are not directly mentioned in Corpora. Also, last I
> looked, the word rattan does not appear in Corpora. Lack of popular
> support is a genuine reason. However, citing the reason given
> above suggests that the real motive may have more to do with
> personal dislike.
There has always been a degree of "resistance" to the Shinai fighters
in Caid. Icky politics and a perceived "separatism" of the Shinai
people was a constant problem for us. We're one of the
most "volunteer oriented" groups in the kingdom, so by our nature we
tend to provide our own marshals, water bearers, lists people, etc.
Somehow, instead of this being perceived as a Good Thing(TM), it made
us seperatist and "fringey". This could be coupled somewhat with the
fact that, in years past, "Light Weapons" fighters tended to be
entirely unrecognized at court (this has changed substantially in
recent years, however), which led to many LW fighters not really
bothering much with court and SCA Politics. Further "proof" of our
> >There were concerns from the crown because of a certain degree of
> >"non-period appearance".
> This sounds like a real reason. It is a bit of honest "ick phooey".
> Rattan doesn't look all that period either, but the crown is used
> to it.
Well . . . there's an expression about Caid . . . "Welcome to Caid,
now get dressed." As I understand it, Caid is one of the most fussy
kingdoms about appearance.
The kinds of things that we were being "pinged" for was having
exposed protective gear (typically knee or elbow pads), lapses in
garb realism (an occasional fighter wearing a karate gi or sweat
pants or tennis shoes or modern looking work-boots) and so forth.
Though the majority had at least "generic" European garb, some of
the "I'm a ninja!" types would occasionally plague us, and you know
the saying about bad apples.
However, this was largely being remedied. We were working with our,
uh, shall we say "less cooperative" members to get them dressed
better. There were what I would call significant improvements right
before the KEM's announcement.
> >There were concerns form the Chivalry because the practice of the
> >form was too unrealistic (i.e. forms not based on actual period
> This is "not invented here". I donn't know what they were doing in
> Caid, but shinai is a practice form for real swords.
The style, as practiced in Caid up until August 1, had some
weaknesses, in appearance if not in fact. The so-called "Fairy Wand"
or "Light-Saber duel" appearance, where very unrealistic shots could
be used to win a bout, were a byproduct of nearly 20 years of
evolution of the style within certain unrealistic constraints.
Because the power of a blow had an upper limit (over-powerful blows
were NOT allowed for safety reasons) and the shinai themselves were
so light, there were a number of blows that under no circumstances
would have been capable of causing a real "kill", but which were
counted as such because of the "touch-kill" nature.
In short, the sport evolved to take advantage of its strengths (very
light weapons that could be moved in ridiculously fast and
unrealistic manner) and its weaknesses (any touch, even one that
couldn't possibly have caused real injury to an opponent, was
considered good). I would say that this isn't unique to "Light
Weapons" (Shinai) at all. I've seen every form adopt styles that
work for their purposes but which, for whatever reason, would be less
than realistic in real life. But it was too obvious in our case.
> >In July, at the "Crown Prints Prize" tournament, myself and
> >several others were given an opportunity to present contrary
> >arguments to fight against the dissolution of the style. At that
> >time, we used documentation from sources such as Fiore, Talhoffer,
> >Leichtenauer, et. al. to justify unarmored combat in period.
> >(Just as a side note sure to irritate a few members of this list,
> >only EUROPEAN documentation of unarmored combat was considered
> >legitimate for the purpose of justifying a fighting style in the
> >SCA. I could, naturally, provide a fair bit of documentation on
> >the Asian front, but this was essentially branded "Out of Scope".)
> Odd. Weren't you using kendo armour?
Kendo armor is quite expensive. LW/Shinai has always striven to
be "cheaper than Armor" to get involved with, and buying Kendo gear
would be prohibitive to many of the younger / poorer participants.
The protective gear requirements for LW/Shinai was basically a helmet
(kendo or fencing), gloves, elbow and knee pads, groin protection
and, for warfighting where archery was involved, semi-rigid back of
the head and kidney protection. Again, this was a "touch sport", so
the added protection offered by Kendo armor was redundant, and
actually inclined to cause poor blow recognition in those who wore
The average LW/Shinai fighter would spend less than $100 for a
complete set of gear and a low-end size 39 shinai. This made it, by
far, the cheapest form available, which brought a lot of newbies in
who wanted to dip in a toe before going whole hog and buying into
$300+ Heavy Weapons rigs.
Also, a few years back it was decided that Caid would NOT support
LW/Shinai if it was "Japan-centric". The marshalate at that time
stated that they wanted us to be "more European". Thus Kendo armor
would have tended to step away from that idea. Most of the
participants are also European personae, which again seems to
contradict Japanese armor.
> >The style is labeled "Unarmored Combat", and is still very much an
> >experimental form. We have our basis in the period fighting
> >manuals as mentioned above, and essentially simulate
> >"Blossfechten" (Shirtsleeves Fighting, or, fighting without armor;
> >contrast with "Harneschfechten", or Harness Fighting, the armored
> >stuff.) Weapons are constructed to emulate actual swords (i.e.
> >they are not round, but actually have a similar profile as a
> >legitimate sword would), including being a fair bit weightier than
> >Shinai. Contact levels are still low-power, but are increased a
> >bit from the "touch-kill" that was being used previously.
> Again odd. Fencing evolved in Western Europe using a touch-kill
Yes. But fencing as practiced by most of the world outside of the
SCA still involves fighting in a linear fashion on a strip, with
extremely light foils, etc. The "sport" evolution of fencing is past
SCA Period for the most part. What's practiced (at least out here in
Caid) by fencers is more Rapier and less Foil, not confined to
a "strip", etc.
Shinai combat in Caid evolved from three goals. 1) Lowest possible
armor requirements. 2) Cheap, easy and relatviely safe for Newbies.
3) Make it fun to do for the broadest range of people, including
those with physical limitations that might make Heavy combat
Unfortunately, the style was never based on any one thing, and so
elements were borrowed from Heavy combat, Kendo, Escrime, etc. and
was perhaps an unrealistic fusion of those elements. The
period "Fechtbuch" manuals were not available for consultation during
the early and middle years of this combat form, either. So the style
was almost entirely tailored to its conditions, rather taking a real
style and making it practicable within the SCA.
This is now changing. The new form takes full advantage of recent
study of the I.33 (Tower Manuscript), Talhoffer, Codex Wallerstein,
and other period fighting manuals to provide both justification for
unarmored combat, AND a resource for training materials. After we've
established the basic foothold, we'll expand this to include other
(documentable!) fighting styles and weapons. And we're still not
turning Japanese personae away, but for the time being we're asking
that they train in the European techniques that we're researching.
Sorry for the long rant, but I wanted to be as informative as
--Ishii Jinkuro Hideyasu