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A brief over view of ECBA English Country Backswording Rules and Tournament Registration

Bouts are played in a ring no more than 30 feet in diameter. A bout is between two Gamesters wearing appropriate protective head gear, using Backswording cudgels and is overseen by two sticklers (marshals) who are also in the ring. When bouting, Gamesters must fight as if they are using sharp live blades. Gamesters take their positions, salute each other and the sticklers and on the command ‘Bout’ begin. Rounds have no time limit unless previously arranged but can be stopped for time out by a call of ‘Halt’ from either a Gamester or a stickler or when a ‘blood’ is won.

The object of the bout is to traditionally raise an inch of blood from the scalp of the opposing Gamester anywhere above the eye line. This however has been adapted in order to comply with modern day health and safety requirements. Silver argues that the down right blow is the surest way to end an encounter and so we deem a blow given to the head should be received as if given from a sharp live blade. Therefore if a Gamester receives a strike to the head this is called a ‘Blood’ and the stickler will halt the bout. All blows to any other part of the body, arms or legs do not count but are used to draw the opponents guard away from their head in order to gain the all important stroke to the head. Repeated hitting of an area that the opposing Gamester is failing to cover is called a ‘Roasting’. By giving an opposing player a roasting you can draw their ward to that area when applying a false and so aid in winning the place. A well placed blow which causes the opposing Gamester to drop their guard due to the discomfort of being hit is called a ‘flinch’

The left arm/hand (or right if fighting a left handed player) is kept well back and not used to receive blows or parry. There is a simple reason for this. If Gamesters were using live blades, a Gamesters arm would be of no use to ward with, as it would be cut to ribbons in no time, therefore this equates to bad form although in true swordplay the off hand can break a thrust and should not be kept behind the back as in Cudgel play because in true sword play the off hand should be ready to take the grip. Thrusts are not traditionally used in English Country Backswording due to the danger posed by the inflexible cudgel and the fact that no protective head gear was worn and so thrusts that may end up in the face were not allowed. Due to the fact that Gamesters today have the advantage of masks we do allow harrying thrusts which can be used to gain or win the place on your opponent. Pots should be loose so that in the event of an over heavy thrust the hand can slip up the cudgel to relieve the force. Blows should be warded with the Backswording cudgel only as would be done in fight with sharps or slipped. If not the Gamesters will simply develop poor form and bad muscle memory when using the off hand/arm to ward a cudgel blow. If this were then applied in an actual self-defence situation it would be no surprise that a student learning bad form such as this would run the risk of placing  their arm/hand/fingers in great danger of hurt from an attack by a villain with a blunt or bladed weapon.  

A bout is won when one of the Gamesters has successfully gained 3 bloods in total. It is then deemed that one of those blows would have raised the inch of blood as was required in traditional English country Backswording. It stands to reason that if a Gamesters were to receive a blow to the head in fight from a live weapon that they would hardly continue to press on. The emphasis should be on defence of ones self at all times in order to prevent being indiscriminately struck. This is best done by maintaining good measure throughout the bout.

“But if a man that have perfection of fight shall fight with one that have it not then must the unskillful man go to wrack and the other go free”
George Silver

What needs to be firmly understood at this point is that in bouting the emphasis is on perfection in fight not rustic hard hitting. Silver tells us that in order to have perfection in fight you need to train with full force and in due time (correct speed) or the fight is false and so we apply this in our English country Backswording using the Permissible Force Scale. Gamesters are encouraged to have a mind to what damage would be caused to them by every blow that they fail to ward or slip with their Backswording cudgel. Haphazard and random striking should be discouraged at all costs. Simply put, if a Gamester allows themselves to be hit it is a lesson to them that they have a weak area in their defence. As they say ‘There is no cheaper defence purchased than by the kiss of the ash plant’

Therefore by striving to apply the perfection of the true fight in to bouting with the cudgel it not only encourages and enhances a Gamesters skill in defence but also provides a most excellent spectacle to behold.

To watch two gentlemanly Gamesters of English Country Backswording fighting with the perfection of true fight, warding blows, counter cutting, falsing, using indirection, drawing, applying correct footwork and at all times looking to break through their opponents defence to win the place without cause of hurt to come to them is a wonderful sight to behold indeed and is the essence of English Country Backswording.  

If you wish to register for an ECBA tournament then please use the forms below. You must be a member of a registered HEMA or WMA club.