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THE SOAP BOX OF E-SAM
Best of Amtgard Combat:
Twenty Tips for Aspiring 'Stick Jocks', Part One

[04/04/2004] [amtgardcombat.com]

This article originally appeared in AmtgardCombat.com in January of 2000 and was written by Sir Vargaard. It is presented here in a four-part series as part of our effort to preserve the best of Amtgard Combat's online offerings.

In the many years that Amtgard that has been in existence, there has been one thing that has remained unchanged and that drives most to attend the weekly battlegames (and that is arguably essential for the game to exist at all). That one thing is to meet opponents on the field of battle and defeat one's opponent in mortal combat (or mock mortal combat as the case may be). After all the politicking, after all the socializing, after all the spells are cast and all the monsters vanquished, there will be someone going back to the good old-fashioned, no-frills sparring that really makes the game great and is the core of most things Amtgard.

It is certainly arguable that other aspects of the game are required for the atmosphere that makes Amtgard unique from other LARPs (live action role-playing games), and they certainly do add to the game most of the time, but if you take away the atmosphere, the garbing, the affected accents, and the fantasy trappings, you still have a fully functional and enjoyable game just in the martial combat alone. If you tried to remove the combat, well, all you'd have is some peculiarly dressed people engaging in political maneuvers, having art contests, and talking with odd accents.

It is the chance to overcome one's opponents by martial prowess that draws most to the game, and it is continued success (or enjoyable failure; and yes there is such a thing) that keeps people returning time and again. The tips I've included are quite basic, but should apply across the board, from the most inexperienced 'newbie' to the overconfident Warlord. Here are some of the essential truths I have garnered from over a decade of Amtgard combat participation in no particular order.

Tip one:
Participate. Often, the hardest obstacle to overcome for many is simply the will to get involved. "They're too good." "I'll get hurt." "My weapons suck." "I don't like this particular battlegame". "They're teaming up and I'm by myself." There are countless excuses why not to get into a game, but rarely are they significant enough to warrant sitting on the sidelines while an opportunity to fight is available. In order to improve, one must engage with equal or better opponents. Yes, you will often lose, lose often, and often lose quickly, but each time you fight, you gain a little more experience. It may not be evident, but even in losing you learn to defend yourself better, become more aware of where blows are coming from, and who is a threat on the battlefield and who is not. Experience can make up for a lot of shortcomings. Don't dismiss it. If there is a battlegame going, get involved! The only way to improve is to keep challenging yourself.

Tip two:
Seek out superior opponents. I mentioned it before, but this should be its own section. Seek out and engage superior fighters. No one gets any better by slaughtering the less-skilled. Find someone who you think is better than you and take them on. If you lose, try to understand WHY you lost. If you keep dying to a certain individual, ask them to explain why they find you so easy to kill. Most Amtgarders are quite willing to assist someone who is trying to improve their battlefield skills (even those arrogant old Sword Knights). Learn from your opponents. If you are having trouble with your offense, practice your defense. Experience will always be the best teacher. Take every chance you get to compete with the best.

Tip three:
Respect your opponents. This is often one of the most overlooked basic skill that any battlefield participant should possess. In Amtgard, anyone can be killed at any time, regardless of skill level. The beauty of it is that there is no shame in dying- you'll be 'alive' again in a few minutes. Engage your opponents head on, save trickery or deceit for quests. On the flip side, realize that back-stabbing & 'cheese-shots' are common practice. One of the best skills you can learn is to be aware of where your opponents are on the battlefield. Back-stabbers and 'cheesy' players are actually an opportunity to learn how to defend against such tactics. Don't get mad. Take your death, then next round, pay special attention to watching your back or avoiding deceit. Show your opponents the respect you expect to be shown to yourself, but don't make the mistake of believing your peers can, should or will "fight with honor". Show your respect by calling your shots, avoiding 'excuse ploys' like "light" or "glancing blow". You will get better for your actions and respect will be returned unto you.

Tip four:
Keep your temper. There is nothing that ruins a battlegame as quickly as someone losing their temper. Be it arguing with a reeve, disputing a shot, frustration at being 'cheesed', or frustration at being beaten repeatedly, there is always something that will set off short tempers. Such emotional outbursts are not only embarrassing, but they tend to lessen the enjoyment level for everyone on the battlefield. If you are the 'hot-headed' type, know your warning signs. When you are in danger of 'losing it', take a break. Get off the field and relax for a bit. A single incident of 'loss of control' can mar your enjoyment of the game for years. Don't let it happen to you. No one respects a sore loser nor a 'cry-baby'. It's better to leave the field than lose control. Again, there is another side to this. As a tactic, anger is a great disadvantage. Some combatants will taunt you and demean you to give themselves a PSYCHOLOGICAL advantage. If they can make you angry, they can make you sloppy. Most 'smack-talkers' engage in this practice because they know the effect that it will have on their opponents. Don't let it faze you. Talk is cheap. Make them earn each and every one of your 'deaths' and do it with a smile. They hate that.

Tip five:
Be confident. It's a lot harder than it sounds and it's not something someone can teach you. Behind the skills of every Warlord and Sword Knight, you will find a wall of confidence. They KNOW they are going to win. They KNOW they are better than their opponents. Most write this off as arrogance, but these individuals all started the same way, as a beginner. Very few begin the game with the natural aptitude and/or training to compete with the 'best'. Part of every battle, even the simplest contest, is psychological. If you go in expecting to lose, you've already given your opponent an advantage. You may not have the skills to have an obvious advantage over your opponent, but that does not mean you are 'destined to lose'. Go in assuming you are going to win. You may just surprise yourself (and your opponent as well).

We'll run the rest of the twenty tips over the next three days leading up to SKBC. Stay tuned.

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