If you are new to the game, it can be really overwhelming. There are rules to learn, strange clothes and weapons to acquire, and everyone keeps using words you aren't quite sure you understand, like "trench" (a type of battle) or "mechs" (baseball catcher's kneepads). There are many resources available on the internet. Your most important resource, of course, is the other players at your park. Most Amtgardians are friendly and willing to answer questions, give you pointers, and explain what is going on.
The first and most important thing to do is acquire a
copy of the Amtgard rulebook and read it. This, the Amtgard FAQ and other
online resources are available at the Official Amtgard site, amtgard.com
in the Publications
section. Once you have read the rulebook, you should go out to your park
and observe a battlegame. Ask someone to show you the basics of fighting,
and practice with them one on one for awhile, this is called sparring.
The most important rule for garb is that it is easy to move in. Make sure that the torso and armholes are big enough that you can swing your arms wide in all directions without restrictions. For a long tunic, skirt or pants keep in mind that you will need to be able to run, lunge, or fight from you knees without pulling or tearing the fabric. For pants, make sure the crotch is strong and doesn't pull too much when you stretch. The points of greatest tension for garb are the armpits and the crotch. Also, you'll want to make fighting garb out of a strong, durable but flexible material.
For your first weapons, you should have either a sword and a shield, or two short swords. You may be tempted to start with other weapons, but my advice is to learn the basics with sword and shield or florentine (two swords) and then branch off to other weapons or styles once you are competent with one or both of these. One very good reason for this is that these are the basic and popular weapons combinations, and there will be plenty of people who are skilled in them to offer instruction.
A quick note on shields: if you have a medium to large chest, you may want to use a shield that has a curve around your body, rather than a flat shield. A curved shield can be held closer to your body and gives better coverage and protection. Trash can lids and toboggans are available with a curve (a slight dome-like curve).
There are also bits of equipment that are not strictly weapons or garb that you'll want to get.
First off is a pair of kneepads of some sort. Some people prefer the soft kind, others the hard-capped ones for in-line skating, and some prefer "mechs" - the knee-to-foot hardshell pads used by catchers in baseball. In any case, you won't get hit in the leg too many times before you realize it would be nice to have some kneepads. Both your knees and your fighting pants will last longer.
There are as many kinds of gloves as there are reasons for using them. If you are concerned about getting your knuckles bruised from accidental contact with weapon core or your opponents' fist (or head) you may want to get hockey gloves, or roller hockey gloves, which are padded on the back of the hand or the fingers. You can also add handguards to your weapons. If you just want to prevent blisters, you can use any glove you're comfortable with. Many Amtgardians use weightlifting gloves or gauntlet-style gloves.
Sports-Bras and Chest Protection
There's more than one reason to have a good sports-bra for Amtgard, but the main one is obvious - it's a high energy sport. The extra support provided by a sports-bra is important, whether you're running after a gazelle-like wizard or just getting smacked in the chest. There's an added bonus if you have the sports-top type -- you can wear it under a tabard in the summertime (tabards themselves have no sides) which is cooler than a tunic. No type of chest protection is required for Amtgard, and many women find it uneccessary. However, if you find shots to the chest particularly painful, there are several ways to armor yourself to help. A snug sports-bra can help, just on it's own. Some women wear padded bras, or you could pad an undertunic in the chest area with a layer of quilting. You can also try armor, starting with a lightweight leather torso armor, all the way up to a boiled leather hard armor.Chainmail is not recommended for this purpose, though, as it is a poor shock absorber. For underneath your garb, you can try a padded tunic, and there are plastic chest protectors available for women's martial arts, hockey and fencing, that may provide the necessary protection. In the end, you may have to experiment to find out what works for you.
For fighting, you'll need comfortable shoes with arch support that don't cause blisters. There is a lot of lunging and quick stepping in Amtgard fighting, so a shoe designed for impact is ideal. Some people prefer sneakers, such as cross-training or basketball type shoes, while others prefer military footwear, such as paratrooper boots and combat boots.
Water or Sports Drinks
As with any active sport, you'll need to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration. Be sure to bring plenty of liquids to any Amtgard gathering, and drink steadily throughout the day. Water is fine, or you may prefer a sports drink or diluted juice.
Fight with both hands full. Many new fighters start with a single long sword or a single short sword. You'll have more fun and improve faster if you fight sword and shield, or florentine (with two swords). You should get practice with single sword too, especially sparring, but for most melee combat you're better off with a shield or two weapons. If you only have one sword, see if you can borrow a shield or another sword, and get someone to take a moment to show you how to use them.
Don't be afraid to ask someone to show you how to fight. Most good fighters are interested enough to help you, and many of them are excellent teachers, but they won't know you're interested unless you ask.
Don't be afraid to experiment with what you're shown. Some things will work better than others with your body, and no fighting technique is set in stone. Listen carefully to what experienced fighters have to say, and try what they have to show you, but don't be afraid to make changes to what works best for you.
Fight every chance you get. Fight in trench battles, in battlegames, and tourneys. Tourney experience is good experience, even when you lose. It's also a good chance to watch two excellent fighters fight each other in a setting where it's easy to concentrate.
Seek Out The Best. And fight them til you can't stand.
Practice. Many groups sponsor a fighter practice during the week where the emphasis is on practicing and learning. If your park does not, there may be a company or household practice you could ask to attend, or you can ask around to see if anyone is interested in getting together to fight during the week.
Don't get discouraged. Learning to fight is like learning any new skill,
it takes lots of time and practice. It's easy to get frustrated and give
up, but the effort it takes to learn is worth it. All Amtgardians were
new once, and all had to learn from the bottom up, even that cocky Knight
of the sword who just killed you with one blow. Just take a deep breath,
remind yourself that you're learning, and if the scenario allows, ask him
"How'd you do that?" Turn it into an opportunity to learn.
Find people who will support your fighting. Whether training together or just offering encouragement, it's important to have a little support for those times you do get discouraged.
Links to stores that sell women's athletic clothing and equipment online:
lucy.com, Title 9 Sports, FogDog
Links to websites with information on making armor:
Cariadoc's Miscellany: The Perfect Armor, Has instructions for making waxed, hardened leather lamellar armor
The Perfect Armor (Improved), Water-hardened leather instead of waxed
The Making of Wisby Plate Based on armor finds in Wisby.
Armour Archive Wisby patterns
Legio XX Online Handbook for Legionnaires These guys have pics and patterns in thier handbook.
Three cutaway diagrams of slightly different Lorica Segmentata:
Lorica Segmentata "Corbridge" Type A
Lorica Segmentata "Corbridge" Type B
Lorica Segmentata "Newstead" Type
Sir Squeak's How To Make Cuir Biolli
Sisters of Steel Pics of SCA chicks in armor. There's one woman in lamellar on the ASXXVI page.
The hard-shell breastplates most of them are wearing are because the SCA uses unpadded weapons made from rattan, so armor is used for protective purposes and is required.
This page last updated 12/30/00
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