Fighting Articles

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This article is intended to be an info-dump for any worthwhile writings relevant to Belegarth combat. Feel free to add anything you think would be beneficial.


Combat Skills



Background information: I am primarily a long distance fighter. I use swords of above average length. I place a fair emphasis on shot accuracy, and defensive ability. My defensive ability is supported by my mobility and my range. This information is primarily for the individual fighter fighting one or multiple opponents on a flank attack, instead of in a line.

With regards to the usefulness of backing up:

The level of impact required to obtain sufficient force, although varying, is typically rather low in most regions. That means the loss of various factors while backing up is not as bad as it could be. I.E. The down side is not that bad.

Now, what about the advantages to backing up (in any fashion)? Backing up does cut the vast majority of attack angles away from an enemy. Quite simply, it is harder to hit somebody who is backing up more than almost any other motion. They step to your left, you back up slightly to your right. They step to your right, you back up slightly to your left. They come straight in, you move straight back.

In other words, if you own the other person in range, and keep a decent amount of mobility, you will kill the other person before he reaches a proper distance to attack you.

First, note the issue of range. In terms of offensive ability- If I have a greater striking reach than my opponent, I am able to strike at least once before the other person approaches. If I back up, there is at least a good chance I will get a second strike in.

In terms of defensive ability- If I don't have a big shield, my legs are open unless I back up. Any other motion essentially requires me to sacrifice defensive ability up top to protect my legs, or else rely on armor which is just bad form. If I have the proper range on my opponent, and maintain my proper distance, my legs are far less vulnerable, which also means everything else is less vulnerable because I no longer have to sacrifice defensive ability to protect my legs. My sword and shield protect my upper body, my legs(and my down sword) protect my legs.

What about the issue of attack and angles? Well, it shouldn't come as a surprise that people who move forward tend to keep moving forward, and those who move backwards tend to keep moving backwards. In actuality, your wrap shots become far more effective than your opponents if you are the one backing up. They walk into your shot, you walk away from theirs, which increases your angle of attack and decreases their angle of attack.

Further, if they are rushing you, and you have reach, you can hit them in the leg the vast majority of the time, especially if you use a wrap shot. Once they've been hit in the leg, you are no longer in danger. You were not in danger in the first place because you had greater reach. Hence, that first leg shot is a freebie shot.

If they drop their shield to protect their leg, you can go with a top side wrap shot that becomes more effective due to the other person closing in with you. Either way, the forward moving attacker is faced with a "damned if you do, damned if you don't situation". Guard your legs and get hit in the body, or guard your body and get hit in the legs, which prevents you from further advancing. It is difficult to overcome this technical advantage with anything less than greater athletic ability.

Further, had I gone straight to the side, instead of a combination of side/back or straight back, the amount of shots I have are limited due to the angle I am attacking from. Stepping to the side increases one angle of attack, but it also significantly decreases another angle of attack. A predictive aggressive fighter can take advantage of that. I love it when people step to the side instead of back because I know exactly where almost all of their shots are coming from (Unless they are completely new and follow absolutely no logic to shot selection).

At the very least, stepping backwards promotes a wider shot selection than stepping in a single direction. The cost is that each shot thrown may have a lower probability of landing, depending upon the predictive ability of your opponent.

If the other guy can back up faster than you can run forward, you're never going to hit him. On the other hand, once he has reached an appropriate location, he may cause a significant amount of damage to your team while you've done absolutely nothing but chase him. Xiao is one of those red sword fighters who have enough athletic ability to land several shots before many fighters can close to a proper attack range.

In closing, I'd like to say that stepping backwards is not inherently bad, nor is stepping to the side inherently good. They are all valid steps. You must understand the benefits and disadvantages of each individual movement and apply them individually and situationally. Combinations of backing up and moving side to side can have a tremendous effect upon battlefield ability. People who are more mobile can take greater advantage of backing up than those who are less mobile.

The proper step to use is a combination of ability, equipment, and situation. Understanding the situational advantages and disadvantages for backing up provides a far better basis for comprehension and application than categorically saying backing up is trouble. A fighter will go far if they don't view each individual "move" exclusively as good or bad. A fighter will go much farther if they don't view entire categories of motion as bad, such as moving backwards.

Thor (Amtgard)

First - I am not a doctor, or in any other way trained on health. If you have any foot, ankle, knee, hip, and/or overall leg injuries or problems, you should consult with someone more qualified on what (if any) of these activities you should be partaking in. Now, with that qualifier out of the way, let's get to it:

A note on drilling:

  • Drill three to five times weekly. More if at all possible, up to five times daily if you're so inclined. This may seem excessive, but the more you drill, the better the results will be.
  • Drill while “fresh”, yet warm. Warm, relaxed muscles perform better than cold, tight muscles, and drilling while still “fresh” helps with proper technique. Drilling while fatigued contributes to bad form, which fosters bad footwork.
  • Total drill time should be about 15 minutes per drill, depending on the drill and your skill level. More is ok in moderation, but give it a rest if you become fatigued (see the above note).
  • Allow sufficient rest between drills so that quality is maintained. Learn proper technique, and speed will follow in time.
  • Drill as fast as you Can, not as fast as you Can’t. Quick execution with improper technique only leads to learning bad footwork, quickly. Focus on proper technique. Speed will come with practice. This cannot be stressed enough. More often than not you will need to slow down while drilling.
  • When possible, try to drill with along with others. I've found that groups tend to be more focused on the drilling than we as individuals often are. It's easier to partake in a group than alone. It's also helpful when others can critique your drilling, pointing out improper form & technique, etc. We rarely see or feel the errors we make.
  • Stay on the balls of your feet. Flat feet are dead feet, especially in combat (and that's what you want to apply all this work towards, right?)
  • Develop and stick to a rhythm / metric when drilling. Especially true of the ladder drills. This is discussed in the ladder section in greater detail.

Jump Rope
If you're only going to do one thing to work on your footwork, it should be to use a jump rope. You'll get more out of using a jump rope along with further practice and drilling, but use of the rope cannot be overemphasised here.

  • The Rope: Any rope will do in a pinch, but a good quality rope will certainly work better. Common rope lengths are in the 8 to 10 foot range. Most ropes found in stores are 9 feet long, which will work for the majority of athletes up to 6 feet tall. Those of you over 6 feet may require a 10-foot long rope to comfortably jump, and those of you in the low 5 foot range or shorter may need to use a shorter rope accordingly. I prefer ropes with swivels / bearings in the handles so that the rope can rotate freely. This prevents the rope from twinsting and binding up during use. A rope that is comfortable and durable is best. Also - store the rope nicely. If possible, hang it loosly from the middle. This prevents any warping of the rope. A misshappen rope isn't going to work very well, I can assure you.
  • Jumping Surface: If possible, jump rope on an absorbent, yet smooth, surface. A gym mat, outdoor track, tennis court, even a wood floor is better than concrete or the like. Try to avoid grass as it drags upon the rope and slows things down. There are a number of more comprehensive resources on jumping rope online. For example:

Jumping Rope will help with footwork arguably more than any single other drill. The thing is - you have to jump rope frequently. And it's dull. Very dull. So when using the rope becomes boring (and it will) try to change things up. Jump backwards. Try jumping while walking, then while walking backwards, then double-jumps (two rope revolutions in one jump), crossing the rope, etc. Just use the rope. But as stated earlier: you need to jump frequetnly. You need to to use the rope regularly to see results. Jumping rope once every few weeks isn’t going to help, it must be consistent. It will take months of this before any appreciable change takes place, and the change will be gradual. The research I've found on the subject indicates that while a gradual improvement in coordination is seen in those using a jump rope consistantly, it takes roughly 6 months before any significant improvement was apparent. So the sooner you get a rope and start using it, the sooner your efforts will start to help.

That's a lot of text just to go over using a jump rope, right? Perhaps that will help illustrate just how important a jump rope can be in improving footwork.

Balance Beam
Sounds simple (and it can be), but it's very helpful.
If you have access to a real Balance Beam (one that's just off the ground), that's perfect. But I'll wager that maybe 1 person that reads this will actually have access to a genuine beam. So with that in mind - alternatives: I've seen plenty of parks that have straightforward athletic courses on them, and many of those have a beam. Failing that - even a full length two-by-four placed flat on the ground would suffice.

Drilling on a beam is pretty straightforward: The emphasis is balance, foot placement, and "feeling" the with your feet. Start by just standing on the beam with your feet together. After a few minutes try doing so with your eyes closed. Then open your eyes and raise one foot off the beam, about as high as your other knee. Keep your balance. Then, close your eyes and continue to balance. When you fall (and you will) just get back on the beam and continue.

Then start walking the beam. When you reach the end, turn and walk back. Once you feel a bit more comfortable, try walking backwards. Then side-to-side. When you've become more comforatable with the beam try doing all of the above with your eyes closed. If you ever get to the point where you feel really comfortable on the beam, try jumpng rope while on the beam. Yes, backwards too. When you fall off (and again - you will), just get back on the try some more. Obviously, the more complicated the task, the more difficult it may be to maintain balance. This is another drill where freqent practice will produce the best results over time.

Ladder Drills
Ladder drills are a staple in the Track and Field world, and a number of the more common / useful drills are diagramed and explained in the SKBC Footwork handout. Please see that document for the diagrams and explination of specific ladder drills. Notes on Ladder Drills:

  • Do not rush! Speed will come. If you try to rush through the drill, you'll likely fall, or at least make an error. And errors in this drill have a way of compounding quickly, and fouling you up (those who've taken the class can attest to this). Again: as fast as you Can, not as fast as you Can't. If you find you're making frequent mistakes, slow down.
  • Stay on the balls of your feet. When using a proper agility ladder, if your heels touch the rungs of the ladder, you need to stay “on your toes” more.
  • Keep to a rhythm / metric when running ladder drills. Many participants find it helpful to give a numeric or named “pattern” to some of the drills, and then repeat that pattern to themselves when running the drill. When having difficulty, try saying the pattern out loud. “Left, Left, Right, Right”, etc. It really does help, I promise you. The saying goes: “Your feet have ears.” And they'll listen to you if you start telling them what to do.
  • Touching the rungs or the ladder constitutes and error, and should be noted. Don't stop if / when you touch a rung, just be aware of it and try to correct that next time.
  • When drilling a single ladder with others, wait until the person before you is at least half way through the ladder before beginning. Try not to crowd others. (Adjust as necessary based on the specific drill, the speed at which the drill advances, and the speed of the others drilling).

5-Dot Drill
Another drill diagramed and outlined in the SKBC Footwork handout.
This one tends to be more complicated to understand at first. It seems more difficult than it actually is, and the diagram in the handout helps show & explain this drill. So please see the handout for details on 5-Dot.


Unit: The Four Foundations
Chapter: The Foundation of Poise
Lesson: Balance and Center

When we talk of “poise” as a fundamental for our Martial Art, what do we mean? We certainly do not mean the adult diaper! Why don’t we just use the word ‘Stance”? well, there is a good reason we use this specific word. As with all words, they can have many meanings, but for us, a specific definition will shed some light on our art. Here is the definition: “Poise: A state of being balanced in a stable equilibrium”. It is an amalgam of things that allows us to be ready, balanced, and stable, so we may act or react depending on the situation.. It is far more than “Stance”

When many people talk of “stance” or “guard”, they talk and think of it as a static, formulaic, and relatively rigid position. This should certainly not be! Firstly, for a martial artist to be static and committed to a fixed position, he must be ready to embrace defeat, as that is usually what happens right after the adoption of such posture. For another, to engrain yourself in one very static starting position to the point that you cannot execute anything until you adopt it is very limiting.

For us, we can break down “poise” into four distinct elements. (and these aren’t necessarily just physical elements) They are…
1. Balance
2. Center
3. Stance
4. Rotation

You want to know the secret to phenomenal martial skill? It all starts with balance, and that’s exactly where we will start as well. I will tell you up front that balance is not just a reference to the physical, but also has implications through all the realms of a Martial Art. (If you have forgotten from the introduction they are the Intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual)

But for now, we will focus on the Physical..
Balance is the most fundamental concept of any fighting art. Power, Speed, Stamina, and skill are useless, or cannot exist without balance.

Ready for some physics? An object of non-uniform shape and weight (like humans) has a balance point toward the heavier end. For many men, they have a larger amount of weight higher up in their chests, so their balance point will be higher. (unless you have eaten too many swiss cake rolls like me)

We, as humans, are odd creatures, being bipedal and all. Without getting into too much physics mumbo jumbo, we distribute our weight between our feet to balance our Center of gravity with the pull of the earth. With me so far?! Good!!

Now, if you distribute your weight widely (spreading your feet wide) you are pretty stable. (or, more specifically, you are stable from the side) the problem is, you cannot move easily. If you distribute your weight narrowly (your feet close) you can move, but you are easily knocked down. Now, Imagine you are walking down the road, all fine and dandy, when suddenly your head swells to enormous size and weight! Do you think you would still be walking as easily as you were? No, of course not. The distance of your center of gravity in relation to your weight distribution affects stability. Make sense? There are a lot of physics equations that explains this, but I don’t think we need to go too far in depth in that.. So, logic would tell us that if we LOWER our C.G. (center of gravity) we will be more stable! Seems pretty logical. Keep that in mind for later.

Now, what is this C.G. of which we speak?! Ready for another physics lesson? A “center of gravity” (or mass) is the point in any object around which all of its weight is equally distributed. Notice the words “around which”. Don’t think of this is just an up and down kind of thing. Even if you are lying on the ground you still have a C.G. in reference to the pull of the earth… it is just very wide. (well, some are wider than others.(smile))

Ok! Here’s the biggest point!! Ready!? Your center is the balance point in your body. When your center does not fall within the area of your foundation you WILL lose balance, NO EXCEPTIONS! (smile) Many fighters violate this fundamental principle. The only reason they do not fall down is they “catch” themselves by splaying feet out, or lunging around wildly. Of course, if you widen and splay your feet in an attempt to not hit the dirt (ergo, you adjust your weight distribution to compensate) you drastically affect your ability to move…. If you can’t move… you will be struck.

The biggest problem for many of us is we do not understand where our Center is. (and I don’t mean emotionally or spiritually…… yet…) Understanding where your center is, and how you can manipulate it is essential to the next fundamental……. Movement. So how do you find your center? Well, in class, you will/have seen some simple exercises to help you develop your understanding of center. If not… Check out the web site. I’ll have them posted there.

Unit: The Four Foundations
Chapter: The Foundation of Poise
Lesson: Rotation and Stance

Rotation: The act of rotating as if on an Axis. This sounds pretty self explanatory. “Something” rotates in a specific way around an axis of some sort. But how does this apply to our fighting art?!

