Great question! That all depends on a couple things. I fight in a few different organizations and they each have their own rules.
For most steel fighting a good hit is intentional, edge on, and properly executed – usually involving at least two joints. With rattan, there is an impact strength that is a bit heavier and, lacking an edge, the alignment is a bit grey. In fencing and cunt-and-thrust, the deal is lightest touch. HEMA, rattan, and fencing allow controlled thrusts.
Generally, there are three kinds of armored fights: Practice, Singles, and group melees.
- Practice: As the name implies, this is for fun. It often is not scored and foes either for a set of time or till someone is satisfied and taps out.
- Singles: This is one on one. There are a few different types:
- Duels, First to 5: As represented in the Armored Combat Sports, where I do most of my fighting and training, by the Sword and Buckler Duel, this is a fight to see who can land 5 good blows on the other first. It is a very fast paced, quick fight.
- Duels, Timed: This is the standard duel, common to many organizations. The time can range from 30 seconds to 3 minutes per round with varying length breaks between rounds. A standard in the ACS is 60 second rounds and 60 second breaks. The combatant who lands the most legal blows on the other wins that round.
- Knight Fight / Pro Fight: These are more about dominance than points. Where duels are to show who has better weapon technique, these are to show a more over all best fighter. They include grappling, punching, and kicking and are by far the most entertaining for the audience.
- Other Singles Fights: The above are the most common but occasionally, you’ll see something else done for fun. Basically whatever the fighters and event organizers agree to.
- Melee: This is a battle with 3 or more on a side. The point is to be on the side with the last person standing. The idea is to knock everyone on your opposing team to the ground.
- Other Rules: A lot of fighters love to mix things up based on games and tactical scenarios. These can include capture the flag, last man standing, and bridge battles.
International Fights – IMCF Rules
The IMCF (International Medieval Combat Federation) is one of two major governing bodies of armored medieval combat today. They run a world championship in Europe annually. Their rules are posted here.
International Fights – HMB Rules
HMB (Historical Medieval Combat) is the other (and slightly older) international organization. They run Battle of The Nations.
USA Fights: ACS Rules
You’ll also se me fighting in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). This is probably the oldest medieval recreation group in the active in the US. It is likely also the largest such in the world. The SCA is an international educational non-profit that teaches history in a hands-on manner. It began as a King Arthur and Lord of the Rings themed party in the late 1960’s and has grown and changed from there. Some call it a type of LARP. In the SCA the usual armored combat is done with rattan swords, but now also includes “Armor as worn” Cut-and-thrust (lightest touch) and newly approved armored steel fighting that is essentially duels as described above and only with swords. (No axes or maces or pole arms.)
USA Fights: HMBUSA Rules
Like their international counterpart, some US Fights follow HMB rules under the auspices of the HMBUSA organization.
Other Rules Sets
From time to time, you’ll see me participating in other rules sets, such as Armored Combat Worldwide, and hopefully, soon, HEMA Harnessfechten. HEMA folks usually use the Dekoven Concord as their rules set.