An Introduction to the ACL
Matt has been a friend of The Knights Hall in New Hampshire since 2012, participating in Hall functions and lending his artistic talent when needed. Matt started training for armored combat and joined the Armored Combat Leaguein 2015. Since then, he has fought in several Chapter Matches, Knight Fights and became a crowd favorite at The New World Cup II. He is currently on The Dark Knights Team of Boston and is trying out for The US Knights National team that will be going to the 2016 IMCF World Championships, May 26 - 29, in Montemor-O-Velho, Portugal.
Let me be the first to say welcome and well met! You have made a life-altering decision and you will love this sport upon which you are about to embark. But now that the welcome party is over, it is my job to give you the list of things of which you will be expected to do and acquire, and to give you a comprehensive overview of what you have to look forward to in your journey through steel fighting.
What do you want out of this sport?
You would think this would be an easy question for you to answer, and in theory you would be right. But this is an evolving thing for some people and what might be your answer now might not be the same one in a few months, but lets move past that....whats your goal? What do you want out of this? For me, I knew as soon as I started armored combat that I wanted to be a USA Knight...that was the allure for me from the get-go and I knew that was going to be what I shot for. For others just staying at the chapter and local level is good enough for them. Whether you want to do this as a casual hobby or treat it as a professional athlete would and incorporate it into your everyday life, most of the expectations are the same. What you put into it is what you will get out of it.
What do I need?
Now that you have decided what you want out of the sport, its time to go over what you need to do to get there.
First...you need to get yourself some armor! There are many vendors and places for your first armor kit. Your team captain/regional commander will usually have a list of preferred armorers and dealers from which you can buy yourself a new set-up.
Usually, (regardless of where you shop), a brand new kit will run you anywhere between two and four thousand dollars. This can be a daunting expense for newcomers. You can combat this anxiety-inducing expense in a number of ways.
1) If you have access to a place like the Knight's Hall you can buy yourself some of the proper materials and actually make your first kit yourself with some guidance and proper supervision. This particular path will save you a lot of money and for a full kit can be as low as $1,500 if you buy your helm and gauntlets already made, which most definitely cuts down on initial outlay but will be very time-consuming and that is assuming you have access to everything that you need.
2) The next option is to buy yourself a used kit. This is what I did for my first outfit and it worked out for me in regards to protecting me well and lasting almost a full year with plenty of life left in it. The downside to buying a used kit is oftentimes it won't fit quite right and you will have to deal with the problems that come with ill-fitting armor. Used armor is also sometimes a catch 22...you can get armor fast for relatively short money but depending on how well it was taken care of by it's previous owner you might deal with problems on that end as well. The simple way to circumvent that potential issue is to basically do your homework: Request pictures or, if you can, to physically see and touch the merchandise and inspect the condition and fit. Also make sure you are purchasing from someone who has a decent reputation as a person...character is everything in the armored combat community and you want to make sure you are buying from another knight who will not only look out for your well-being but also make sure that the gear they are reselling is in the best condition possible AND that the price reflects that.
3) Buy a brand new armor kit. I covered this earlier a little bit and not much more to add other than you want to pay close attention to vendors and their reviews and prices. Some overseas sellers will have good product for good prices, but you might have to wait a lot longer to get your stuff and you also have customs to deal with, (which as a fellow fighter found out the hard way can be a very big problem.) If you can afford to do so try to buy American. This is not a plug for “support your local whatever”, rather buying American not only saves you what can amount to a lot of headaches, but can also be helpful if there are any problems with your gear and you need to exchange or return merchandise.
Overall buying brand new gear may be the most expensive way to enter into the sport, but if you save for it or buy one piece at a time to amortize the cost, it can be the best way to go for a new fighter who wants a certain level of assurance from his kit.
How do I prepare for combat?
Pretty straightforward here... training + physical conditioning and plenty of both!
***Important tip: You do not have to wait until you have a complete set of armor to begin training.
Myself and others have covered training in articles past. If you want a very in-depth explanation of how to achieve the desired physical and mental state you can check past articles of, "The Blog" for more information as well as talk to any of the veteran fighters online or in person.
Training - its a fairly simple thing, but can be daunting for those who either are not in good shape or are not gifted physically. I am a very small person, only coming in at approximately five foot seven and about 163 pounds. I was not in very good shape at all so I had to work twice as hard as someone who might come in at six-foot-something and a couple hundred pounds of muscle with a natural cardio talent.
If you have access to a training school like the Knight's Hall or Sword Class NYC, get yourself there and sign up! Apart from the training contributing to your goal, being around others on the same mission as you will do wonders for your motivation. You can hold each other accountable and motivate each other to push past limits and find new ones.
If you do not have access to this kind of school then you will have to work much harder...but fear not! There is a wealth of resources online and if you have social media and that will help. Eat, drink, and live ALL your online resources, from talking to veteran fighters both online and in person to checking your training regimens and tweaking your diet. Get yourself a gym membership and start making it your second home. The better shape you are in the better experience you will have.
However, no workout regimen will be better than fighting on a regular basis. We talk about being “armor-fit” for a very good reason. The more you can get used to the rigors of regular armored combat and wearing your kit the better off you will be when it comes to going to and preforming at events. Make sure you are practicing with a variety of weapons forms, get used to the movements and the feel of the tools you will be using on the battlefield. In the military they say repetition will build you into a more effective warrior, and this is no different. Whatever you decide to do, just make sure you build a habit of it and do it as often as humanly possible.
Going to events/going overseas?
Earlier you answered the question “What do you want out of this sport?” If your goal is to fight on a team, whether it be local, regional, or the national team, you need to go to events. If you are fortunate enough to be in one of the high density areas like the New England or Atlantic regions, there are plenty of local and regional events to cut your teeth on. Fight as often as you can, because as I mentioned in earlier sections the best way to get good at armored combat is to do a lot of it.
You will always be a part of a local chapter team as soon as you join, but if you want to make it onto your regional team which is comprised of the 8 best fighters from your geographic region, then you need to work your ass off and fight frequently. Ideally at least twice monthly, to make that happen. This goes double if you want to be a USA Knight and go overseas. You need to attend a minimum of four qualifying events, (and preform well at all of them), to be considered for the U.S. National Team. Being a part of the U.S. Team affords you the opportunity to go to the IMCF World Championships in whatever country it is in that year. Name another sport you can get involved in that offers the opportunity for regular international travel?
You have started a wonderful journey into a fantastic sport. You will meet men and women from all walks of life and you will share experiences with them that will forge life-long bonds. There are people we have in teams across the country that are closer with their fellow ACL members than they are with their own family, and for good reason. We are all here for each other on and off the field and if a teammate needs something we are there to provide it.
We want you, the new member, to feel not only proud but comfortable in your new surroundings. If you ever have any questions, comments, or concerns about what you have started, please feel free to go up the chain of command, from your team captains, regional commanders, all the way up to the heads of the organization Jaye Travis Brooks Sr. and Andre Sinou.
We all have open door policies and welcome anything you have to throw at us! Remember, you joined this because it is fun and offers you things you cannot get anywhere else....do not forget that and welcome to the Armored Combat League!
Deeds not words,
Matthew S. Kahn
Boston Dark Knights