Line Fighting

The purpose of the Line Fighting lesson is to learn the basic principles of melee combat in a line, which is a very common situation in rapier fencing.

For Teachers

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Melee situations can become chaotic and full of energy. As we learn to participate in Melees, remember to always be safe and in control of what you are doing.

For a review of basic melee safety rules, look through the Basics of Melee lesson.

Line Fighting

Line Fighting is a very common occurrence in Melee. When two teams meet, they will line up side to side and face the opposing team. This allows everyone on the team space to fight and prevents the opposing team from gaining any more ground.

A Basic Line

The Line

Let’s start by looking at the Line itself:

A basic line is made up of individual fencers standing close enough to support one another, but with enough room to move around. No matter how many fencers each line has, the width of the line should be the same. That means the line with the fewer fencers should spread out to match the length of the longer line.

Individual Area of Awareness
Overlapping Areas of Awareness

Area of Awareness

Fighting in a Line is not like fighting in a duel. You need to broaden your awareness to include both the person in front of you and the two people on either side of them. Those three people are your main concern in any line fight.

Each member of the line should have a broadened Area of Awareness, which creates an overlapping effect.

Cross Shot Targets
Cross Shot in Action

Cross Shots

During a line fight you’re fighting the person in front of you and those to the left and right of them. This creates an opportunity for Cross Shots.

A Cross Shot is when you strike at an enemy who is not directly in front of you. These are the most common causes of death in a Line fight because a shot from an angle is both hard to see coming and defend against. This is where most of your kills will come from during a fight.

One of the simplest applications of Cross Shots occurs when your opponent commits to an attack and strikes at one of your teammates This leaves them open to attack.

Example: An enemy fighter will strike at your team mate next to you, committing themselves and moving into your range. This leaves you a split moment where the enemy is close enough that you can reach out and strike, getting the kill from an angle.

A word of warning, remember that as the enemy commits  to an attack and leaves themselves open for cross shots, you’ll leave yourself open if you attack. This is why teamwork and defending your teammates in a line is vital. As you commit to an attack, your teammates should protect you from incoming cross shots. You should do the same for your teammates.

Tip: The easiest Cross Shot to perform follows your sword, or in other words, attack the person on your sword’s side. If you’re fighting with a sword in your right hand, your primary target should be the person to your right from person in front of you. This is also the safest because you have to cross the least amount of distance and you have your offhand to defend you against attacks from the person directly across from you.

Reckless or Cowardly CowboyCowardly Cowboy A Cowardly Cowboy is a fighter who will sacrifice their teammates to stay alive. As they retreat from conflict to preserve their own life, they will often leave their teammates open to be killed.

When fighting within a Line, each member should stand together as a unit and fight as a team. Individuals don’t always do that and we call those fencers Cowboys. There are two types of Cowboys: Reckless and Cowardly. Each type creates a disadvantage for their team and should be avoided at all costs.

The Reckless CowboyReckless Cowboy A Reckless Cowboy is a fighter who will sacrifice or put themselves at risk to get a kill. Most of the time this is at the detriment of their teammates because they are concerned more about killing their opponent than about working with their team. jumps out in front of their line trying to get a kill, but is quickly eliminated.

Reckless Cowboy

A Reckless Cowboy will sacrifice themselves for the sake of getting a kill. They leave the line and get themselves killed which leaves an opening in their line and their teammates weakened.

The Cowardly Cowboy jumps back, trying to stay alive, which leaves their teammates undefended.

Cowardly Cowboy

The Cowardly Cowboy will sacrifice their teammates to stay alive. They leave the line and leave their teammates undefended, open for cross shots.

The Key to Fighting in a Line

Working together with your team is the best thing you can do in a line. It doesn’t matter if you kill anyone. Talk with your team and work towards a goal. Do your best to defend your teammates because they’ll be doing the same for you.

Ready to move on?

You’ve completed your Line Fighting lesson! Now that you're more comfortable in a group melee, let’s learn how to work with a partner against a single opponent in Two on One Tactics.

How to teach

Line Fighting


Use the following EDGE Method lesson summary to guide you along.


Explain the following principles and how to tie into a melee. Emphasize that Line Fighting requires a lot of teamwork and communication.

  • What a Line is
  • Area of Awareness
  • Cross Shots
  • Cowboying
    • Reckless Cowboy
    • Cowardly Cowboy


Demonstrate the basic principle of fighting in a line. Include how to form a line properly and what it should look like. Point out what a student’s area of awareness should be and what they are watching for. Give examples of cowboying and why it hurts your team.


After demonstrating, walk the students through forming a line and setting up for the drills. Have them find their area of awareness and try some cross shots. Help those who have a tendency to cowboy to recognize it and to be a team player.


At this stage, each Initiate should be able to participate in a basic line. Run through the following drill or challenge before finishing with the Line Fighting melee:

Cross Shots Drill

Divide students into 2 lines, facing each other. Going down one line, have each student practice giving a cross shot to both opponents on the left and right of the person across from them. At the end of the first line, start again and go back down the other line. Repeat as necessary for all students to practice giving cross shots.

Cross Shots Challenge (Attacking like Pawns)

Divide the students into 2 lines, facing each other. Initiate a basic line fight, with the rule that each student may only perform cross shots and are not allowed to attack the person directly in front of them. Students should practice defending their teammates and watching for opportunities to attack with a cross shot. Reset when only one line remains.

Line Fighting Melee (Red Rover)

Divide the students into 2 lines, facing each other. Initiate a basic line fight, with the rules that everyone only has one life and that the melee will end when only one team remains. At the end of the fight, the winning team must send a fighter over to the losing side. The first person who was killed is sent over. If no one was killed, the first wounded is sent over. If no one was killed or wounded, the losing team may choose who is sent over. Continue as desired.