The MSR Guide to Rattan Combat







I.      Introduction                                                                                         3

II.    The Marshalette                                                                                   3

III.  The Rules of the List                                                                            5

1.     Participation & Training                                                          5

2.     Legal Target Areas & Calibration                                             5

3.     Qualification Process                                                                6

4.     Armor Standards                                                                      7

5.     Shield Standards                                                                      9

6.     Weapons Standards                                                                  10

7.     Rules of engagement for Single Combat                                  11

8.     Rules of engagement for Melees                                              12


IV. Combat Conventions – a common sense guide                                           13


V.   The Fighting Waiver                                                                            14




Historical Precedent


Rattan or heavy weapons is a marshal form loosely based on the Tournament of the Baton that was practiced in the latter part of the middle ages. The original tournaments were done on foot and used weapons made of wood, whalebone or bated (not sharpened) blades.


Our tournaments are also on foot and primarily use wooden (rattan) weapons. We try to keep the equipment we use as authentic as possible but concessions are made in the interests of safety and for longer durability of the equipment.


The purpose of this book is to provide a comprehensive guide to rattan or heavy combat in the Kingdom of Acre.  It contains the policies and procedures govern this marshal form in the kingdom. 


Š       It is the responsibility of all qualified fighters to be familiar with these rules.

Š       It is the responsibility of the marshals to know them intimately.



Function in Acre


Aside from being fun for the participants, the inclusion of this rattan combat in the Kingdom of Acre serves several purposes:


Š       The grand tournament was an activity that was at the social center of medieval society much as the modern sports are today.  It provides a competitive focus for citizens and the kingdom.

Š       It supports the corporation by providing an exciting entertainment for the spectators at our fairs.

Š       It is the mechanism by which our Sovereign is chosen.



The marshalette is responsible for all aspects of rattan combat in Acre including training participants and maintaining and enforcing all associated rules.


The following are the members of the Marshalette in order of precedence.

The Sovereign: (if a qualified rattan fighter – if not qualified will defer to the Constable)

The Constable: the Great Officer appointed by the Sovereign who is responsible for all matters pertaining to martial activity in the kingdom including rattan combat, fencing and archery.  Within that rather broad description are an entire host of responsibilities.


1.                     Per the requirements of Kingdom Law, The Constable is required to maintain a current list of all members qualified in armored rattan combat and archery, and to publish this list in The White Hart within 90 days of Coronation.  To assist in this task, the Reeves are responsible for maintaining a current list of active fighters in the territory, updating the list as necessary and giving this information to The Constable.


2.                     The Constable has two deputies:  The Kingdom Marshal and The Captain-General of Archers whom shall be appointed, under the Crown’s direction, by The Constable.


3.                     The Constable must be familiar with the requirements of all military orders and groups as set forth in Kingdom and Corporate Law.


4.                     The Constable must be familiar with Kingdom Law governing the creation and responsibilities of Bannerets.


5.                     The Constable must be familiar with the rules of The Crown Tournament and be ready to assist the Crown in conducting the Tourney.


The Marshal:   the lesser Kingdom Officer appointed to assist the Constable, who is primarily responsible for all rattan list activities.

Territorial Reeves: Baronial and Shire representatives elected by the territory in which they reside.  The Constable must approve this appointment.  Reeves supervise all rattan combat activities in their territories, must keep a record of all active fighters in their territory and are responsible to organize and run all practices and tournaments in their territory.

Knights            Knights have responsibility to assist in the training of fighters.  As members of the Marshalette, they can marshal tournaments and qualification bouts.


If questions or issues arise, any of the above may be called upon for an opinion. If the issue is not resolved the matter may be referred to someone with greater authority. See Kingdom Law and Corporate Resolutions for more details on the rights and responsibilities of each of these groups.



In addition, the position of Master (Mistress) of Lists has been created. The MOL has the following responsibilities:


Maintain the results of tournaments while they are running and lists of fighters who participate at each event.


Specific Rules


1.     A member of the Marshallate must be present at all times during any fighting.


2.     The highest ranking member of the Marshallate present is considered the supervising marshal and has complete authority over the list.


  1. All combatants must follow the directions of the supervising marshal completely.  No arguing or showing of temper will be tolerated on the field.  Appeals may be made off the field.


