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Best of Amtgard Combat:
Madu Combat Theory in Application

[08/18/2004] []

This article originally appeared in and was written by Solace of the Emerald Hills.

The combination of offensive and defensive qualities, while based squarely upon a fighter's individual physiology, is also reflected in a fighter's weapon selection. In trench combat a madu is the most versatile weapon available, yet very likely the least understood. Individual styles of madu combat differ more than with any other weapon, as do the configurations of madu. This document will deal with the construction of an Amtgard madu as it relates to the offensive and defensive qualities of and individual style, the primary attacks and defensive maneuvers of a madu, and general madu theory as it relates to the 'open-endedness' of style.

I. The Construction/Combat relationship.

BASE DEFINITION: While madu themselves are widely varied in their construction (madu have no single base style upon which variations are built), this document will assume a 'standard' madu to be of the down-spike variety approximately 3.5-4 ft. long with a shield 12-15 inches in diameter of either rounded rectangle or circular configuration located directly in front of the hand-grip.

Trench combat and individual styles of fighting are based around a mixture of offensive and defensive qualities. The Amtgard madu, while differing from a historical madu, provides just such a mix of defensive and offensive ability. Although the base versatility of the madu allows it to be used in either capacity, certain construction considerations will lend themselves more easily to attack or defense. An individual's pre-existing style should be evaluated when constructing a madu. Below is a system for determining the offensive and defensive capabilities of a madu (based off the standard definition). Positive values are offensive in nature; negative values are defensive in nature. The desired score should be a reflection of the focus of the madu itself, either offensive or defensive. While impossible to quantify the 'feel' of a weapon, madu users will see this system as construction options from which to draw or tips on how to increase the offensive/defensive abilities of the madu. A madu should almost always lean slightly more offensive than defensive.

  1. Height: +1 for 100-80 / -1 for <80 or 100< While standing straight with your elbows against your body, raise your hand to a 90 angle. This should be where your hand-grip is for your desired madu. Above 100 or less than 80 lends toward a more defensive focused madu.
  2. Core: +1 for golf club shaft / -1 for CPVC or other The necessity of sturdiness is inherent in a madu core. Golf club core can't be curved, but is more sturdy and lighter than CPVC or kitesbar. Compromise is part of the madu spirit. When choosing a core, cut for 3 inches less than total desired height (the rest will be made up in the padding and shield)
  3. Shield: +1 for 'camp' variety foam / -1 for rigid plastic covered with foam. Camp variety foam will have some 'give', and when blocking this should be accounted for (your forearms will get taken by bending through your shield). Punch blocks are a must for straight camp foam shields. Rigid style shields counteract this need, but hits on your shield in mid-attack (fairly common) will disrupt your accuracy. Two layers of camp foam for the shield can provide a reasonable alternative between the two.
  4. Grip: +1 for curved (towards the enemy) / -1 for straight A slight bend forward of the madu shaft (curves into the hand grip) will give better attack angles but will negate the use of a golf club or fiberglass core. Courtesy Padding: +1 for light (single wrap camp) / -1 for heavier Close-in fighters should have heavier courtesy padding, as should those with smaller than average shields. Close-in fighters will generally find a top-spike madu more appealing for the blocking abilities of the top spike. Courtesy padding does not NECESSARILY have to cover all of the core (this depends on your champion).
  5. Striking Area: +1 for fun-noodle w/ camp stabbing tip / -1 for all camp foam. Just as in swords, noodle is lighter although less sturdy.
  6. Tip Padding: +1 for packing tape / -1 for duct tape Again, just as in swords, nothing adds more weight to a madu than improperly used tape. The tip of a madu should emulate a sword stabbing tip with the addition of additional layers of camp foam for the cap.

While the specifics of madu construction are too numerous to mention here, the following can aid in construction regarding offensive/defensive issues. The speed of a madu, directly related to its weight, is the primary factor determining offensive capacity. A totally offensive madu is not necessarily always the best. A madu should be a reflection of your personal style, and serve to augment that style.

General notes about madu construction that should be addressed here:

  1. A madu will have higher stress levels and sharper impacts than any other weapon or shield in your armory. Madu stresses are higher because of the inherent weakness of the core at its length (longer than a sword- hopefully) and the often-awkward angles of attack.
  2. Balance your midpoint. Just as in swords, a madu that has to be counterweighted is not constructed properly. Your balance point should be slightly above the centerline of your madu (towards the shield side).
  3. Madu should NOT be made slashing legal. Although the striking tip is usually a foot or more in length, do not be tempted to slash with it. Madu are stabbing weapons.

