THE GREY COMPANY INC COMBAT HANDBOOK
Combat and Training in the Grey Company.
Last Modified November 2004.
Since February 1984 Grey Company has made it possible for members to safely participate in simulated combat with blunted weapons in the pursuit of historical (and theatrical) reenactment. Below are the guidelines we use to make sure this all happens as safely as practical while having a grand time. To do this sort of combat safely we have strict rules of participation and training as well as regulations for equipment. We also have rules of conduct and etiquette that make things more enjoyable and safe for all that participate. We can pride ourselves in producing hundreds of safe, competent fighters over the past 2 decades and we still have an enviable safety record. Before reading this booklet a new member should first read the "Introduction to the Grey Company" handout to get an overview of how the club is organised.
About Fighters and Levels of Competency.
Novice: A novice is a fighter who is undergoing basic training in standard weapons (long sword, short sword, shield and dagger). The goal of a novice is to build on the skills and experience needed to be a competent and safe fighter, the end result being able to pass a clearance fight in each of the standard weapons classes mentioned above. A novice may be trained by Warriors and by a Fyrdsman under supervision by a Warrior. A novice cleared in a weapon or combination may fight another Novice (who is also cleared) but they must be supervised by a warrior.
Fyrdsman: A Novice may be granted the status of Fyrdsman by the Chief Marshal.
To progress to Fyrdsman status the Novice must:
The Fyrdsman may learn to use other weapons and combinations. The Chief Marshal will arrange a suitable trainer for non-standard weaponry and combinations. Each new weapon or combination will require a suitable safety clearance.
Fyrdsman may assist in the basic training of Novices under supervision by a Warrior. They may fight a Novice if they have been cleared in the chosen weapon or combination; once again under supervision. Fyrdsmen may fight other Fyrdsmen without requiring special Marshalling.
Warrior: The elevation to Warrior is determined by the Captain after consultation with the Chief Marshal, this permanent rank is awarded to fighters at the annual Midwinter's and Midsummerís Feasts. Fyrdsmen must shown exceptional skill, safety, and commitment to deserve this award. Candidates should develop their weapon skills, maintain safety standards, show a good attendance at training and displays. They should also have acquired their own equipment. Warriors are expected to help train new fighters. Some weapons and combinations are only available to fighters of this level. Award levels above warrior are honorifics and do not further affect participation in training and combat in the Grey Company.
Marshals and Marshalling: Marshalsare chosen by the Chief Marshal traditionally at the Mid-winter feast. This is a very responsible position. Marshals are expected to be good fighters themselves and must be able to properly supervise combat and train new members. Their main function is to make sure that new members are being trained, equipment is checked and safe and that in general the combat remains safe. On the fighting field the marshals must make sure there are no unsafe weapons or persons and they aim to ensure that the rules of combat are followed. Marshals help with the organisation and running of training. They check weapons and protective gear to make sure they are "clear" for use in simulated combat. They make sure new members are being trained and can arrange clearance fights where new members are tested to make sure they are safe to use a particular weapon or combination in the various styles of combat used in the Grey Company.
All fights should be marshalled where possible. Not only Marshals can 'marshal' fights. From time to time experienced Warriors will be asked to 'marshal' fights. These persons may be called 'marshals' for the duration of the combat but this is not to be confused with the position of Marshal within the company. Marshalling fights involves watching the combat to make sure it is safe. A person marshalling a fight should inform fighters if their blows are too hard, if they are moving too close to other fighters or dead bodies etc. When marshalling a fight it should not be necessary to inform the combatants if a legal or impeded blow etc is struck. For the most part the fighters themselves should judge on their honour whether blows struck are legal, impeded or otherwise. If you really feel you should query a decision by the fighters you may do so or if you are called upon to make a judgment by the combatants you may give your opinion or recount what you saw. It may sometimes be necessary to make a definite decision on the matter. It is often better to let the fighters come to a decision themselves. If a 'marshal' makes a decision in tournament combat then it is final unless overturned by an appeal to the Captain or Chief Marshal.
Duties and responsibilities of the Marshal:
All combat practised within the Grey Company Inc. is simulated.
Combat Area:Battle Practice is normally conducted in an area designated by a Marshal. This is referred to as the "combat area". This area has to be a safe environment for the combatant and is the only place that combat will take place, it is a restricted area to all persons not engaged in combat or training. Protective gear must be worn inside the combat area. This should be appropriate to the style of combat being undertaken but generally a helmet and gloves should be worn in the combat area. Experienced fighters using advanced combat rules with reduced protective equipment must keep a sensible distance from general combat. A roped fighting area is sometimes called an "Erik"; a term we borrowed from the SCA.