  1. The List is the fighting field wherein combat is held.  The List is usually in an area that has been roped off to prevent injury to spectators.  It is the responsibility of the Marshallate to insure the safety of the spectators around a List area by appointing perimeter marshals to keep the combat from encroaching into a spectator area.








Rattan Combat is a full contact sport and therefore has an innate level of danger. It also involves equipment that restricts movement and weighs 40-75+ pounds. Proper attacks and defenses involve movements that are not “natural” to most people. For all these reasons people must be above a certain age, must sign a waiver and must go through the process of training and qualifications before they can participate. All participants under the age of majority must have their parents sign the waiver as well. 


No one under the age of 16 may participate in combat.


The waiver that each fighter must sign is in the appendices. It states that you understand the element of danger involved in this activity.


Training is critical to the process of learning and maintaining the proper skills and conditioning to compete in Rattan Combat. People’s skills and aptitudes vary considerably but any individual should expect that it will take 3 months to a year before proper movement, attacks and blocks become “reflexes” if one participates once a week. The importance of attending practices cannot be understated. The focus of practice is on learning proper form, technique and stamina.  The number of actual bouts one can participate in at a practice tends to be much greater than at a tournament.


The recognized weapons forms are:

Š       Weapon and Shield

Š       2 Weapon

Š       2 Handed Sword

Š       Pole Weapon

Š       Spear


A prospective fighter must demonstrate sufficient ability to safely attack and defend with a weapon form before it can be used in a tournament. 

Š       Qualifications once earned must be maintained – a fighter who is inactive for a period of 2 years (or does not use a given weapon form for 2 years must re-qualify in that form.

Š       Qualifications may be revoked for unsafe or unchivalrous behavior.



The legal target area consists of the head, neck, torso, arms to 2 inches above the wrist, and thighs to 2 inches above the knee. Intentional groin shots are illegal but should acknowledged as a kill if inadvertently given.


In rattan combat, blows are acknowledged on an honor system. Calibration of blows is arrived at through practice and experience. Blows must not only connect but must do so with sufficient force or calibration to penetrate armor and cause bodily harm.  There is only 1 level of calibration regardless of the style of armor worn or materials used in its construction. There is one exception to this general statement on calibration. Certain gaps can be legally present in a combatant’s armor. Should a blow land in such a gap, the combatant must acknowledge it regardless of force.



III – 3. Qualification Process


A qualification bout consists of 2 phases:


Phase 1: Skirmishing.

The goal is to make sure that the applicants demonstrate some mastery of technique and that they do not do anything that is unsafe to themselves or others. The applicant and opponent, who should be a veteran fighter familiar with the conventions of qualification bouts, skirmish and clearly acknowledge any blow that connects as “light” or “good” but they do not stop the bout. At some point the marshals will tell each combatant to fight from their knees so the applicant can demonstrate his/her knowledge of this technique. The specifics are described below.


Phase 2: An actual combat bout

This segment runs like a bout in a tournament – the good blows are taken and the participants must demonstrate the correct way to die defensively with the qualifying weapons form (i.e., defensive dying with a pole weapon differs from dying with a sword and shield).


For Weapon and Shield the applicant must successfully qualify against an opponent armed similarly.


For Two Sword, Greatsword, Polearm and Spear, the applicant must successfully complete 2 qualifications: first against an opponent armed with the same weapon(s) and then against an opponent using weapon and shield.


For Spear, additionally, the applicant must demonstrate the ability to be safe in a melee situation.  This includes the ability to handle a spear offensively and defensively for a time period deemed sufficient by the attending marshallate.


Participants And Their Responsibilities In A Qualification:


The participants in a qualification and their responsibilities are as follows:

Marshals:  There should be 2 members of the Marshalette present that are qualified in the weapons form in which the

participant is attempting to qualify. The 2 marshals may not be from the same region, household or bannerette etc.  It is up to the Marshals to decide if the applicant has qualified. If any of the following occur, the applicant may not qualify:

Š       More than one shot lands on an illegal target, providing it did not land there as a result the opponent’s actions (i.e., a shot deflected low or a blow to the hand or wrist that occurs because the opponent attempted to block the shot with the weapon does not count against the applicant).

Š       More than 1 shield punch or blow struck with an illegal portion of a weapon (i.e., haft, quillons or basket hilt).