II. Primary Attacks and Defensive Maneuvers.

While there are always a wide array of attacks and defenses available to any warrior with any weapon, there are a few standard shots and blocks that should be a part of every style, and every engagement. The madu allows for great development of individual style, and there is no governing set of principles regarding its use (unlike other weapons). It is important to note here that using a madu should be like learning to use any other weapon: Learn the rules before you break them. Every shot has a multitude of variations, but the base attacks must be learned. It is important to remember that when using a madu, your sword style will change. Your sword is no longer your primary attack. At last count, there are 12 identified 'openers' for the madu. Of those, these three are the most successful. One 'closer' is also included. Generally, these shots rely on a steady, straight shot. Once the following are mastered, then angular approaches and attacks can be experimented with. Angular attacks deal with turning the wrist and different circling styles. Once again, Learn the rules before you break them. These are your 'money' shots, the most basic, and the most dangerous of madu strikes.

Basic Attacks:

  1. Ippozenshin (a step forward). Opener #1--USE AGAINST: All

    If advancing towards an opponent throw a fast madu strike to the midsection. This attack does not have to succeed; the primary aspect should be speed. You are counting on a reaction from the opponent to block the madu. Continue your advance and throw your kill shot (quickly) when they are out of position (generally a midsection shot will bend them slightly at the waist-even if they block it). Proceed with a sword-shot to at the shoulders, generally at THEIR sword arm shoulder. Primarily effective righty vs righty or lefty vs. lefty. A very basic variation of this shot can be used against shield-men. Alter primary madu shot to strike just below the bottom edge of the shield causing a drop from a block, or drop from the force of the strike. Follow with shoulder shot. Rinse, repeat. If there is one standard madu shot that everyone should know, this is it. The newest newbie falls for it, and the most experience warrior falls for it (the only difference is how mad they get when it happens).

  2. Zenpaku (forearm). The Opener #2--USE AGAINST: Sword/shield.

    This is perhaps the most underused and underrated attack from a madu. When engaging, throw your first madu attack at the sword forearm. Shield-men often have a tendency to hold their weapons higher (above their elbow) than in Florentine or other combos. This strike has to be very fast, and NEVER telegraphed. This shot is the least expected and the most annoying when it works. The look of disappointment on your opponent's face is reason enough to become proficient with this attack. This shot requires a high degree of accuracy. This shot is a one-timer. It is very difficult to combine with other strikes.

  3. Chuukan, Nakahodo (midway). The Opener #3--USE AGAINST: All.

    This distance-base attack should be secondary on your list, but should be incorporated into a madu style once it has time to develop. This attack opens you slightly more than other attacks, but has a much higher kill ratio. Begin with a cross-body (the opposite of your sword-arm) sword shot to opponent's shoulder followed closely by a madu strike to the midsection. The opponent's primary avenue of attack will be to take your sword arm-be aware that shot is coming. It is necessary in this case to throw the first attack of the engagement.

  4. Boubi (defensive preparations). The Closer #1-USE AGAINST: ALL BUT SW/SH

    Of all the madu shots and combos available for a fighter to choose from this one is the least anticipated, the most awkward (that is a good thing), and the most productive. As a madu fighter, distance is your ally. Madu are generally longer than swords, and as such your opponent will be farther away. The enemy will wish to close that distance and eventually will take that fateful step forward. Their step forward is 99.99% of the time in unison with a forward strike, a series of shots, or a 'gearing up' phase (after which time they will pepper you with a repeated combo). The key to the Boubi is to throw it precisely as the opponent steps in, or begins their step. This shot is in unison with a step backwards by you. Quite simply, you want to disrupt their pattern before it begins, or land your shot before they land theirs. Almost always to the midsection, this shot is primarily designed to stop a combo by your opponent before it starts. If done properly, it will eliminate the imminent combo by your opponent and often times leave them dead. The secondary goal of the Boubi is to regain your comfort zone as a madu fighter. To put a little more distance between combatants.

Basic Defenses:

Defenses are at their heart reactionary, so it is only in generalities they can be talked about. Below are suggestions regarding blocking issues.