In Grey Company we commonly practice several styles of combat. Generally these are training, standard competitive, thrusting (National Rules) show and advanced combat (sometimes called alternative).
Training: This is where a fighter is learning new skills or improving existing skills. The emphasis is on education not competition.
Competitive: Combat using the standard rules. This can be single combat or melee (group combat).
Thrusting: This style is based on current National standards for groups in Australia who have a combat style compatible to Grey Company. This combat uses extended rules for thrusting with spears, swords and other suitable weapons. Sometimes hit locations are modified (eg. forearms are targets) and the upper arm may be targeted over the shield if the blow can be delivered safely. In thrusting combat a person taking a blow to the leg must not kneel. Kneeling is not to be done at any time in this style of combat. An incapacitated leg must be planted and not moved while the fighter is engaged in combat. If they become disengaged they may walk (but not run) into another engagement where the foot is planted and not moved once more. This is described further below.
Show (Performance): Any combat, which is performed to entertain with the emphasis being on a theatrical representation. This can be single combat or melee. Anyone cleared in a weapon/combination can take part in performance combat.
Advanced (Alternative): This includes any combat using weapons, armour and techniques not normally allowed under standard rules. This may be allowed if it can be demonstrated that acceptable levels of safety are maintained. Fighters must have Warrior status and all combat in this class must be approved by the Captain or Chief Marshal on a case by case basis. Alternative combat is always to be regarded as show fighting and competitive style combat must be discouraged. This is mostly single combat but may occasionally involve small trained groups.
General rules for Combat
Note: In tournament combat a fighter may be removed from the competition for unsafe conduct whether or not they have been given a warning from supervising Marshals.
This is for combat where each fighter carries a dagger only. In normal combat the dagger is treated the same as other weapons. See illustration below for legal target areas.
Advanced (Alternative) Combat
Show Fighting Guidelines.
Impeded blows: An impeded blow has been parried in such a way that the "force" has been taken out of the weapon. In normal combat impeded blows cannot kill or incapacitate. Dagger duelling does not use impeded blows.
Lanyards: Lanyards secure a weapon to the fighter's hand. Lanyards must be used for all public performances unless the Captain or Chief Marshal states otherwise. Lanyards are not required for or two-handed hafted weapons or short weapons under 55cm in length. Lanyards may be made from any suitable cord or thonging that meets a Marshalís approval.
Wooden Sword Training: Recently we have been using wooden swords as a training tool for fighting members. Helmets and gloves are recommended but may be unnecessary depending on the nature of the training exercise. Helmets must be worn where head blows are to be delivered. Gloves should be worn if hand hits are likely. Training with wooden weapons must be supervised by a warrior. There are no "clearances" in this type of combat.
Visiting Combatants: From time to time Grey Company entertains a visitor from clubs with compatible styles of combat or from trainers belonging to similar clubs. If these visitors wish to participate in training or combat they must first fill out the standard membership forms, pay at least an event membership and sign a waiver. The Chief Marshal, the Captain or their delegates will decide the visitorís level of participation on a case by case basis. Safety of all participants will be the prime concern.
An absence from training of 6 weeks requires a safety clearance fight before resuming combat. This also applies to any weapon or combination that has not been used by a fighter in a six week period even if they have been training and using other weapons in that time. A re-clearance fight may be performed with any Warrior to confirm current safety and competency with the weapon/combination the fighter wishes to use. The Chief Marshal should be notified when the combatant is re-cleared and any other concerns regarding the fighter may be addressed at this time.
Extended or repeated absences will be treated on a case by case basis with the emphasis on the fighter needing to prove their safety before being allowed to take part in general combat or any performances.
Illustrations of strike locations (shaded areas).
Before any member begins training they must provide a current waiver signed by themselves and preferably witnessed by someone who is not a member of the Grey Company Inc. and is not a relative. Members must also have paid for a full fighting membership or event membership where applicable.
Normal weekly training is held on Sunday mornings between 9.00 am and 12.00 PM sometimes going on further depending on interest and available Marshals for supervision. The Chief Marshal may allow training at other times and venues where a delegated Marshal supervises the combat and where the Captain is satisfied that safety standards can be met. Occasionally training will be at a public performance.
Novice Fighter Training: The novice begins by being assigned to a Training Co-ordinator, in the normal course of training the novice will stay with the assigned co-ordinator until the novice attains the status of Warrior. The Training Coordinator is a Warrior that supervises and coordinates the training of fighters from novice to Warrior level. The role of the Training coordinator is to identify the training needs of a fighter and program training for the fighter to increase the skills needed to advance to Warrior status. The Training Coordinator may wish to enlist the help of other Fyrdsmen and Warriors to carry out the task of training fighters. It is the responsibility of the Training coordinator to arrange with the Chief Marshal clearance assessment fights required for the fighters under the coordinatorís supervision. An information guideline is available for trainers and trainees.