Š       More than 1 excessive face thrust

Š       Any blatant violation of any of the rules of engagement or any other blatantly unsafe or unchivalrous act

Š       Any display of anger or use of profanity.

Š       Repeated (3 or more instances) of any one of the following

ą       Tipping the head forward

ą       Severe tabling of the shield when making an attack

ą       Severe over-extension of weapon arm in an attack

ą       Failure to recognize clearly delivered killing blows

ą       Failure to attempt to block a shot to any given area delivered at medium speed as a single attack

ą       Failure to attempt return to guard after an attack or block

Applicant        The applicant is the person trying to qualify in the weapons form. The applicant’s goal is

not to win or even be “good,” merely to demonstrate a knowledge of the rules and

competence in some of the basic attacks and defenses. He/she must

Š       consistently maintain one or more of the standard guards

Š       deliver a blow with proper form and calibration to the legal target areas
Please note: the attack need not be successful it need only be delivered properly.

Š       return to a standard guard after attacking or defending

Š       die defensively. This means immediately falling to the ground and curling into a fetal position on your side with your shield or weapons covering you.

Š       consistently acknowledge a properly calibrated blow

Š       In the case of a qualification in 2 weapons, applicants must also show the ability to defend with both hands and to attack more than occasionally with the off hand.

Š       Must be able to properly give and receive thrusts with the given weapon form


Opponent      This should be a person experienced in the weapons form of the qualification. This person

has the most challenging job in the qualification. The goal is not to win but to test the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses from the list above.

Š       Throw shots at a variety of speeds. Throw very few high speed attacks.

Š       Make most shots basic ones (very few wraps) and use mostly single shots or standard 2 shot combinations (e.g. onside head – offside head, offside head – onside leg, etc.). Avoid excessive feints.

Š       Fight at a distance and up close

Š       Press the applicant at least once

Š       Retreat from the applicant at least once

Š       Leave openings to see if the applicant capitalizes on them.

Š       Ensure that the applicant can properly acknowledge a face thrust




All armor, weapons and accouterments used in the list shall be designed to recreate, as closely as possible, items in use in Europe or the Middle East during the period from 1000 to 1500 AD.  Any item whose design is flagrantly non-period may be banned. All armor and weapons must be approved by the Marshallate.  Appeals may be made to the Constable or Crown.


Armor shall consist of protection for the entire body from head to foot. It includes:

Š       boots

Š       greaves

Š       poleyns (solid knee-pieces )

Š       cuisses (thigh armor)

Š       breast and back protection from the coccyx to the collarbone (including the hips)

Š       a gorget or equivalent protection for the throat (i.e. camail)

Š       a helmet

Š       hand protection (varies according to weapon/shield in use)

Š       vambraces (forearm armor)

Š       couters (solid elbow-pieces)

Š       pauldrons (shoulder armor)


See below for further specifications on the above list.

The armor standards make reference to rigid and not rigid materials. They are defined as follows:


Rigid materials:

          Steel of at least 16 gauge or its equivalent.

          Leather of ¼ inch or the equivalent such as cuir boulli.

          Leather scales of ¼ inch or cuir boulli.


Non-Rigid materials:


          Leather of at least 6 ounces, or

          Such period materials as may be approved by the Constable.



Except as noted below, armor must be constructed of period rigid materials:

1.     All helmets must be made of at least 14 gauge steel.  No opening on any part of the helm may be more than one inch wide.  There must be at least ½ inch of resilient padding between the wearer’s head and the helmet’s interior.  All helms will require a chin strap.


2.     Helms with grillwork or faceplates must be secured in such a manner that no portion of the faceplate may contact the face when force is applied to the faceplate. Grillwork should be of ¼” bar stock minimum and there should be no space wider than one inch between bars.


3.     The following areas must be protected but may be covered by period and non-rigid materials:


Š       The upper arm, beginning two inches above the elbow to two inches below the shoulder, and the buttocks and groin area. When these areas are covered with non-rigid materials or are unarmored blows must be taken as good regardless of force.

Š       Protection for the groin, in the form of an athletic cup (for men) or any rigid protection (for women), shall be required.  This area must be covered such that the cup is not visible.