Rotation of Joints: There are basically two kinds of “joints” in our bodies, Hinge joints, and ball joints. Can you think of examples? Sure you can, your smart! If we were being trained our art by a 14th century master, we would start with grappling and wrestling. Believe me, these activities will give you a very ACUTE understanding of which joints do what, and how far you can take one or the other. But, we can’t really start with grappling, so we have to use our heads and bodies to figure this out another way.

Hinge Joints are things like our knees, and elbows. These travel a specific direction, and stop at a specific range. Here is a VITAL clue…… Ready? IF YOU USE A JOINT IN THE WRONG WAY IT WILL BECOME DAMAGED!! Seems simple enough, right? Then why do people consistently try to rotate on their KNEES!? Shame on you! Hehe.

Ball Joints are things like our hips, wrists, neck, spine, etc. They can go in multiple directions and stop at a specific range. THESE are the joints we can use to rotate upon.. well, in a specific manner that is.

Not only does the nature of our joints dictate what is safe for us to do, but it also dictates the manner of our movement. That, along with balance, and C.G. will dictate our stance… more on that in a sec.

Rotation around our C.G: Ready for another physics lesson?! How bout THREE! I knew you would be!

1. The closer a technique (rotation) is to your own C.G., the more strength you will appear to have. Here’s a good example. Hold a heavy box arms length in front of you. Tough, eh? Now, hold the box close to you. You appear to have more strength, right?! There’s lots of physics reasons for this, just trust me right now….

2. The closer a technique (rotation) is to your own C.G. The faster the Acceleration.

3. The closer a technique (rotation) is to your own C.G. the greater the “perceived” speed.

Think of your C.G. as your Axis, your center of rotation. Every movement, technique, generation of power, twitch, flail, everything starts from here. (or at least should) For instance, if you use your WHOLE BODY in a movement, rotating around your C.G. you will be FAR stronger, faster, etc than if you just used your arm. (we’ll talk about that a lot later) Want to know how that Shot Putter can throw that cannon ball so far? He uses the exact same principles. How far do you think he could throw it if he tried it at arms length? How long do you think his elbow would last doing that kind of thing? Nuf’ said for now…

P.S. Don’t think of rotation around your center as just a horizontal type thing. There is also a vertical component to it. Want to triple the force of your technique? Time a slight sink of your C.G. the moment your sword contacts your opponent in a downward cut. (That’s a freebee for now. Chuckle)

Stance: A position you take physically.
Finally!! We had to go through all this just so I could tell you how to stand!? No, we had to go through all this so you would understand WHY we stand the way we do. If your brain KNOWS why, and your body FEELS why, you are on the first stage to mastering technique. (that’s for another lesson though) Below, you will see four steps of progression on why we construct a stance this way. You will see this format a lot moving forward. In another lesson, I will tell you the reasons behind the form, but for now……

1. Principle: We need a physical position which reflects the landscape of our engagement.

a. Landscape?! What does that mean? The bodies we have, the rules of the game we play, the armor and weapons we use all make up the “landscape” It is the reality, the physical requirements of our art.

2. Strategy: Our stance must be capable of power generation, and stability, and must allow us to move freely in all directions.

a. Ever seen a Strip fencer? Notice his stance? The strategy behind this stance is dictated by the principle of his landscape. Ours is the same. The strategy is different, but the principle remains the same.

3. Tactic: We will use the tools of our balance, Center, and Rotation to position ourselves in such a way to achieve our strategy.

a. These things dictate the tactic we will use. We cannot use a Wuji stance, for instance, or a strip fencer stance because they do not fit into our strategy.

4. Technique: The physical stance is dictated by the principles or “landscape” of our game, The strategies required to operate in that landscape, the tactics dictated by those strategies, and the tools we can bring to bear to execute our strategy. And here is the Technique:

i. One leg is presented forward, with the toes pointing toward one’s opponent.

ii. The other leg is held back, with that foot forming an approximately 45 degree angle with the leading foot.

iii. The feet should be close to shoulder width apart, or a hair wider, depending on body type.

iv. The back and neck must be straight with the body held upright, but relaxed. The C.G. should be in your belly, evenly distributed between your legs.

v. You are always on the balls of your feet.

Now, Here’s an exercise… Each one of these components of the stance has a reason. They are grounded in the realities of balance, Center, and Rotation. Can you figure out how each component relates to these other things? Try it!

Unit: The Four Foundations
Chapter: The Foundation of Movement
Lesson: The manner and technique of movement

Movement is the engine of success. Without the foundation of poise, movement is lost, but without movement, Poise can give us nothing. To put it succinctly, successful fighting depends on gaining a positional advantage. Do you think you can gain a positional advantage without moving? No, of course you can’t. Many fighters tend to gracelessly lumber into weapon range, plant themselves so fixedly that they cannot move, and begin flailing away ineffectually. Believe me, I still do this. I am constantly trying to break that habit. There is a VERY GOOD reason why swordsmanship is constantly being referred to as a “Dance”. Can you dance without movement? No.

Quite Simply, if you are not moving, you are waiting to die. Does this mean we are constantly twitching about, with no purpose? Absolutely not. Weaving and bobbing about with no purpose is wasteful of energy. Now, of course, if there is a PURPOSE to bobbing about, that’s different, but we will get into that later.

So, fine, you get it. We have to move. Firstly, in what manner do we move, and secondarily, How do we move? The manner in which we move should reflect a couple things. They are…

Moving with Grace: Bruce Lee once said; “Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an Echo”. We will revisit this quote later, but the first part is important to us. Graceful movement is the byproduct of two groups of things; The proper application of the Foundation of Poise, Economy of motion, And the three aspects of Combative Conditioning (Flexibility, Endurance, Strength) We will talk about each of these in greater detail later. For us, this can all be summed up in a single Italian word. “Sprezzatura”. (yeah, yet another teaser. That single word contains a lifetime of lessons) The important point for this particular lesson though, is, when you move, do not “Throw” your weight, and Catch yourself before you fall (this is exactly how many of us walk) Rather, Think of pouring your weight from one foot to another, similar to pouring water from one glass to another. Oh, one more thing. If you are not on the balls of your feet, all the movement techniques that follow will be AWKWARD, to say the least.

Moving with purpose:
A fighter without movement is like a woodworker with his tools nailed to the workbench. When we move, it should be for a purpose; to create a positional advantage, to begin an attack using a specific technique, to close or open distance, to misdirect our intent with evasive actions, etc. With so many reasons to move, for heaven’s sake, don’t just move into somebody’s attack for no purpose.

Now, we get down to HOW we move…. WOOHOO! There are basically two different techniques of movement used in swordsmanship. (lots of variations, but these are the basic techniques) Oh, Incidentally, remember when we talked about rotating your movements around your C.G (center of Gravity) in previous lessons? That’s exactly what you should do here. When you are moving, remember to concentrate on rotating the movements around your center. This will help your grace and control.

Steps: There are Four steps.

  • Forward (Cressere “growing larger”): Shift your center forward, (NOT leaning forward), lifting the front foot at the same time and pushing forward with the back foot. The front foot is carried forward around 12 inches. Place the foot down on the ball. Then lift the rear foot, carry it forward the same distance and place it down ball first.
  • Reverse (DeCressere “growing smaller”): Shift your center back, lifting the rear foot off the ground, pushing backwards by straightening the front leg. The foot is carried about 12 inches, and is placed down, on the ball. The front foot is then lifted and carried back the same distance.
  • Passing (Passare): This is similar to walking. Shift your center forward, un-weighting your back foot. The ball of our forward foot will essentially become a pivot. Open your hip joint, allowing your back foot to pass your forward foot. Your pivot foot will wind up at an angle as it becomes the “new” back foot. Place the “new” forward foot down on the ball, and center your weight. Note: Your shoulders and upper body DO NOT change orientation. You should feel taught and ready to strike. This may feel strange to begin with, but it is very important to not allow your shoulders to rotate and change orientation. When you are done, you should feel the kinetic energy available if you rotate your center and shoulders. This step can have great tactical and positional advantage.
  • Backward Passing (Tornare): Essentially the same as the passing step, using the same body manipulations merely moving backward.
  • Turns: (Volta): There are Three Turns. In Italian, Volta may also mean time. As we have touched on in other lessons, Time, distance, poise and movement are inseparably intertwined. These turns take different amounts of time to complete. They are arranged from the fastest to the slowest.
  • Stable Turn (Volta Stabile): The Key to power Generation. Note this ONLY works if you are on the balls of your feet. It also allows you to fight in multiple directions, as is necessary in melee, etc. Simply rotate around your center, pivoting on both balls of your feet. You will wind up facing a different direction. It is this rotation that powers your strikes. This is actually what is happening when you are admonished to “rotate with your hips” Note: if you are NOT on the balls of your feet, you are twisting your knees, this is damaging, and not efficient.
  • Half Turn (Mezzo Volta): Essentially the same as a passing step, but you are allowing your center to rotate with your feet. You wind up turned in a different direction. This is usually used in conjunction with a strike, but not always.
  • Full Turn (Tutta Volta): move your C.G. onto your back foot, and pivot on the ball. Rotate your center, and place your front foot in the direction you desire. This is used if you are “crossing” your opponent’s attack. It is the slowest turn.

Note: Now, How about direction of movement?! This will be discussed a lot later, but for now, remember there are basically eight directions you can move. Think of your front foot being on a clock face. You can move to 12:00, 2:00, 6:00….. You get the idea. every step and every turn can move toward, or terminate in all eight directions. Try to remember that the rule of thumb is to move the foot closest to your desired direction/intent first.

Footwork Drills by druminmychest

When one speaks of drills, I try to organize my thoughts against the idea that there are (at least) two different kinds of drills, and developing a well rounded fighter requires multiple kinds of drills encompassing the area you are working on.

Now, the drills, of course, are dictated by the landscape of the art, so the drills below might have to be tweaked for the specific needs of Belegarth fighting, but I shall add some stuff as an example, or at least as material we can talk through.

In my opinion, there are Technical, and Tactical drills.

Technical: Execution of specific techniques, basic or otherwise, such as body mechanics, footwork, bladework, etc.

Tactical: The application of Technical skills in an integrated situation.

I believe the technical drills come first. If you don’t know how a saw operates, you cannot use it to build a cabinet. Technical drills should be created so that they not only reflect an individual physical technique, but the principle behind it as well. Put in another way, Maestro Sean Hayes (A very astute guy and classical fencing master) once wrote…..

“If the student has not developed a thorough understanding of the basic theory and principles, he or she really can’t use those principles to observe and assess the adversary, and develop a plan of attack--- a strategy”.

Technical drills should be multi-layered, such as the Kata below: (note: I am not sure this would work with Belegarth as it stands, as there are no attacks to the head allowed, and lower targets are viable in your System, but you get the idea. The framework could still be used, as well as the progression)
Kishido S&S Kata Ver 1.3

Performance Note: Perform this slowly, focusing on perfection of movement and efficiency of activated muscles. Relax all muscles but the ones engaged in the movement. Breathe in or out with each discrete movement.

Salute the Crown: focus on clearing and relaxing your body. Allow the tension to drain from your head to your toes and out into the ground.

Salute your inspiration: Clear and relax your mind. Let your concerns and external thoughts drain from you. Bring your focus to the NOW.

Salute your Compagnio: No mind. Your mental focus should be wholly on the now, ready to react, and free of pre-conceived clutter. Invite your imaginary compagnio to the dance. Bring yourself to your ready and receptive stance, your center aligned to 12 O’clock

Visualization A: Imagine with as much detail as you can, your compagnio standing ready in front of you. The clearer the visualization, the better the exercise. See the armor, feel the pressure of his presence. Watch as he steps into B range, and becomes vulnerable to your attack.

Form 1: Breathe In. Breathe out as you mezzo Volta right (right passing step), Cutting from right shoulder ward to your compagnio’s right temple (opening 2), Your Center should end facing 11’Oclock as you recover to underarm.

Form 2: Breathe In. Breathe out as you Cressire (left slope step) toward 9’Oclock, Mezza Volta slightly as you Cut from Underarm to your Compagnio’s left leg (opening 3) Your Center should end facing 2’Oclock as you recover to Porta de Ferro

Form 3: Breathe IN. Breathe out as you Mezzo Volta left, (left passing step) (pivoting on your lead foot), performing a low vector wrap from Porta de Ferro to your Compagnio’s right leg (opening 4) your Center should end facing 11’Oclock as you Recover to reverse crutch guard.

Form 4: Breathe In. Breathe out as you Mezzo Volta right(right passing step) ,(pivoting on your trailing foot), performing a Mulinet Cut from reverse crutch guard to your Compagnio’s left temple (opening 1) your Center should end facing 2’Oclock as you recover to Porto de Ferro (attack to upper left opening)

Visualization B: Having been cut many times, your Compagnio retires. You sense a new Compagnio to your right. You feel the pressure of his intent over your shoulder.

Form 5: Breathe In. Breathe out as you perform a Tutta volta. (complete turn) Your center should end facing 3 O’clock as you move your sword to tail guard.

Form 6: Breathe In. Breathe out as you Volta Stabile, (stable turne) while cutting to your compagnio’s right leg (opening 4) Let your wrist break after contact, moving your sword hilt past your face, in front of your left shoulder, sword trailing. Your center should end facing 1 O’clock

Form 7: Breathe In. Breathe out as you Cressire (slope step) toward 6 O’clock, performing a backhand cut to your compagnio’s left temple (opening 1) Your Center should be facing 3 O’clock as you recover to right window guard.

Form 8: Breathe In. Breathe out as you thrust to your opponent’s head, performing a Tornare. (reverse gathering step) (opening 2) Your Center should be facing 2 O’clock as you recover to Underarm.

Form 9: Breathe In. Breathe out as you thrust to your opponent’s left chest, performing a Cressere (slope step) toward 2 O’Clock. (opening 1) Your center should be facing 2 O’Clock.

Visualization C: Being defeated by your flurry, your Compagnio retires. You sense a new Compagnio behind you. You feel the pressure of his intent upon your back. As you turn, he rushes in.

Form 10: Breathe in. Breathe out performing a Volta Stabile. (complete turn) Your center should end facing 9 O’Clock as you move your sword to right shoulder ward.

Form 11: Breathe in. Breathe out as you cut a rising backhand to your Compagnio’s left temple, (opening 1) performing a volta stabile. (stable turn) Your center should be facing 10 O’Clock, performing a teardrop return through tail guard.

Form 12: Breathe in. Breathe out as you Cut a low wrap to your Compagnio’s back leg, (opening 4) performing a mezzo volta. (reverse left passing step) Your center should be facing 8 O’clock, performing a return through underarm.