The novice is to be trained to safely use the three common standard weapons used by Grey Company Inc. fighters, they are, the long sword, the short sword with a shield and the dagger. It is strongly recommended that the introduction of the weapons to training the novice follow the aforementioned order.
The novice should be trained to a level that is considered safe and competent, a novice when being cleared in a weapon class will be assessed on the following criteria:
Melee Combat: Melee combat involves a group of fighters. A condition of melee fighting is that the fighters taking part have successfully passed a clearance assessment fight with the weapon they choose to use in melee combat (unless it is a "training melee" as described below).
There is no official clearance assessment for melee fighting as it is observed that the fighters by this stage have safe and adept skills and it is experience that is needed to improve on fighting skills.
A novice is introduced to melees in a controlled fashion. In the first few melees a novice will be assigned skilled opponents. The novice should face these opponents with out interference from other fighters.
In a melee we have additional rules for both safety and good sportsmanship. Unless stated otherwise, a fighter must engage an opponent before delivering a blow. The opponent must be aware they are being attacked. Generally this means you must "call" before attacking or otherwise make sure the opponent is aware of your presence. Also in Melee you may only attack the person directly in front and either side of that person. Also a maximum of four opponents may engage a fighter at any time.
Thrusting/National Rules Combat: Described more fully below this combat uses extended rules common amongst other clubs in Australia with compatible styles to The Grey Company.
Training Melee: The training melee is used to introduce Novice fighters (not yet cleared) into the melee environment. Generally these combats are restricted to no more than five per side at any time (there can be "reserves") and the emphasis is on training and not competition. In training melees a novice who is not cleared in the weapon or combination they are using may only have a Fyrdsman or above as an opponent although other Novices may be involved in the melee. Training melees must include at least one warrior who is considered to be supervising the combat (which they must be doing). It is recommended that, where possible, a warrior should be off the field observing training melees.
Non-Standard and Exotic Weapon Training: Some weapons are allowed in general combat but can only be used by Fyrdsmen or above. These are called "non-standard" weapons. Other weapons may be used in general combat but only by Warriors. These are the "Exotic" weapons. This is done in the interests of safety where we have decided (based on past experience) to restrict the more dangerous weapons and combinations to the more experienced combatants.
Training with these weapons is at the discretion of the Captain and Chief Marshal who must be confident that a fighter has the necessary skills and experience before learning to use the more difficult (and potentially more dangerous) weapons and combinations.
Clearance to fight with the non-standard or so-called exotic weapons and combinations is carried out in the same manner with the same criteria as for standard weapons. Where possible a fighter already cleared in that weapon or combination will be part of the group making the assessment.
Show Fight Training: Whereas normal Grey Company combat and training follows the standard guidelines for competitive combat, show fight training is carried out in different ways. The purpose of this type of training is to practice theatrical skills to add realism and entertainment to fighting. It also teaches the fighter how to fight safely when close to members of the public. Individuals, groups and warbands can do show fight training themselves at any time. Frequently Sunday training sessions will have a segment where all fighters are invited to do show fight training. The two most popular forms of show fight training are Erik (fighting area) training where fighters are selected to fight out various scenarios within the Erik, and the "Fighters Circle" where particular show fighting skills are taught in a workshop format.
Advanced (Alternative) Combat Training: Warriors may take part in combat using weapons, armour or techniques not normally allowed in normal Grey Company combat. This is called "advanced" or "alternative" combat. Such combat may only proceed with the express permission of the Captain or Chief Marshal who must be satisfied that safety standards are not compromised on a case by case basis. Likewise training is very controlled and carried out by selected Warriors with proven skill and experience.
Armour and Equipment Standards
All combat equipment (weapons, armour and shields) must be cleared by a Marshal before they can be taken into combat. Equipment should be re-cleared after any major repair or modifications. Marshals will organise regular checks of combat equipment as they see fit.
Gloves: For Competitive combat all combatants must, at all times wear a minimum of a leather glove with additional padding. The padding may be cell foam, sheep skin, thick leather, woollen under gloves, or some form of metal protection such as chain mail. All fingers must be protected.
Helmets: The absolute minimum for head protection in competitive combat is a standard spun bowl with nasal bar of 1.5 mm mild steel, the rim of the bowl must cover down to the eyebrows across the front and the top 1 cm of the ears covered on the sides. To date spun bowls come in hemispherical and conical shapes, each will be accepted.
