Martial Arts experience in LARP

There’s a common question on LARP forums, with the basic phrasing of this–>

Will my experience with X translate to LARP fighting?  [For X insert – fencing, HEMA, SCA, martial arts, etc]

The simple answer to this question is no, it won’t translate.  In fact, it will likely frustrate the shit out of you in the short term.  

The slightly longer answer is, if you’re the best fighter at your SCA club or Amt/Bel/Dag park (or similar endeavor), you’re going to be pretty good at LARP.  You will need to be careful not to use the illegal stuff, and you’re still gonna get pwned by some skinny kid with half a neckbeard who looks like he hasn’t worked out a day in his life.

  • All of these styles involve hitting people hard.  LARP is about hitting soft.  
  • Most of these styles focus on only hitting first and then stopping.  LARP is about hitting more often than your opponent, not necessarily first.
  • Most of these styles involve hitting people in the head and groin.  LARP isn’t down with that.   
  • Most of these styles don’t allow partial blocks, and instead use powerful blocks.  LARP usually has pretty generous blocking rules that allow for no power or stability needed behind a block.
  • All of the weapon styles use weapons about twice the weight of LARP weapons, and with half the spring of LARP weapons.  LARP weapons as a result can strike, parry and riposte incredibly faster.  
  • I can almost guarantee you’ve only practiced in well-lit areas, with even footing, and plenty of room to move around.  LARP will put you in a dark rocky ditch surrounded by thorn bushes.
  • All of these styles involve very short bouts against single opponents.  LARP will have you fighting for hours against dozens of enemies.

The even longer answer is that there are aspects of all these styles that translate, but the simplest way to say it is “if the martial technique involves your arms, it doesn’t translate”.  The stuff you learned with your arms was designed for hundreds of years as a means to kill other people in real life.  This is the primary problem with the fencers/kendo people.  You might have success with the techniques at first.  The powerful attacks, body rushes and head fakes put people on guard against real physical harm, and you are landing blows as a result of their fear.  However, all of these are Dick Moves™ in LARP, and hopefully somebody corrects you early.  These are also a great way to get targeted every time by spell-casters and archers who conveniently find you every combat.

Here’s what does translate.

  • athleticism – being a fast runner, having mighty lungs and bearing a strong arm are going to go a LONG way in larp fighting, no matter where you get them.  Martial arts teaches you breathing as well (as in, don’t forget to do it) which is a key lesson.
  • footwork and body mechanics – These will translate to a degree, but will take some serious (but very fun) reworking.  
    • The TKD reverse punch has the same footwork and body mechanics as my fast/sneaky left leg lead, right hand leg shot.  
    • The florentine “pop-over” is very similar to a front leg thrust kick/roundhouse kick/spinning back kick combo.   
    • A good (fast) fencing lunge still works for everything below the waist, but you have to modify what you do with both hands.  The sword hand needs to cut, not thrust.  The off hand needs to guard rather than balance.

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