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Twenty Tips for Aspiring 'Stick Jocks', Part Four
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.
Accuracy. No matter how enthusiastic you are, it is very difficult to be successful if you cannot hit what you are aiming for. The bigger your weapon, the greater your need for control with that weapon. It is much easier to block or dodge a strike from a weapon as large as a ham than it is one the diameter of common Funnoodle™. Again, battlefield experience is your best resource. If you want some basic practice techniques to try away from Amtgard, here are a few that might help.
- Hang a tennis ball with a rope strung through it. Practice striking the ball without missing nor hitting the rope. When you get better, swing the rope an repeat the exercise while the ball is in motion. You can also practice changing directions and then striking where you estimate the ball SHOULD be. A very cheap and effective way to improve accuracy.
- Mark a tree, fence, light pole with horizontal marks about a foot apart. Move a few feet away and then lunge in, and try to strike any two of the marks without hitting the spaces between (two separate attacks of course). This also works well with vertical marks on a horizontal surface like a fence or a bench. If you use a piece of public property for your target, please be responsible and use an easy-to-remove mark such as a strip of tape or Tempra paint.
- Find several old pieces of 3/4" PVC or bamboo (or discarded tiki torches) of varying heights. Stick them into the ground and then balance tennis balls on the top. Try to knock the balls off without striking the poles.
Relax. Be loose. Don't assume rigid poses or lock your knees. A large part of Amtgard combat is the ability to move in and out of combat situations quickly. If you are too tight, you are setting yourself up as a target. It's always harder to hit a moving target than a stationary one, so be loose, move around, don't make yourself an easy kill. This also applies to weapons usage. Hold your weapons loosely. You get far more range of motion from a loosely gripped sword than one held tight in your fist. It's not as easy to disarm as you might guess and you can easily switch to a firmer grasp when necessary (for blocks or disarms). Flexibility is the key. Being rigid is usually a death sentence.
Rely on actions, not plans. Try to react instinctively rather than plan. It is good to know what shot you WANT to take, but your opponent will rarely make it that simple for you. Be open to other avenues of attack. Overplanning your strategy can be just as dangerous as turning your back on an opponent. It is nice to start an attack with a definite target in mind, but be prepared for the target to move or to have to change your line of attack. It's fine to plan to use a swing & then a thrust, but if you have to THINK about it, you are likely going to get killed trying to think of what to do next when you have to change your attack. Practice sessions are for thinking through an attack. On the battlefield it is usually combos and instinctive attacks that rule the day. Have a general idea of what target you hope to strike on your opponent, but keep an eye open for better opportunities.
Know your opponents, know the rules. One thing that is commonly misunderstood is that people fight differently in different parks and Kingdoms. In some groups only hard solid blows are counted, while in others quick, light attacks are acceptable. In some parks leg shots do not count. Some parks call simultaneous kills from shots 'in motion' (shot's that are begun before the killing blow strikes), other parks play by the 'atomic clock' theory (wherein the first strike that lands negates any further strikes from that opponent (or limb) regardless of 'simultaneous attacks'). Always play by the rules of the park you are in. Before you question someone else's honor or skills, make sure you have a legitimate complaint.
If you have been in a park for a while, observe who are the better fighters. Watch them and look for weaknesses or telltale signs of attack. Knowing your opponent is often worth just as much as raw skill and talent, if for no other reason than knowing who to avoid until confrontation is necessary. The better you know your opponents, the better you are able to compensate for their strengths and weaknesses. If in doubt, go in for a few rounds entirely defensive and see what attacks are directed at you, then you'll have a better idea of the quality of your adversaries in following battlegames.
Don't give up. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best advice I can give to anyone who enjoys Amtgard combat. No matter how many times you might lose, don't give up trying. Everyone starts out with something to learn. Through practice and experience, you WILL improve, I assure you. I cannot guarantee that you will become a great battlefield competitor, but I can safely say that the more you fight, the better you will become at fighting. If you are initially pretty poor, do not stop trying out of frustration. I know of Sword Knights and Warlords who had a hard time getting a kill with a flail and shield attacking from behind when they started the game. Keep on fighting. Everyone needs competition at all levels of the game. If you work hard and learn from your mistakes, you too might soon find yourself at the top of the hill giving advice to a new warrior with great dreams and stars in his (or her eyes).
I hope you have found some inspiration in these words and that they have perhaps opened your eyes to some areas of improvement. I cannot stress enough how important it is to just get out and participate. You may think people are laughing at you (and some times that might be doing just that), but you have to make mistakes before you can learn from them. Just remember, whatever your skill level, there is always someone out there better than you and there is always going to be someone worse. If you see an exceptional fighter, take the opportunity to learn from them. Ask them to show you a trick or two. Most will be flattered that you asked and will be more than happy to give you a few pointers. Learn from your 'deaths' and expand your skills. The more you fight, the better your win/loss record will get, now matter HOW bad it starts off initially. Just remember it should all be done in the spirit of fun and learning and that each fight is another opportunity to get a little bit better.
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