The Hounds of the Grail started their Internet invasion a couple of months ago and I’ve been asked to write an article from an international perspective. I have stayed for a year now in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Living here the mystical English moors give me a great opportunity to write down some thoughts and ideas about soft weapon fighting, armors and knights.
When I arrived here I had an idea that I would want to join in a charge with hundreds of armoured knights. Knights and glorious battles had inspired me to follow the path of Edward III or Henry V here in England. I knew that I was going to spend here some time so I started to look for alternatives for soft weapon fighting. I also had this ambitious idea to promote internationally the “Sotahuuto” (Warcry) -event and possibly bring a small squad with me there next summer. Now I have understood that this was maybe way too ambitious an idea.
Soon I realised how much I needed to take up a sword and wear my armor. During many lonely nights I felt the need to join my band of brothers in glorious legends. I needed to do something about this. I started to find information about the possibilities what this mystical kingdom was able to offer me. Soon I noticed that the situation was more complicated that I had thought.
The international side of soft weapon fighting or “boffering” seems to be tricky, which might be the same problem with other not well-known sports or hobbies. Soft weapon fighting is difficult to describe. In Europe it is closely connected to live roleplaying, however in Finland it is more like its own sport. It might be most useful to understand as a hobby which is something between a sport and gaming.
I usually introduce the hobby through “medieval combatsport” -term. This is roughly divided in “heavy weapon fighting” (Buhurt), SCA and “soft weapon fighting”. There are various other sports and weapons that people do as “medieval combatsport”. I’ll leave those topics to someone who is more specialised in that area. All these different sports / styles allow different approaches to focus on various aspects of medieval fighting.
Buhurt aims to authenticity in combat with authentic weapons and armors. This affects what is allowed to do in the matches and what is not. Compared to other styles buhurt provides the best option for full contact. In Finland the major If you are looking for the best way to experience real blood, sweat and medieval combat, Buhurt is your choice.
Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA) is between buhurt and “Soft weapon fighting”. Weapons are not real, but people need to use proper armor. It is not completely full contact compared to buhurt, but weapons are tougher compared to “soft weapon fighting”. SCA also provides larger scale battles than buhurt, where the largest combat is fought between 21 vs. 21 fighters. There are battles and events with thousands of SCA fighters in the United States. It offers a great chance to experience the chaos and brutality of medieval battlefield. It is needed to be underlined here that SCA itself is not just fighting. It also includes the historical reenactment, which has strong aspects of practicing and learning historical skills and a way of life.
“Soft weapon fighting” or boffering is the final category in my description. Compared to other sports it is the simplest and easiest for beginners. Beginners will only need a short boffer sword, which is quite cheap and easy to made. There do not need to be a lot of investment before starting the hobby. In many cases it also allows fighters to use modern gear and helmets as it highlights the safety of fighters. This takes it a bit away from reenactment, but historical armors and gear are also used. Soft weapon fighting and SCA are the best ways to recreate a medieval battlefield safely in a larger scale.
I have tried to find something similar to these sports, but so far it has not been successful. I would need more information and the right contacts from my local area. Here are a lot of clubs and groups that focus on historical reenactment. Still I’m not looking for actual reenactment, although it would be interesting to try at some point.
On the other hand here are many changes to try historical fencing, buhurt or reenactment. SCA is popular, but there are no major battle events, because all the members have spread across the country. I should travel to the USA to experience SCA in a larger scale or try “soft weapon fighting” in a new style. Rumours and stories tell that there are boffering events all year around. Different events also have various combat rules, which in a way makes the international aspect of this sport complicated. In the USA the activity is often described as battle gaming, which might include live roleplaying. These kind of battle gaming groups are for example Amtgard, Belegarth Medieval Combat Society, Dagorhir, Darkon Wargaming Club, and High Fantasy Society. Dagorhir and Belegarth are the closest to the Finnish boffering rules. The main differences are in used weapons and the hit points of combatants.
It seems that I need to accept the fact that my plan to charge with hundreds of angry bluepainted scots has to wait. I had an idea to bring our Finnish styled “soft weapon fighting” here, but with limited time and resources it seems almost impossible. I’ll leave that idea to wait for the future. I can go hiking on the moors, but battles need to wait until the Summer. So far I’ll focus on planning my heroic actions in the future battles. Sotahuuto 2016 is waiting in the horizon, but it will be upon us soon. Before that there will be many moments without the adrenaline, which is why I wait this year’s battles even more. In the upcoming Summer all finnish soft weapon fighters we’ll enjoy the chaos, fear, adrenaline and all the foam flying in the air.
-Terra “Grail 10” Tevajärvi
Hound Council – Commander
Hounds of the Grail – http://graalinhurtat.nerd.fi