Combat in General
“In combat – do something, you might die. Do nothing, and you will die!” ― Jury Nel
At this point, you should be fairly comfortable with the idea of combat. You’ve had experience in both dueling and melee. Knowing that you’re actually using a sword to “fight” someone doesn’t bother you all that much and I’m sure you find it a little fun. Why else would you be sticking around and reading this? Since you are reading this, you’re probably trying to learn how to be a little better of a fighter. So lets look closer at Combat to help you out. There’s a lot you could discuss with this subject because combat includes practically everything. How you start a fight, who you’re facing, what gear you have, and even what terrain you’re on. There’s plenty of other things, but those are just a few to mention. What I want to focus on is a general Theory of Combat. In other words, the overall goal of the thing.
Theory of Combat
Our Theory of Combat, or general goal, should follow a line of thought like this: What can I do to kill my opponent and remain alive myself? Because what’s the point of fighting someone if you both just end up dead on the ground? So throughout this confrontation with my opponent, I should be trying to figure out how to do just that. Kill him without him killing me. Have you had a few ideas on how you could do that? Me too and this is what I came up with:
-We can use our own footwork to bring us in or out of range, as well as put us in a position where it’s possible to strike at our opponent or keep us from being struck by our opponent.
-We can attack their weapons themselves: disarm, manage, trap, lock and bind.
-We can use our own bodily mechanics and anatomy to our advantage or use their own physical nature against them.
-We can use our weapons in all their aspects to cut, thrust, bind and block.
-We can use our minds to analyze our opponents for mental blind spots, technical weaknesses and physical limitations. We can formulate strategies and tactics to defeat them.
Those five principles cover just about everything you could think of in a fight. (Or at least everything I could) Each of these things are so full of small details and techniques that you could spend hours training on each individual one and I just simply can’t write them all out in this article. But lets flesh out each of the principles a little to give you a better idea of how these principles work.
Our footwork was one of the first things that all of us learn when we start fencing. It’s a fundamental and no fight doesn’t involve some sort of footwork. So how do we use it to achieve our theory of combat? Well for starters, your footwork controls range. Stepping forward, backward, and even to the side changes range and distance. Your footwork helps close distance quickly or helps retreat and disengage from your opponent as well. Stepping off line is a great and subtle way to position yourself in very defensible place. The idea of Riposte (switching your dominant foot and hand from the front position to the back position) changes the fight completely. On the flip side, watching your opponent’s footwork can give you clues and opportunities during a fight. If their legs have crossed or one foot is in the air, then their balance or ability to move has been greatly limited which could be an opportune time to strike. As well, they may telegraph when they’re about to move in a certain direction or if they’re going to stand and fight.
Attack their Weapons
There are a lot of ways to attack your opponent’s weapons. Keeping their blades busy, tapping them out, or taking their hands and arms to force them to drop their weapons are just a few of the options you have. Maintaining contact with their blade and having a “conversation”. What I mean by that involves using the true edge of your blade to controls theirs, or switching which side your blade is on compared to theirs. Plus a lot of other stuff too. It really is the idea that if their blade is busy or under my control, than how are they going to use it to strike at me?
I’m going to share with you a little secret that I’ve learned that I feel demonstrates this principle quite nicely. I don’t know what the psychology is behind it, but I’ve noticed that tapping my opponents blade slightly makes my opponent pause. Really, it does. Whether they’re standing or closing distance the act of attacking their weapon in a way that isn’t a block, somehow keeps them from attacking me. I gain control. If I’m in control and keeping them from attacking me than I have more time and opportunity to strike my opponent.
Each one of us is physically unique. That means that the way we move or how our body goes about performing any given technique will be different. Each of us stands a certain way. We all have different lengths of arms or legs. Some may be taller, shorter, thinner, or broader. All of that can come into play. As well, is our capacity to move. The human body has a finite amount of movement it’s capable of. We can only twist our body so much. We can only reach so far. Our muscles only have so much strength. Using that knowledge can give you an advantage.
This principle really falls under your “skill”. The idea is that if my blocks are better than yours, I have an advantage. If my point is online more often and I have better point control, I have an advantage. Even the weapons we use can fall under this category. Having a dagger or a second sword adds to my ability to fulfill our theory of combat. Realizing what your opponent has as well can help you decide on a strategy to face them. If I have a long sword and they only have a short sword, then my strategy will be to stay further away and keep them from getting closer to me. If they have a dagger, then closing distance may not be the best idea.
There is so much to this principle that I could talk for hours about it, but I won’t. The idea behind this principle is that you should be thinking about the fight. What are you doing and what are they doing? Where is their blade? Etc.. Your analysis of the fight could include what you know about them personally and their style. What the terrain is like? Is the sun in their eyes? You’re watching for them to “fall asleep” or mentally check out of the fight. Are they distracted by something? What tells are they giving you? You could formulate a plan on trying to get them to strike at your off hand. If they do, then that will leave them open. I’m trying to find open targets that are hard for them to defend. Do you notice a pattern or habit they fall into? When you bring in this mentality, the fight become more than just instinctual. You’re playing a chess game with your opponent.
In conclusion, you can probably realize that each of these principles are much bigger than I’ve explained. Don’t worry about mastering these without giving yourself time to train and practice. Take each one and work on it until you’re comfortable with the principles. When you are, you can move on. Remember that we’re just doing our best to achieve the Theory of Combat: Kill your opponent and stay alive.