If a standard spun bowl is not used in the construction of the helmet then the helmet crown must be built from 1.2 mm steel or suitable equivalent at the discretion of the Chief Marshal and Captain. The helmet must cover the eyebrows and ears in the same fashion as for a spun bowl.
Nasal protection is required on all helmets used for competitive combat and must be constructed from 1.5-mm mild steel or reasonable equivalent. Nasal protection must extend below the tip of the nose when worn. Equivalent material will be considered for nasal protection if the construction is of a faceplate or similar design. A nasal should resist bending by hand.
All additions to helmets for the purpose of coverage must be made of 1.2 mm steel, if alternate materials are used they must be strong enough to resist bending by hand. At least 1.6 mm is recommended for bronze, brass or copper that is used as a structure for the helmet.
Any materials may be used for decorative purposes must have all sharp points flattened and secured so minimise the risk of injury.
All helmets must have a leather or equivalent chin strap. This strap when fastened must be capable of holding the helmet securely on the head even if the fighter bends over and shakes their head.
All helmets must have a minimum of 5-mm padding around the crown and across the brow and temples; this padding can be sheepskin, felt or cell foam.
It is highly recommended that all helmets include some protection for the back and sides of the head and neck.
Armour: Any body armour worn by a fighter must be free of sharp edges or any surface the may catch clothing, skin or weapon lanyards. There shall be no pointed studs or rivets on any armour used in combat whatsoever. There are no minimum restrictions on most body armour as Grey Company Inc. combat is simulated and all blows should be pulled.
Vambraces or similar forearm protection is highly recommended and must be free from sharp projections that may cause injury. This includes pointed rivets or studs.
Please check with Marshals before using pointed decorations of any body armour.
Shields: Shields may be constructed from wood or metal or other suitable material (eg Leather, wicker, etc). Metal rims may be added and all corners are to be rounded to a 15-mm radius. Shields must have an edge of 3 mm or greater.
Shields must always be in good repair, free from splinters, burrs, sharp edges (bolt ends) and all straps and handles are in sound condition. Any carrying strap that may be an entanglement risk during combat should be removed or shortened.
Shield bosses on punch grip shields should at least have a 10-mm clearance from a gloved hand when holding the shield in a defensive position. As with any equipment the fighter must be able to use their chosen shield safely and all shields must be cleared by a marshal before use on the field.
Weapons: The use of any weapon is at the discretion of the Captain and Chief Marshal. All new weapons must be checked and cleared by a Marshal before they may be used in combat. No fighter should make use of any weapon they cannot control safely.
All Grey Company Inc. weapons should be of a historical design but primarily it must be safe to use in simulated combat. The weight of all weapons should be minimised in order to allow easier blade control. All weapons should be manufactured to the best craftsmanship to ensure the safest and most durable weapon possible.
Swords and daggers: All standard swords and daggers used in Grey Company combat must have edges no less than 3 mm thick, the points of these weapons must have a circular diameter no less that 10 mm.
Fighters may manufacture and use standard weapons that do not fit into these limitations above but they must be aware that if they have an over length weapon it will not be allowed in normal tournament combat unless other participants accept that the weapon conveys no advantage or added risk.
All weapons must be free of sharp points and edges including the hilt. They should be kept in a clean and serviceable condition, kept free of rust and routinely de-burred.
Long swords may not be used with another weapon or a shield during combat. Fighters are to be discouraged from single-handed use of a long sword being mindful of the "hard hit" risk to their opponent.
Due to the known risk of catastrophic breakage, swords and similar weapons may not have cross guards welded in place and blades previously broken and welded back together may not be used in combat. Welds to repair fuller splits, pommel buttons and low carbon steel blades is acceptable. Brazing and silver soldering is acceptable for fixing crossguards in place. All repairs and welds must be checked by a Marshal before a weapon can return to combat.
Axes: Axes are broken down into two types one handed and two handed. Edges of an axe must not be less that 3-mm thick and all corners should be rounded off to a 5-mm radius (10-mm circular diameter). The haft of an axe is to be made of suitable long grain wood, hoe or sledgehammer handles are excellent for this purpose.
The head of the axe must be attached to the haft in such a fashion that it will not fly off in battle, a riveted socket is highly recommended. Consideration on the weight of the axe head is important to ensure that the axe can be safely pulled in combat.
Axes like all other weapons must be kept clean and free of burrs; the haft should be kept free of splinters and regularly inspected for splitting.
The one handed axe is classed as non-standard, to train with one a minimum level of Fyrdsman must be attained. A suitable non-standard weapons trainer must supervise the fighter's training. The two handed axe is classed as exotic and a Warrior only can be trained and cleared to use it.
