Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Skills of Link

Link is a very skilled warrior, as well as a proficient puzzle-solver and explorer.  He uses his surroundings to his advantage whenever possible, as well as making use of a dizzying array of weapons, tools, armor, devices, spells, and other constructs to win the day.  In recent games, Link is also something of an amateur musician, using various musical instruments to solve puzzles, cast spells, interact with other characters, and open doors.  We're going to take a look at some of these, starting with his swordsmanship.

Link most commonly wields a single-handed, double-edged broadsword, and a small kite shield.  If you are genuinely interested in learning these skills, you might want to first check in with a local renaissance fair and see where the battle re-enactors learned.  Typically, you'll find some sort of stage combat school, which can actually teach you a fair bit about swordplay.  Failing this, you can take a look to see if you can find any local classical fencing teachers.  Here is a directory I found of some schools in the US.  My cousin and myself were interested in learning to fight like Link a while ago, but unfortunately, we couldn't find any local schools or clubs.  We were, however, lucky enough to find The Cateraan Society, a traditional Scottish weapons school that does long distance apprentice programs with a curriculum constructed from traditional Scottish fencing novels.  I think their program is fantastic, and I'm currently learning the sword and targe method(the targe is a smallish circular shield). 

Beyond swordsmanship, Link is also an equestrian and an archer.  If you're still in school, see if your school has any sort of horseback riding or archery clubs.  If you're not in school, or they don't, see if there's any local stables that offer horseback riding lessons.  For archery, you can search online to see if there's any local ranges or clubs.  You can also go down to your local sporting goods store(find one that actually sells bows and whatnot), and ask if they know of anyone.

That's about it for Link's primary skills, but there's a LOT more that goes into every game.  If I tried to run through every tool and weapon that link acquires, it would take a long, long time.  Instead, we shall focus on ways to learn and adapt new skills readily.

For weapons, I must again recommend the aforementioned Cateraan Society.  They have a program called "The MacGregor Method" which is basically built around the idea of learning base principles that can be carried over into any sort of weapon, to adapt and use them on the fly with ease.  In fact, at base level, weapons can be categorized into three basic categories: blunt trauma, sharp trauma, and trapping/deflection.  Note: this is not the actual categorization or description of the MacGregor Method.  If you want to learn that, go join the Cateraans.  This is just me speaking off of twenty years of martial arts experience.

Blunt weapons work on the idea of leverage, that is, you hold onto the lighter end of an object, and swing the heavier end around to hit someone.  This applies high levels of force to vulnerable targets, typically small bones like the hands and feet, or vital areas like the head, knees, or groin.  Good examples of blunt weapons are hammers, sticks, closed umbrellas, beer mugs, or briefcases.

Sharp weapons work on the idea of either stabbing, or lacerating a target.  For stabbing, you apply direct force, for lacerating, you must drag the sharp edge along the surface you desire to cut.  Too many people forget this and think swords just cut instantly when you hit someone.  You have to draw the weapon across the target.  Good examples of sharp weapons are swords, knives, broken glass, cardboard, jagged plastic, or broken pipe(hey look, a blunt weapon with sharp characteristics!).

Trapping/deflection weapons work by either entangling or redirecting a target, typically inflicting some sort of blunt trauma in the process.  They can be either flexible, and wrapped around the target, or rigid, to strike the target.  They include ropes, wire, shields, boards, briefcases, opened umbrellas, and backpacks.

Remember, these are just a few objects that can fit in each category.  As you go through life, look at objects and think, "If I was in a life or death situation, how could I use that to defend myself?"  It sounds morbid, but it's an interesting creative exercise and it can actually come in handy.  Pick thinks up, feel their heft, give them a few swings.  Get to know how to estimate an object's heft or unwieldiness quickly, you'll get a feel for it.

Which brings me to my method for learning...anything else.  Play!  People learn things most quickly by playing with them.  If you want to learn how to throw a boomerang, go to a toy store, get a boomerang, go out in a field, and play with it for a few hours.  Play a lot, even with things you don't think have any real application.  Building proprioception(your body's ability to calculate it's location in space in relation to itself) and hand-eye coordination will help you learn any physical activity quicker, and forcing yourself to regularly learn new actions keeps your mind nimble and sharp.  I'm talkin yo-yos, juggling, legos, skipping rope, competitive cup stacking, balancing things on your nose/head/elbow, anything.  Just keep trying new things with new objects!  That way when life throws a dungeon at you, you're ready to react to what you find in there quickly.

That's about it for today.  Don't forget to like the Facebook, follow the Tweets, and tell your friends!  Tomorrow we'll be taking a look at the philosophy of a hero, and what it means to be truly courageous. 

Until then, continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Link, The Legend of Zelda, Hyrule, and all  property therein are © Nintendo.

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