  1. Mr. Miaugi say: Best way avoid fight--not be there. The distance a madu grants is also your best way to avoid being killed. Stay out of their attacking range and stay within your madu range.
  2. Wrist angles. An all-foam shield will leave your madu forearm threatened by any attack with the slightest amount of wrap. It is very important to 'turn' your wrist in the direction of the oncoming attack. This gives you a better angle for deflection.
  3. Punch block. With an all-foam shield you will need to get a solid block, or once again place your madu forearm in jeopardy.
  4. Counter circle. When blocking a shot coming to your left, rotate or step slightly to the right to gain the all-important better angle and a better setup of your sword counter attack.
  5. Counter strike. While this defensive technique involves striking, it is still defensive in nature-more for disruption than killing. As a sword attack strikes your madu shield, immediately throw a quick 'wrister' at your opponent. More often than not, this will back your opponent off, kill them, or at the very least 'reset' the engagement. There are a large amount of counter strikes, too numerous to mention here, but most counterstrikes rely on surprise and timing. Counterstrikes should also focus primarily on unbalancing your enemy, or disrupting their pattern of attack. This defensive 'poke' can easily kill far more people than any attack you can develop. This counterstrike is a faster, more reactionary version of the Boubi.

III. Madu Theory and the Nature of Individual Style.

A madu changes the environment of the fighter's style. After becoming highly proficient with a madu, most fighters will agree that ALL other combos are affected. It is difficult to switch between combos (particularly after extended usage of the madu-1year+) as the madu has such differing body positions and physical challenges to overcome. It is undoubtedly the most versatile weapon on the battlefield. A madu can serve two functions: augment the pre-existing style of a user, or grant that same user an offensive or defensive edge to help alter their basic nature. No other weapon is capable of reshaping a fighter in this way (except possibly two-handed sword).

There is no one path for a madu fighter to follow; similarly, there is no one basic style from which to draw and learn. There are also exceedingly few excellent madu fighters from which to draw upon. Madu fighting and madu teaching is primarily conjecture. Augment your own style with a well-constructed madu of either offensive of defensive focus and learn your basic shots. Incorporate one you are familiar with to every engagement and incorporate one you are learning into every engagement. Madu fighting is an effort to bring order from a reaction-based network of attacks and defenses. This develops into a dynamic sphere of movement. Below are observations I have made for consideration by fighters developing their individual madu efforts.

  • I feel the true strength of the madu is its singular ability to REACT. It is this very ability to react that makes the madu so versatile and dangerous. Even skilled madu fighters base a considerable amount of attacks and defensive opportunities on sheer reaction. Planning usually only lasts as long as the first offensive flurry.
  • Always think of your madu and sword as one item. They are totally dependent on one another. There are exceedingly few madu-only attacks, and as such your madu and sword will rely on each other for opening and closing opportunities. The madu should be considered the primary weapon, and should receive the initial consideration when attempting a strike combo. All madu shots should be openers for your sword, and all sword shots should have the 'open-endedness' to have a madu closing attack. Madu are greatly under-used in trench combat, and styles are so different that the vast majority of opponents do not know how to defend against the madu. They might know how to defend against the person using the madu, but not the combo itself. This is important to remember when engaging someone. A full 50% of what you throw at them will be totally new to them and 50% will be something they have previously identified about your style (if they have fought you enough). Patterning with a madu is nearly impossible.
  • Your greatest madu attacks are those that are least expected (see counterstrikes in the defensive section). They can be used to disrupt enemy patterns, open an area of attack on the opponent, or deny the opponent one of your defensive areas. This couples with a reactionary fighting style perfectly. Your primary targets for a madu are the sword hip and the midsection of your opponent. Other lands have developed differing areas for attack but lack the focus of a simple wrist stab. There is little need to stab anywhere other than the hips or midsection.
  • The offensive capability of a madu also partially rests in its ability to disrupt the actions of your opponent. The madu is an exercise in timing. Developing quickness and accuracy in your madu hand/wrist will be paramount to your success. Short bursts of quickness punctuate a madu attack.
  • Footwork with a madu is varied as much as styles themselves but in general, a sword-foot forward stance is more counterstrike in nature and 'sword-opening'. A madu-foot forward is far more offensive and distance based. Either can be effective, and it is suggested to become comfortable in each position. The type of fighter you are facing will primarily determine foot positioning. A general rule of thumb is to start with a distance-based stance and focus inward as they (or you, advance). I have found madu stances to be more 'stand-up' than most styles (particularly in sword-forward). Extreme distance-based styles should naturally have a lower center.

Madu combat is the most loosely-defined of all fighting combos (yes, even more than Florentine) and should only be seen in the light of a natural extension of your own style. Just as in traditional martial arts there are hard and soft forms of madu combat as well as the ability to combine. Anyone can stab, not everyone can be a stylist.

The construction of your madu, your basic attacks and defenses, and your individual nature and reflections on madu combat will craft your style into its final form. Whether that final form is offensive or defensive, the madu is the ultimate key to the natural expression of your individual style.

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