By Dara of House Gawain
Since we are at a war, everyone knows there is always some kind of a fight or sparring match for the adults to participate in or watch. However, some of you may not know what is available for the kids who want to join the adults in bringing honor to their kingdoms. Youth combat activities are available throughout the War.
Youth combat has been available in many kingdoms for over ten years and has been growing in popularity every year. Last Pennsic, over 150 kids from ages 6 to 17 participated in the youth combat and this year the number is expected to top 200.
Up until recently, each kingdom was allowed to establish their own rules and requirements for youth combat. However, now that the majority of kingdoms offer youth combat programs and considering the size of the Pennsic youth combat events, the SCA Board of Directors has appointed a Society Deputy Earl Marshal for Youth Combat. This new position was established to gather information from all the kingdoms’ youth combat programs and develop Society-wide set of standards and rules.
This war’s youth combat is being overseen by the Middle Kingdom marshal, The Honorable Lord Nyilas Kazmer, who is being aided by Mistress Jenna MacPherson of Lion’s Tower of the Kingdom of Æthelmearc. Together, they have arranged fighting practice for the youths every morning at 7:30 AM by the Pennsic University tent beside the battlefield in addition to a growing list of events and classes.
During these practices, the children are taught basic forms and put through exercises to help them hone their skills. They regularly do bridge battles and have even engaged in an exercise that mimics the Storming of La Rochelle. Three youths are given a point to defend against the rest of the group who have unlimited resurrections. The groups of three are rotated around to see which group can hold out the longest. Tips and techniques are taught along the way so by the time these youths are old enough to join the adults, they will already be veterans in terms of tactics and experience.
In addition to lessons in combat rules, form and tactics, the youth combat marshals teach chivalry. After each practice, the fields are walked by all the youths to pick up any trash or equipment. Good sportsmanship is encouraged and it is common for the victors to take the time to give tips to their opponents. These youths want a good challenge and make sure they can get that by helping others to improve.
Among the youth offerings are classes in weapon making and a bear pit tourney. Adult fighters are encouraged to participate in helping the youths train with a Tag Team Tourney available on Tuesday at 3 PM. This tourney will be a team tourney. Each team will have one adult fighter and one youth fighter. On Wednesday, from 7 PM and 9 PM, will be A Night With Knights. Knights of the Society will be available to work with the youths to help them improve and share wisdom. Though, from what I have seen and heard of these youth fighters, some knights and fighters may be showing up to check out future competition. Youth fighters that have progressed through the program and are, now, fighting with the adults have turned heads and there are plenty more out on the youth combat fields that will be giving current knights a real challenge in future wars.
Now for the fun part: how to get your child involved. At this point, the youth combat program for Pennsic has taken the rules of the East Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and Æthelmearc and has established a set of rules made up of the lowest common denominators of the three programs. The minimum a child needs to come and play is to be at least six years old. For equipment, each child must have a helmet, a gorget (neck protection), groin protection (can be a heavy skirt or kilt), cloth gloves and pads or one layer of cloth over the elbows and knees. Weapons are boffer style (golf tubes or PVC pipes with padding).
The children are split up into three age groups with the blow and armor calibration increasing with age. Division one is 6 to 9 and is touch only. Division two is 10 to 13. Division three is 14 to 17 and, though they still use boffer weapons, they have the option of participating in battles using rattan weapons.
This is a great program that teaches children how to fight with honor and how to build their own weapons and armor. It is also good for helping to wear out the kids since it is one of the few places in Pennsic where running around and screaming is not only encouraged but expected.