Š       The arms from wrist to elbow must be covered with rigid armor with the following exceptions:

Forearm protection is not required for the shield arm when fighting weapon and shield.  The elbow must still be protected with a rigid elbow piece or some form of protective sports equipment. A fighter so protected may never relinquish his/her shield for any reason.  If he/she looses a sword arm in single combat, the bout is forfeited unless the opponent allows for the shield arm to be legally armored before continuing the bout.

Š       All portions of the body not covered by rigid armor are considered to be unarmored if the opponent lands a blow on them (in other words, any blow regardless of force is taken as good to that area).


4.     Hands are to be protected as follows:

Š       For weapon and shield and 2 weapon, hockey or lacrosse gloves are minimum protection for the sword hand.  With basket-hilted swords or a basket protecting the shield hand, use of leather gloves is required. Rigid half-gauntlets are strongly recommended for use with basket hilts.

Š       Full gauntlets made of rigid period materials are required for all other weapons forms such as mace, pole weapon, great sword and spear unless adapted basket hilts are used.


5.     No Armor is required in the following areas:

Š       The armpit

Š       The inside of the upper arm

Š       The backs of the thighs (protecting this area, however, is highly encouraged)



6.         Armor is defined in terms of what the combatant is actually wearing. There are natural

gaps in a person’s armor and certain places where armor is not required (e.g. the back of the

thigh).  If these areas are not covered or are protected with something other than an approved type and weight material, the area is considered unarmored.  A blow to an unarmored area, regardless of the force of said blow, is valid and should be accepted as such.  Armor is to be distinguished from simple protection such as padded sports protectors, which might be acceptable to permit a combatant to safely enter a list but is not armor and does not entitle the wearer to the advantages of armor.



The following materials may be used to construct a shield. The thickness described is the minimum allowed:

Š       ½ “ Plywood (metal reinforcement of the edges recommended)

Š       16 gauge steel (or 18 gauge w/ reinforced edges)

Š       12 gauge aluminum or (16 gauge w/ reinforced edges)


The rims of all shields must be padded with leather or rubber such that no metal can come through.  A shield may be removed from a tourney if the Marshallate determines it to be unsafe due to the metal edge being exposed.


Shields must be built to weigh approximately what shields of the period weighed.  The following weights are suggested:


Š       Round Shield:        24 inches in diameter   7 lbs.

Š       Heater Shield:        24 by 30 inches                       8 – 10 lbs.

Š       Heater Shield:        24 by 40 inches                       10 – 12 lb.





No combatant shall wear, nor Reeve approve, the use of plastic or any other unlawful armoring material.  Nor shall any combatant or Reeve omit or approve the omission of any required piece of armor (i.e. boots, greaves, shoulder articulation). 

Š       Penalty for the first offense will be the suspension of all qualification privileges for a period of not less than three months for both parties. 

Š       In addition, the offending Reeve will be suspended from his appointment for three months.  Penalty for the second offense will be the revocation of all qualification privileges for both parties.  In addition, the offending Reeve will be removed from office. 

Š       After six months, individuals may attempt to requalify.  Right of Judgement is reserved for the Sovereign.





All weapons must be constructed out of rattan, with the exception of spears, which can be made of fiberglass (provided they are used only for thrusting).


All striking surfaces must be covered with a protective tape (duct or electrical) to prevent splinters.  It is strongly suggested that a base of strapping tape be used to contribute to the long life of the weapon.


All weapons designed for thrusting must have 1 inch of foam with at least one inch of progressive give in the tip. The wooden/fiberglass tip on which the foam is attached should not be felt if the tip is pushed to 1 side.


The thrusting ends of a fiberglass spear must be covered with a PVC cap that is taped to the spear prior to attaching the thrusting tip.


All weapon surfaces must be at least 1 ¼ inches thick.


Axes, maces must have a minimum of one inch of closed cell foam or the equivalent on all striking surfaces and must be padded commensurate with their weight. There must be ½ inch of progressive give in the striking surfaces. 


The striking surface on a pole arm shall not exceed 1/3 its length. The striking surface of a pole arm must be covered with at least ½ inch of closed cell foam.


No metal may be used in the striking or thrusting portions of a weapon.


Great swords may not have a grip more than 18 inches long.


Both ends of a pole arm may be used for thrusting but only one end may be used for slashing.




