Melee: A Different Kind of Fencing

Being such a versatile sport and having a large enough group, we are privileged to be able to focus both on Dueling and Melee. Our group has always been renowned for our skills on the Melee Field and in preparation for Woodland War, I wanted to discuss Melee a little more. I know I’ve talked about it before in My Thoughts on Melee, but I wanted to spin it a little differently this time. I want to point out some key attributes of Melees that may help those who are less confident when it comes to Melees. If nothing else, I hope to calm any nerves people may have going into Woodland War this year.

Dueling and Melee are Different

The first thing to realize is that Dueling and Melee are very different. One focuses on your own abilities and their interaction with a single person. The other focuses on the application of those skills in a group setting that is dynamically changing from moment to moment. Instead of responding to just one person’s actions, you’ll be responding to many people’s actions even if they aren’t in your immediate area.

In a Duel, the fight begins and ends one time. All you have to think about during the course of that duel is how are you going to proceed and, hopefully, be successful. In a melee, one person’s actions may influence the situation you find yourself in 5 minutes later. In a Duel the focus is very tight. In a Melee, it’s very broad.

Melees are More Forgiving

With an increase of stimuli and chaos, everyone is bound to make mistakes. But, luckily, this makes Melees more forgiving than Duels. In a Duel, you are in control of everything but your opponent. If something goes wrong, it’s probably your fault. That’s not the case in Melees. Yes, we need to increase our adherence to the Four Levels of Importance (Safety, Honor, Attitude, Skill), but if we make a mistake it’s not the end. The Melee will most likely continue and provide you another opportunity. I love that about Melees! Whenever I make a mistake, I’m excited to go back out and try again, but this time a little harder. Melees are fantastic opportunities to learn from our mistakes and try, try again.

Melee Mentality is Looser

While you’re out there trying new things, you’ll find that it’s much more difficult to set up and fight like you do in a Duel. In a Melee, there really isn’t a chance to square off with a single opponent and let your swords clash epically. Every time I’ve tried doing that, I get stabbed in the side of my face from my opponent’s friend. Instead, you’ve got stay loose and move from objective to objective smoothly. 

Don’t give 100% of your attention to any one thing. Cast your attention all around you and try to be aware of opportunities forming nearby. Don’t commit to killing your opponent if all that’s really required is scaring him off or getting passed him. A loose mentality will let you adapt as the Melee progresses. 

Melee is More a Game than a Fight

In a Duel, we fight each other to the “death.” This makes the fight much more visceral. In a Melee, because of how the scenarios are set up with their extra rules and everything, they become much more game-like. Being a good Melee-ist is learning how to navigate within the parameters of the Melee, reach your goals, and hopefully come out on top.

I really like board games and each one has different rules, strategies, and flavor. Sounds just like a Melee! To be good at board games, you’ve got to have a sound understanding of the rules, a basic strategy you can follow through with, and the ability to adapt to whatever happens throughout the game. The same applies to a Melee.

If you want to be good at Melees, become familiar with the basic/common rules and figure out how you can leverage them in your favor (without breaking the game, of course!). Learn some basic strategies and how they can be applied effectively. After that, try to adapt as things progress. It’ll take some practice, but it’s much easier than it sounds.

Practice Being a Melee-ist

We spend a lot of time in lessons and working on individual skills. Those help us become better fencers and better swordsmen, but we forget that Melee is a skill too. There aren’t many Melee lessons in the Training Manual, because they require a different kind of training. You’ve got to be out on the field, trying things out! Not in a classroom. 

If you want to get better at Melee, dedicate some time to practicing them. Every time we go out into the woods, pick something to work on. Get some ideas from others who seem to do pretty well in Melees and get their advice. Everyone would do well to, occasionally, set aside the Duels and focus on their Melee skills. I challenge everyone to use Woodland War as an opportunity to try out new things, discover what you like about Melees, and figure out where you want to improve. There really is no better time for it than now!