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M is for Master
This article originally appeared in AmtgardCombat.com and was written by Sir Corbin. It is presented here as part of our effort to preserve the best of Amtgard Combat's online offerings.
The second Spring War I went to, hosted by the Celestial Kingdom in the Spring of 1994, I was introduced to a new breed of Amtgardian, well, new to me. El Paso was as far away in my mind as it was on the map, and M'deth, a name, just as far away from a flesh and blood human being. But the name I had heard many times before was suddenly there, across the field, striding confidently, single-spiked madu in tow. I turned to my bro and he encouraged me forward. Why not? This may have been the one chance to beat a legend.
I approached Sir M'deth with my shield and he paused and accepted the challenge with a nod as we squared up to fight--little jiggle of the madu, my shield goes down a millimeter or two, and he snapped his curved saber over my shield-shoulder in a blink. I walked back to my bro.
That would not be the last time, as it turns out, that I would face Sir M'deth. But that encounter would serve as a doorway through which any aspiring fighter must pass. For me, the door led to a deeper understanding and perspective of Amtgard Combat. Here are twenty questions with Sir M'deth that, can not replace the milliseconds-long encounter, but offer the same sort of understanding and perspective.
1. How long have you been playing Amtgard?
Some where between 17-18 years.
2. What first attracted you to melee combat, of any kind?
At the age of 7 my brothers and I would use rolled up newspapers and sticks as swords. Often we would make armor out of card-board. This and war gaming from the same age I think is what first attracted me to melee combat. An acute interest in ancient history, and avid reading in the swords and sorcery genre reinforced all of this.
3. Before, or during, your time in Amtgard, did you participate in any athletic activities?
Before my start in Amtgard I fenced on the national level, fought SCA and Schloger. I also spent my time in the Navy fighting Shenai and did a few years of Ti-Quando. Like most kids I played sandlot football and baseball, but marshal/melee combat always had a special place in my heart.
4. What has contributed most to your maintaining your sword belt?
A tough question. I think first is my desire to win. If I lose a fight, I have done something wrong…I reevaluate and try not to make the same mistake twice. I try to read my opponent's strengths and weaknesses…their posture, footwork, grip, fear, confidences, experience, field conditions, stature and dozens of other factors. All of this is read and evaluated in the first few seconds of any combat and then applied with a healthy realization that any one can best you at any point in time. A fighter's greatest strength is consistency. It must be an ongoing process where by you know what works and when change is required.
5. What is your favorite shot and combo?
Everybody has shots which they throw on a regular basis. I like trusts and high-low wrap combos but, truth be told, I like those situations where an individuals defense forces me to be creative.
6. Being as objective as possible, which kingdom do you think spawns the best fighters and why?s
6. Being as objective as possible, which kingdom do you think spawns the best fighters and why? There was a time when the obvious answer would have been the Burning Lands, but with the proliferation of new groups in recent years this will change. People move, people with other experiences show up to various parks, some parks can draw upon larger populations; these and other dynamics will continually change and influence any given groups population. At this point in time the Burning Lands has the advantage of experience and tradition…but this can and will change over time.
7. What models did you have to follow for becoming and being a Knight of the Sword?
When I first joined the club there were knights, but no distinction as to type. I was the first Sword Knight and later some of the "general" knights were upgraded to sword. I guess the best competition (those who I strove to exceed on a regular basis) were Morluk and Noshomi.
8. How do you reconcile honor & winning?
I do not think the two are in a position to be reconciled. If a person is truly honorable, then they are also honest with themselves. That honesty (if true) will translate both on and off the field and infact will permeate the individual's day-to-day life. Someone with the attitude of "win at all cost" will never be a great fighter regardless of wins and losses. Lets face it, you learn more from a loss than a victory…is the parry off, bad balance, weak attacks, too many slots and so on. The two events, honor and winning, are exclusive. You can have honorable winners and losers, and dishonorable…and in most cases (if you look) that honor, or lack thereof, can be seen in areas other than combat
9. How have sword knights changed over your time in the game?
I think that there are too many knights in general. In many areas knights are made based on who they know, making their appointment a political action rather than one based on merit. With this in mind, I would say that the fighting quality has dropped on average. Don't get me wrong, there are many who's prowess on the field unequivocally marks them as sword knights…but how many of them have a white belt and how many of them do but shouldn't?
