This article is a personal perspective of what changes when you become a knight and what you do after you become one. I want to be clear I don’t speak for all knights, I’m speaking from my own perspective based on my own experiences. I am sure there are other valid perspectives. What this article will cover is my own journey from before knighthood to the struggles you encounter once you become a knight and how I’m choosing to overcome them.
To understand what changed for me, it’s first important know about my experience before becoming a knight. I earned my flame belt by becoming a Master Rose. Most of my service was in the kitchen cooking. Of course I did more than that, but on paper all of of my roses, with the exception of one, was because I ran a kingdom level feast. The key thing is that I was doing ever increasingly complex activities. In my region I elevated feasts to a new standard. My personal perspective is that for the last few awards you need to be innovating in some kind of way. To get my Master Rose it was suggested that I start running events, so I started running a local camping event, Winterbash. It was not the first event I ran but it was my first kingdom level camping event.
The key takeaway is that I was doing activities situated in a ladder awards system. While the steps from one level of award to the next can be ambivalent at times, especially for service the fact is there is a step. We have some idea of what it takes to go from a level 6 rose to a level 7.
Once you achieve Masterhood in your chosen path you’re essentially done. You have mastered your path, you don’t have to do anything else; you have proven yourself. At this point you can now choose to try and become a knight but, just because you’ve earned your masterhood doesn’t mean you will become a knight. There are expectations of a knight that we don’t have when it comes to masters. Masters, while they should continue their service, are not expected to continue their service in their respective fields, not like a knight and that’s the crux of it, knights are expected to continue to serve the club.
Achieving Knighthood is a wondrous thing, you’re getting a life long achievement award but there is no guidebook telling you what that really means. After the elation from achieving this award wears off something terrible happens, or at least happened to me and a few other knights I’ve talked to, a sense of losslessness. You’ve earned this big achievement, but now what do you do? I didn’t know what to do and it was dangerous, worse yet, there was no help in sight. I had spent 15 years on one path and I finished it, from my perspective I beat the game. I no longer had the ladder system to be my Amtgard guide.
This might be why you get those people who become knights and then fall off the radar. Something that combines a sense of completion, losslessness and burnout causes them to leave the game for a time. It’s a feeling I fully understand. At this point you need to make a decision, do you give in to this horrible feeling or do you choose to overcome it. Luckily I chose to stick with it and overcome it.
To help combat that feeling and to make yourself worthy of your new title It’s important that you set yourself a new set of goals. In reality when you achieve knighthood you haven’t beaten the game. You’ve finished one path and unlocked new challenges. Some decide they want to start in on a new belt path which is a worthy goal but it’s also important to set goals which correspond to your new station. Knighthood, from my perspective, requires a continued journey for excellence, a willingness to continue to elevate your chosen field and to be a teacher and example of a person that people strive to become like.
My first personal goal was to cook the feasts of the major interkingdom events in my region in one season. I did this to keep myself engaged in the game. It was a short term goal. I also wanted to check something off my bucket list, cooking risotto for a large group. I was happy to achieve this goal within the first year of becoming knighted. On some level it helped me convince myself that I did earn my knight belt but it was just a short term solution. I needed to think bigger, I needed a larger, ambiguous goal which was ongoing. I found that in teaching.
A key aspect of knighthood is teaching. One expression of this is the knight squire relationship. Ideally it is a one on one mentoring relationship. This relationship helps keep you engaged in amtgard through another person’s well being. I believe you shouldn’t take more squires than you can personally attend to on a consistent basis. I’m sure each knight approaches their belted line in different ways. Many new knights have the benefit of having already been in a belted line and knowing what kind of expectations to have. I had no such luck. I am the first of my line.
On the one hand that gave me a certain amount of freedom to decide how I’d like to proceed, on the other hand I had no background from which to draw from. To help decide how I wanted to proceed I talked to friends and used them to bounce ideas off. WIthout going into the details of exactly how I approach the knight squire relationship I had a fun chance to create my own traditions to pass down my beltline. While it’s a fun experience it doesn’t really help Amtgard in general. To be a knightly teacher you should teach more than just a select few people.