Staff: A staff is a basic weapon using pole arm techniques. A staff must be made of suitable long grain wood and should not be less than 30 mm in diameter (see Marshal for clearance). The ends of the staff can be leather or rope shod and fastened to the staff so they do not fly off in combat. It must be maintained properly (splinter free) and regularly inspected for breaks and splits. A suitably skilled Warrior must supervise training with the staff. Clearance fights follow the same format as any standard weapon clearance.
Mace: Maces are allowed if they are shown to be of a design and construction that can be wielded safely in our combat. Maces with aluminium heads and without spikes or flanges are favoured for this class. This weapon can only be used by a warrior and currently we require a previous clearance in one-handed axe and shield before a warrior may begin mace training.
Weapon Classes for Standard Combat:
||Longsword ||Standard ||Novice
||Sword & Shield ||Standard ||Novice
||Dagger ||Standard ||Novice
||Staff ||Standard ||Novice
||Axe and shield ||Non-standard ||Fyrdsman
||Sword & dagger ||Non-standard ||Fyrdsman
||Sword & axe ||Non-standard ||Fyrdsman
||Two handed axe ||Exotic ||Warrior
||Glaive/Rhomphia ||Exotic ||Warrior
||Mace & shield ||Exotic ||Warrior
||Two swords ||Exotic ||Warrior
||Spear and Shield ||Exotic ||Warrior
||Two handed Spear ||Exotic ||Warrior
Currently a fighter must clear in axe & shield before training in mace & shield.
This combat uses extended rules common amongst other clubs in Australia with compatible styles to The Grey Company. Thrusting attacks with swords, daggers, spears, glaives and other weapons may be allowed in combat where participants are more experienced and suitably trained. All participants in this combat require specialised training and clearance. The use of thrusting weapons in combat is reserved for Warriors although Fyrdsmen may fight against spear with appropriate training and clearance. Fyrdsmen and above may be cleared to receive thrusting where they learn to accept these attacks with safety, do not dangerously deflect incoming weapons upwards and do not kneel or otherwise endanger themselves to thrusting attacks. Other rules generally accepted as "National Rules" may also be included in this style of combat. These include modified target locations such as the inclusion of forearms and lower legs as target areas etc. Modified rules are generally discussed and agreed to by participants before combat takes place.
Introduction of New Weapons:
New weapons may be reviewed by the Captain and Chief Marshal on a case by case basis. The general fighting membership should be involved in this process before any solid decisions are taken. Safety is always the main concern when new weapon types are under evaluation.
General notes on safety
The call "hold"
Anyone can cry hold to stop combat.
If fighters during combat hear this cry, they are to stop whatever they are doing instantly and cry "hold" until all activity in the combat area has ceased. The combat area will remain in the state of hold until a Marshal calls "resume".
Training and Clearances:
Wherever possible a person currently cleared in a weapon or combination should do the training but where this is not possible, a Warrior may conduct the training. Clearance fights may not always match like weapons or combinations and may instead consist of the more likely mix of opponents to be faced. This is usually the case for the non-standard and exotic weapons/combinations listed above.
First Aid Officer:
Grey Company will have a first aid officer. The first aid officer is appointed yearly by the Captain and must have a current first aid certificate. Fighters with a medical condition that could effect their safety or the safety of other members should talk to the first aid officer.
The first aid officer is responsible for maintaining the first aid kit and should seek advice from the Steward regarding suitable funds. Where the delegated officer is not present at battle practice the First Aid kit should still be available with the most appropriate person present acting in the first aid officer capacity.
Since we have other members in the club with Medical backgrounds the first aid officer may defer to the most appropriate person available to deal with serious problems or injuries.
Non-combatants in Performance Combat:
Non fighters may be used in theatrical performance where weapons are carried, displayed or brandished. However when actual combat (i.e. weapon play) begins; non-fighters must be away at a pre-determined safe distance. Non-fighters used in this fashion must be current members of Grey Company with a current signed waiver. All performance of this type must be practised and can only proceed with the consent of the Captain and Chief Marshal.
Advanced (Alternative) Combat:
The use of certain weapons, armour and techniques may involve a greater level of risk than is acceptable for normal combat in The Grey Company. This combat may include the use of:
Such combat may be allowed as "advanced" or "alternative combat" if the Captain and Chief Marshal are confident that overall levels of safety are maintained. Essentially, this combat can occur safely if the fighters involved are skilled, experienced and practised. To this end:
For this style of combat the fighters may need to be cleared with particular weapons (e.g. rapier), techniques (e.g. helmetless combat) and selected opponents.