My first venture into Amtgard life was successful. I'm embarrassed to say that my beginnings in Amtgard fighting were not.
I started out the thrilled newbie, fluttering with excitement over this new game I had found with new friends, plenty of room for imagination, and best of all, where part of the game was sword-fighting! I plunged in, flailing about in delight with a long heavy sword about the same size I was. I had no interest in playing a magic user -- I knew right away I wanted to fight, so I played a barbarian.
I started at a shire with lots of other newbies, all as excited and inexperienced as I was. As enthusiastic as I was, I came to realize how ineffective I was on the field. As the people I started with became better fighters, I remained the energetic, flailing newbie I had been at the beginning. When I started I was one of many on a field of new fighters. After awhile it was frustrating to realize that while I was still at about the same level as when I started, they had become competent fighters. Now it was a field of fighters and me, still a fighting like a newbie. I felt that there was something wrong with me that was preventing me from keeping up. I started to think maybe I really wasn't good enough to learn.
One day I had a humiliating experience that made that fact clear to me. In a battlegame, I became separated from my team. A small group of three or four experienced fighters surrounded me. Feeling helpless and embarrassed I backed away each time one of them approached me. In this way, they ran me in circles. I was frustrated, humiliated and felt helpless and alone. At last one of them killed me, and they moved on.
That was the confirmation of what I had been feeling for some time - that I wasn't cut out for fighting. I felt awkward and uncoordinated, helpless and lost as a fighter. I gave up fighting, gave up my barbarian persona and my dream of being a good fighter.
I didn't leave the field, but instead developed a bard persona. I participated in battlegames, but primarily as a magic user, engaging the enemy with weapons as little as possible. I had played bard for about ten months when I began to regret my retreat from fighting. It was part of what had attracted me to the game originally, and I missed it. During the time since I had given up on fighting, I had learned more about the game, discovered the riches of the kingdom around my little shire, met many more experienced Amtgardians, and helped found a new shire with new players. I began to wonder if maybe I had been mistaken to believe I wasn't cut out for fighting. I had watched as my sister had blossomed into an aggressive battle healer and a leader, and I had met several female fighters who inspired me.
One day, in a battlegame, I captured one of the players who had chased me in a bardic Legend. I told him a story about a girl who wanted to fight, but feared she couldn't, who one day was chased and humiliated and swore to give up her dreams and become a bard. But in her heart, the desire to fight was still there, and she couldn't quiet it. He grinned, and told me to pursue it. He said not to let the actions of others keep me from it, and that there was no reason why I couldn't be a fighter if that was what I wanted. Having confronted my fears, I knew that I was ready to become a serious fighter. I also understood, by then, what I needed to do to be one.
Looking back, many of the things that initially held me back are obvious. I had lots of enthusiasm, but no idea what I needed to do to become a good fighter.
I never made my own swords or equipment. I borrowed a sword every week, and usually it was the wrong size and weight for me. Because I was borrowing, I couldn't always get a sword to fight with, because I was using a sword of the wrong size and weight, I felt strange and awkward, and because it was a different one nearly every week, I wasn't able to get used to it or compensate. I fought with whatever I could borrow , so I was often using a single long sword against a fighter with two weapons or a sword and shield, which put me at a huge disadvantage. Because I had no equipment of my own, I couldn't practice.
The small group I started with gave me lots of encouragement, but once I was exposed to more experienced fighters, I didn't have the confidence to step forward and ask for help. I didn't ask, so no one knew I wanted and needed a mentor. Since I lacked the nerve to ask anyone to train me, I picked up bits and pieces here and there, but never had steady guidance or any consistency in style. If I had found a trainer or a teacher, I would have learned more quickly how to learn. That is, I would have learned how to watch other fighters and analyze what they were doing, and how to use that to my advantage, whether that meant trying it for myself or just ways to counter it effectively. I would have had someone to encourage me and point out what wasn't working and what I was doing right and what just needed more practice. I didn't understand that to be a good fighter I needed practice, training and dedication. I thought that if I got up and swung often enough, it would come to me. I felt awkward and embarrassed, and I let that translate to my fighting, making me feel helpless on the field.
I also lacked the inner strength and confidence to step out on the field and fight with authority. Because I was feeling embarrassed and awkward, I didn't take on challenges and didn't face my foes as an equal. My attitude was shaped around swinging and hoping I would hit, not aiming and hitting. That is, I didn't look my opponent in the eye and tell them I would win and mean it. I didn't look anyone in the eye. Instead of seeking fights with the best fighters in order to learn, I hung back and waited to fight people I knew and felt more comfortable with, or people I thought I might beat. I needed to step forward as a warrior on the field and take on the best fighters available. I needed to overcome my lack of confidence so that I could stand my ground on the field and not be intimidated. If I had not been easily intimidated I could never have been chased around the field. I would have taken on the first of the fighters to confront me, and because of the difference in skill levels, I probably would have died. But I would have died knowing that I had stood my ground and died on my own terms. It was far worse to be humiliated because I wouldn't face my oppponents. I had to develop strangth and confidence in myself before I could become a fighter. And using them in fighting has helped me to develop them more off the field as well.
I needed someone to take me under their wing and tell me what I needed to succeed. I needed to know what I had to do in order to become a better fighter. Most importantly, I needed to find the courage inside myself to step forward and overcome my feelings of fear, awkwardness and embarrassment.
After years of training and fighting I've developed into a competent fighter. Despite some frustrations and disappointments, I still have the love for fighting that I couldn't lose, even when I lost confidence. I thrill to the sounds of swords thwacking, and I'm still joyous with my sword and shield in the midst of a good trench battle. I may have had a rocky start, but I found my place among Amtgard's fighters.
In order to help other new fighters learn and avoid some of the roughness of my start in Amtgard, I compiled a guide for beginners called How to Succeed for Beginning Women Fighters. If you have anything to add or any comments about this article or the Beginner's Guide, please email Moogie.
This site is owned and maintained by Moogie of House Lionesse and House Morrigan. All works copyrighted Laura Brashear 2000 unless otherwise noted. To request permission to reproduce any works on this website please send email to moogie.