Wait, So You Fight Guys with Swords?

Standing at 6 feet 2 inches with a full beard at 23, Colin Pitcher looks like a guy who might challenge a bear to an arm-wrestling match — and win.

I sat down with Colin Pitcher, member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). And yes. He fights guys with swords.

So, Colin, how do quote-unquote “normal people” react when they find out you’re into it?

I get pretty much every range of reaction you can imagine. Most of the time people say, “The SCA? What’s that?” It’s not exceptionally well known. And I’ll be the first to acknowledge that it’s a bit of a weird thing.

What exactly is the Society for Creative Anachronism about?

We’re a research-intensive group of people who want to recreate the Middle Ages as accurately as possible. It’s all about recreating, not just reenacting, and we want it to be factual, not fantastical. We discourage costumes like elf ears and fairy wings. We’re also an international organization, with groups as far away as Australia.

How is the SCA different from a Renaissance Faire?

The Renaissance Faire is for an audience and isn’t as historical. You pay money to go to a Ren Faire, and you’re there to be entertained. In the SCA, you are a participant.

How did you get involved with it?

My high school chemistry teacher came in one day and showed us pictures of her husband getting knighted, with a castle and everything. I was like, “Wait, there are people who do this? This is so cool! I have to find out what this is about.” So I joined his fight practices and became his squire. I’ve being attending regular fight practices for about five years now.

What forms of fighting are you involved with?

I focus on heavy combat, which some people call chivalric combat. I dress up in heavy armor, which has to cover my hands, wrists, kidneys, solar plexus and throat. I also have to have a hard metal cup over my elbows and knees, and personal groin protection. Plus a helmet. There are also rules determining what the armor is made out of and how the helmet is constructed.

Are these designed to actually protect you, or is it just for appearances?

It is absolutely for protection because this is a full contact sport. We use weapons made out of a type of wood called rattan, which is like bamboo, but has a solid core. Then that’s wrapped in duct tape. We use rattan because when it breaks, it brooms out and splits into fibers, as opposed to hard wood like oak, which splinters when it breaks.

Do children participate in the fighting?

There is fighting for children, starting at age six. They use wafer weapons, things like pool noodles wrapped around PVC pipes. They also have lighter armor standards than the adults, so a lot of kids wear hockey helmets instead of the steel helmets we have to wear. Heavy, higher-risk fighting starts at age seventeen.

Does everyone in the SCA participate in some form of fighting?

No, there are all kinds of things to do at SCA events. For example, we have arts and sciences competitions where people can create things from the time period and have them judged. We have blacksmiths, weavers, people who study brewing beer. Some people are passionate about the clothing. Absolutely anyone can participate in the SCA.

How often are SCA events held?

The fight practices I attend happen most Saturday mornings, but actual SCA events are scattered throughout the year, more in the summer than in winter.

And these events are where the recreations take place?

Exactly. They’re where a lot of the fighting goes. And at SCA events, you have to be wearing garb, which is our term for clothing that would fit into the time period.

Can someone get kicked out if they’re not wearing enough garb?

As long as you’re making an attempt, no one’s going to start any trouble. It’s not uncommon to see people in motor scooters because of mobility issues, but often they’ll decorate them to look like a horse. Or if someone has to carry their cellphone around, they might make a holder to hang off their belt so it looks like a notebook. The thing is, it’s an immersive experience. People there want to feel as though they’re actually in the Middle Ages, and if someone’s walking around in jeans with a cellphone, that breaks that immersion. If you’re at an event, you should be playing along.

Is the SCA looking for more members?

Always. The more people that get involved, the more fun it is.

Author’s Note: For the sake of narrative coherence, the order of the responses depicted above have been altered.