An Introduction to Training
by Sir Squeak! Sai Yuk
So.. you want to be Billy Bad Ass... don't we all...
Skill SetThis is the most obvious area of focus for most Amtgardians. Learning new shots and combos can come from learning from others or playing with old shots until you find a new trick. Familiarity with weapons is important because your weapons choice affects how you approach a fight. Making your own weapons helps you know how they work , what they "feel" like, and where their "sweet spots" are. It also helps you clarify what you like and don't like about your weapons, and change it on the next iteration. If you want to succeed in Amtgard combat its also important to take the time to understand the game. A deep understanding of how the game works will allows you to work towards strategies that help you win.
StrengthMost people have the strength to swing an Amtgard stick, but a little extra strength training can go a long way. If you have trouble picking up your weapons, then strength training is a must. Your goal with strength training is to be able to manuevre with your weapons with minimal physical effort (this way you can concentrate on technique). I divide my strength training into two categories: weights and pell work. I work out with weights to build general strength. The high repetitions / low weight approach builds an area (arms, shoulders, etc.) for constant activity and is probably a good place to start.
Pell work is basically hitting a practice dummy. Your practice sword could be a real sword, or something else (pipe, axe handle, etc.). Your pell is something to hit. Common pells are telephone poles, chairs, trees and people (only with amtgard weapons!). I sometimes do "pell work" without a pell, by repeating shots in the air. I classify my pell work as both skill and strength training. It is skill training because I practice shots and combos with a big stick. It's strength training because I practice with a heavy, big stick (currently a swiss axe handle - very solid). If you do start with a heavy stick, it's a good idea to practice shots slowly first and then speed up, because you can hurt yourself by putting too much stress on undeveloped muscles, ligaments and tendons.
I suggest augmenting your pell work with the strength aspects of your general fitness routine. Traditional activities, such as push-ups and sit-ups, are nice because you can do them without any special equipemnt. Free weights are good if you have them, and have the benefit of being able to target specific muscle groups more accurately. Weight machines can be very useful for isolating muscle groups, but add the issue that they can often isolate too much and not strengthen supporting muscle groups. Before you go hit the gym to power up, be sure to read up on strength training and know what you are doing. There are some common mistakes that can contribute to injury such as not excercising the negative and over isolating muscles.
EnduranceImproving endurance can have a noticeable affect on your game. I hear time and time again that people are surprised how much their game improves after they have improved their endurance. This makes sense: at the end of the day, you feel like you've used less effort, and you're less tired. Once again, you can focus on the game instead of being out of breath. The most common approach I hear for this is cross training. There are many options for cross training, any aerobic excercise will help in this department. My personal favorites are running and racquetball.
FlexibilityFlexibility training is a great way to prevent injury. It can also give you that little extra something - an extra inch reach, an extra inch dodge, and more fluid fighting. I've also found that stretching before and after workouts helps me build muscle and be less sore. It's a pain to start stretching, but after a while, you even learn to enjoy it.
Psychological PreparationThe head game is hard to train for. This is mental preparation, focus and analysis. Mental preparation is getting ready for whatever you're doing, whether it be ditching, games or tournies. Focus is keeping concentrated on what you are doing and not getting distracted. Analysis is breaking down what just happened and walking away with a better understanding of what you did and how effective it was.
Another important aspect of the psychological part of the game is to remember to have fun. Presumably you started fighting because you enjoyed it. Training and fighting can get pretty serious sometimes, especially if you've set some serious goals, so don't forget to hold on to the joy - the thrill of swinging a sword. It will help you have more good days than bad and also helps combat frustration. Most of the fighters that I really admire are competitive and successful fighters, but at the end of the day, they are mostly just enjoying themselves on the field, swinging a sword, and meeting the challenge.
ConclusionsThis article is a brief overview of a set of topics which cover a broad area. It is meant to provide an introduction to training and provoke thought. There are many different approaches to training, and I've attempted to address classes of activities in your training schedule. The usual disclaimer is that I do this for fun on the weekends, I'm not a professional, don't hurt yourself, exercise common sense and be nice to little old ladies.
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