From time to time the Hundred Swords gets invited to do a show. Whether it be a convention, or a school fete, or some random event in the city, there are a few differences between show fighting and the kind of fighting we do at our trainings and games.
There is a fundamental change in the purpose of our fighting. We fight at training to get better and learn new things. We fight in games to achieve our objectives and help our warbands. But we fight in shows to display the activities of the group and to attract new members. This means doing a few things somewhat differently from what we are used to.
Here, then, are a few tips to make our shows look the best we possibly can.
1: Remember what you are doing this for
The purpose of the fight is to look good, not to win. Winning is cool and all, but it’s not the reason that you are fighting. If you can look good dying, then die. This doesn’t mean that you should deliberately lose (unless by doing so you can look awesome), but it does mean that you don’t have to go all-out to defeat your opponent. This leads us to…
2: Make the other person look good
A show fight is a team exercise. The other person is not your opponent, he or she is your fellow performer. Your dance partner. It’s not all about you. It is a little bit about you – after all, you are performing too – but it’s not all about you. You want help your partner to make the fight look fantastic. This means that you should…
3. Take your time
There is no better way to have a visually boring fight than to have it end quickly. The audience doesn’t want to see your clever trick shot. They probably wouldn’t recognise it even if they did see it. They want to see an exciting and gripping battle. They want to see two (or more) people struggling for supremacy. They want to see the fight ebb and flow – for one fighter to briefly gain the upper hand, only to lose it again under a renewed assault. Yes, this will be tiring. Doing a show fight takes a lot of energy. Especially if you…
4. Make noise
Sometimes it can be cool and intimidating for fighters (or Monks) to remain silent, but that is a gimmick that works best in games, not in shows. Show fights should be noisy. Yell battle cries. Grunt with exertion. Cry out when injured. Talk to your opponent – exchange insults. Establish a reason that you are fighting. If the audience can relate to one or the other fighter, they will be more invested in the outcome of the fight. Audiences especially like to hate. If one fighter takes the role of the villain and one of the hero, and the audience will naturally cheer the hero on. But to do so, both fighters need to talk – to establish their “character” and the reason for their antagonism before and during the fight. So talk it up, but…
5. Remember that we have a reputation to uphold
We want the audience to come away with a positive impression of the group and what we do. For this reason, do not swear on stage. Most people are okay with performers swearing, but there are people in the community who still view it negatively. Once you’re offstage, by all means swear like a sailor. But when you are on show, you have an obligation to present the group in the best possible light. Also, on the offchance that you are actually hurt or injured during a fight, do not call attention to it on stage. If you do, then the message the audience will take away is that someone was injured – that what we do is dangerous. Remove yourself from the stage if you can and bitch about it behind the scenes, but do not make a fuss on stage.
Show fighting is quite different from what you are probably used to. Think of all those movie swordfights that annoy you so much. Why do they annoy you? Because they are unrealistic. Why are they unrealistic? Because the purpose of the fight – the only purpose for the fight – is to advance the story. So movie fight choreographers make use of tricks to make the fight visually exciting.
You don’t have to go that far. But by putting aside some of the things you know about how to win a fight, you will be able to go a long way to making a fight look spectacular. And the spectacle is exactly what you want, when you are fighting for show.
Five more very quick tips to finish with:
- Fight side-on to the audience. Don’t circle or swap sides.
- Don’t cover your face with your shield. Audiences like to see faces.
- If you see your opponent preparing for a spectacular move, it is better to allow it to happen than to prevent it with a quick counter.
- Never underestimate the power of a good pose.
- Make sure your kit and costume is of top quality.
Remember – you want to showcase the group and what it does. You want the audience to come away with a positive impression of the Hundred Swords in particular, and of LARP and battle gaming in general. Do everything you can on stage to push this positive message. You do have to put some effort into it, but if you do, show fighting can be incredibly fun and rewarding, and we might just get some new members out of it.