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So are you going to SKBC?
[02/08/2005] [Michael]

If you are one of the ninety plus members of the faithful, one of those still undecided or one of the many who can’t make the trip to Atlanta this year, I still have some advice on how to get the most out of SKBC 2005. If you are one of those Amtgarders who could care less about a stick-jock event like SKBC, then I don’t love you any less but this article isn’t really written for you. Lots of events are fun enough to make long trips and pay good money for. We all do it fairly regularly and I hesitate to give any of you hints on how to have fun in our organization. The fact that you are reading this strongly indicates that you already know that. SKBC on the other hand is a little different. It is also fun and exiting but there is an element of learning inherent in the format. To maximize the learning elements of SKBC, I have some suggestions.

First, you should think about why you are going or what you want to learn. You should establish some goals or formulate some questions that you hope to have answered at SKBC 2005. If you are relatively new these may be very general, such as learn the fundamental of the wrap shot. If you are already pretty good, then your goals should be correspondingly more specific. For example, you might want to learn how to better predict Sir Arthon’s shield work to exploit the slight opening on his sword side when he rushes you. Certainly the areas you have targeted will not be the only things you expect to learn, but having some direction ahead of time will help a lot. It will act as a goad on you to pay attention for specifics in classes, search out instructors after class for private questions and to seek challenging opponents in the ditch. In short, most of the things that I see as essential to getting the most learning out of SKBC, will be guided and spurred by having pre-planned goals.

Second, you should be prepared to seek out instructors and get their input. The schedule allows a fairly large amount of ditch time and the intent is for that time to be good to get some one on one face time with instructors too. In all of our instructor meetings leading up to SKBC, the teachers have very much expressed their willingness to teach one on one and to otherwise support the mission of improving foam skills throughout the weekend. Certainly the instructors will be ditching a lot. I know I will. We will be having fun and running flanks as we do at any event but we all know that our purpose for coming to SKBC is to teach. So even if an instructor is ditching his or her butt off, don’t hesitate to ask if he or she will come off the field and answer some questions. Also the ditching at SKBC 2005 is intended to be instructor led. That is to say that we consider it part of our mission to watch any of the attendees and provide feedback. Talking and thinking about fighting are almost as important as the muscle memory built by practice. Seldom will you have so many great Amtgard fighters at one event with the intention of teaching. Jump on the opportunity and take advantage.

Listen to the places where the instructors agree and to the places where they disagree as well. With almost twenty different instructors there will be twenty different paths that they took to fighting excellence. Sir Brennon and I fight very different Sword and Board styles, but the record says that his style and mine both win. If you have instructors teach contradictory techniques or give different advice, then it is up to you to evaluate what works for you. On many of these issues there is no best answer for everyone and the right way to approach a style, fight or opponent is strongly dependant on who you are and what your skills are. I am not saying that all techniques are good or that all are equal, but it is safe to say that anyone who is teaching knows enough to earn a sword belt and thus has a lot of valuable Amtgard fighting knowledge. Questions like “But Sir Guy taught us something different, who is right?” are unanswerable. Certainly each of us instructors is confident and sure of our abilities and techniques. In as much as you might hear differences in what individual instructors say you will need to sort out what works for you.

You should come prepared to practice and ditch a lot. Any event will have a lot of ditching, but when you get together with those people who are really good at swinging foam and those who want to be, fighting will be the way we have fun. It is also the perfect time to practice all the things you learn. You should get out and fight the instructors and the students to really try and learn something. I am sure if you are coming to the event that you already love to fight so this advice may be superfluous. However, one of the few things that 100% of all sword knights and warlords think is among the most important elements to fighting success is practice. We will have a group of highly talented and motivated fighters from across the country. There will hardly be a better time to pack a long weekend with practice this year. If you are coming anyway, make sure to take full advantage.

Finally, give lots of feedback. SKBC is not a regular Amtgard event sponsored by a kingdom or duchy. It is a volunteer event where the FWACK committee puts up the money and brings the instructors. Local people organize the site and the food and put in the same hours they would for any Amtgard event. All this is directed to the goal of teaching the foam arts. You are the students need to tell us what works. We need to know, from the specific content of classes to the format to the subject matter taught. All these things are important to us. We want to hear your suggestions. SKBC 2005 is shaping up to be the best SKBC yet but we want to make sure SKBC 2006 is even better. I hope these hints give you something to think about and help ensure you get the best out of our event. I will see you on the ditch.

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