Form 13: Breathe in. Breathe out as you cut a low false edge cut to your compagnio’s left leg (opening 3) performing a mezzo volta. (right passing step) Your center should be facing 11 O’clock, performing a low teardrop return.

Form 14: Breathe in. breathe out as you extend the teardrop return through to a sinking thrust to your compagnio’s head (opening 2), performing a mezzo volta. (left passing step) Your center should be facing 8 O’clock, performing a return to underarm.

Visualization D: Being defeated, the third Compagnio retires. You sense another to your left. You feel the pressure of his intent. As you turn, he attacks.

Form 15: Perform a tutta volta (complete turn) to face 6 O’clock Remain in underarm.

Form 16: Breathe in. breathe out as you turn the point over to thrust into you compagnio’s lower belly. (opening 3), performing a passare to 3 O’clock. Your center should be facing 7 O’clock.

Form 17: Breathe in. Breathe out as you mullinet through underarm into a cut to your Compagnio’s right temple (opening 2) performing a cressere toward 3 O’clock. Your center should be facing 6 O’Clock.

Form 18: Breathe in. Breathe out as you perform a rising backhand to your compagnio’s left upper breast (opening 1) performing a mezza volta. Your center should be facing 7 O’clock, low teardrop return to tail guard.

Form 19: Breathe in. Breathe out as you cut a rising wrap to the back of your compagnio’s upper right leg (opening 4) performing a mezza volta toward 8 O’clock

Form 20: Perform a volta stabile to 12 O’clock, completing a return to right shoulder.

Visualization E: If you wish to end. Perform the salutes again. If you wish to continue. Imagine your original compagnio reappearing in front of you, and begin the sequence again.

Tactical drills should allow the student to demonstrate integrated techniques, and give them time to work through things intelligently, so they will eventually do these same tasks instinctively, such as this small and simple drill…. _________________________________________________________________
Turn based Engagement drill
Ver 1.2

Primary purpose: To practice proper footwork and attack/counter progressions

Secondary purpose: To practice identifying targets resulting from movement/angle

Required Equipment: primary weapon system only, armor not necessary

Setup: Two companions will set up in C range, ready to attack. One will be designated to initiate the attack.

Rules of engagement: using a slow pace, Each companion will take turns acting upon the other’s movements or action. During a turn, the active partner may take one step, and pause. He will then execute the proper body mechanic, touching each open target he identifies. When he has exhausted his possible targets, his action is over. He will stay in the position he ended up in at the end of his action. His partner then counters in the same manner. This continues until one combatant is either unable to effectively attack due to footwork, or completely out of position due to incorrect action.

Further Execution note: Each attack and counter action should be executed using good, and realistic form. For instance, when identifying a target by touching it with your weapon, Slowly perform the proper body mechanic and technique. When countering, Execute the proper technique using good and realistic form.

Goal: The companions should be able to execute a composition of four attacks/counters, while maintaining good footwork and identifying each target that presents itself due to their action. If each companion can attack/counter four actions, and remove themselves from range in the end using good footwork and technique, they have succeeded.

Conclusion: After each sequence is finished, the group (if it is observing) or the companions (if no group is present) will seek to identify “where they went astray”, if one or the other failed.



Just a little background: I prefer fighting with two longswords, usually around 32" to 33" in blade length. I've been fighting two-sword pretty much since I started fighting about 16 years ago. I started with short swords (about 18" to 24" blade length) but during the 3 years I spent fighting in Amtgard, I learned how to fight with longswords. Here are a few things I've picked up along the way:

  1. Invest time in learning how to fight with other weapon styles, especially weapon and shield, spear, and red. These are probably the weapon styles you will most encounter in Belegarth. You don't necessarily have to become expert at any of these. It's mainly for you to gain experience in the basic attacks and defenses of each style. Once you understand how those other styles work, you can better attack and defend against them.
  2. This is my personal preference but it’s up to you to determine if it works: Build the longest swords you can wield effectively. This may be a process of trial and error. While short two-sword is an extremely fast style, it requires you to get "up close and personal" with your opponent. Whenever possible, I prefer engaging an opponent outside his or her effective attack range.
  3. When building weapons for the two-weapon style, I always build them in pairs. I've found that I have a better chance of building similarly weighted and balanced swords.
  4. Use the same length of weapon for each hand. This is, again, a personal preference. Using a shorter weapon is faster for blocking or attacking. However, your effective attack range for using both weapons is defined by the shorter weapon.
  5. Use both weapons with the swords held normally. Some fighters prefer fighting in the two-weapon style with their off-hand weapon held pommel up. While this can be effective for blocking, it can limit the types of attacks you can use. Wrist-snap stabs (where you snap the wrist up as you bring the sword tip forward) aren't effective against armor. I've also found that I don't have good control or give good, solid hits when executing draw/slicing cuts. Also, since there often isn’t a definitive thump during a draw/slicing cut, a person is less likely to take the shot.
  6. It helps to get a buckler or back shield to defend against missile weapons. Know where the archers are on the field. Florentiners, along with reds, are often arrow magnets.
  7. You have two weapons. Both can be used for attack or defense. Many people I've seen transitioning to two-sword from shield and weapon often use the off-hand (where their shield used to be) as a shield only. Using both weapons for attacking allows you to engage your opponent from multiple angles. Against a person wielding a shield and weapon, you can use multiple attacks to force him or her to move the shield in a certain direction and create an opening.
  8. Practice! Practice! Practice! You have to develop muscle memory for each arm for both attack and defense. Constant repetition and patience are critical especially in developing your off-hand. A couple of techniques I've used for practice are the heavy bag and visualization/shadow boxing. I would practice hitting a heavy bag using different combinations and moving around the bag while constantly striking. In visualization/shadow boxing, I would imagine the different possible attacks/defenses (See #1) that a fighter might use and imagine how I would respond to them. Then I would execute the movements.
  9. Wear arm and leg armor. Your extremities are much more vulnerable when fighting with two weapons. While mobility is one of your key assets, arm and leg armor are also helpful especially in large melees.
  10. When wielding two weapons, try to avoid swinging both on the same level. If one is swinging towards the upper body of your opponent, your other weapon should be held low. This reduces the possibility of both weapons being pinned or trapped by a shield or other weapon.
  11. Avoid holding both weapons at the same height above the ground. If you have both weapons at the same level, a single swipe across both weapons can knock them aside just enough for your opponent to follow up.
  12. Footwork. You can't rely on a shield to block blows. In addition to using your swords for blocking, you have to recognize how good footwork can keep you from getting hit.
  13. Combos. Use multiple attacks when fighting with two weapons. Single attacks while fighting two-weapon really don’t utilize one of the style’s strengths, namely the ability to attack from several different angles within a short span of time.
  14. A couple of combos:
    1. 3-shot combo (tends to be more effective against rounds than other shield types)
      1. RH (right hand) cross to opponent’s right shoulder. The normal reflex action is to move the shield towards the right to block the shot.
      2. Follow immediately with LH (left hand) attack to opponent’s lower right leg. Your opponent’s shield will normally drop or else he’ll be hit in the leg.
      3. RH is brought back to attack opponent’s lower left leg.
    2. Counter-swing combo
      1. Opponent swings down towards your left shoulder.
      2. Block with LH. Immediately swing with RH towards forearm of opponent’s sword arm.
      3. Follow-up with RH or LH attack to legs.
  15. Finally, study the Filipino martial arts. It's basically stickfighting. The philosophy is that you learn how to fight with rattan sticks and then you can transfer that experience to unarmed combat or to any other weapon you might use. The drills are great for learning different two-weapon patterns and for developing your coordination. Their drills also help you to effectively integrate your attacks, defenses, and footwork. In particular, there are patterns called sinawali that can be practiced with a partner.

Here are a few links with some general information:

Here’s a video actually showing a sinawali pattern:

and a web page with additional Filipino martial arts videos:


I am of the complete opposite mentality. I trained substantially with single blue left hand after single blue right hand. That allowed me to focus on doing each side correctly. Then I put both hands together.

When I stand, I stand left foot forward against a right handed swordsman. When I fight a left handed swordsman, I stand right foot forward. I block and counter-swing primarily with whatever foot I have forward.

I've found the greatest weakness of most florentine fighters is that they neither block nor swing with their off hand. Lack of blocking tends to get them killed more often than lack of swinging.

Reasoning: (I'm fighting a righty) Standing right foot forward and blocking with my right hand has the unfortunate effect of putting both my swords on the same side, or else forcing my arms to cross. Neither of which is a very good thing.

Generally speaking, there is a limit to how low an opponents crossover shot can be. Hence, the amount of angles an opponent can attack from is also limited, so the side blocking a crossover shot tends to require a little less defense. Further, a crossover shot automatically increases the distance an opponent has to swing, which allows you to get away with crossing your own a little bit in order to block a crossover shot.

Therefore, it only makes sense to block shots that come from the right with the right, and shots that come from the left with the left.

Why left foot forward against righties: I fight left foot forward simply because if I only had a sword in my left hand, it would be awkward to stand with my right foot forward.

If my left hand blocks my left and my right hand blocks my right, I would far prefer that the side with stronger defense blocks the side my opponent has the least distance to swing, namely a shot to my left side. If I stand right foot forward and block left swings with my left hand, my left hand is crossing half the distance of my body to block a shot, which automatically slows the speed I can block. I would rather avoid having the shot that requires the least distance for my opponent to throw require the most distance for me to block.

Just my thoughts.


Peter is right to a point as far as metal set ups t fight with two sword.
the main thing most people lack is minor motor skills. you come out to fight once a week and expect your off hand to make magic with its one day of sparring and then right back to being a one handed individual. The first step should always use your off hand for everything. I mean everything. Eat ,drink, write, dribble, beat off...whatever...

Your first obstacle is getting your off hand to reconize minor motor skills that have atrophied from never useing it for anything. after you get minor motor skills developed then practice block strike and learn your 9 shots for each hand. I mean burn them shots into memory by learning where and when they should and should not be thrown by using block strike for reading and striking skills.

All of this should be done which each hand...mostly if not soley single blue practice. For the most part i kill people in the gaps or throw stuff that has predictable returns and set ups.Peter can describe in person what i showed him for the most part. After my year is up in iraq i shall make a few northen Bel events to bring the training drills with me.

My second piece of advce is practice....sparring and doing weird stuff one day a week will not lead to better fighting skills..neither will doing the wrong thing over and over. I suggest training like your trying to get better at least 4 times a week . thats not random sparring...thats a set training routine. I tell people to do rollies..hoppy, block strike, Core training exercises, some people run also. I know this is a huge wall of text but its really a theory /frame of mind not just a i do this and they die kinda thing. I worked with Peter alot and he also worked with my squire for tips and idea's.

Spyn Thrift N'than

Sword and Board vs. Red - Brennon EH

Killing heavy/range weapons is all about footwork. You need to be able to understand and manage their range, and then close distance swiftly when the time is right. Try standing at their maximum range and stutter-stepping just into their 'sweet spot' range. Once they throw quickly shift back out and rush in as they swing or stab past. Those blades tend to have a long recoil time, and that's to your great advantage. As you're stepping in you want to push towards their weapon, not around around it. Your goal is to keep control of their weapon with your sword or shield on the shaft of their weapon and utilize continuos pressure against it. This works because people are mentally conditioned to resist an opponents movement rather than continue in the direction of force. This means they will essentially focus on pushing on your sword rather than trying to do anything useful (like hit you). Once you get up on them life should be simple. The important thing to get down is how to control them through the manipulation of their range.

SCA Spear Fighting By Pellinor of Shadowed Stars

The spearman can at times look like the most glorious of killers in a melee. He is highly visible and can rack up a lot of kills. New fighters may say, “I want to do that. Look at all the people he killed.” What they do not know is that almost anyone can learn to be safe and authorize with a spear but it takes a lot more work to be a really good spearman.
This article will be about my own spear fighting views and techniques. What is written here is by no means all there is to know about spear fighting. Remember, these are guidelines; there are always contradictions to the rules when the fight is on. Like all other weapon styles, try new things. If it works for you, use it. If not, there is no harm in trying.
I have been lucky enough to be able learn from two of the best spearmen out there, Sir Gerwulf af Dokktungle and Duke Sir Brannos O'Irongardail, among other great spearmen. To learn how to use a spear well in melee you have to fight with spear in melee. Over the last five years I have been able to fight spear year round. Our indoor practice site is large and we get a good turnout of fighters to enable some very good melees. In this practice setting we can discuss what is working and what is not. We can try tactics and methods that we wouldn’t have time to study in an event setting.
Most fighters only use spear during the summer at events. I believe this is due to lack of available large practice sites and having enough fighters for a good melee workout.

In general, any armor that allows unrestricted movement will work. I prefer light flexible armor. If I am able to move and twist in any direction then I will have an easier time avoiding or glancing a blow that would have otherwise hit me. I like an open face helm for greater visibility. Wear sturdy gauntlets. No hockey gloves. Your hands are going to get hit so want good hand protection. Inspect your gauntlets for good repair at the end of the day. It’s no fun having fingers sticking out when you could have fixed it the night before. Be sure to have good armor for your torso also. The body is the highest percentage target so it is where you will be hit the most by other spears.

In the Middle Kingdom we are allowed up to twelve-foot spears. I would suggest using a nine-foot spear vs. longer spears. Practicing and fighting with a spear longer than nine feet will throw off your targeting when fighting with the shorter spear at events that have a nine-foot maximum spear length, such as Pennsic. The longer spears also add weight requiring more control to keep them from hitting too hard. The heavier spear will also wear out a person faster.
I like a lighter weight tip. It helps with speed and control. More speed allows quicker attacks on openings that show briefly. Better control gives the opportunity to hit the smallest of openings.
The pipe cap on the head end of the spear is required. I also like to add one to the butt end for something to hang on to at full extension. Add some type of grip tape to the butt end and you are all set.
I do not use a hook on my spear. I am a smaller fighter and if I have an aggressive hook then larger stronger fighters may pull me around. With a small hook I still have to be working with another spear. I have found that when teaming with another spear I can work just as well without the hook.
Every spearman should have a backup weapon. It doesn’t matter what type but it should be able to be employed almost instantly. This takes practice and trial and error until the right weapon and holding method is found for the individual. I personally like a dangle mace that is attached to my wrist in such a way that when I drop my arm straight down the mace naturally drops into my grip. Swing the arm up from behind my back and the opponent rarely sees it coming. Short swords or daggers work well also. Scabbards can be attached to belly, back or hip.
The important concept to remember is having a secondary weapon that is easy to draw without taking your eyes off of your opponent.