Another thing I decided to do was to revitalize a household called House Gravy. It was created back in 2001 and only had two members. It focused on feasts. I wanted to take House Gravy and do something great for the game. Create a group of people who were trained in all aspects of service and willing to share that training. Within the group I set up a system of mentoring were they would receive personal one on one training with someone and would be tested along the way before they would become full members. This of course is a long term goal and will take many years to see a lot of benefit but it is just another way to teach people while helping the game.
There is of course the more traditional form of teaching, the ithra. While in my area the old style of dedicated ithra days has disappeared, replaced by contests and micro ithra events (a conversation for another article), it’s still an important way to disseminate information. Ithra classes give you a chance to take your knowledge and structure it into a new form.
The process of taking what you know and turning it into classes not only helps those who take the classes, it helps the person teaching the classes. It reaffirms how much you know and shows you areas where you might want to explore and learn more. Sitting down and thinking about what you know can inspire you to find a new view or direction you may not have previously considered. It’s a form of self reflection I highly recommend.
Articles is another way you can teach which is something, obviously, I’ve chosen to do. Writing about my experiences and my perspectives can help those going through similar things. It allows me to reach a more broad audience, expanding the affect I have on Amtgard society. On a more personal level it does the same thing as when you teach a class. It gives you a chance to self reflect.
Another thing to pursue is the innovation of the field for which you are knighted. While everyone who is trying to become a master should be bringing their own touches to the game I think knights should still be actively trying to do the same.
I believe it’s my job to find areas that could be improved. An important thing is not to do everything yourself. Choose some projects you’d like to do but also make suggestions to those who are up and coming. Not only will you probably burnout if you try to do everything yourself, you’ll possibly lose the chance to allow someone else to bring their perspective to an area. Even if you don’t find many areas to innovate and you are doing it all yourself, it’s important to keep others involved in the process so that other perspectives are given a voice.
I’ve chosen two areas where I’d like to innovate, one is in service in general. For this I’m using the revitalization of House Gravy as my vehicle to create a system to help teach others various aspects of service.
The second is in event running. Granted part of this is my pursuit of a Master Smith, but the other is seeing something I could improve upon and doing something about it. Our area didn’t have a story driven event so I chose to make a 4 day camping event where the whole thing is a single quest with multiple phases. It was a new take on the traditional camping event. Each year I try to do something new and experiment with new concepts.
Take A Step Back
I was hesitant to bring up this aspect of knighthood, especially since I don’t think it applies to all knighthoods and all situations, especially sword and serpent belts. For sword and serpent belts you specifically shouldn’t take a step back. You should be competing so that those who are coming up have a standard to beat. However for Flame and Crown belts taking a step back isn’t always a bad thing.
There are only so many kingdom level positions; there are only so many kingdom level events. If knights were the only ones doing them then no one else would have a chance to prove themselves. However I’m not advocating that knights shouldn’t take kingdom positions or run kingdom events. There is a fine balance. People still need examples of excellence to strive for.
For example one year you could run a kingdom level event and use it as a chance to teach a group of up and coming smiths and flame people. Then next year those people you were teaching could put in a bid to run an event and you could take a step back. You could do this by either co-crating or just giving advice as necessary. You need to learn to give a chance for others to prove themselves.
But it’s also important to be present. Taking a step back doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to park days and participate; you should, as often as you are able to. Part of being a knight is being there to help others when it’s needed. If you aren’t there, then it’s obviously harder to help.
There is a fine balance between doing to much and not doing enough, it’s a balance that I’m still learning myself.
In the end the story of my knighthood is a story of someone who is trying to keep themselves involved in the game in a positive and informative way. Everyone’s experience with knighthood will be different. DIfferent people in different areas have different expectations of knights.
Here are the things I’d like people to take away; be a leader, innovate, be a teacher, be present. Even if your expectations of a knight are not the same as mine it’s important for a knight to be present in the game. Their continued presence at kingdom level events and the normal practice days is crucial to being a knight. It’s hard to be an example if you are not there to be one.