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The Society for Creative Anachronism Uses Medieval Warfare for Mental Wellbeing and Physical Health

By Spencer McBride, The Guard –

“It saved my life.” This is a common quote among many of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) veterans participating in the events offered by the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).

An international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe, SCA has a strong focus in its Heavy Armoured Combat (HAC) fighting system, emulating the chivalrous combat of the Medieval and Renaissance eras. HAC allows for full speed, full contact, armed and armoured combat with battle scenarios that vary from one-on-one duels, to small group skirmishes, to major kingdom battles with up to a thousand fighters on the field. The activity level and teamwork involved in HAC are as intense as other sports, with the added armour ensuring both an excellent exercise and fewer injuries than most sports, but what makes it an exercise in good mental health is the immersive learning environment and the support of the community.

HAC has attracted significant numbers of veterans and serving members from both the United States and the CAF, who can attest to the physical and mental health benefits. In his tenure as Senior Network Manager for the Conference Board of Canada, Carl Vendette worked closely with organizations like the Moods Disorder Society of Canada (MDSC) to face critical mental health challenges. “Personally I used heavy armoured combat to help manage my anxiety and depression, and found out I was far from being alone in this aspect,” Mr. Vendette notes. In speaking to many veterans who were also fighting in Heavy Armoured Combat, we discussed how our sport provided an extremely needed physical release activity and a creative diversion that has helped them better manage their mental wellbeing.” Those suffering from severe depression often suffer in silence, feeling disconnected from any help. Communities like SCA can help provide them with a group to talk to and a fun activity to explore.

The National Executive Director of the MDSC, Dave Gallson, agrees. “MDSC strongly believes and advocates for physical and social engagement as part wellness, and the SCA follows this exact philosophy.” As a psychically challenging sport that relies heavily on the honour system, the integrity of the group’s members reinforce the positive sense of community. Mr. Vendette notes the social inclusion and universal mutual respect as aspects that inspire a new way of appreciating life. He notes that it is especially well adapted to CAF members. “I believe warriors need warrior-type solutions that fit their demeanour, and Heavy Armoured Combat provides that relief from the stresses and challenges of daily life.”

Sergeant Jason Roach has been a member of the CAF for 26 years, and he concurs with Mr. Vendette about the value of the HAC fighting system to military members. “The SCA to me is as big a family as the military. The fighting is simply a way for me to stay in shape, both mentally and physically. Occasionally, it is also a form of stress relief where I can project the calm that life sometimes interferes with.” City of Ottawa Bylaw Officer James Edgarson, known to fellow SCA participants as Lord James Edgar Walton, agrees with the above, but also notes that there is also room for those who prefer the simpler things in life. His reason to join: “I enjoy hitting people with sticks.”

The SCA is a non-profit organization that does not charge for its services. They offer some demonstrations at CAF bases, but if a CAF member wishes to get involved more regularly, they should visit the Society’s website, or email Carl Vendette for more details.

Regardless of how you choose to get involved, the benefits of the program are clear. Heavy Armoured Combat is not just a great cardio exercise and a supportive mental health community, but what amounts to the ultimate contact sport.

This post is also available in: Français (French)

Latest comments

  • How does the continued promotion of violence truly help those suffering from mental illness? Surely, one would derive greater comfort from developing self-awareness and meditative practices to get to the root of one’s problems. “Hitting people with sticks” may provide a momentary physical release, but the reason behind the depression will still be there. An alternative would be to promote the (modern) interpretation of the chivalric code:

    • It really is more about the community, learning, and responding to your body. You become more in tune with your physical self, and the learning and supportive community feed the soul. Honestly, until you are at least a year into training, you dont do much hitting. Mostly, you are learning how to move, and not be hit yourself. It’s a fantastic coordination and endurance enhancement routine. It’s not for everyone, but as a woman who hadn’t played sports for 15 years, I still fell in love with it.

    • As both a veteran and a member of the SCA and also live steel combat. I can attest to it being a positive influence, from your wording in your comment it appears that you are neither a veteran or a member of the SCA. Physical therapy not violence mental agility not illness that is what the SCA offers. In fact the majority of the SCA has nothing to do with combat it just happens to be in the forefront visually.

    • The director of Chivalry Today (and the likely author of that article, though it’s uncredited) is a Knight of the SCA, and king multiple times, Duke Guillaume de Belgique. As a peer of the realm he stands as an exemplar of the virtues its armored combatants and members in general strive to embody. Those knightly virtues he enumerates are part of the ideals of the SCA.

      • Good day Owen,
        Thank you for your comment. The article was written by our staff writer based on an interview with Mr. Carl Vendette.
        Best regards,
        The Guard

      • Thank you for the clarification, however I was referring to the article on knightly virtues that Jane linked to in her reply.

      • Owen,
        Our apologies for the confusion. Thank you,

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