What the spearman wants in a stance is a good center of gravity and balance. If I am able to keep my center of gravity balanced I am then able to twist or move if an opposing spear is trying to hit me even when I am throwing a shot. Good balance also allows for quicker recovery and second shot. Feet should be about shoulder width apart with the knees slightly bent. Keep your back straight even when throwing a shot. This will shorten your range some. The trade off is that you will have better balance and live longer. Your opponent will not know your true maximum range. Then use the long leaning shot to catch your opponent off guard.
There are several ways to hold a spear. High guard, low guard, right hand back, left hand back are some of the common descriptions for spear stance. Left or right hand indicates which hand is at the butt of the spear. In high guard the spear is held above the head. Both hands are above the head with palms face away from the body. I use the high guard to reach over the top of a shield wall or during a press. In low guard the spear is held about mid body. The hand on the butt of the spear is placed palm facing in and the front hand about shoulder width forward palm facing up. I use low guard when in a shield wall or in the open field. In general I will use low guard left hand back. Fighting left hand back allows me the angle into the open side of a right hand shield man’s body. In a shield wall left hand is easier to use on the left end just as right hand is better used from the right end of the line. When fighting against a right-handed spear my spear is between my opponent’s spear and my body giving me a better defense. A good spearman will be able to use a variety of guards and be able to use right or left hand back. As opportunities surface you must adapt and use the correct tool for the job, so be flexible.

I use the pool cue method of throwing a shot. The rear hand pushes and the spear slides through the forehand. The forehand guides the spear to the target. I start by rocking forward slightly then rotating the hips and throw. Rocking forward starts the motion and will give a little extra reach. Rotating the hips puts body momentum into the shot. It is quicker to target and gives a nice pop to the body. Throw your shot quickly and recover quickly so that you can defend yourself or throw another shot.
The two-hand thrust can also be used. Neither hand slides just push forward with both hands. This method is good for a short thrust that you need to put some body weight into the shot. Be careful when throwing a longer shot with two hands. The spear will tend to drift up at the end of the shot. Then an intended body shot could hit the neck or face.
The face and body will be the main targets. Legs are harder to land a solid shot. The curved surfaces and movement tend to make a spear glance off.
A spearman needs to develop “battlefield awareness”. Battlefield awareness is being able to know what is going on all around you. A lot of fighters in a melee will get focused on the man in front of them and may forget about the reach of a spear two bodies down the line. If the spearman expands his awareness he can take advantage of this. Work at being able to see four, five or even six fighters at a time in the opposing line and be able recognize when openings occur on any of them. With the wider field of view you will also be able recognize what your own team members are doing and be able to capitalize on their efforts.

The best defense for a spearman is a shield wall. Lacking that here are a few things to try.
If facing a spear, block his shots with just enough movement to make him miss. You will have a shorter distance to recover and keeps your own weapon in line for a return stroke. If you can keep your spear in a tighter circle than your opponent and still defend yourself then you will be able control the fight.
If recoiling from a shot and spears/poles are attacking, bring your rear hand up to the top of the head and let the spear tip rest on the ground ahead of you. Move the butt of the spear to either side of the head to block strikes. This technique works well for getting back into a line in a short distance.
When caught in the open field facing a lone fighter the best thing to do is run. Find friends and form up with them.
If you have a backup weapon try this. Take a quick shot with the spear. If you miss shift the spear upright in your left hand so that it is a skinny shield. With your backup weapon in hand, step into their charge and to the right. Throw a rap to the back or legs. Usually they will raise the shield so the legs open up. Stepping into the charge disrupts the opponents timing. Many fighters do not check to see if the man they are running down has a back up weapon. So many are surprised when they get hit.

A good spearman can stand in any line and be deadly. To be truly devastating the spearman should be an integral part of a melee unit, working with the pole support, the shield wall and other spears. It takes good communication for all of these people to work together well.
In a line I stand between two shields with the shields about 18”-24” apart. Open enough for me to work between them but close enough that they can still defend each other and me when needed. I talk to the shield men to let them know what I am doing and what I need them to do. They talk to me, pointing out openings, telling me when they can’t defend me and giving warnings of threats. Talk to the spears and poles in the line with you to set up shots for them or you. Warnings of an impending column charge goes to everyone.
Another form of communication, one that is harder for the other side to pick up on, is non-verbal. The dip of a spear tip, a slight nod, a certain look, these can tell your teammate what you intend to do without tipping off your opponent. This is a form of communication that only comes with continuous fighting with the same group of people over and aver again.

Limited Front Battle
At the beginning of a limited front battle such as a bridge allow the shields and poles to establish a stable skirmish line. As soon as the line settles replace a poleman in the line. When stepping into the line try to line up diagonally from an opposing spear. Line up spear, shield, spear with the shield directly in front of the opposing spear. This causes the opposing spear to watch a wider field of view and gives the spear partners a better chance of a shot opening. This works even better when your shield man can menace the opposing spear to get his attention. Watch for cross shots. Usually the angles offer better shot openings. Have a pole man behind and to one side of you. When the opposing side charges raise your spear straight up and rotate places with the pole man. With the spear up there is less chance of someone tripping on it or getting it trapped. Pull out your back up weapon in the event that an opponent comes squirting through the line. Remember to give the poles room to work. Just like the spears, polemen need room behind them also.
When the press of the charge has passed move back into the line and back to work.

Open field
When your line is advancing into a field battle the spearman should stand behind the shield wall with the wall 3/4 of the distance up the spear. Take a position far enough in from either end of the line so that a flank attack cannot kill you quickly. At the first clash you will be back far enough that you will not get caught in a crush. Any closer and you will be backing up trying to keep your spear from getting trapped. At the ¾ spear distance the tip of the spear will be in the right place to take advantage of any openings the shield wall creates for you. When the press of first contact fades move into a space in the line and work from there.
During the field battle is when a spearman has to be the most alert. At any time a line could fold or the unit could be flanked. Do not get caught on the end of the line or in a crush. You will either be run down or not have enough room to be effective.

I hope that new spearmen will be able to take this information and start a little farther ahead in the game than I did when I started fighting spear. I have touched on several aspects of this weapon style. There is more to learn that is easier to demonstrate than to write. So, go out, watch the better spear fighters and ask the questions “How did you…?” “Why did you…?”. More than likely they won’t mind talking about it and you will learn something. That is how I did it.

Archery Tips/Training Techniques - Kyrian

Shoot. Shoot some more. Just when you thought you've shot enough, keep shooting. I've found that the more shooting that I do, the more consistent I am. When I've had the opportunity to do regular target shooting outside of practices, I've noticed that my accuracy increases significantly.

If you've seen "The Patriot" with Mel Gibson, you'll recognize this quote: "Aim small. Miss small." Just like Olos said.

I'm not fond of shooting people in the head if I don't have to. I feel more comfortable shooting someone in the leg which can be more challenging since it's generally 1/2 the width of a head and is often moving. If you can target and hit a leg consistently, then the head really isn't that hard of a shot.

Get the best equipment you can afford or scrounge, both bow-wise and arrow-wise. A good bow can be expensive but a bow at or close to 35 lbs. will increase your range as an archer. Graphite arrows can be expensive; you can skimp but cheap arrows, from what I've seen, are more prone to breakage.

Build your own arrows and practice with them as much as possible. Learn how your arrows fly. Don't rely on others' arrows all the time. If you pick up an unknown arrow on the field, you're not necessarily going to know its flight capabilities.

Put a nock ring on your string. When properly attached, your arrows will always nock perpendicular to the riser in the same spot increasing your consistency.

Get a volunteer, er, sucker, to be your target. Have the person form a "T", i.e., arms held up parallel to the ground with their back towards you. Have the person specify a certain body part for you to hit. Once you can consistently do that, have the person be more specific, such as "left elbow", "right knee", "left kidney", "center of spine", "right forearm", etc. Have the person pick up the shield and then practice trying to hit any exposed areas. I would recommend having the target wear some type of head protection. Keep an eye out for what's normally exposed such as the sword arm, the leg, the head, etc. Target those areas. Once you're consistently hitting the person, have the target take five more steps and then start the process all over again. Unfortunately, as the range increases, the inconsistencies between the arrows such as the amount of tape glue used, the number of fletchings, etc., really start to have an impact on accuracy.

Have your volunteer start moving. The main directions will either be towards/away from you and moving from left to right and vice versa. Practice applying lead, i.e., shooting where you think your target will be once the arrow and moving target have traveled a particular distance.

When supporting a line, know where the enemy archers are at. Don't always attempt to hit the fighters directly in front of you. They're most likely to see you targeting them and can take appropriate action. Fire on the oblique. There are often more openings and the fighters on the line are less likely to see you since they're often focused on what's in front of them.

Watch for openings created by your fighters, things like spear thrusts that turn shields or attacks that cause the person to shift the shield and create openings.

If you're skirmishing, take responsibility for your own protection. You've got to have your head on a swivel watching for any enemy who are getting too close. Move back a few steps if you need to and get some of your fighters to slow down or stop anybody charging you.

Priority of targets. I tend to look for the things that can cause my side the most harm. Those would be:

a) Enemy leaders
b) Enemy archers
c) Enemy spears and red weapons
d) Power fighters--the ones who can literally turn the tide of battle if given the opportunity.
e) Other targets as they present themselves

If you get a chance, take a gun marksmanship course. I find myself constantly applying the principles I've learned in my BRM (basic rifle marksmanship) course from basic training every time I'm arching.

Use a leather gauntlet or archery-specific glove. This will take a lot of the pressure off your finger joints especially when you're firing a higher-poundage bow.

I carry a shield on my back and a backup short sword on my belt when I'm arching. If you do this instead of using a buckler, practice "turtle style" where you have to spin and block attacks with your shield. You will often not have enough time to get that shield in the proper position on your arm before you get attacked.

Volunteer to be a shooter for arrow testing. This will allow you to warm up and practice your shot placement. When I'm an arrow testing shooter, I will often aim at a different spot on the back with each shot. I may do shoulder blade for a shot, then lung, then spine. This is also good because if you keep hitting the arrow tester in the same spot, after a while every shot is going to feel bad.

Drawing a bow is primarily an upper-body exercise with your shoulder and back muscles doing a lot of the work. I actually read that if you're to the point where you chest muscles are being used, then you're drawing too far. Work your arms, in particular your shoulders, and your lat muscles (the ones you use when doing pull-ups). Drawing a bow also has a lot to do with technique. A lot of the new archers that I train automatically assume that it's only the arm drawing the string back that's doing all the work. And they will often struggle with trying to draw the string all the way back. However, if you push out with the arm holding the bow while pulling the string with the other, you distribute the effort between your arms better. It's much easier to explain in person.

And lastly, if you find yourself hitting a person consistently, point that out to the person and go into how and why you shot him. It will increase his awareness about archers on the field and will give you more of a challenge in looking for openings. Like anything else, you're not going to get better by choosing the easy shots all the time. Try for the moving target. Try hitting a moving target while you're moving. Try going for the small opening or the extreme long range shot. Whether you hit or miss what you're aiming for, take a little bit of time to figure out why the shot hit or missed. I've found that self-feedback has been one of the most effective ways for me to get better as an archer.

Spins - Bhakdar

The first spin I learned to do in Belegarth (and is more contact oriented) is as follows:

1) Post your shield into your opponents weapon-hand
2) Swing low for the most convenient leg
3) Spin inwards towards your posted shield arm, taking your torso away from the opponent and shield following back towards your opponent.

I'd be glad to show you in person sometime. It's a solid move that has surprise, effectiveness, and ability to distance away from or close in and through an opponent. With practice and timing, you can even pull this off spinning through the middle of two spaced opponents.

Spins are effective if you've practiced them with control and patience. Most any technique that has some effective merit can be optimized thorough practice. Ultimately, spins will often function better as surprise counters rather than offensive manuevers. If you lead (take the first swing) with a spin, the enemy will see it coming a mile a way. No one on our fields expects you to block, rotate 180-360º, then blast them in the leg or the chest though. Amtgard elite tier-- perhaps a different story.

Spinning will inherently create a gap in your defense. You compensate by moving faster.

Optimal spin moves put you striking on-the-go and setting your range or position for your next opponent.

Dealing with Flailing Newbies - Bhakdar

Attempting to solve the arrogance of suicide for anti-vet pride may involve taking the fighter aside at a time when you're both level headed and chill, and say:

"Hey, I've noticed that you focus on fast flurry attacks to make strikes on veterans. In the short term this may land you a hit, but I can help you keep better stance and guard composure which will make your fighting more consistent."

Then start teaching them about keeping their back straight, keeping their head from ducking into shots, and paying attention to where they place a swing before they swing there. Perhaps try to get them excited about using quick fakes instead of full flurries, which are a generally optimal florentine tactic anyway.

Aim to convince the fighter that faking (by throwing a short jab but not extending or snapping their elbow or wrist to swing) to a target location on an enemy can throw the enemy's guard off without having to swing all over the place and leave themselves open. Furthermore, fakes keep your guard close to your body and allow you more availability to swing once openings come. If you can show them that its a wiser tactic to feint instead of flurry and they can be faster, more effective, and more guarded by altering this habit, they'll probably catch on and use it in the long run.

You also don't have to feel so bad about getting hit by a newb. If you get sold on a good fake and whopped... well, you got sold on a good fake and were wopped for it. They've improved their offense and you have to work on keeping a stable guard that doesn't move for fakes.

There's no more dangerous enemy than a newbie florentiner. You have no idea what they're going to do. They are far more scary than other top tier fighters that you've trained with and sparred against-- you have a feel for their rhythm and can beat them if you're on top of your game. Newbie florentiners will own you from your hips to your head.

If they're trying to scissor you, here's a few more notions:

1) Soth's suggestion of backing up is key. If they're on the charge, jump, or dead-leg-lunge, you can practice your timing of backup so they lunge to scissor and clap air. You then whop them high as they've overexerted forward.

2) For low claps, hop both feet back and punch your shield low for a second (you're using a punch, ya?) They'll strike both shield edges and you hop right back into place whopping them. You're moving your body further behind your shield more than blocking, and it's a timing practice for your footwork. (You can watch Bran fight with a punch shield to feel out this style more)

3) For high claps, work on an "A Frame" Guard. That is, roll your shield out over your outside ribs/shoulder and pull your weapon guard outwards turning your wrist out. As you turn your wrist out and let your weapon tip angle towards your head, you create a wall parallel to the inside of your body.
Your guard looks like a subtle capital A. You can stand right in front of them, weapon blocking one side and shield blocking outward on the other. Your center is wide open for a short second, but that's OK-- you're stopping the clap (heh heh...). They'll scissor into blocks on both sides, be stunned by their own foolishness, and be wide open. Feel free to punch their weapons with your shield after blocking (to keep them from swinging again) and whop them in the gut or the leg.

