The SCA requires each person who wishes to participate in competitive combat to pass a safety test before participating in tournaments or melees. This test is called an authorization and is intended to verify that you understand the rules and that you have sufficient control to be safe on the field. This document is focused on authorizing as an adult rapier combatant in the Kingdom of Atlantia, but most of the information will be applicable to any combat form in any Kingdom.
You are not required to be authorized in order to participate in practices, however before participating you must sign a waiver.
Before fighting (at either a practice or an event) you must also be inspected to make sure that your armor and weapons meet the safety regulations. Your local marshal (safety officer) and other experienced fencers will teach you the basics and give you feedback on when they feel you’re ready to authorize.
While your actual authorization will be administered by marshals who are not your regular practice partners, you are encouraged to ask your local marshals to perform a practice (or “mock”) authorization with you. Doing so will teach you what to expect and allow you to be less stressed for the actual test.
Ask your more experienced friends for a good event to go authorize at. There need to be at least two marshals there who are not your regular practice partners. Most times this is not a problem, but a small local event may not meet this requirement.
Wear your pre-17th century clothing and bring your armor and weapon(s) and the event fee. Check the schedule for the event. Authorizations are generally one of the earliest items on the schedule so that people who pass can then participate in the tournament later in the day. If you arrive late, you may not be able to authorize that day depending on how tight the schedule is.
Your first stop at the event is the event check-in (also called “Troll”). Here you’ll pay the event fee. If you are not a member of the SCA, you will be required to sign a waiver.
Your next step is to locate the Minister of the List (MoL) table. This table is generally near the fighting field, but at some events it may be at the event check in. Tell them you’d like to authorize in rapier today and they’ll add you to the list. Once most people have signed in with the MoL, the rapier Marshal in Charge (RMiC) will check with the MoL and start assigning marshal teams to candidates. Try to listen for your name or for other announcements that authorizations are starting.
The first part of your authorization is a short verbal quiz to verify that you understand the rules. They should start with:
The quiz portion should take between five and ten minutes.
The second part of your authorization is the practical test. The two marshals will select a skilled and authorized opponent, called the “usher”, to test you. Before fighting, they’ll perform an inspection of your gear to make sure it’s safe, legal, and that you haven’t forgotten a component.
Then, you’ll be asked to fight multiple rounds with the usher. You’ll call out all blows that hit you loud enough that the watching marshals can hear. You will be expected to indicate blows that are not valid, and explain why.
The point of the practical test to to determine that you are both throwing and accepting blows properly and that you’re otherwise safe.
These rounds start out slowly and gradually increase in speed. Your opponent may close in or move at full tournament speed to check your control when potentially overwhelmed but should not do anything illegal or unsafe.
At a few points during your practical test the marshals may call “hold” and ask you to step away while they discuss you. Use this time to catch your breath but be ready to continue when they’re done. The practical portion of an authorization takes approximately ten minutes.
After a last discussion, the marshals and usher will ask you to come over and discuss the authorization. They will then inform you of the results of your authorization and (particularly on a failure) they’ll offer suggestions for improvement.
If you passed, return to the MoL and complete your paperwork. You will need to get the signatures of the two marshals on the paperwork. You will be given a copy of your paperwork which will allow you to participate in combat at events for the next 30 days. Your authorization should be recorded in the Authorization Database within a few weeks, at which point you can print a perminant authorization card.
If you want to participate in the day’s tournament make sure you’re signed up on that list.
If you failed, please return to the MoL and inform them. While you may not participate in the day’s tournament, you may check with the RMiC, inform them that you failed, and ask to be allowed to do “pick-up” bouts during the day.
If they has the space and time for pick-ups, they may allow you to do so. Please inform any opponents that you face that you are not an authorized fencer and would appreciate any feedback they may have for improvement. It’s an excellent opportunity. Don’t feel bad about failing to authorize. Everyone can have an off day or get test-taking jitters. Practice some more. Work on addressing the suggestions from your authorization team and any pick-up bouts and try again.
All authorized fencers in Atlantia are invited to join the Academie d’Espee with the rank of Scholar. Scholars are indicated by the blue scarves that they wear on their arms. Gold and white scarves indicate higher ranks (Free Scholar and Provost respectively) in the Academie.
The Academie is a very positive organization that adds a lot to the camaraderie of the rapier community. Participation in the Academie is optional. Ask your friends about it and/or read up on the group at the website linked above.