Dagger                                     1-1 ½ lbs.         12-18 inches

Short sword                  1-3 lbs.                        18-34 inches

Broadsword                  1 ½-5 lbs.         35-41 inches

Bastard sword               2-6 lbs.            42-55 inches

Great sword                  3-8 lbs.            55-72 inches

Battle axe                     1-3 lbs.                        20-36 inches

Great axe                     2-4 lbs.            36-48 inches

Great weapon(pole arm) 3-8 lbs.                      36-84 inches

Warhammer                 2-4 lbs.            18-36 inches

Mace                            2-4 lbs.            18-36 inches

Spear                                                   60-144 inches


Specific Rules

1.     Weapons may be banned as unsafe by the Marshallate.  Appeals may be made to the constable or Crown. A ban on any weapon is permanent. The weapon must be reworked and presented to the current constable or sovereign (if the sovereign is a qualified fighter) to be reinstated in the list.







Single combat is a bout that takes place between 2 competitors. It is assumed to be a friendly contest in which the rules of chivalry and fair play are strictly adhered to.


Specific Rules


1.     All combatants in an official tournament must be qualified in the weapon form they are using.


2.     A blow to “kill” or “cripple” must strike with such force that if the sword were of steel it would penetrate the armor and/or break the bones beneath the armor.


3.     A blow of sufficient force to an arm or leg is considered crippling to that appendage which may no longer be used.  A combatant who loses the use of a leg may hop on the other leg so long as the crippled leg is in no way used for balance.  If it is used once, the combatant may no longer hop and must remain kneeling.


4.     Thrusts to the face are allowed at a positive touch level.  If excessive force is used marshals may call the offending fighter dead. Knowledge of how to properly give and receive face thrusts shall be part of training for every weapon form.


5.     When a “HOLD” is called all combat ceases.  In a melee all combatants shall drop to their knees when a “HOLD” is called.  Blows in progress when a “HOLD” is called are valid.


6.     No combatant may strike an unarmed or otherwise helpless opponent.  An opponent must be able to either defend or retreat.  Any combatant attacking a defenseless opponent will forfeit the bout at the Marshal’s discretion.


7.     No one may be struck from behind except as allowed in a particular melee situation.


8.     No combatant may deliberately attempt to knock his opponent down.


9.     If a weapon breaks or is dropped in the delivery of a blow, that blow is ignored.


10.  Auxiliary weapons must be carried in such a way that they do not interfere with blows to the combatant.  If an auxiliary weapon is struck while being worn it is considered broken and immediately discarded.  It is permitted to carry up to two auxiliary weapons.


11.  A combatant who drops his weapon twice during the course of a bout, or who falls down twice without being pushed, will be warned by the Marshal that if this occurs again he/she will forfeit the bout.


12.  Blows struck with the flat of the blade or the shaft of a weapon are not valid.


13.  Any combatant whose helm comes off, either partially or fully, or whose visor comes open, may be declared dead.


14.  No combatant shall block with his/her hands.  Any blow blocked with an empty hand shall be declared crippling to that arm.  If the arm was already crippled, then the blow will be considered a kill.



15.  Grappling with an opponent, such as grabbing or pinning any part of his body, is forbidden.  Only non-edged portions* of weapons may be grabbed or trapped.  When the edge of a weapon is trapped or grabbed by an unarmored hand or arm and the weapon is drawn out by the opponent without being released, the arm is considered crippled.

* Non-edged portions of weapons are defined as the shaft of a spear or pole arm, the quillons and grip of a great sword and haft of an ax or mace.


16.  A combatant whose weapons and/or shield are trapped is not considered helpless unless he/she is lying prone on the ground or his/her opponent is out of his/her field of vision.


17.  A combatant may only strike an opponent if he/she is within that opponent’s field of vision.  If an opponent fails to keep you within his/her field of vision while you are within weapon range, either by turning away from you or by failing to follow your movement, you may strike him/her once as this is occurring.


18.  A blow striking after bouncing off a shield is valid if it still lands with sufficient force.


19.  Judgment of the effect of any blow is left to the honesty of the combatant, unless the Marshallate present is willing to accept the responsibility.  In this case, any decisions by the Marshallate are binding and considered final.