Judging Distance or Range

Closing at a Range Disparity by Brennon EH

Closing is one of the fundamental areas of footwork that can help turn an average fighter into a good fighter. It is the ability to go from outside your opponents effective range (their single-step range) to inside your sweet-spot range. Ideally, your sweet-spot range on somebody with range disparity is at your minimum effective range... Meaning that it is probably close enough to them that they are now at a disadvantage for throwing shots.

The goal: From outside of your opponents reach, close to your minimum reach, with minimal risk to yourself.

Steps: 1. Find your opponents max range
2. Lock your opponent in place
3. Spring the distance
4. Finish Him!

Step 1: Find your opponent max range.
Explaining the concept of 'max easy range' is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it say this is the range at which your opponent can reach you in a single normal step. You want to find this range, and start your closing from about eight inches outside of it.

Step 2: Lock your opponent in place.
Most people cannot move their feet and hands at the same time in any non-trivial way. The result of this is that if you can force your opponent to throw or block a shot, he will generally not move his feet. I recommend getting them to throw a shot, since some people (wisely) have a 'no-be-there' philosophy to blocking. Also, a good fighter will just ignore your shot entirely since as we have determined, you are WAY outside of your max range. That's why you are closing, after all. A passive bait followed by a short step into the edge of their max range is often the perfect 'lock them in place' bait; they now believe they are in control of the fight, and are focusing on killing you rather than saving themselves.

Step 3: Spring the distance
Now that your opponent is swinging at you (or blocking your shot) you need to close the distance as quickly and safely as possible. Throw a block to intercept their incoming shot as you close. If you froze them with a shot of your own, then I recommend switching to a high-guard as you come in. Since we are going in shoulders-first (not too much, but enough) it is a good bet the shots will come high towards the shoulders instead of low towards the hips. If you are Florentine you need to plan on blocking the stab. To close the distance quickly you need to spring the distance in between your starting position and end goal. This is not a step, not a series of steps, but a full-on forward leaning jump at your opponent. Imagine trying to flying tackle somebody and you've got the right idea about the movement. Your feet should definitely leave the ground. I find that most people end up falling short on this part of the plan. They simply can't judge distance properly as they are too concerned about hitting their opponent and end up stopping short. In order to combat this, I have people train by putting their shoulder into my chest. They should literally ram their shoulder into my chest as they land. If they drill this way they get a good feel for what the distance really is, and can pull up just an inch or so shy in application on the field. Plus they get desensitized to body checking, which is valuable in and of itself. As a note, you need to expect to catch a little bit of shield or fist to the face in these situations. People will generally panic and thrust their gear/hands out to stop you. Don't worry, it doesn't hurt. Just duck your face at the last second and you will be fine.

Step 4: Finish Him!
You are now inside your opponents minimum effective range, and just barely in yours. Execute your plan. You do have a plan, right? No? Okay, always make a plan before you do anything offensive. I recommend same-side ass-wraps and shoulder-wraps in cases like this. You're so close you've got a lot of options for getting around even really good guards and big shields. Crossing is basically impossible due to such limited distances, and stabbing is awkward for the same reasons. I normally throw the same-side ass while bringing my shield/left-sword/empty hand up to jam their sword and prevent them from throwing on me while I throw my shot(s).

Measure, or range by druminmychest

Unit: The Four Foundations
Chapter: The Foundation of Measure
Lesson: The Four primary measures

Master Johannes Leichtenauer, the shadowy, legendary father of German swordsmanship once wrote the words “All arts have length and measure”. These simple words allude to a whole world of insight into our art. His ideas were further refined in the 14th century by the great Master Fiore de’ Liberi. Master Fiore created a simple and elegant diagram known as the “Signo” (literally, the Signpost) which contains the totality of principles in his Martial art. Later we will discuss this in great detail, but for now, suffice it to say that the ability to “measure” and “perceive” are expressed in the attributes of an animal, the “lynx”. Fiore tells us that to be master swordsmen, we must have the attributes of the lynx. (Among other things) So let’s get to it!

Measure of Distance: The ability to estimate distance is a paramount skill in our art. Specifically, the ability to swiftly recognize the first target that comes into range is the greatest application of that skill. If you can recognize the MOMENT a target is in range, and act upon it, you are effectively measuring distance and range. But that’s not really the only distance we have to deal with… Master Leichtenauer would tell us there were only two kinds or ranges; “outside”, and “war work”, but frankly, our art is a little different in that we have limited grappling, and have certain rules of engagement that alter the situation. Many years ago Duke Gyrth Oldcastle (God rest his noble soul) devised a method for expressing the different kind of ranges in our art. It is an expressive and useful tool. There are essentially four ranges, they are;
A Range: Your opponent and you are very close, generally there will be some physical contact in this range; shields touching, pressing, etc.
B Range: You are able to strike your opponent with your weapon.
C Range: It is required you take a step to strike your opponent with your weapon.
D Range: It is required you take more than one step to strike your opponent with your weapon.

Now, it should be noted that YOUR range is different than your OPPONENT’S range.. this is due to several factors which will be discussed later. For now, I want you to focus on internalizing the axiom below. It is a key which unlocks many doors.

Axiom: NEVER begin an engagement inside your opponent’s range. If you do, the one who twitches first usually wins, and there will ALWAYS be people faster than you!

Now, each of these four ranges have specific tactics and techniques that allow one to excel when in that position. In future lessons we discuss each in length, but we need to speak briefly on manipulation of range. It doesn’t really matter what range you are in, there are two methods of manipulation. They are;

Manipulate your opponent to manage distance: Manipulating your opponent to do what you wish him to do will be a recurring theme. The technique relies on principles not introduced yet, but the first key to this is cause and effect. Later in this lesson we will discuss this. At this point, suffice it to say manipulating your opponent to step where you want when you want is an extremely valuable skill.

Deceptive movement to manipulate your distance: Changing which foot is forward, Inching forward slowly, deceptively shifting your center so range changes, changing the length of your weapon by what grip you employ, these are all examples of this. There are many specific techniques to do this, and no doubt you will come up with your own. Later we will have a lesson on just these techniques, but what is important now is introducing you to the tactic.

Measuring ourselves: Obviously, the ability to measure range, distance, and ultimately their manipulation requires that we understand our own measure. This is affected by several different facets:

  • Body Type: Understanding how your body moves in relation to itself is important to understanding these principles of measure. Do you have long arms? Is your chest so broad you cannot rotate your arms past a certain point? Are you short with proportionately long legs? All these things have a factor on your measure, how far you can effectively use a weapon, your power generation, etc. Some of these things are gender specific, and we will not delve too much into this now, but it is vital you begin to understand yourself and your physical “sphere” (a key concept we will talk about in a second)
  • Technique: Specific techniques change range. For instance, the “thumb leader” can, for some, “create” an extra three or four inches of range on their swords. This is due to geometry, and your specific biomechanics. Also, Techniques which attack your opponent’s upper body have more range than those that attack the lower body. This, again, is a function of your stature, length of arms, etc. This is also why a “backhand” attack has less range than a “forehand” attack.
  • Proper rotation of center: If you properly rotate your center, your shoulder line will move toward your opponent’s center line, thus increasing your range. Along that same line, there are also some harmful techniques which artificially increase this effect, but we will never use them, as they are damaging to our bodies.

Measuring our Opponents: This skill is, of course, vital to our measuring of the different ranges, and is dictated by the same kind of things as our own measure.

  • Body Type: The same things apply. How tall is your opponent? How will that change the distance necessary to hit your body? Long arms? Long legs? Broad shoulders? Sum up your opponent’s physical attributes BEFORE the fight, and use this as a baseline for measuring his range.
  • Technique: Again, is he using good technique? Do the markings on his sword tell you he throws a lot of thumb leaders? Are his weapons very long? What weapon is he using?
  • Proper rotation of center: Is he not properly centering? Is he leaning his shoulders into the shot? Is he doing foolish things like hyper extending his joints, or throwing his shoulder out to get that extra inch or so? If he is, note it, and don’t be caught with such tricks. Rather, use the inherent problems of your opponent’s compromised balance, etc, to exploit the situation.

Measure of Cause and Effect: Once we know our own measure, and that of our opponent’s, we can begin understanding Cause and Effect. We, like our opponent, use our bodies in certain ways to achieve our martial goals. There are certain things we can measure that allows us to predict effect. If me move our foot in a certain way, we are forced to move our center. If our sword cuts down, our arm must move through that arc to bring our weapon to bear again. If we shift our center on our back foot, we must shift it forward again to move forward. If we go up, we must go down, if we go right, we must go left, etc. We can use this measure to identify where our opponent (or target) will be at specific times. If we know this, we can act upon that information accordingly. The ability to measure the cause and effect of our opponent’s actions give us insight into where and when to attack. It can also give us valuable clues on how to effectively evade or deflect an attack that results from our own movement. If done right, it is almost like we are “telling the future”. Knowing what part of our opponent’s body will come in range of our weapon, where it will be at that time, and exactly what time it will be there gives us a tremendous advantage. We can tell this by measuring the effects their actions have on their bodies.

Measure of our sphere of control: Welcome to the Esoteric! You will soon discover that, as we go on, we will use mental techniques such as the “sphere” to speak on and study the four realms of our martial art. (Remember them? Physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual) These are merely tools to allow us to understand and explore these principles, nothing more. However, as you explore them, you may find personal insights that mean much to you. This is normal, and happens in all martial arts. Sphere of control: Imagine a sphere emanating from your center. (remember, all things rotate around and come from our center) Grow this sphere around you until it encompasses the area you have control in. If it helps you, imagine your sphere is a transparent color. For starters, grow your sphere to the range of your weapon. (regardless of what that weapon is… sword, polearm, hands… it’s all the same) Inside this sphere, you have control. As you move your center, the sphere moves around you. If anything comes in contact with your sphere, say, your opponent’s weapon, (or another opponent in a melee) you do not need to see it, you can feel it. As you fight, concentrate on controlling and identifying everything inside your sphere. You know where an opponent’s strike is coming from, because you can feel it brush into your sphere before it hits your body, thus giving you time to react. There is no question you can control your opponent’s weapon if it is inside your sphere, you just do it. (Remember, this is a mental technique that helps us understand. As with all techniques it needs to be practiced to be effective) Now comes the fun stuff….

Increasing our sphere of control: Days-weeks-months-years have gone by, and we have practiced our sphere of control.. Now, let’s expand it. Expand your sphere out past your physical weapon range. Push your sphere to encompass your opponent, who stands just outside your weapon range. Now he is in your sphere of control. Now you feel what he is doing, the arc of his weapon, the tensing of muscles before an attack, the nervous shifting of his center. Now his center is inside your sphere, and you can manipulate it, control it, move it where you wish, with physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual pressure. (remember, spiritual does not mean religious) What I am describing here is the ultimate in manipulation of measure. It is documented that great fighters begin counters before their opponents begin the physical aspects of an attack. This is because their opponents are in their sphere of control. Again, this is only a mental tool for us to understand these principles.

Other Combat Advice

Achieving Your Goals - Cyric

I'm a firm believer that all this sport takes is practice. If you fight enough times, you will get better. Experience counts for a lot.

The best thing you can do as a fighter, no matter what your skill level, is to fight quality opponents. If all you do is n00b hunt, you're not going to get any better. Even if you get owned 90% of the time, you'll still be a better fighter in the end.

Treat this game like a real sport. Eat right, do cardio training and maybe some weight training. Don't spend too much time doing nothing on the sidelines. be out there for every fight.

Don't rely on your equipment too much. I see too many people fight with an ultra long light flail and a huge shield, and their development stalls out. They rely too much on their gear, and not enough on sound fundamentals, like footwork and accuracy.

Changing your style is very important as well, especially if you've plateaued with one style. I have tried to fight with everything out there. I will just bring that weapon and leave all my others at home to practice, so i won't be tempted to quit when i really suck. Learn to use everything, and you'll be a much better fighter.

Finally, don't ignore the mental aspect of the game. Study film on other fighters. Battlefield awareness will keep you alive longer than armor or a huge shield. be aware of tactics and the flow of battle.

Battlefield Tips for Beginners


There are shots that are extremely accurate but give up speed or power. There are shots that are fast, but give up accuracy or speed. There are shots that are fast, but give up accuracy or power. Each particular "style", so to speak, has advantages and disadvantages. It is not necessarily a bad thing to mix and match as you go. Certainly there are some monstrous speed fighters.

I think a key difference may be in viewing where "speed" comes from. In my view, speed has several components. One is literally how fast you are, or how long it takes you to go from A to B. Beyond a certain reasonable fitness level, everybody is not that different in terms of pure speed. The difference is probably in .1's of a second from the time it takes a reasonably in shape person to swing from A to C, and an athlete to swing from A to C. Obviously some people are going to be slower, but in reality, people are swinging a foam stick. The level of health required to swing one is not that high.

On the other hand, what Vets really have over "base fighters" in my mind is technique. Instead of swinging from A to C, they swing from A to B. They don't pull their swords behind their backs before taking a shot, they redirect momentum and they also telegraph their shots less. They have better swing mechanics, and don't just "stiff arm" swing.

In other words, a veteran may be somewhat faster in absolute speed, but their speed relative to a base fighter is tremendously faster. That's why you get relatively out of shape vets who demolish newer fighters. Instead of just moving their shield faster, they may just move their shield more efficiently.

Obviously you can compensate for this by athletic training. However, I argue that getting rid of the "inefficiencies" such as pulling your sword too far back or not moving your shield all the way down to your feet will provide far easier short and long term gains than any form of purely physical training. Hence, my broad "technique" suggestion.

I'm not saying each new guy has to focus on uber tricksy feints, spins, counter-swings, and combos first. Just focus on the very basics. Where to hold your sword, where to hold your shield, how to stand. How to do basic shield blocks, or basic sword swings that don't telegraph your shot too badly.

Once you get basic technique down, then you can work on speed, accuracy, power, or even better technique such as feints. Until then, you fight a seriously uphill battle if you just rely on how fast or strong you are. How many fighters do we see on the field who still swing while their sword is sitting on their shoulders way behind their head, or starting from behind their body? How many fighters drop their shield so low to a feint that it is nearly impossible to recover in time?


