Discuss this post in RPGFitGroup!
So we’re going to go at this skills post from three different directions. One is obviously the comic lore of Wonder Woman herself. The next is mythological stories of the Amazons. Finally, we’re also going to look at actual Grecian history and skills to tie it all together. As usual, we’re going to start with a look at how to…
Fight Like Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman is an incredibly skilled combatant across a variety of martial disciplines. Batman ranks her as the most skilled melee combatant the world. Unfortunately, there is no Amazon martial art system to pull from, but there is an Ancient Greek style!
Pankration was an event in the original Olympic games. It was, essentially, the earliest record of Western mixed martial arts. It featured boxing and wrestling together in a large, battle royale format. Competitors, stark naked, would battle until one man remained standing. People were sometimes greviously injured, or even killed, in the pankration battle. Eventually rules were modified, limiting it to one on one combat, with referees to help ensure no one was killed.
Pankration kept going for quite a while, even into Roman culture, before eventually falling by the wayside and disappearing into history. It was, however, revived in the 1970s, being reconstructed from ancient manuals, as well as modern kickboxing and Greco-Roman wrestling.
I feel as though pankration fits Wonder Woman’s style of unarmed combat perfectly, especially in her more recent comics and movies where she’s shown to use grappling, throws, and joint locks while fighting (especially against stronger opponents like Kryptonians.)
Sword and Shield
Wonder Woman, especially in her more warlike moods, is often depicted wielding the Sword of Athena and her signature indestructible shield. Unfortunately, there’s very little surviving historical record of Greek sword fighting techniques. Though the Greeks often carried swords as a “sidearm” of sorts, their dominant weapons was, far an away, the spear (which was infinitely more useful in a Hoplite phalanx battle formation.) So, if we want to fight with sword and shield like Wonder Woman does, we’re going to have to look to other inspirations.
So, we go, as we often do, to HEMA (historic European martial arts) styles. Even here, however, surviving combat manuals featuring sword and shield combat are sparse, at best. Your best bet is probably just to find a local HEMA school and see if they play around with swords and shields at all, as most sword/shield stuff is improvisational and/or curriculum created by the instructor.
Here’s an informative video featuring some sword and shield stuff. Some talking, some combat.
This is a great video just featuring some straight sword and shield sparring!
In Greek myth, Amazons are supposed to be incredibly skilled archers. The same goes for the Amazons in DC comics, with Artemis, Diana, and all the other Amazons being incredibly skilled archers. Learning how to shoot a bow is tons of fun, and I highly recommend it to anyone.
For starters, I’d recommend heading over to archery360.com Their Archery 101 article is a fantastic starting point. Barring that, you can also take a trip down to your local sporting good store. Chances are, they’ll know of somewhere in the area where you can go and practice or take lessons, plus they’ll be able to equip you as well!
The Lasso of Truth
Now, unfortunately I don’t know of anywhere you can get an artifact that will force someone to speak the truth. However, learning how to rope (the technical term for using a lasso) is well within the realm of possibility, and it’s plenty of fun on its own! Roping is, believe it or not, its own full-fledged, bona fide sport, often practiced by those of the farming, ranching, and rodeo persuasion. It’s awesome, and takes a lot of skill!
Wonder Woman is more than just a strong fighter as well, she’s also a master of battlefield tactics. Now, if you’re not a history buff, you may want to skip this section, but if you enjoy learning about ancient battlefield tactics and military progression, stay tuned!
Greek Warfare – From the Ancient History Encyclopedia is a great place to start for a primer on Greek military history and battlefield tactics.
Amazon – Another article from the Ancient History Encyclopedia gives an overview of the history of the (most likely mythological) Amazon tribe, and their exploits.
Ancient Greek Battles – Finally, after the two above primers, you can really delve into the meet of ancient Greek wars, their tactics, and their outcomes.
It may seem a little superfluous, but it’s important to remember that Wonder Woman is rooted in ancient Greek culture and mythology. As an Amazon, the daughters of Ares, understanding the Grecian war mindset is part of understanding Wonder Woman herself. There is Wonder Woman, the superhero, and there is also Diana of Themyscira, Goddess of War. You need to understand both to truly become her.
Hand to Hand Mastery
The fact is, Wonder Woman’s skills don’t come easily, or quickly. She was trained, from birth, by elite, superhuman, immortal warriors, and then beat all of them. Seriously, that takes hard work, talent, and time. It may be a bit too late to be trained from birth yourself, but you can still seek to improve yourself.
We talked about mastery just a couple weeks ago with Samurai Jack, in our article, How to Master Anything. The same principles apply to hand-to-hand combat as they do to everything else. So, take a look at that article, and then approach the methods contained within while keeping these recommendations in mind:
Spar. A lot. Martial arts are nothing without live practice. If you’re in a school that only practices forms and kata, without ever having live combat of any kind (even if it isn’t full contact,) consider finding a new place to learn.
Fight a variety of styles. Originally I said experience a variety of styles, here, but I try not to encourage switching styles a lot. Best to focus on and master one (or maybe two, like a striking art and a grappling art,) then move on to another. However, while working on a single style, sparring with other styles can be incredibly beneficial. You’ll learn a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of your own learning, and what you need to shore up to continue to improve.
Don’t neglect your fitness. Technique matters. Conditioning matters, too. Diana might not be quite as strong as some of the other heavy hitters in the DC Universe, but she still has enough strength. I posted The Wonder Woman Workout on Monday. Make sure you stick with that while you’re training!
Well, that’s it for The Skills of the Amazons! I’ll see you again on Monday with Demi-God Warrior Princess! Until then, as always, remember to live boldly, change the world, and continue to be awesome!
Dan “DaRatmastah” Wallace