Well done. You have become authorized and have fought in a few tourneys. And now you want to fight in your Barony's Champion Tourney or a Crown or Coronet Tourney. How to prepare?

First train as you usually do, but don't train the five days to a week before the tournament. Instead, block out as much time as possible for visualization or imaging.

The first few days, run over every fight you've ever had with the opponents likely to vie at this event. And also think back to every fight you've watched them have. Think about what worked and what didn't.

Then for each opponent create a movie in your head. In this movie, you use everything which worked and nothing which did not. Your opponent fights to the best of his ability, but you are able to make perfect blocks prepared by perfect movement. Need I detail how this movie ends? Run it over and over in the theater of your mind.

This imaging prepares you for the decisions you will make when actually fighting in the tournament. It helps you concentrate on what works for each opponent. It dispels discouraging words. It works, really.

Before leaving for the tournament, check your equipment, both for condition and inventory. Don't forget anything. When you arrive at the tournament, see who's there and who's not. Maybe you forgot someone. Don't panic. But if you've time, do the imaging with the forgotten opponents.

During the bouts, concentrate on defense. Eliminate any particular blows which you do not do well from your repertoire. Don't experiment. Practice is for experimentation.

Sit down or lie down between bouts. Putting on twenty to sixty pounds of armor and jumping around in the noonday sun will tax the resources of the most energetic teenager. Few of us are energetic teenagers.

There are many kinds of practice: solitary practice, your group's fighting practice(s), working out in the gym, running, and so forth. The goals of your practice will determine its form.

At first, you will want to do a lot of solitary practice. Slow work in front of a mirror is the finest beginning work one can do. This presupposes, however, that you have the strength and flexibility to do slow work. I am the absolute last person on the planet to advise anyone on how to become or stay fit. But I urge you to follow a regular plan which includes stretching, warming up, and cooling down. Working out regularly is better than doing it sporadically once a month. This I can tell you with absolute confidence.

Organized fighting practice is the main way in which fighters learn and improve their skills. There are many ways to learn at a fighting practice besides sparring. Watch the effective fighters. What do they do? I use practice to hone a particular skill: entries, offside blows, movement to the shieldside, or leg blows etc. I concentrate on that one skill until I perform it to my satisfaction. This means that I fight much more poorly in practice than in tournament. But that's what practice is for.

If there is a local fighter who teaches, listen to him. Decide whether what he says is valid or not from trying it. Do not disregard it because it sounds foolish or unpleasant (or if he sounds or looks unpleasant or foolish.) Few things are written on stone. Everything is worth the risk of experimentation at practice.

I find small practices with a few people very worthwhile. Slow work done in pairs where one person blocks and one person strikes is a good idea. (With shield, wiffle bat, and out of armor, we can practice form and test ideas without getting clunked in the head by accident.)

As I've mentioned, I use wiffle bats a lot. They are the right length and offer some resistance. The beginner can use one and practice three times longer than he can using a rattan sword. I believe that strength, endurance etc., can be developed in a million ways, but technique requires slow, tedious repetition.

Continue to Chapter 13