From the SCA Newcomers Portal:
One of the most well-known and widely-enjoyed activities in the SCA is armored combat. Our warriors participate in tournaments for individuals and teams, tactical melees involving dozens of combatants, and even large-scale wars with thousands of participants! Unlike reenactments of battles from history, our combat activities are unchoreographed and the outcome is entirely based on the skill and training of the combatants involved.
Combat in the Society is based on a system of honor and chivalry. Because the combat is full speed and unchoreographed, the combatants themselves determine if the attacks they receive were successful based on the angle, location, and force of the strike. Safety officers, known as marshals, are always on hand to ensure that the combat is performed safely and to ensure that all equipment used meets established safety standards.
Weapons and Armor
The weapons used in our armored combat activities are largely made out of rattan, a grass that looks and feels very much like bamboo but has a solid core. Rattan is a safe alternative to wood for our recreated weapons because if a weapon breaks, it shears along the grass instead of splintering. We also have other types of weapons such as axes and maces that use rubber and foam to create a safe replica of the weapon that looks like the original but is much safer to use.
Our armor is designed to provide covered to important joints and organs so that our combat activities can be both thrilling and safe. Both the Society and the individual kingdoms have a set of minimum standards for this armor, but as a general rule, armored combatants must have sufficient protection for their head and neck, their joints (wrists, elbows, shoulders, and knees), their hands, and their kidneys and groin. Armor can be customized to reflect the period of combat the individual prefers to study, from full suits of armor made of plate metal to shirts of chainmail links to scales and belts of hardened leather. We also use shields made from wood or metal that help to protect us.