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Amtgard Sword Knight Boot Camp

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LARP Design Theory

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You Can Con a Con Man!

Sword Knight Boot Camp - A Fighter’s Paradise
By Luke Matthews

     The end of March brings with it a unique LARP event: Sword Knight Boot Camp, an annual Amtgard® event that travels the country to bring the knowledge of the boffer fighting arts to LARPers everywhere.  Amtgard® – a non-profit LARP organization where players can participate for free - was founded in El Paso, Texas about 23 years ago, and now consists of over 150 chapters across the country.  Over that time, Amtgard® has developed and refined a fast, intense combat system that has become the primary focus of the game. 

     Sword Knight Boot Camp (or SKBC for short), unlike many other Amtgard® events, is a self-sustaining event.  No one Amtgard® chapter sponsors the event; instead, a committee of independent players organizes it, and fronted the money for the first SKBC.  Since that first SKBC, all event proceeds go toward paying for the next year’s event, and the event never needs outside sponsorship.  In this fashion, SKBC is never tied to a specific Amtgard® group, and the organizing committee has free reign to move the event around the country and run it how they see fit.

     What makes Sword Knight Boot Camp unique is the intense focus of the event.  Unlike other Amtgard® events that incorporate courtly endeavors, full-class combat involving magic and special abilities, and varying degrees of role-play, SKBC strips away many of those aspects in favor of delving purely into instruction and practice of LARP melee combat in its purest form.

Learning from the Best

     SKBC was devised 4 years ago by two long-time Amtgarders, Mike Paxton and Matt Schufeld (whose character names are Sir Cedric Pentacles and Sir Guy Kasama, respectively), who were looking to add a fighting-centric event to the annual schedule in their local Amtgard chapter, the Kingdom of the Iron Mountains in Denver, Colorado.  During brainstorming sessions for the first SKBC, the two decided to bring in a host of guest instructors from different parts of the country to offer some variety to the fighting at the event, and SKBC evolved into – as its name implies – a full fledged boffer-fighting boot camp, with classes taught by some of the finest fighters in the LARP world.

     All instructors at SKBC have earned the title of Knight of the Sword, one of the most sought-after titles in Amtgard.  Amtgard rewards players for extraordinary achievements with one of 4 different knighthoods, each focusing on a different aspect of the game.  The title of Knight of the Sword is awarded to a player for demonstrating extraordinary combat prowess in fighting tournaments.  All of the instructors at SKBC have earned their Knighthood and proven themselves worthy of teaching the subject matter at hand.

     Classes at SKBC range from the beginner’s level such as “Single Sword 101” and “General Combat 101”, to more expert-oriented fare as “Advanced Florentine” and “Advanced Sword & Shield”.  Not limited strictly to specific weapon styles, there are also classes like “Body Mechanics”, which teaches a fighter how to develop their movement, stance and reactions to their opponent, and “One on Many”, instructing a fighter in the art of dealing with multiple opponents.  These classes are interspersed with communal meals provided by the event organizers, where fighters can “talk shop” about what they’ve learned over the course of the event.

     Between and after classes each day, a field at the event is dedicated entirely to combat.  Fighters will engage in a never-ending series of large-scale fights called “ditch battles”.  This dedicated fighting field is lit for combat at night, and is open to attendees of the event 24 hours a day.  It is on this field of battle where the students can take what they’ve learned and put it into real practice, much of the time directly against the instructors from whom they’ve been learning. 

Moving Things Around

     Unlike most annual Amtgard® events, which are regional events held in the same area every year Sword Knight Boot Camp is unique in that it changes location.  The event organizers choose a new place to host the event based on bids presented to them by groups of players from chapters all over the country.  In this way, the instructors at SKBC are able to spread their knowledge of the fighting arts to a much wider audience, and improve the skills of players everywhere.

     The first SKBC, held in 2003, was held close to Denver where the original organizers make their homes.  The second was run by the same organizing committee, but was moved to a location just outside Dallas, Texas.  In 2005, the organizing committee expanded and began accepting competitive bids for the location of the event, choosing to have local autocrats handle the regional aspects of the event (such as providing the site and meals), while they continued to handle recruiting instructors and developing class schedules.  SKBC 2005 was held just outside Atlanta, GA.

     SKBC 2006 makes its way to the Pacific Northwest, where there is a heavy Amtgard® population that is somewhat geographically isolated from the primary concentration of Amtgard® chapters in the Texas/New Mexico region.  With over 15 Amtgard® chapters between Washington and Oregon alone, this year’s event is expected to draw the largest attendance for SKBC yet, and it is a welcome addition to this year’s event schedule.  Many players in the Pacific Northwest who may not have access to the teachings and fighting styles of players from other regions will now have the opportunity to learn from the best.

Knowledge Is Power

     The benefit of a traveling instructional event such as SKBC is clear: fighters from all over the country have a chance to learn from the best in the world without having to make a cross-country trek.  Isolated pockets of the Amtgard® community such as the Pacific Northwest now have the opportunity to see how other parts of the game have developed their fighting styles.   The knowledge imparted through an event like SKBC, while being presented within the framework of the Amtgard® rules, is also valuable to any LARPer looking to improve his or her combat.
     “I’ve seen many of our good fighters make the transition to NERO, Dagorhir, or IFGS.” commented Mike Paxton, a member of the organizing committee for SKBC. “I’m sure many of our instructors would be happy to work with fighters from another LARP with their own fighting styles.  Much of LARP fighting is a mental game; how do you break down someone else’s fighting, how do you analyze your own fighting.  While weapons and specific rules might change from game to game, the mental/kinesthetic differences are minor.”

     The advantage that SKBC provides players within Amtgard® is obvious, but the event has great value to fighters from all across the LARP world.  While other live-action games may not focus as heavily on combat as Amtgard®, players interested in improving their fighting skills for any game can benefit from the instruction provided by Sword Knight Boot Camp.  Whether you’re just looking to keep your character alive the next time you get into a fight, or you want to dominate the field at your local game, SKBC can give you the knowledge you need to become a force on the battlefield. 

     For more information on Amtgard®, check out http://www.amtgard.com.  SKBC information can be obtained at http://skbc.naropa.edu.  To find an Amtgard® chapter near you, go to http://www.amtgardatlas.com.

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