10. What advice would you give an aspiring sword knight?
Fighting, 10% physical…90% mental. Of the 10%, 90% is footwork and 10% is the balance. Of the 90% mental, one must develop a combat computer that will process information rapidly. Take all of this and wrap it up with an attitude, a focus which will push you to achieve to do your best consistently. Your greatest competition should always be yourself, and self should always be better…but you can never stop trying to exceed it. For the physical part, footwork, footwork, footwork, balance, shot combos, parries, reading of opponents, and practice. Both the mental and physical will eventually feed off of each other and develop into a whole. The important thing to realize is that it is an ongoing process which you should never be satisfied with…you are never a good as you think you are and should always strive to beat your best…not someone else's, but yours.
11. How do you approach fighting two or three opponents by yourself?
It depends on several factors. One thing is to use them against each other. If their footwork is bad, I force them to get into each other's way, often you can use field conditions in this process. Some times you can charge a person and get them to back into their teammate. You can charge a person and get them to "stall" (again a footwork problem) then change direction and jump the other (who expecting you to be going in the other direction, has committed their balance in such a way that puts them in a disadvantage…footwork) If your attackers are far apart you can jump one and spin out away from their numbers, gaining time and position. If the attackers are clumped you can attack hard enough to push them into each other and pick your targets while they flail about The two most important things are 1) don't get tunnel vision, and 2) keep mobile.
12. How have weapons evolved in your time in Amtgard?
When we started there were ax handles wrapped in 6" of foam. Many cores were used, PVC, steel pipes and so on. The foam was always thick and weapons were heavy. The standard covers were jeans legs, which tended to resemble sandpaper. Weapons did get lighter, and in my opinion, often too light. While I didn't care much for the supper heavy ones, I think many people are limiting themselves by using the ultra light ones. A little weight is good in that it provides torque. Many of the people using the ultra lights will never be able to throw specific shots because their weapons grab air and cannot be "snapped". These same weapons limit the effectiveness of parries.
13. What is the best arena for up-and-coming fighters to test their mettle?
Ditch battles. You fight a lot and are given the opportunity to experiment. You learn your strengths and weaknesses, and little is at stake.
14. Who, in your opinion, is the best Amtgard Combatant you have seen?
In his prime…Morluk.
15. Do you think about fighting before, during, or after the fight (or any combination of these)?
Yes to all of them, but during the fight is the most important…it is also the most difficult to describe. The combat computer takes over and analyzes, reads and implements. So much information happens in such a short period of time that it is difficult to put into words.
16. You have been fighting for a longtime, how has age and evolving techniques affected your performance?
Well, age has allowed me to develop the mental aspects of fighting for a long time, and it has also given me the opportunity to practice…a lot. I truly feel that evolving techniques are one of the factors that have kept me up on my game…I always have to strive to keep from being defeated or to defeat my opponent. As before, each defeat is a reason to get better, and while basics is the foundation from which each fighter should draw, there will always be variations which will lend themselves to any given situation.
17. When an aspiring fighter approaches you for advice, how do you approach giving that advice?
I tell them about footwork…footwork good, fighting good…footwork bad, fighting suck. I also try to tell them that it must be a personal thing, something almost transcendental. As before, self should be your best and worst challenge. In some cases I'll point out smaller things, shots, stance etc.
18. Did you ever do any Amtgard Combat training outside of just fighting (example: Swinging a sword at a tree or running backwards)?
Every time I have a stick in my hand it's a sword, during tournaments I analyze the opponents, and yes, many a tree has died by my mighty sword. Often I work with weights and stretch.
19. How has presence (name recognition) helped you prevail in combat situations that might have otherwise been overwhelming?
There is little that pisses me off more than some one not giving their best because they fear me. Usually I try to cut trough them in search for that fight which will tax me the most…win or lose. I can think of battles where I've frozen entire flanks of combatants (15+) because I'm MDETH. I'm good, but not that good…yet. I do not know if I'll ever get there, but the longer I'm around the harder it gets…especially when the fearful ones will not allow me the benefit of their best. While the notoriety is nice in some respects, it can also be a drag.
20. What advice would you give a Knight of the Sword who has been a Knight of the Sword for a couple of years?
You can always get better, there are always those who can defeat you…and every one can teach you. Your self should always be your best and worst opponent.