  1. When at an event, go fight people you are having a hard time with, NOT WITH THE PEOPLE YOU FIGHT EVERY WEEK AT PRATICE. I know that it’s hard to break out of your shell sometimes, but if you fight the same people you practice with you are going to learn very little that is new. Ask that guy over there that’s been pummeling you and 15 other people to spar, it will do you good in the long run and the worst they can say is no. Every event I see new people fight new people from their realm and it makes me sad, you get very little benefit out of it, and no benefit out it that you couldn’t get at your home field.
  2. This goes with #1, if you are sparing someone and they are doing something you are having trouble with ASK THEM ABOUT IT, more than likely if they are willing to spend time sparing with you they are willing to spend time showing you how to get better.
  3. Enjoy yourself, if you are getting frustrated take a damned break. Nothing keeps you from learning more than getting to the point where you can’t think well and it makes you look like a jerk.
  4. Be willing to help out with both fighting and non fighting stuff at events. I know it probably isn’t your event and sometimes people will tell you that no they have things under control, but they will remember you, and often take some extra time out to help you with something you need/want in the future.
  5. Tell your friends!!! It will do you no good to keep all of this to yourself. If you learn something help others learn something when you get back to all those guys you fight with every week. Because if the people you fight every week get better most likely so will you.
  6. Last but not least, do not be offended if someone tells you no. Most likely they just want to get to fighting, or are going to need to do something shortly and want to enjoy themselves for a bit, THIS IS A GAME. Very few of us get paid to help people learn how to swing stick, and it is not anyone’s duty to make you happy by doing so.

Commanding an Army - Anonymous SCAdian

Being recently inducted into the command structure of an SCA army I would like to address this. Basically because I had the exact same notion going in.

There are many factors to consider when commanding an army in the SCA. Some of which are listed below:

1. Training - The army is basically comprised of "volunteers". Not only that but volunteers that only train sporadically. Realistically, even if you started training your troops months in advance at every event you will only be able to train a certain percentage of your troops and only a few times at the most because not everyone goes to every event, and some don't go at all.

2. Complexity - with a volunteer army that has only minimal to moderate training you can only really expect them to be able to carry out very simple commands. Ie, advance at a step, charge, ground your shields. With commands like wheel right, wheel left, mad dog right, mad dog left being advanced commands.

3. Experience - how experienced is your army. Is a significant amount of your army made up of people who are new or at their very first war? If so you can't expect them to know how to repel a full sprint Tuchux charge. You can instruct them but until they are knee deep on dead bodies they won't understand.

4. Desire - This is a game. If you are to strict or regimented you will get "fall off". Ie, people will get tired of your yelling and stop fighting, OR even worse break off into smaller groups and do their own thing. Not everyone is going to enjoy the intricacies(sp?) of how the "Tits of the Wombat" maneuver works or even care how to carry it out. Some people are just there to hit other people.

5. Information - no one likes the "blind leading the blind" tactic. Inform your troops of their jobs realistically and with enough warning they can organize (if this is possible).

6. FUN - Make boring stuff fun, make the fun stuff MORE fun and you will have a happy army. If no one is having fun they will do something else. Not every second has to fun, but try and make the best of every situation.

With all of the above PLUS other factors like Allies, Scenarios, Scenario changes at the last minute, weather, etc. Sometimes "Get'em" is about the best you can hope for with a SCA army.

The Three Tiers of Development - Sir Tristan from the SCA

I had an interesting discussion recently with a local fighter who is going through something that many fighters do, and wanted to discuss it here to help others who might be experiencing the same thing. It is a plateau, of sorts.

He asked me how he was doing since he's been working fairly hard on improving his footwork, range control, and timing over the past year or two. He has been fighting for about 15 years. I told him that I saw remarkable improvement in every area he was working on. Then came his response.

He said that he was very disappointed because he didn't *feel* any better than he was before. He said he still struggled in tournaments and hadn't noticed his win percentage increase. As background, he fights in some tournaments but is not a tourney hound, and favors practices. He went on to explain that the knights he fights still beat him with the same frequency and he asked if they (myself included) step up their game.

From my perspective, he is caught in a mental trap which is easy to fall into. We sometimes think that skill must have a victorious feeling attached to it. In reality, it doesn't. Even the most skilled fighters deal with failure. Failure doesn't leave you with a victorious feeling. Even the feeling of exhilaration when you overcome a bad habit or issue fades quickly when the next obstacle presents itself.

For those who are caught up in pursuing that elusive 'ass-kicker' high, it really isn't out there. Those who enjoy that do so in their own mind only. They get beat with the same regularity that everyone else does, they just choose their own fantasy world of invincibility instead of facing the reality that they make mistakes and get beaten.

If you find you are chasing the feeling, let go of that in your mind. Focus on honing your skills and remain objective about what you are doing and the progress you are making. You will be able to see your targeting, balance, control of range, etc. improve without having to use win/loss percentages to measure. If you want your W/L percentage to go up, just fight newer people. It is obvious what folly that would be.

Fighting has three stratas which a warrior must pass through to mastery:
1) The physical. Like learning the alphabet, these are the basic building blocks of fighting. They are the basic movements (shots and blocking) and elements of timing, range and balance. The physical is about you and what you are doing.
2) The mental. You move from the alphabet to the words and their meanings. When you have the basics to the point where you don't have to consciously think of them and your body does them automatically, you start exploring the mental aspect. Until that happens, the mental side can seem a mystery. The mental fight takes into account tactics, combinations, more advanced maneuvering, rhythm, positioning and perception of your opponent and his intent. The mental is about what your opponent is doing.
3) The spiritual. This plane is very difficult to cross into and few fighters do. Using the language analogy, it is complex conversation. Like the previous planes, you have to leave the previous (mental) behind to cross to the spiritual. It is where you understand all that is around both you and your opponent and act without thought, each time appropriately. By the time you arrive at this plane, you've left the details of the physical and mental behind. The spiritual is about what you and your opponent do together, how you interact and guiding that interaction.

You cannot rush forward with this progression, it must happen in it's own time. You can only train, and continue to train, and train further.

In the case of man I was talking to, I believe he is caught at the natural point of progression going from the physical to the mental. He cannot let go of his intense focus on the physical aspects of fighting which is the plateau he sits on. The solution is to change his mind. Changing how you look at something is how plateaus are overcome. Fighting isn't a physical art, it is more than that.

A young man comes to the sword master, eager to learn the way of the sword. He asks "Master, how long will it take for me to master swordsmanship?"

The master responds "Ten years."

The impatient youth asks further "What if I study hard every day, morning until night, devoting all my attention to my skills. How long would it take then?"

The master responds "Twenty years."

Why would the master respond as such?

Other Tips/Advice

Heralding - Freyson with help from Diego

The Marshal’s Role

The roles of a marshal are many and varied. They must be cheerleaders and referees, watchers of safety and keepers of fun, interpreters of rules and encouragers of individuality. They must be empathetic enough to know when a stranger is unhappy while at the same time being impartial enough to tell their best friend to go home. Marshals need to be athletic enough to keep up with the action and steady enough to remain calm. They need to know enough about the fighting to spot those who break the rules without being so conservative that they restrict new ways to fight within the rules. Marshals need to be all of these things and more.

Responsibility with Power

Marshals are the single most powerful individuals on the field. They can do anything from calling someone dead to calling someone alive. They call battles and hits, allow and restrict weapons. A marshal is like a god when it comes to what happens on the field, their power is restricted only by their responsibilities. It is these responsibilities which set a true marshal apart from just a spectator in yellow.
All marshals should own their own yellow tabard. This is to identify them when they are acting as a marshal. It should only be worn while actively marshaling. Marshals should NEVER act as a marshal without their tabard, nor should they ever act as anything else when wearing it. The tabard removes a person from their persona or character and places them into the category of Marshal. While wearing this tabard a person stops being part of any unit, stops being a friend, and becomes the law.
The rules are very important to marshals and should be known by every marshal. There are lots of rules and it is not always easy to remember all of them so it is not uncommon for marshals to have a rules copy for reference. When in doubt of a rule, a marshal should ask another marshal, look the rule up, or make an on the spot ruling. If the on the spot ruling is incorrect the marshal should apologize at a later time. Marshals should constantly test each other on the rules to keep up to date with current rules and interpretations.
The position of marshal is not just something which can be chosen at will. With all the power that comes with the position there is a balancing of responsibility. People who wish to be marshals must know that there are going to be times when they must act as marshals. If only one marshal is present then that marshal must act as a marshal and not fight. If there are not enough people acting as marshals then those marshals who are fighting must step up and act themselves.

The Ratio

A good ratio of marshals to fighters is 10:1. It is difficult enough for one marshal to watch two fighters accurately, to watch more than 10 is impossible. There should be 2 marshals at 11 fighters, 3 marshals at 21 fighters, and so on. If there are two marshals out of 12 total participants then there should be 10 fighters and two marshals. This is part of the responsibility which comes with the position, giving up fighting time to act as a marshal.
Marshals should take the time to think about who is currently marshaling and which marshals are fighting. They should rotate out so that everyone gets a chance to fight.

Marshal Hierarchy

There are five classifications of marshals. There are line marshals, field marshals, battle marshals, head marshals/event marshals, and weapon checkers.

Weapon checker
Weapon Checkers are a special type of marshal. Though all marshals should have a basic understanding of weapon construction rules and safety, not all marshals are expected or able to check weapons. Weapon checkers are also not necessarily marshals in the classic sense in that they may never act as a marshal on the field. A weapon checker must be trained in the construction rules of weapons and how to test them. They are the people who classify, test, and fail or pass every piece of equipment which goes onto the field. They need to be open minded enough to allow variation and safety conscious enough to fail gear.

Line Marshal
These marshals are most often found on the edges of the field. In addition to the general responsibilities of a marshal they are concerned mostly with keeping the fighters away from the field edge, away from dangerous obstacles, and clearing the dead off of the field.

Field Marshal
Field marshals are the ones in the middle of the fight. They are calling hits, watching fighters for safety, calling deaths and holds. They need to be agile enough to get out of the way and aware enough to see where the fight is moving to.

Battle Marshal
There is only one battle marshal. This is the marshal which explains the rules for the next battle and calls the battle. Once this is done the Battle Marshal reverts to a normal field marshal. It is the Battle Marshal’s responsibility to make sure that all other marshals on the field know what is going on next and are ready for the call to fight.

Event Marshal/ Head marshal
The event/head marshal is the final say on all things involving marshals. They can, but should not, overrule any other marshals’ call. Only when the call is absolutely wrong should it be overruled. The head/event marshal is responsible for setting schedules for the marshals, setting up battle outlines, and generally organizing all of the other marshals. The event/head marshal answers only to the head of the organization and/or the permit holder of the battle site. Should either of these be involved in any altercation then the head/event marshal is sovereign. If the head/event marshal is fighting when altercation happens, his power of decision passes to the battle marshal.

The Calls

To make things easy and consistent, marshals should use similar calls. Changing calls will confuse fighters and result in chaos. The calls should be short, loud, and easy to understand.

  • “HOLD!!” – Is used to stop the battle. All fighters should drop to a knee and place a weapon over their head. At this point the marshals can do what is necessary for rules, safety, or clarification. This call is used by any marshal when necessary.
  • “CENTER” – Most often used after a hold to get fighters away from a dangerous area. Fighters need to move while keeping their relative positions to each other.
  • “DEAD CLEAR” – Used to get the dead out of the way. Can be done during a hold or after the battle has moved away. Fighters should rise up, place a weapon over their head, and move as instructed by the marshal.
  • “RESUME POSITION!!” – This is the call which follows the call hold. It instructs the fighters to return to their pervious relative positions. Should the fighters have been moved during the hold they need to stay in the same relative places. This call should be used by the battle marshal
  • “FIGHTERS READY!!” – Uses after the battle has been explained or after fighters have been told to resume positions. It gives the fighters a warning that battle is about to begin. This is a battle marshal call.
  • “MARSHALS READY!!” – This is the battle marshal’s call after fighters ready to make sure that all of the other marshals are in position. Line and field marshals should make their assent known by raising their hand in the direction of the battle marshal.
  • “LAY ON!!” – This is the call to start battle. Used after fighters and marshals ready, or after resume positions, to let the fighters know to start.


Too often marshals do not make their instructions easy for fighters to hear or understand. Make the instructions as simple and specific as possible. Talk to all of the active marshals prior to calling the battle to make sure they each know what is going on. If there is confusion among the marshals it will be much worse for the fighters. Marshals need to talk to each other before each battle. Keep calls short, deep and loud while yelling from the diaphragm. Deep yells will be more easily heard than high pitched ones.

Where to instruct from

Sound waves travel in a cone generally in the direction a person is facing. The people to either side and behind will not be able to hear instructions as well as those in front, especially if they are over about 20 feet away. The best place to give instructions is from the middle of the field, rotating 90 degrees on every repetition. Give the instructions exactly the same to north, east, west, and south. In two team battles it is possible to stand at the side of the field half way in between the teams and yell toward the middle of the field. If the marshal is far enough to the side the cone of sound will envelope both teams. In large battles it is often easier to have the field marshals and line marshals explain to groups of fighters what is going on. It is also better if ALL marshals yell the ‘lay on’ command after the battle marshal.


Often it is necessary to make an arbitrary boundary, or edge, to the field. This can be done by field lining as is done on sports fields, using a natural boundary like a ditch or road, or using some other type of marking. Brightly colored rope in long lengths can be purchased at most home improvement stores and makes a great boundary, as well as being useful for other things like bridge battles and battle circles. A warning boundary about 10 feet inside the actual edge is a good idea as it gives the fighters a bit of leeway.
Marshals must make sure that all fighters know where the boundary is prior to the battle. It is also helpful if the line marshals yell out “EDGE OF THE WORLD” as fighters approach. People have a tendency to get angry for being called dead for stepping over something they cannot see well. It is up to the battle marshal to determine exactly what the call for stepping over the edge is, but is must be consistent. In most cases if any part of the fighter’s foot is over the edge they are called dead. Line Marshals need to be very conscious of this and call people dead instantly. DO NOT call someone dead or center them if they are aware of the edge and stay close to it. Sometimes fighters will use the edge as a tactical advantage.


Marshal calls should never be argued by a fighter. A simple “WHAT?!?!” from a fighter is ok and should be answered by a repetition of the call. Anything more should be dealt with instantly by calling the fighter dead. Fighter adrenaline is high and sometimes even the coolest person can lose their temper. Keep this in mind when dealing with argumentative fighters. The basic way to deal with this should be as follows:

Marshal - YOU ARE HIT!
Fighter – WHAT?!?!
Marshal – YOU ARE HIT!

This should be the end of it, but sometimes is not.

Fighter – HE DIDN”T HIT ME!!!!!!
Marshal – Do not argue with a marshal, take the hit.
Fighter – He didn’t hit me!!!!
Marshal – You are dead, do not argue with a marshal.

