Society for Creative Anachronism
The Society for Creative Anachronism (or SCA for short) is a hobby organization devoted to studying and re-creating the Middle Ages and Renaissance, primarily in Western Europe but also other regions such as the Middle East and Japan. It could be considered a historical reenactment or living history organization, but, unlike most such organizations, the SCA does not concentrate on a narrowly-defined time period, let alone a specific war or other event. The SCA also does not have a minimum standard of authenticity. The activities of the SCA have more to do with re-creation (and recreation) than with re-enactment. Some SCA participants describe the SCA as a large group of people with interlocking hobbies.
At a typical SCA event, you will see a wide range in the quality of re-creations and reenactments. Some individuals may do some aspects of re-creation well (say, music), while simultaneously doing others poorly (say, clothing). Still, there is one standard that all participants of official SCA events are held to: participants should try to dress in period (i.e., pre 17th century) garments.
The relatively low requirements to participate are also one of the strengths of the SCA. As long as you are genuinely interested in medieval or Renaissance life, there is a place for you in the SCA. If it was a job or a hobby in Period, most likely someone within the SCA practices it, sometimes to an excellent degree. Excellent practitioners are awarded a SCA peerage (SCA-wide, highest level award) known as the Order of the Laurel.
The SCA is worldwide in scope. There are active groups all over the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand with scattered groups elsewhere. The Known World is divided into Kingdoms. Each Kingdom determines its King and Queen by combat in a crown tournament.
To prepare for tournament and wars, some groups hold 'fight practices' where a unique full contact martial art is practiced. The fighters wear armor (often of their own making) and strike each other with sticks primarily made of rattan and made to resemble swords, pikes, spears, axes and other medieval weapons. This 'Hardsuit' or 'Heavy Weapons Fighting' is interesting among martial arts for its lack of formalized training, which allows new-comers to add to the game in unpredictable ways. SCA Heavy Weapons Fighters practice many-on-many engagements called melees or wars.
Some groups practice fencing with modified rules that largely disregard Olympic fencing rules. As SCA fencing is supposed to recreate courtly dueling, fencers neither recognise right-of-way nor are they forced to stay within a lane, instead fencing "in the round". SCA Fencing is based on Renaissance fencing manuals and includes two weapon, sword and cape and sword and shield styles.
See also: Live-action roleplaying games
The SCA website - http://www.sca.org/