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.
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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 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.
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.
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.
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 Cowboy
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.
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 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.