If the fighter does not die immediately, tell them to get off the field. If they do not, call a hold and call all marshals to you. Then a few marshals should escort the person off of the field. If the fighter is still argumentative or gets worse the marshal should tell the fighter to go home. If he does not go home the police should be called.


Only when wearing the yellow tabard should a person act as a marshal. When it is worn you are a marshal, when not you are a character. The tabard should be a bright yellow and plain so it is easily recognizable. This should be worn even while checking weapons. The tabard separates a person from their character and places them in the role of something in charge. The tabard should be worn over any other garb or in place of garb. There should be no decoration, unit symbols, or anything on the outside which takes away from the impartiality of being a marshal. Many fabric stores sell fabric remnants or cheap fabric at less than $1 a yard which is 48”-70” wide. Three yards can make 2-3 tabards very cheap. Cut the fabric about 24” wide and 3 yards long, fold in half, cut an 8” half circle centered along the fold for the head to go through.

The rule breaker

When a fighter breaks a rule it is important for a marshal to understand that the fighter may be unaware of the rule. Marshals should make the assumption that the rule breaker is unaware of wrong doing unless the marshal has personally already warned the person or has heard the person be warned by another marshal. When a person breaks the rule the marshal should call them dead if it is a grievous or dangerous rule break and then call them over, or call them over after the battle. The marshal should explain the situation and how it broke the rules to the fighter, and warn the fighter that if it happens again they will be penalized. The marshal should always warn the fighter that from this point on all marshals will be watching specifically for further rule breaks. The marshal should then inform all other marshals to be on the lookout.
If a person continues to break the rules after repeated warnings, they should be removed from the field on the next infraction. If it happens again, the fighter should be suspended by the group leader for at least a month. If it still happens, the fighter should be banned.
There are many different rules in the game. Some are very specific while others are subjective. Subjective rules such as hit calibration are the ones marshals need to be more lenient on. Pull the person aside and try to get them to understand what they need to do to comply. Do this as often as possible on subjective rules. Specific rules should have no leeway at all. If a person doesn’t take a hit, pull them aside later and explain what a hit is. If a person bashes someone from behind, remove them immediately.

Subjective Rules:
Any rule which is open to interpretation is considered a subjective rule. There are many of these rules in the game that marshals need to be aware of. The easiest way to understand what these rules are is through conversations with other marshals. If two marshals have differing opinions on the rule, it is most likely subjective. Some examples include:

  • Sufficient force of hits.
  • Half throws on short range missile attacks.
  • Grappling.
  • How soft a weapon has to be.

When dealing with subjective rules, it is up to the marshal to make the distinction for the fighters. If a fighter does something which crosses the line they should be pulled away and talked to. If the line crossing is too dangerous they should be stopped immediately. It is also acceptable to talk to the fighters during combat to let them know they are approaching the line of too much. Subjective rules can be a real pain in the ass since different people will have different ideas. Marshals need to take a look at the specific situation and determine how much discipline, if any, if called for.

Objective Rules:
These are the rules with no room for interpretation. Weapon specifications are a great example. If the rules say the maximum length is 6”, then even the slightest amount over that fails. Objective rules are those which are explicitly stated. No leeway should be given to fighters who violate these rules. They should be immediately penalized. If the rules do not include a penalty, it is up to the marshal to give one on the spot based upon the severity of the violation. If a Zio hits Bob in the head, Zio has broken the rules and should be penalized. This could be anything from removal for an extended period of time to just a simple warning not to do it again. The difference comes from the severity of the offence. If Bob was just in the wrong place and it was an accident, give a warning. If Zio has been going after Bob’s head, boot him off the field.
When it comes to objective rules, it is necessary for the marshal to understand and know them. These rules are the basis for the game. They are put forth for specific reasons and without them the game cannot be played. It is imperative that marshals know ALL of the rules, and even more imperative to know the objective rules inside and out.

Whenever a person breaks the rules the marshal needs to impose a penalty. The simplest penalty is to call the person ‘dead’ and explain the situation later. Sometimes even this is too severe. Under no circumstances should a marshal let a rule violation go unpunished. Even a simple ‘Don’t do that again!” is often enough. Ignoring a rule violation will only encourage more violations. While calling out the rule violations and applying penalties on even the smallest of things will encourage beer game play by everyone.
Penalties should be applied based upon the severity of the action. In most cases a simple call of ‘Dead’ is enough. In some cases a more severe penalty is called for. If the violation is accidental, causes no injury, and has no potential to cause injury then a simple verbal warning is enough. If it is not accidental, causes injury, has major potential to cause injury, or is a repetitive violation then a penalty of being removed from the field is not out of line.

Calling hits on fighters is the most subjective rule in the game, and therefore should be something which marshals deal with the least. Yet many fighters believe that calling hits is the primary duty of a marshal. This causes some huge problems for a marshal. There is no way a marshal can follow every fighter, every weapon, or every swing. It is also one of the most difficult things to call even when conditions are perfect.

1. Perspective - A short story:
Once upon a time there were 3 fighters left alive toward the end of the battle. Smazil with his large ax, Jollop with 2 swords and an ‘injured’ leg, and Seeahtee running around with a javelin. There were 4 active marshals equally spaced around the battle circumference watching this as well as the rest of the ‘dead’ fighters spaced around. Smazil rushed Jollop and had just ‘killed’ him when Seeahtee threw the javelin. The javelin flew straight at Smazil and hit. EVERY marshal and ‘dead’ fighter saw Smazil get hit in the gut by Seeahtee’s javelin. EVERY one of them was beginning to applaud the beautiful javelin throw. Then Smazil looks up and charges Seeahtee. Seeahtee does not even blink at the blown off hit and charges in. Marshals call a hold and call Smazil dead. Smazil, Seeahtee, and Jollop all question the call. It was perspective. The javelin had actually hit the haft of Smazil’s ax. The 3 fighters all saw it was not a hit. Smazil and Seeahtee saw it from the straight line of flight of the javelin. Jollop saw it from below as Smazil was standing over him.

This story points out the problem with calling hits. Perspective is king. Every person in the story other than the 3 fighters had good perspective. The marshals had perfect perspective. Everyone watching knew the javelin hit, yet it did not. When it comes to calling hits a marshal needs to understand perspective. A good angle of view may not be enough. Because of this, marshals should only call hits when they are absolutely 100% sure that there was no way their perspective could have been impaired. In other words, rarely.

2. Only the striking surface can score a hit – another story:
Wonka swung at Cholo. It was an obvious hit to every marshal watching. Cholo knew it was a hit and took it. Wonka’s hit was a beautiful shot to Cholo’s torso. As Cholo begins to drop to the ground ‘dead’, Wonka keeps hitting. If it was such a perfect shot, why didn’t Wonka stop? Because he knew it was not the striking surface which struck.

This story points out another hit calling problem. The question of what exactly hit where. Many times a weapon will twist or spin in such a way that the striking surface is not the part of the weapon which connects with the target. When trying to call a hit the marshal must be able to determine if the striking surface actually hit. In the above story, Wonka should have been reprimanded for hitting with a non-striking surface. If it continues to happen he should be restricted in fighting styles and weaponry.

3. Moving away – a third story
Jimbo was running by Zaker when Zaker swung at him. Zaker’s swing hit Jimbo’s back as Jimbo ran by. Jimbo keeps running and does not take the hit. He didn’t even try to block it. This is another example of the difficulty of hit calling. If the target is moving with the swing the force of the hit will be reduced. This sounds to most as common sense, but many people forget this in combat. As a marshal if the target area is moving away from the swing as the swing hits, you need to give the benefit of doubt to the target. The force could have been reduced to a level which was not sufficient.

There are so many variables in hit possibilities that there is no way to cover every possibility in text. Herealds need to remember that perspective, movement, blocking, partial blocking, parrying, weapon twisting, etc. can very much reduce what the target feels. Only when it becomes a problem brought to the marshals attention should they step in. Unless of course the marshal is convinced, then call it.

Target area hit redistribution
At times weapons will seem to hit a specific area and the target will take another area. The marshal will see the person get hit in the torso while the person takes a leg. This is not unusual. It is impossible to know where the person felt the force of the hit. If the weapon hit both torso and leg, the target may have felt more on the leg which overpowered the feeling of torso.

Amtgard Workout - Chango

The Amtgard Work-Out

About Me, the Author

My name is Randy Spiering; I have been playing Amtgard for just over 13 years, having started in the summer of 1995 in Victoria, Texas at the Barony of Griffin’s Keep. In spring of 1997 I became obsessed with fitness and have remained as such ever since. I have been a personal trainer since 1999, most recently recertified in 2004 by WITS. I have recently completed my degree in Physical Therapy Assistant and rehabilitation.


While working out the other day it occurred to me that a specialized exercise program designed for the competitive amt-geek might be a useful thing to have around. Having more experience in this field than most of the amtgarders I know I might as well be the one to throw this out there.
I built this work-out with the goal of improving combat effectiveness during those all night ditch battles we all love so much. The most important things for those long fights I can think of are power, from your feet all the way to your hands, with heavy emphasis on core strength, to avoid buttering your opponents and endurance to keep going. To these goals I have developed a single routine which combines 2 separate work-outs which will be done concurrently, one for overall fitness, and the other to build power in all shots. This is an intermediate level workout, meaning you will need a minor level of fitness experience going into this and a good deal of drive to succeed.
This work-out will require 1 ½ to 2 hours of time 5 days a week and will be divided into 5 separate sections, one for each day with 2 days to recover. I will explain all exercises and resistance levels as notes immediately following the names of the exercises. Each work-out will have a pure strength or endurance building component and a functional motion component designed to improve on field shot placement and hand eye coordination.
The repetitions for each set will be given as a range (e.g. 10-12) with 10 being the minimum goal for each set, and 12 being your overall target repetition goal. When you can complete every set of a given exercise with good form to the maximum target repetitions for said set, increase resistance as will be prescribed in the notes for each exercise.

Pre-Work-out preparation:

Before you begin your full blown work-out you will need some tools. These include:
1. Gym membership, you may think that rusty bench with the concrete weights you got from your big brother for junior high football will do the trick for you but I assure you, you are wrong. A gym membership is only about 30 bucks a month and a lifetime of fitness is more than worth it.
2. Work-out partner, this has two purposes, one a partner pushes you harder and further than you ever could go on your own and two, you’ll need a spotter for safety and to get that last eye-rolling rep. Next week at the park talk one of your fellow ditch-monkeys into lifting with you, it will help you both.
3. Gym clothes: weight lifting gloves, some wind pants, cross-trainer athletic shoes etc. Don’t be that mullet in the corner working out in cutoff jeans and combat boots; just don’t be that guy, please.
4. Gym Journal, this is a 5 dollar notebook you can get at any store, in it you will write several things for every day, such as how much weight you lifted and how you “felt about the exercise.
5. The final prep item you will need is a two week period of “maxing out” this will show you where your workout will start, allow you to define your resistance levels and give you a baseline for comparison to gauge your gains. Everyone likes to see improvement in themselves and this is your measuring tape, so to speak. Maxing out can be a dangerous endeavor; you will need your partner with you to do this. You will find your one repetition maximum weight for nearly all the exercises I describe that includes a resistance level beyond body weight.

Maxing out This is a dangerous undertaking you need your partner with you.
In order to max out any given exercise you should go through your daily warm-up then, with a spotter, load an amount of weight you think you can complete no more than one time with maximal effort. Attempt the exercise, if you feel you could complete an additional repetition, rest a minimum of 5 minutes, then increase the weight by 3-5% and attempt again. When you can no longer complete a single repetition of a given weight, your previous effort is your 1 rep-max.


Day #1 Monday

Effective shots are driven by the entire body, but the entire body is driven by the legs, so on the first day of your work-out week you will concentrate on your legs.

Warm up:

10 minute jog, 4+ miles per hour.
Hamstring stretch 3 repetitions, 30 seconds each
Quadriceps stretch 3 repetitions, 30 seconds each
Groin stretch 3 repetitions, 30 seconds each

Exercise #1: Squats

Purpose: Power and strength builder
Equipment: Squat cage, Hack squat machine, or Smith machine

Targeted muscle(s) Knee extensors, hip extensors
Set # Repetitions per set Weight per set

1 12-14 50% of 1 repetition max
2 10-12 60% of 1 repetition max
3 8-10 70% of 1 repetition max
4 6-8 80% of 1 repetition max
Reason: Squats are the main builder of strength and endurance in the lower extremities as well as requiring balance core stability. These muscles are the ones that will drive your shots from the hip up.

Explanation of exercise form: Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width, toes pointed slightly outward. Begin the movement by engaging all of your abdominal muscles to maintain your back in neutral alignment. Slowly lower your body weight by flexing the thighs and the knees until you reach a near 90 degree angle at the knees. Don’t be afraid to stop before the 90 degree mark, only go as low as you feel comfortable. Then press through your heels to return to the starting standing position. Occasionally during the exercise glance at your feet to insure that you can still see your toes to, “keep your knees behind your toes.”

Exercise #2: Lunges

Purpose: Proprioceptive training
Equipment: Dumb bells
Targeted muscles: hip flexors, hip extensors, knee extensors

Set # Repetitions per set Weight per set
1 15-17 See notes
2 15-17 See notes
3 15-17 See notes

Explanation of exercise form: Start in a standing position take a single double length step with either foot, allow your knees to bend until the trailing knee is near the ground and the leading knee is bent to near 90 degrees, come back to standing then repeat with the opposite leg, each leg should do the full

Progression notes:
Resistance in this exercise is provided by body weight in the beginning.
When you can handle additional resistance, begin using dumbbells hanging in your hands at your sides, progress to dumbbells held at shoulder height then to above the head. The change in resistance location should not be done until you feel comfortable with your ability to balance at each location. Do not increase weight until you can complete all sets with dumbbells held straight above the head.

Exercise #3 Knee Extensions

Purpose: Targeted strengthening
Equipment: Knee extension machine or ankle weights
Targeted muscles(s) Knee extensors

Set # Repetitions per set Weight per set
1 15-17 50% of 1 repetition max
2 15-17 50% of 1 repetition max
3 15-17 50% of 1 repetition max

Explanation of exercise form: This should be self evident from the design of the machine, but if you are using ankle weight sit on an elevated seat allowing your feet to dangle. Tighten your abdominal muscles to stabilize your upper body then straighten your leg with the weight on your ankle. Use strong fast contractions to raise the weight and slowly control the decent of the weight back to its starting position over a course of at least 2 full seconds.

