The art of rapier combat (aka fencing) has its roots in ancient swordplay. The earliest depiction of swordplay is a relief in the temple of Medinat Habu, near Luxor in Egypt, built by Ramses III about 1190 BC.
Art and Science
The concept of fencing has always been more concerned with defense than offense. That's not to say that the weapons are not lethal. However, the fighting style depends as much (perhaps more) on style and finesse as it does on striking power.
While modern fencing employs three main types of swords - the foil, the épée and the sabre - SCA fencing mainly focuses on three main types:
1. Most common in the Middle Kingdom a flat (Oval or diamond shaped in cross section) blade known as a schlager.
2. Practical rapier blades are blades that look and perform like real blades but have no sharp edges. These blades are in the same class as schlagers and many of these can also be used in the fairly new cut and thrust style fencing.
3. Also used and more common in other Kingdoms is the épée. The épée has a V shaped cross section with a slight curve away from the open part of the V. (The épée is allowed in the Middle Kingdom for practice only.)
The evolution of fencing in its organized state began in the early 14th century. The introduction of gunpowder into warfare made armor all but useless on the battlefield. However, the light sword, known as a rapier, became the weapon of choice for defending oneself off the battlefield as well as on. Thus, it became necessary for those who wielded such weapons to learn methods of warding off attacks. The first rapiers were too heavy to be used as a parrying device, so it was necessary to employ aversion tactics in addition to mastery of the blade. Many schools even taught their students wrestling and grappling moves, but that faded within a century, being replaced by bucklers, daggers, cloaks and such.
The SCA utilizes the best techniques of the fencing masters of the 14th through 17th centuries, while endorsing the safety measures introduced in the 18th and 19th centuries, such as masks and other protective gear not utilized in earlier combat schools.
The rapier fighters of the Midrealm will often offer up themselves to teach a rapier-based class at events or practices. These rapier instructors help to carry out the tradition of teaching what they have learned to others, so that they may teach grow and become instructors themselves.
Another place to look for information is the Book of Fence.