Duct tape. Electrical tape. PVC. Pipe insulation Foam.
These make for one heck of a fun night. These materials make for homemade boffing swords, which is simply great for Cub Scouts. Inspired by St. Georges Day this year, the Highlander Cub Scouts had a Boffing tournament to celebrate the defeat of the dragon. Before you get all “anti-boffing” on me, hear me out. I used to be a martial artist from the time I was a Beaver aged youth till pretty much I became a Rover (I wasn’t in Scouting before I became a Rover, by the way). It wasn’t until I turned 12 that I was allowed to start working with a bokken. How is that relevant to having Cubs Boff? The amount I learned about my body and self-confidence sky-rocketed. Given that I have had the experience of being in my martial art AND being a teacher of it, I feel I’m more than qualified to have a boffing tournament with the Cubs. True, it’s a different style, but that’s okay with me.
Now, I know you want to start sword fighting, they have to to be built. There are many ways to construct them, but we just used pvc and pipe insulation for a great cheap sword for the cubs. for two 10″ pieces of PVC pipe, insulation and duct tape required shouldn’t come over 20 bucks at your local hardware store.
First off, you set the rules. No head shots. No groin shots. No over hand or back hand swings and jabbing. No warnings. No second chances. Break a rule and you’re done for the night. This is one of the hardest things to do, but often the threat of expulsion from this extremely fun activity is enough to scare them straight.
Secondly, you have a demo. Take a Scouter and be friendly. Show appropriate hits. Explain that while there’s a duel, there’s to be no noise for safety reasons. For the demo itself, start off in separate corners of a predetermined area (I personally like to use the black circles of a gym). I like to have the boffing sword handle up with both Cubs on it and have them standing at attention. Using the word “Ready” Cubs can then turn the boffer up right. “Approach” gives the signal to move closer. This makes for no surprises and that both parties are ready. “Tap” gives the Cubs the okay to do a single boff on each other’s swords. “Begin” means that they can start the actual boffing. The reason for so many commands is that it prevents distraction and surprises. It also means that you’re in control and keeping the Cubs safe.
Third, you invite up the first set of Cubs while the rest of the Pack sits and watches. At all times, have two Scouters at opposite ends of the ring keeping their eyes peeled for a possible foul (attempted over hand, backhand or accidentally smucking too
hard). I can confirm that while yes, it stings to get hit hard with a boffing sword, it doesn’t hurt terrible if it’s on the arm or leg.
What happens next, is kind of magical. Sally-Anne is shy. She’s super bright and loves to put her heart into everything. She’s not the best at being coordinated so she’s matched up with an equally awkward Cub so they are evenly matched. There’s some hesitation. There’s some shyness. There’s a lot of reserve. At the end of the first round, they are shy. After a few rounds, you can notice her confidence is up and she’s able to control her lunge a little more. IN ONE HOUR.
This is also a program where you can utilize your sixes and break them into different groups if you have the leadership to do so- 10-12 Cubs are far easier to manage and control than 24 Cubs are. It’s also a good program for Rover Scouts to run- one of their possible themes is Knighthood- and anytime the big kids get to come in and play is a chance for Cubs to say “Gee, I want to be like them one day”
There’s no formal lesson here, except it is an opportunity to allow Cubs to grow and play. And Hey, Cubs don’t often get a chance to break Akela’s “no sticks” rule.