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The Question of Inclusion

Hello Northshield Army. I’m Baron Jean-Robert LeMarchand, your current Kingdom Rapier Marshal (KRM). WW is past, and Pennsic and other events lie before us. 

Some issues that have been growing in concern for the past several years have come to a head since WW, and I wanted to address the issues of inclusivity within the rapier community in particular. I’m going to lead with the SCA is chock full of members who are socially anxious, possibly ADD, introverts and well...are human. That does not mean we can’t be better. 

Just because some of us have had positive experiences or have not experienced the exclusion personally, does not mean that isn’t happening, or that we should turn a blind eye when it does. We have rules, and then we have customs. The rules can be changed easily because they are written down and we can say “This is wrong, this needs to be changed.” Customs, however, are more elusive and become ingrained and become a stock answer of “that’s just the way it’s done.” I am asking us to change this together. 

I’ve found the average lifespan of a new fencer is under three years, and non-male fighters is even shorter. We take great interest in the person when they first show up, and then a great many are left to fend for themselves unless showing a certain amount of natural talent. We have a culture of “if they are REALLY interested in advancing, they’d take the initiative and approach a teacher.” Remember how I said we are a society of introverted, socially-anxious introverts? Peer fear is real. If we are constantly putting the onus of approach on the new person who is already outside, are we actually helping anyone? Are we practicing survivor’s bias by working with the fighters who are able to overcome self-doubt and fear to ask a teacher? What about the ones who are able to ask, but are turned down because either the teacher is busy, or the student hasn’t shown enough prowess in tournaments? Are they likely to ask again? I am asking for help in changing this. 

None of us, myself included, got where they were alone. Someone took them, trained them, guided them and offered advice and either gently or not so gently guided them back when they screwed up. We have a culture of waiting until a fighter reaches a certain prowess to train them in earnest and often we watch for that in tournaments. But who guides the new fighters on how to prepare for a tournament, what to expect, what is being watched for? This is where we are.

Part of this is understandable; our time is limited, our resources are limited. We are often trying to maintain our own skills, social obligations, connections with friends. But I think we can do better. All of us. Glove-holders up to MODs, we can do better with including fighters in our community. Not just new fighters, but fighters who don’t have a regular group, or because of life and work, can only attend two or three events a year even though they’ve been around for years. I challenge group marshals to work with new fighters more than “here’s what we do, here’s the loaner gear.” I encourage you to try and set up a regular class time at practice even if it is every other practice or once a month, but schedule it and commit to it. 

Personally, I am going to be asking Group Marshals and Regionals to let me know of new fighters who newly authorize so that I can send them a personal congratulations, but also attempt to follow their progress by regularly touching base over the next year. I would also like to start a New Fighter Q&A through the marshallate for fighters with three years experience or less at events. Like “What the heck is constraint? Who do I talk to about concerns? I was told I was lunging wrong, who do I talk to to fix that?” Instead of being a one and done, doing it regularly and inviting people to keep coming to the sessions accomplishes several things. 1) It starts getting face and name recognition, not just from those higher, but among themselves. This is how cohorts are made. 2) New fighters often don’t even know what questions to ask, and by offering the sessions frequently, they know they can ask next time, or someone may ask a question they may not know they didn’t know to ask. 3) It evens out the responsibility of approach. Offering up a regular space that new fighters are encouraged to attend as a group to ask questions is easier than asking them to do it individually. 4) It saves time. Instead of possibly asked by 5 people the same question, it lessens the time burden of those in higher position when one person asks and four others go “Hey, yeah. I was going to ask that” and you’re able to explain it once. I will try and lead this with every event I am able to attend, but I encourage others to set aside the time to also help make this happen. 

In conclusion, Northshield is one army. You don’t need to be of a certain rank or position to encourage or assist other fighters. We all have value, and we do ourselves no favors to throw away half our army. Everyone who reaches out, strengthens our whole community. 


Baron Jean-Robert LeMarchand de Sel

Other missives from the Kingdom Rapier Marshal (KLO)
Posted by: Jean Robert LeMarchand de Sel Kingdom Rapier Marshal (KLO) on 7/23/2019

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