20.  If a weapon is dropped or broken, a “HOLD” will be called and the weapon replaced, except in a melee.  No “HOLD” will be called for a dropped weapon during a melee.

The exception to this is a person fighting with 2 weapons. If they drop 1 weapon, it is up to the discretion of the opponent as to whether they may regain the weapon.


21.  Combatants slain in a melee are required to fall under their shields or in a defensive manner (on their sides, in a fetal position with either shield or weapons over them), and are not to remove themselves from the list until told to do so by the Marshallate.


22.  Blows from a two handed axe, great sword, or pole arm to the hip or shoulder are killing.

III – 7.  Rules of Engagement: Melee


Melees are any competition involving three or more competitors. In the tourney format they recreate battles or skirmishes. For reasons of safety and to provide the audience something nobler to look at than a brawl, unless noted below, all of the rules for single combat remain in effect. There are also additional rules that apply only to melees –these are mainly for concerns of safety of the participants.


Specific Rules


1.     A combatant who has neither a weapon nor a shield to defend him/herself must remain out of weapon range of his opponents or the marshal may declare him/her dead. (Note this overrides the rule in single combat that says no opponent may strike an unarmed combatant.)


2.     A combatant who is out of his/her opponent’s field of vision (and therefore not allowed to strike him/her) may still foul his/her opponent’s weapons or shield.


3.     In a melee, when there are two unbroken lines of opponents, all combatants in both lines are considered to be engaged and may be struck, unless one line completely wraps around the other.


4.     When attempting to push through a line, the combatant’s shield may not be swung or used as a weapon, and the handle of any sword or one-handed weapon may not be used to push or punch.


5.     A combatant who pushed through a line or who intentionally puts himself in the midst of the opponents is open to attack from all directions pursuant to rule numbers 3 and 4 above and according to the “one-step rule” (see next rule) until he/she removes himself/herself or “dies”. 


6.     As a combatant pushes through a line, those in the line may throw blows at will but may not pursue or throw blows further than one step towards the combatant pushing through the line. 


7.     A great sword or pole arm may not be swung more than 90 degrees in a melee.


8.     No more than 4 combatants may engage a single opponent at the same time.




While the rules cover the safety question involved in combat, there are other aspects of fighting that the participants should be aware of regarding conduct on the field (and off the field as well) which comes under the topic of CHIVALRY.  Chivalry is very much a subjective concept, but it does consist of certain definite elements.  The most important of these are courteous behavior; good judgement and ordinary

common sense, all of which should be displayed on all occasions under all circumstances.  Besides making for a better show, chivalrous behavior helps to keep the fighting on a friendly level.


The most common situation where judgement is necessary is in striking from behind in a melee.  The rules specify that you must wait until you are in your opponent's field of vision.  This means that he/she can see you, it does not mean that he/she does see you.  The most chivalrous action is to wait until you both have made eye contact.  Short of this, there is a very fine line between striking at the instant it is legal and waiting that extra second.  If you continually tread this line, you may kill a few more people, but the times that you err will cause an unhealthy resentment.  It is far better to give your opponent the benefit of the doubt.


Next is the question of ganging up on an opponent during a melee.  Now, while it is not unchivalrous to deny a lone fighter single combat and gaining numerical superiority is one of the major aims in melee combat, when two or three fighters are already surrounding an opponent, it is questionable from both a chivalrous and safety point of view as to the advisability of joining in the slaughter.


Questions of calibration should be kept open and friendly.  If you think you delivered a valid blow which you opponent did not accept, discuss the matter with him/her after the bout.  Don't assume that ignoring what you considered a good blow was intentional on his/her part.  If someone questions your calibration, think about it and keep it in mind the next time you fight.  Calibration is an ongoing process ad must constantly be refined.  If the situation warrants it, ask the opinion of the marshal running the list.  If a fighter is calibrating too high and is not responding to your comments, bring the matter to the Marshallate's attention.


Never loose you temper in the lists!  Any problems should be discussed outside the list area.


Again, common sense and good judgement should be especially apparent whenever a combat is taking place before the public.  In such instances, a questionable blow should either be taken or ignored; all discussion to be reserved for after the public is gone.  Attempts should be made to be more theatrical during such bouts, without becoming unsafe.


Finally, any problems regarding safety, rules or opponents should be brought immediately to the attention of the Marshallate.




(To be developed)