Even though running something through the back with our sword would be historically accurate, it is not something you’ll see out on the field. But that doesn’t mean you can kill someone from behind during a melee. You just have to go about it slightly differently. As you learn the proper procedure of performing a Death from Behind, keep Safety at the forefront of your mind. This is a classic case of “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.”
Points of safety
The biggest consideration for why we have a Death from Behind procedure at all is to keep our fellow fencers safe. Despite all of the armor and gear we wear, our backs are the most vulnerable. Our masks don’t have mesh guards protecting the back of our heads, and our necks and spines don’t have as much padding to defend against an incoming blade. Each step of a Death from Behind is designed to nullify those risks and keep our fellow fencers safe, especially because they have no idea you’re behind them.
- This is the Way: This is the only way you are allowed to kill someone from behind. Do not vary from the rules.
- Safe or Not at All: If you can’t perform a DFB safely, don’t do it.
- It’s Your Fault: You are responsible for the outcome of a DFB.
The way to perform a proper Death from Behind is methodical. You have to concentrate and consider each step to do it properly. If you rush or try to perform it haphazardly, you won’t do it safely. After you learn each step and demonstrate the process, you’ll be allowed to use these in melees they are allowed.
- The Way: Approach your opponent from behind at a walking pace, don’t run. Your sword should be vertical in the air, quillions are parallel to your opponent’s back. Place 2/3 of the flat of your blade over your opponent’s shoulder so they can see the tip of your sword. Call, “My Lord/Lady, you’re dead from behind.”
- Perform One at a Time: All DFBs must be performed one at a time, even if you have multiple offensive weapons.
- Range and Honor: If you turn around and see that someone is in the process of DFB or close enough range to have reached you, take it as a death.
- 180 vs DFB: Know your angle of attack as you approach. Choose wisely between a DFB and attacking within the 180.
- Allowed Unless Stated Otherwise: Unless it is stated otherwise, you are always allowed to perform a DFB in melees, as long as it can be done safely. Listen to the instructions in case that changes.
- Stationary Target: Practice performing DFBs on a stationary target. Have your instructor watch for proper technique and provide feedback.
- Moving Target: Practice performing DFBs on a target that is moving in various directions and at different speeds.
- Blood in the Water: Set up a line fight with one or two dedicated fencers to perform DFBs. When they perform a DFB on someone in the line, that person now goes and performs a DFB on someone else.
What we are looking for are fencers who can perform proper Death from Behind, no matter the circumstances. We want fencers who can assess the situation and make wise judgment calls if a DFB is an option or if it would be better to engage an opponent another way. The restraint a fencer can show by choosing Safety over getting a kill will always be a highlight in fencers progressing towards Swordsmanship.