Exercise #4 Knee Curls

Purpose: Targeted strengthening
Equipment: Knee curl machine or ankle weights
Targeted muscle(s) Knee flexors

Set # Repetitions per set Weight per set
1 10-12 60% of 1 repetition max
2 10-12 60% of 1 repetition max
3 10-12 60% of 1 repetition max
Explanation of exercise form: This exercise is completed using the exact same form as knee extensions only you will be moving from a straightened position to a bent position.

Exercise #5 Crunches

Purpose: Core Strengthening
Equipment: None
Targeted muscle: Rectus Abdominus (the “six-pack” muscle)

Set # Repetitions per set Weight per set
1 10-12 See notes
2 10-12 See notes
3 10-12 See notes

Explanation of exercise form: don’t do full sit ups, curl your upper body up at the center of your abdomen and stop when you feel your shoulder blades clear the floor. Concentrate on flexing your abdominal muscles as tightly as possible and holding the contraction for at least 2 seconds on every single repetition.
Resistance progression: Begin by doing all sets and repetitions with the knees straight and toes pointed; don’t allow your feet to lift off of the floor. Your arms will be at your sides. When you can complete all repetitions and hold the contracted position for 2 seconds move your hands to a crossed position on your chest. Again when you can complete all repetitions with proper “contraction periods” move your hands the “standard sit-up position” behind your head. The final progression will be to bend your legs into the traditional position you remember from P.E. class.

Day #2 Tuesday

Power that is derived from the lower extremities is fine tuned by the chest shoulders and back, day two will focus on the chest muscles.

Warm up:

10 minute jog 4+ miles per hour
Pectoral stretch 3 repetitions 30 seconds each
Triceps stretch 3 repetitions 30 seconds each
Biceps stretch 3 repetitions 30 seconds each

Exercise #1: Bar-bell bench press

Purpose: Power and strength builder
Equipment: Flat bench and bar bell or flat bench and smith machine
Targeted muscles: Pectoralis major, Triceps

Set# Repetitions per set Weight per set
1 14-16 50% of 1 repetition max
2 12-14 60% of 1 repetition max
3 10-12 70% of 1 repetition max
4 8-10 80% of 1 repetition max
Explanation of exercise form: While lying on a pressing bench, position your hands approximately shoulder width apart, lift bar from support hooks and slowly lower weight to 1 inch above your chest. With an explosive force press weight straight up until your elbows are near to full extension, do not lock out your elbows at end-range, repeat.

Exercise #2: Push-ups

Purpose: proprioceptive training upper body endurance
Equipment: None

Targeted muscles: Pectoralis major, Triceps, Transverse abdominus, shoulder stabilizers.

Set # Repetitions per set Weight per set
1 Muscle failure Body weight
2 Muscle failure Body weight
3 Muscle failure Body weight
Explanation of exercise form: while lying on stomach place hands flat on ground and press your body up to full elbow extension
Progression of resistance: Begin exercise with knees on ground and thighs in a neutral position, initially you will only be lifting the weight of your body from your knees up. Keep your abdominal muscles tight throughout range of motion to prevent “wobbling” of your hips and thighs, basically your torso should be flat as a plank. When you feel you are easily achieving 20-30 repetitions in this position, transition to having your toes on the ground rather than your knees, repeat with a goal of 30+ repetitions and continue to push to complete muscle failure on all sets.

Exercise #3: Spiral Dumb bell presses

Purpose: Functional resisted movement
Equipment: Inclined pressing bench and dumb bells
Targeted muscles: Pec major, Pec minor, Triceps, Biceps, and Serratus anterior.

Set # Repetitions per set Weight per set
1 18-20 30% of 1 repetition max
2 18-20 30% of 1 repetition max
3 18-20 30% of 1 repetition max
Explanation of exercise: This is a rather advanced and complex exercise, but one of my favorites. Using dumb bells and laying on a bench you will start with your arms fully extended above you. Slowly allow your arms to spread to until they are nearly parallel with the ground. Now pull your hands close to your torso at the level of your bottom rib while rotating your palms toward your head. Finally press the weight straight up with a powerful explosive movement to return to the starting position.

Exercise# 4 Plank circuit

Purpose: core endurance
Equipment: None
Targeted muscles: Rectus abdominus, Transverse abdominus, internal oblique abdominus, External oblique abdominus, Multifidi, erectors spinae

Set# Repetitions per set Weight per set
1 1 repetition to failure Body weight
2 1 repetition to failure Body weight
3 1 repetition to failure Body weight
Explanation of exercise: This exercise is a circuit, meaning it is a combination of exercises grouped together that are repeated one after another with no rest in between. The first is a side plank; you will lay on one of your sides and lift your body into a stiff plank position using one arm, supporting yourself on your elbow. Hold this position for as long as you can statically without movement. The next exercise in the circuit is a standard plank you will now be statically supporting yourself on both elbows facing the ground, again hold the position until complete muscle failure. The third position is another side plank; however this will be on the opposite arm from the first. And the final exercise is a reverse plank rather than facing the ground as in the static plank you will be facing the ceiling.

Day #3 Wednesday

Additional shot control and specifically shot recovery is accomplished by the muscles of the back, today we concentrate here.

Warm up:

10 minute jog 4+ miles per hour
Latissimus/lower trapezius stretch 3 repetitions 30 seconds each
Middle trapezius/rhomboid stretch 3 repetitions 30 seconds each

Exercise #1 Lat pull-downs/free hanging chin-ups

Purpose: Additional stretch and warm-up of muscle group
Equipment: Chin-up bar or Lat pull down machine
Targeted muscles: latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, lower trapezius

Set # Repetitions per set Weight per set
1 15-20 See notes
2 15-20 See notes
3 15-20 See notes

Explanation of exercise form: Free hanging chin-ups: Grip bar with hands slightly wider than shoulder width, tighten all core muscles to prevent “swing” and slowly raise yourself until your elbows make 90 degree angles. Note you don’t have to actually get your chin over the bar. Lat pull-downs: Sit on the lat pull-down machine, grip the bar in the same position you would when doing chin-ups (the bars for the two exercises look the same.) Engage your core muscles to maintain stability and prevent rocking. Slowly pull the weight downward until your elbows reach a 90 degree bend. With free hanging chin-ups you’ll need to be either extremely strong or have your partner assist you in completing all repetitions of this exercise. When using the lat pull-down machine you will use very light weight, the purpose of this exercise is to stretch the back muscles and warm them in preparation for the mass builders coming later. Don’t worry about the amount of weight you’re lifting, simply move slowly and feel your back muscles relax and stretch.

Exercise #2 Dumb bell rows

Purpose: Mass and power builder
Equipment: Flat Bench and dumb bells
Targeted muscles: Rhomboids middle trapezius

Set # Repetitions per set Weight per set
1 10-12 60% of 1 repetition max
2 8-10 75% of 1 repetition max
3 6-8 90% of 1 repetition max

Explanation of exercise form: Place your left knee and hand on a bench, right foot on ground and engage abdominal muscles for stabilization, by squeezing your shoulder blades together and bending your elbow pull the weight of the dumb bell to your side as if you were starting a pull cord for a lawn mower. Note do not allow your torso to twist at all. Repeat this motion with opposite hand and knee on the bench and the opposite hand doing the work.

Exercise #3 Pull-overs

Purpose: Functional resisted movement
Equipment: Flat bench and dumb bells
Targeted muscles: Latissimus dorsi

Set # Repetitions per set Weight per set
1 20-25 30% of 1 repetition max
2 20-25 30% of 1 repetition max
3 20-25 30% of 1 repetition max

Explanation of exercise form: Lay on a free bench with a dumb bell held in both hands, straighten both arms to lift the weight from your chest, while keeping your elbows straight slowly lower the weight above your head until you feel your low back begin to arch, tighten your abdominal muscles to flatten your low back and maintain them in this position. With a forceful and quick movement pull the weight back to its starting position directly over your chest with elbows straight.

Exercise #4 Low back extensions

Purpose: Core muscle balance
Equipment: None
Targeted muscles: Erectors Spinae

Set# Repetitions per set Weight per set
1 10-12 Body weight
2 10-12 Body weight
3 10-12 Body weight

Explanation of exercise form: Laying face down on the ground with hands palm down above head on ground arch your back to lift your torso and legs off the ground while remaining in rigid extension, hold for 3 seconds then slowly relax and repeat.

Exercise #5 Torso twists

Purpose: Core strength, Functional strengthening and endurance movement.
Equipment: Adjustable height cable-cross machine
Targeted muscles: Internal and External oblique abdominus, Transverse abdominus.

Set# Repetitions per set Weight per set
1 Failure 20% of 1 rep max
2 Failure 20% of 1 rep max
3 Failure 20% of 1 rep max
Explanation of exercise form: While standing with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart grasp cable handle with both hands and arms fully extended in front of you. Using your core and hip muscles, twist your torso 90 degrees to the right, then 90 degrees to the left, repeat until failure.

Day# 4 Thursday

The second to last portion of your body used to control your shots is the shoulders. Let’s work on them now.


10 minute jog 4+ miles per hour
The second exercise of the warm up I will describe as exercise #1

Exercise #1 Dumb bell circles

Purpose: Warm up and shoulder endurance
Equipment: Dumb bells
Targeted muscles: All abdominals, all heads of deltoid and scapular stabilizers.

Set # Repetitions Weight
1 20 Lightest dumb bells available
2 20 Lightest dumb bells available
3 20 Lightest dumb bells available

Explanation of exercise form: While standing with feet shoulder width apart, you will raise the dumb bells with elbows straight laterally from your body until arms are parallel with the ground. Now make small 2-3 inch circles forward with your hands one circle is one repetition.

Exercise #2 Dumb bell shoulder spiral press

Purpose: Mass and strength builder
Equipment: Dumb bells, Chair
Targeted muscle: Middle deltoids, Upper trapezius

Set # Repetitions Weight
1 18-20 50% of 1 rep max
2 18-20 50% of 1 rep max
3 18-20 50% of 1 rep max
4 18-20 50% of 1 rep max

Explanation of exercise form: While seated, engage your abdominal muscles to maintain stable posture, press dumb bells straight up from your shoulders until directly over head palms facing you, and then rotate your palms to face away from you. Lower the weight toward your shoulders while rotating your palms to face you again. Next bring your hands together in front of your body before pressing the weight upwards again.

Exercise #3 S.I.T.S. circuit

Purpose: Scapular Stability and endurance
Equipment: Adjustable cable cross machine
Targeted muscles: Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres minor, Subscapularis

Set # Repetitions Weight
1 15-20 30% of 1 rep max
2 15-20 30% of 1 rep max
3 15-20 30% of 1 rep max

Explanation of exercise form: This is another circuit each exercise will be repeated 15-20 times in rapid succession with no rest until all 3 exercises have been completed. The first exercise is; internal shoulder rotation, with your elbow at your side and forearm parallel to the ground grasp the cable handle and pull the weight across your chest by rotating your upper arm without allowing your elbow to move. Next is external rotation, starting with the arm across the chest and weight on the opposite side of the body open your arm by making an exact opposite movement of internal rotation. The third exercise is a lateral raise. Straighten your elbow wit your hand at your side and raise your arm straight out from your body until it is parallel to the ground. Finally repeat the circuit with the other arm.

Exercise #4 Shrugs

Purpose: Scapular stability, mass and strength builder
Equipment: Anything you can hold in both hands that is heavy.
Targeted muscles: Upper trapezius

Set# Repetitions Weight
1 15-18 75% of 1 rep max
2 15-18 75% of 1 rep max
3 15-18 75% of 1 rep max

Explanation of exercise form: In a standing position allow weight to hang loosely at your side your sides. Pull your shoulders to your ears then squeeze your shoulder blades together tightly, relax and allow weight to return to starting position.

Exercise #5 Knee raises

Purpose: Core strength
Equipment: Knee raise rack
Targeted muscles: Rectus Abdominus, Iliopsoas

Set# Repetitions Weight
1 15-18 body weight
2 15-18 body weight
3 15-18 body weight

Explanation of exercise form: Support your body weight on your forearms with legs hanging straight down in knee raise rack, by flexing your low back attempt to pull your legs to your chest, make note, this is an abdominal exercise a noticeable curl in your lower back is far more important to proper form than the height you can lift your legs.

Day #5 Friday

The final link in the chain of the perfect shot is the fine tuning done by your arms. The final link in your exercise chain is therefore your arms. You may notice a lack of beach muscle exercise on this day; this is because most people already have big enough biceps and triceps to functionally fight in our game. Instead we will be focusing on the forearms. The forearms are the true fine tuners of shot placement so we will work mostly there. Also you will notice most of these exercises are, “eccentric,” this means we aren’t really interested in lifting the weight so much as lowering it slowly. This is because the arms are fine tuners, they place the shot in its final location and control the momentum built by the rest of the body rather than firing the shot as some would think.
You will also notice we only have a single circuit of 4 exercises, this is because incase you didn’t notice already, the previous 3 days of your work-out have all required arm involvement, so your arms are pretty much shot already, and I want your arms to still function on Sunday when it’s time to go put all this new strength to work pummeling your friends.

Warm Up:

10 minute jog 4+ miles per hour
Biceps stretch 3 sets 30 seconds each
Triceps stretch 3 sets 30 seconds each
Wrist flexor stretch 3 sets 30 seconds each
Wrist extensor stretch 3 sets 30 seconds each

Exercise #1 Eccentric Arm circuit

Purpose: Shot control
Equipment: Dumb bells
Targeted muscles: All arm flexors and extensors.

Set# Repetitions per set Weight per set
1 15-20 3-5 pounds
2 15-20 3-5 pounds
3 15-20 3-5 pounds

Explanation of exercise form: The first exercise is a hammer curl. Holding a dumb bell in one hand lift the weight with the opposite hand until your elbow is fully flexed, point your thumb toward the ceiling and slowly allow the weight to pull your hand back to a resting position, repeat. The next exercise is a reverse curl; it is completed in the same manner as the hammer curls however your palm will be facing the floor during this exercise. The third exercise is called a wrist curl, stabilize your elbow on your knee and flex your wrist upward with your palm facing the ceiling with the help of your opposite hand, again allow slow decent. The fourth and final exercise in the circuit is a reverse wrist curl. I think you can see where this is going, point your palm down and lift the dorsal surface of your hand toward the ceiling with your opposite hand, slowly lower.

Congratulations, you’ve just completed your first week of sport specific exercise. This may not make you a warlord, but it can’t hurt.

If anyone who reads this has any questions on exercise form or interest in additional training techniques to augment what I have described here they are welcome to ask at any time, my email address has been removed from this text as it is now online. Good luck I’ll see you in the gym.

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